Tell friends you're going to a classic-rock show in San Francisco and bands like Furthur and Journey might come to mind. The last thing they'd expect is a gun-toting Glenn Beck pal with a ranch in Texas, unless they knew that 62-year-old Ted Nugent regularly swings through town on his US tours—which have been happening for 40 years and counting. It's no surprise that a guy who draws cheers from his audience by exclaiming, "Let's hear it for dead shit on the fucking grill!" once got in a tiff with SF animal-rights protesters that ended up with a 21-year-old activist being hauled off to jail. That was 11 years ago. In an email after his most recent show, Nugent told me he hadn't run into any trouble this time around. "But I was lookin'."
I arrive outside The Independent, a venue that's a bit small for Nugent's oversized persona, 15 minutes before the doors open. There are about six dozen people waiting in line, mostly middle-aged white guys, some donning an assortment of wide-brimmed hats and camo. It's not exactly the mix of youthful hipsters and aging hippies you normally encounter at shows around here.
The Old Man and the Swamp: A True Story About My Weird Dad, a Bunch of Snakes, and One Ridiculous Road Trip
By John Sellers
SIMON & SCHUSTER
When music journalist John Sellers was a kid, his dad quit his job as a pastor to scour the wilds of Michigan for snakes. Sellers, a self-proclaimed "furniture potato," never quite understood the appeal; his father would disappear for weeks on end "and return home looking and smelling like the love child of the Swamp Thing and Ted Kaczynski." But when he hit his thirties, Sellers grew curious about his old man's obsession and decided to accompany him on a trip to the swamps in pursuit of the elusive copperbelly. The result is a funny and winning story that is less about snakes than a guy who just wants to understand his singularly eccentric dad.
Contestants and crowd mingle at the US Air Guitar regional championships in San Francisco.
Going to an air guitar show is like going to a three-drink-minimum comedy club. You're never sure how you ended up there. You walk into a room where "Jessie's Girl" is playing, sparsely crowded with Saturday-night patrons borrowed from sports bars, heavy metal shows, comic conventions. Things are running an hour late, and you have to wonder why you're waiting around to watch a bunch of people get on stage and pretend to play the guitar. The merchandise is also pretend: They're selling "air vinyls" at $5 a pop. Air vinyls? "There's nothing on it," explains the woman behind the table. "You can take it home and smash it if you want." (None have sold thus far.)
You consider leaving before the show starts. It's still early. You could probably still make the next screening of the new X-Men movie, and by next weekend you'll already have filed away the experience as just another one of those weird encounters. But ultimately you can't justify leaving, because you just paid $20 to get in. So you go to the bar.
Happy Independence Day! (Last month it was Flag Day! Flag Day!) Whether you're roasting a whole pig as the Founders intended, or just throwing some veggies—or peaches—on the grill, no July 4 barbecue is complete without a corresponding playlist.
Alas, America's birthday has been held hostage for eons by the dull, repetitive compositions of John Philip Sousa. We'll give the man his due, but after years of hearing it over and over again, "Stars and Stripes Forever" has begun to feel as interminable as the name suggests. He also famously predicted that the arrival of recorded music would cause people to stop creating new music altogether, and that "the vocal cord will be eliminated by a process of evolution, as was the tail of man when he came from the ape."
So we thought we'd try something new: We asked you on Facebook for your favorite patriotic tunes. They didn't have to be jingoistic—in fact, the best one aren't. Just something that gives you a little bit of a pride in place when you hear it. And you responded—about 250 times, actually.
Here are 11 of our favorites:
Pavement, "No More Kings": This adaptation of the Schoolhouse Rock classic tells the story of how a plucky band of patriots broke away from the cackling, purple-lipstick-wearing tyrant King George III—and did so with just four fingers on each hand.
Marvin Gaye, "Star Spangled Banner": How to take a frequently butchered, oft-criticized anthem that's set to an old drinking tune, and turn it into a classic: Step 1: Add Marvin Gaye. Step 2: There is no step 2. (Apologies to Jimi Hendrix.)
Bruce Springsteen, "4th of July, Asbury Park": With an assist from the late, great Clarence Clemons.
Lee Greenwood, "God Bless the USA": Via MoJo Facebook commenters Larry, Heather, and Brandon (who prefaces it with an "Ok, I admit..."). We won't judge, Brandon! One mitigating factor here is that Greenwood went on to write a nearly identical song called "God Bless Canada," which strikes us on some level as patriotic bigamy.
James Brown, "Living in America": Because like it or not, most of us are.
Titus Andronicus, "A More Perfect Union": This one mixes Abraham Lincoln quotes, Harriet Beecher Stowe verses, independent-league baseball references, and an homage to Bruce Springsteen. If it were any more American, it would have to be deep-fried.
Johnny Horton, "The Battle of New Orleans": In which a band of American misfits teamed up with a band of actual pirates (!!) and, apparently, alligators, to score an ultimately meaningless victory. We'll take it.
Woody Guthrie, "This Land is Your Land": Look. We know. Woody Guthrie was none too happy with what was going on in America when he wrote this song. But we're pretty damn proud to be a part of a country that produces such powerful and aspirational expressions of discontent—and more generally, produces badasses like Woody Guthrie—and, ahem, Mary Harris Jones.
Funkadelic, "One Nation Under a Groove": Gettin' down, just for the funk of it.
Steve Goodman, "City of New Orleans": Goodman looks visibly nervous during all of this, which only serves to make the song even more endearing. Trains! Morning! Working people! Rust belt scenery! America!
Ray Charles, "America the Beautiful": A good note to close on. One of the classics, performed by one of the greats.
Click here for more music features from Mother Jones.
Mother Jones guest blogger Mark Armstrong is the founder of Longreads, a site devoted to uncovering the best long-form nonfiction articles available online. And what better time to curl up with a great read than over the weekend? Below, a hand-picked bouquet of five interesting stories, including word count and approximate reading time. (Readers can also subscribe to The Top 5 Longreads of the Week by clicking here.)
Just in time for your Fourth of July festivities, here's a collection of scenes, rants, and polemic that are dripping with patriotic verve and swagger. We're running the flag-waving gamut from South Park to Bruce Springsteen oratory.
Be sure to enjoy with cold beer and an extreme love of one's country.
Actor Michael Rapaport, whose face you might recognize from TV shows like Friends, Boston Public, and Prison Break (and whose tough-guy drawl your kids might know from video games like Grand Theft Auto and Scarface: The World is Yours), recalls with infectious enthusiasm the first time he heard A Tribe Called Quest. "It was on the radio in '87 or '88. I heard [front man] Q-Tip on the Jungle Brothers song promo, and I was like, "Oh shit, that's A Tribe Called Quest!....The flow was so playful and adolescent."
Rapaport, already a hip-hop fan, was an instant convert. He began following the group (hereafter abbreviated ATCQ) almost religiously as it took off over the next decade before disbanding in 1998. In 2008, presented with the chance to direct a documentary about the group, Rapaport leaped. The compelling result, Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, which opens in select theaters July 8, is part homage to Rapaport's musical heroes and part dissection of the group's tumultuous dynamics.
But things got messy this past December, after the band received a copy of the final cut and Q-Tip tweeted: "I am not in support of the a tribe called quest documentary." Of Tribe's four members, only Phife Dawg showed up for the film's January premiere at Sundance. In March, the other three—Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and Jarobi White—went on MTV to voice their displeasure over Rapaport's refusal to grant them producer credits and his disregard of their editorial input. For all the drama, Rapaport seemed nothing but upbeat as we sat down in a San Francisco hotel conference room to talk about growing up hip-hop, the rift with Q-Tip, and the type of music he won't let his kids listen to.
Mother Jones: Up until this point, you've only acted. What made you want to try your hand at directing?
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