The other day, I said to my wife: “Ted Nugent isn’t so bad. If only he wasn’t so conservative.” To which, she was shocked. Our northern Michigan neighbor, who today is best known for hunting with a bow and arrow and endorsing ultra-conservative politics, was at the center of my teenage record collection. Notably, Double Live Gonzo, was one of my favorite discs. In fact, the nickname “Gonzo” was attributed to me by various high school folks, and I had it put on the back of one of my hand me down army jackets my dad was always giving me.
For such a wild man, running around the stage in nothing but a piece of animal fur, and for someone who came out of the 1960s, Nugent is the antithesis of the hippie/drug movement. Like Zappa, he’s often mistaken for having outlandish “values.” But also like Zappa, he’s led a drug-free life. He has a few words to say about hippies and drugs in today’s WSJ. Again, I can’t agree with what the Nuge says, but I like his take on hippies: “Forty years ago hordes of stoned, dirty, stinky hippies converged on San Francisco to ‘turn on, tune in, and drop out.’” Hippies. Eric Cartman was right! “They’re Hippies, they don’t have any money!”
Which reminds of Double Live Gonzo. A two disc album in the glory days of two disc albums that I purchased throughout my teenage years (The Stones’ Love You Live, Black Sabbath’s We Sold Our Soul for Rock and Roll, The Grateful Dead’s Europe ’72), its focal point is the Indian-ode “The Great White Buffalo.”
Well,it happened long time ago,
In the new magic land.
The Indian and the buffalo,
They existed hand in hand
The Indian needed food,
He needed skins for a roof.
But he only took what they needed,baby.
Millions of buffalo were the proof.
That all changes, of course, with the arrival of the White man. And in this “conservative” statement about the pillage of the West by American frontiersmen, a call goes out to the Great White Buffalo, the leader of the land.
But then came the white dogs,
With their thick and empty heads.
They couldn’t see past the billfold.
They wanted all the buffalo dead.
Everything was SO sad.
When I looked above the canyon wall,
Some strong eyes did I see.
I think it’s somebody comin’ around
To save my ass,baby.
I think…I think he’s comin’ around
To save you and me.
And then comes that great mid-song cry which stretches out “Across the Canyon Walls”: “The Great White Buffalo! Look Out! Look Out!”
Such are musical memories. That song had all the markings of a late ’70s song: too long to be a single, long instrumental breaks, recorded “live,” anthematic. It’s also a fitting tale for patriotism, when, as Dylan sings, “patriotism is the last refuge to which a scoundrel clings.”Â When the ultra-conservative patriot can critique his own symbols (like Western Expansion), isn’t that, at the least, some kind of positive sign for a conservative politics that typically cannot do likewise?