Rant ‘n’ roll

Sure, some of his songs are a little shocking. What’s really shocking, though, is that spike-tongued gut-spiller Mojo Nixon has never once been sued.

“Nobody’s ever tried, unfortunately,” he confessed dejectedly in a recent phone chat. “I wish someone would sue my raggedy butt, so I could get up there on the stand and espouse the truth.”

Just the titles of this rockabilly hell-raiser’s irreverent tunes — “Debbie Gibson is Pregnant with My Two-Headed Lovechild”, “Don Henley Must Die”, “Stuffin’ Martha’s Muffins” — are sufficient proof of how miraculous it is that Nixon’s managed to dodge litigation.

And let’s not forget “Bring Me the Head of David Geffen.”

“That was the one that had everyone scared to death,” Nixon recalls fondly. “I even had people from gay-advocacy magazines calling me up and asking, ‘Does this have anything to do with David Geffen’s sexuality?’ And I told them, ‘No, I don’t care who he f••ks — it’s the bands that he signs that suck.'”

Blustery as a pit bull, and just as tenacious, Mojo Nixon is like a raucous, conscience-free Holden Caulfield — a man consumed by a personal crusade to dethrone phoniness wherever he finds it. Corporate brutes have long been the favored focus of Nixon’s rants, and on “Disney is the Enemy” — a pithy gem from his latest release, Sock Ray Blue (Shanachie, 1999) — the Virginia native (who once rode his bicycle the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway) doesn’t cut old Walt a mouse’s whisker worth of slack: “He can watch you from the casket, so perfectly preserved/He maintains the entertainment you so rightfully deserve.”

Ronald McDonald doesn’t fare any better later in the same tune: “We’ll have to feed the people something to help them to believe/So put up golden arches and take away the trees/Then we’ll need some ashes and some rancid mayonnaise/And put them in the pasture and let the people graze/It will make them all submissive, and take away their drive/Make the sign of crucifixion to the burger, shake, and fries,” he rails, before concluding, “McDonald’s is the enemy/In cahoots with Walt Disney/Alien conspiracy/Run by Mormon missionaries.”

Nixon’s gruff tirades are balanced with a devilish, self-effacing humor, and buoyed from tedium by the infectious psycho-licks of a honky-tonk band called the Toad Liquors. Sock Ray Blue was slated for release on another label long ago, the singer reveals, but it folded on the day the record was released, an incident Nixon calls a “typical bit of Mojo luck.”

But this is one misanthrope who simply can’t be held down for long. Despite a creative dry spell (“As you get older, you run out of things to say. … It’s not like I have any eternal love songs to write”) and the sudden death of his longtime friend and drummer, Country Dick, Nixon wrangled regular work hosting an early-afternoon show on Cincinnati radio station WLW — whose demographic runs toward the over-50 crowd (“I think [the station manager] wanted to attract a younger audience, but I would have had more success at night, I think. Hell, I’ve slept till after 1 p.m. most of my life,” he once said about the misguided venture). Nixon also put in some time composing fight songs for the U.S. Olympic Luge Team.

Not that Nixon could ever really want for job opportunities. Asked how he would survive if he couldn’t vent his wrath in song, he proffers an instant list of career options: “I would be a wrestling manager, a late-night used-car salesman, or maybe a politician.”

It’s probably just as well that the singer waited so long to write tunes for a new release, because he certainly hit pay dirt in the scandal-steeped late ’90s. In the most-likely-to-offend category, “Drunk Divorced Floozie (The Ballad of Lady Diana Spencer)” brims with the greatest promise: “She’s just a jet-set party girl/Gone to meet her maker/That nobility crap/Don’t stop the undertaker.”

And what of Oval Office ignominy?

“President Clinton is the greatest sexual liberator of our times,” Nixon declares heatedly. “More so than the birth-control pill, more so than the drive-in movie theater, more so than MTV. And I’ll tell you how I know: Because of the [Lewinsky scandal], my mother talked about oral sex at the Thanksgiving table.”

Oddly enough, the Monica matter receives no skewering on his latest release. But his reasons for not musically immortalizing the affair have more to do with aesthetic concerns than any 11th-hour reticence:

“I wrote one about Clinton that was going to be called ‘Hillbilly Love God,’ but I could never get the words in the title to fit together right, like in ‘Elvis is Everywhere,’ or [the] Debbie Gibson [song].”

If there’s a soft spot in Nixon’s armor, it’s been polished by an affectionate fan base — whose loyalty he’s been known to return: This reporter won’t soon forget an infamous Tallahassee show back in the spring of ’92. A stage-diving drunk crash-landed on top of my friend, breaking her tailbone. In the ensuing mayhem, Nixon serenaded the prone victim until help arrived.

“I always say, whenever they do one of those marketing surveys and there are all these demographic categories, and then a spot for ‘Other’ — those are the Mojo Nixon fans, the ‘Others,'” he concludes with a chuckle.


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