Mojo Nixon

TrackAlbum
Jesus At McDonaldsMojo Nixon And Skid Roper
Burn Down The MallsGet Out Of My Way
I Hate BanksFrenzy
I'm Living With A Three-Foot Anti-ChristFrenzy
Elvis Is EverywhereBo-Day-Shus!!!
Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant With My
Two-Headed Love Child
Root Hog Or Die
Don Henley Must DieOtis
Destroy All LawyersOtis
Perry Mason Of LoveOtis
I Wanna Race Bigfoot TrucksOtis

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Contributor: Calvin Rydbom

There was a time in American music, OK there have been several times, when things got pretty bad quality wise. One of those times was the mid 80s when according to some, rock and roll was being killed cause the people making music had no soul. And the music they were passing off as rock wasn’t rock and roll at all, but bad, whiney poetry sung by posers.

One of those who railed against this supposed trend seemed particularly bothered by Don Henley, and especially him winning a Grammy for Best Rock Vocalist. It seemed to one rocker Henley sounded like an over serious, pretentious, wounded beagle.

Mojo Nixon rode into the American public consciousness to save them from over seriousness music and make rock and roll fun again in the mid 1980s along with his less talented musical partner Skid Roper. They recorded six albums together before Mojo put out a solo album in 1990 and he and Skid parted ways. Most don’t give Skid that much respect though. Mojo wrote most of the songs and was the duo’s front man; in fact many just skipped the Skid songs on their albums. He was kind of like our John Lennon in that sense.

After that there were four albums with the Toadliquors, one with Jello Biafra, and a one shot group called the Pleasure Barons with Dave Alvin and Country Dick, and one last sorta kinda solo album in 2009.

He has since retired from recording and only performed live a few times in the last several years. Instead he has thrown himself into projects and ideas such as supporting free file sharing or recordings, because he says he is “Not an asshole like Metallica”.

He was the honorary Captain of the U.S. luge team for a while. He has worked as a DJ, best known for his long stint on Sirius Radio and has found time to appear in a few movies. My favorite performance of Mojo’s was as Jerry Lee Lewis’ drummer in 1989’s Great Balls Of Fire.

Mojo came to save us all from bad music, and I like to think to some extent he did with his psychobilly stylings which often seem to be ridiculously comical but usually included some serious commentary on how Mojo sees the world. But then sometimes they were just ridiculous comical.

In 1985 Mojo and Skid released their first album Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper. They showed promise with the single Jesus At McDonalds, as well with a few others from the album. But they hadn’t quite hit their stride yet. The song though has become a staple, and fan favorite, in Mojo’s shows for decades.

On their next album, Get Out Of My Way, Mojo and Skid took to social commentary with the warning that America was turning into a sitcom and our only recourse is to Burn Down The Malls. In the middle of the song he goes on a little bit of a rant about not being to able to buy beer at 20 but you can get drafted and get married, which would really screw up your life. And although he wasn’t what you’d call a huge commercial success he did become a frequent presence on MTV, as he was about as Counter Culture as they could handle.

They started to really hit their stride with Frenzy. I Hate Banks was one of those songs that seemed to be a crazy rant but was making some serious points about, well, how much banks suck. I’m Living With A Three-Foot Anti-Christ was not really about making a point, unless you feel children should be called out for being as awful as they are.

Elvis Is Everywhere from Bo-Day-Shus!!! might have been their first great song. In it he lets us know that Elvis is everywhere and in everything. In fact Elvis built Stonehenge and the Pyramids, and the Bermuda Triangle exists because Elvis needs boats.

Music critic Robert Christgau, who had previously criticized Mojo for misogyny, called Root Hog Or Die Mojo’s finest artistic achievement up to that point. He also said he was pretty sure underneath it all Mojo had a good heart because of his loyalty to Skid as Christgau found Skid’s songs “the usual yawn”. It was many things, but the first song on this album was anything but a yawn. As I mentioned, MTV had been using Mojo as a spokesman of sorts, but Mojo cut ties with them when they refused to play the video for Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant With My Two-Headed Love Child. Winona Ryder, who Mojo was working with in Great Balls Of Fire, played Gibson (see clip at foot of post). While Gibson took it somewhat good naturedly, it was clearly an attack on what Mojo saw as ridiculously bad corporate produced music.

In his first solo effort Otis, and by fair his strongest album up to that point, he ridiculed soft rock, the legal profession, politics and Shane MacGowan. Well, actually it was MacGowan’s teeth and not MacGowan himself.

If Mojo has ever had a hit it was Don Henley Must Die, which warned against tortured artists, poets of despair, pretentiousness idiot poetry and rock with no soul. He counseled us to be wild, young, free and dumb and to do whatever we could to stop the possibility of an Eagles reunion.

Pretty much every song on the album is a highpoint, but for me the heartfelt emotion behind Destroy All Lawyers comes through too strongly to not include it. Perry Mason Of Love is probably the best love song in Mojo’s catalog. How can you not love a song that has the lyric “you look as sweet as Della Street”. It’s just flat out fun.

So is I Wanna Race Bigfoot Trucks, how can you argue with a man who has that as a primary goal in life.

Otis had big breakthrough written all over it. But shortly after its release the label, Enigma, went bankrupt. This left his back catalog and the current album in limbo. He sort of jumped around after that doing really much of nothing. Occasionally he released a really good song such as Bring Me The Head Of David Geffen, Orenthal James (Was A Mighty Bad Man) and Tie My Pecker To My Leg. Which of course was his lament at being unable to walk around easily like other men. Clearly Mojo had no interest whether his songs were hits or not.

For a short time he tried his hand as an advice columnist in Peterbelly Magazine under “Life Fixin’ with Mojo”, but for the most part he just hosts a whole bunch of Sirius Radio shows. He has three the last time I checked.

In 2009 he did release a solo album that was essentially old demos he claimed he found in “an old shoe box full of cassette tapes under my front porch”. He then set it up for his fans to download the CD tracks for the album, and his previous albums, for free off of Amazon. He did this because he felt:

We can’t wait for Washington to fix the economy. We must take bold action now. If I make the new album free and my entire catalog free it will stimulate the economy. It might even over-stimulate the economy. History has shown than when people listen to my music, money tends to flow to bartenders, race tracks, late night greasy spoons, bail bondsman, go kart tracks, tractor pulls, football games, peep shows and several black market vices. My music causes itches that it usually takes some money to scratch.

He is Mojo Nixon, The Perry Mason of Love.

 

 

Mojo Nixon official website

Mojo Nixon biography (iTunes)

This is Calvin’s 27th Toppermost, but there was a six month gap recently. He had the crazy idea that he wanted to turn his new book “Modern Images Of Akron” in on time. For that his editor is grateful. Calvin was able to feed his music writing addiction by including a chapter with pictures and information on The Black Keys, Devo, Runner City Rebels, Joseph Arthur, Tim “Ripper” Owens, Rachel Sweet and a bunch of musicians from Akron you’ve never heard of. And while this will probably lead to a book on The Akron Sound, that’s in the future so he turns to Toppermost so he can prattle on about music while believing the people listening/reading actually might care about what he says. He is sometimes delusional that way.

TopperPost #476

2 Comments

  1. Keith Shackleton
    Sep 23, 2015

    “Does Humor Belong in Music?” says Uncle Frank. Well, of course it does. But does that music make an impression and, more importantly, continue to make one? Not so, for me. I give you Art Brut, ladies and gentlemen.. uproariously funny at first hearing, unlistenable after about the third. I can still admire the work, but I don’t particularly need to hear it again. That initial impact is all.
    Root Hog or Die is the only Mojo Nixon album I’ve ever felt the need to own, and probably the only one I’ll ever need, and I’m glad “Debbie Gibson..” is here, because of the shock value to the uninitiated.. and here’s another point about humorous records. Do we love them so much because we can foist them on the unwary, in the hope that they’ll be as knocked out as we were on first hearing, thus upping our cool quotient in the ears and eyes of our peers?
    And I can do without the below the belt stuff too. “She’s Vibrator Dependent”? How old do you think I am, Mojo, fourteen?Couple of weeks later.. “Oh, that. Bored with it now.” And that expectation, the “I’m going to be tired with this” feeling, taints all such releases for me. I instantly distrust them. It’s not very open minded, I know, but it’s the way I am. Very infrequently something sticks.. New Zealand’s The Eversons manage to pull off the tricky balance of humour AND craft, simply by writing an album of summery melodies that has its place in time and season. The comedy is almost incidental. But that’s rare. Maybe I’m just a miserable old git 🙂

  2. Calvin Rydbom
    Oct 10, 2015

    What? Someone disagrees with me? How is this possible? Quite honestly Keith I do agree with you that Mojo far too often ventures into 7th grade humour. A bit more than my taste allows. But I’d disagree with you that Mojo is Comic Music, I’d say his whole act is satire, even performance art. He’s played a character for a decade and during that time created a couple pretty decent songs. Mojo is one of those folks I was pretty sure not many would know and on a whim decided to get him in front of a few people. But if I’m being honest? If I had the album Otis and the single Elvis Is Everywhere I’d be good.

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