You've probably no doubt heard about me showing up for a taping of VH1's The List and then being asked to leave (yes, security did escort me to the door, but no punches were thrown.) The dumb fucks had pleaded with me for months to do the show and my agent kept telling 'em to wait until the college hockey season was over. (I love my agent: After the UND/BC final, it was he who bailed me out when I got my first ever noise-complaint-arrest, my downstairs neighbor didn't mind me so much yelling "Commie! Commie!" - not a McCarthy-inspired chant, by the way - so much as he objected to my jumping up and down on my floor/his ceiling.) So I finally deigned to show up at VH1, feeling like a bigshot because I had drank lukewarm Beck's on the plane at three bucks a can instead of lukewarm cans of two-dollar Miller Genuine Draft. Then when I started talking to the producers, I let slip that I'd never seen their show.
Uh-oh, they didn't like that one much. I started to backpedal, but then one producer asked why and I said I don't watch dumb popular-culture shows during college hockey season as I got too much other stuff going on. Then someone objected to my attire of Blackhawk-era Sioux jersey and I said hey what the hell are you a BC fan and turns out the dude wasn't, but he was from out East and I said yeah I could tell that by your one eyebrow (hate to sound like a Nazi Youth, but are there any blond people on the East Coast?) Then someone said you don't deserve to be here - you don't even know the show's concept and I said whatya mean every time I get together with my buds or I talk to my brother all we do is argue about what was the greatest-this or greatest-that and my posse is surely more passionate and precise than whatever "personalities" you've scraped up - how tough can it be? Then I said fuck it (too loud, turns out) I'll just sit in the crowd and watch the taping. Then when I was trying to find the green room and hopefully score some more Beck's, the next thing I know these security guards are all over me.
Anyway, if I would have been on The List, I would have ruled!! Still don't even know how the show works, but for the Greatest Song Ever I would have picked Ted Nugent's "Wango Tango."
Released in 1980, towards the end of the late-seventies punk explosion, "Wango Tango" harkens back to the original (did someone say the best?) punk: mid-sixties garage rock. In fact, you could argue that in this song Ted is going back to his roots - he started his career with the Amboy Dukes, who appeared on the first Nuggets album. With lines like "my baby she scream and shout / my baby she move it out / my baby she take a chance / my baby got a brand-new dance," it's supposedly all about dancing, but it hints that it's actually all about sex. You were never quite sure, so you told your buds: "Yeah, this song's all about doin' it!" Then you prayed they didn't ask for specifics.
Not content with creating a garage-rock classic, Ted looks ahead to today's future that is rapmetal, which to my ears is one of the most exciting things going on in rock 'n' roll these days. Rapmetal gets dissed in just about any rock mag you pick up, mostly because it involves lots of metal riffings and "stealing" black American culture and does not involve being British (just imagine how often the word "genius" would be tossed around if Kid Rock were a Brit) or being an overeducated, sensitive, literary fop Songwriter. (Yeah, capitalize that word dammit - all those wordsmiths and clever-hook-arrangers deserve our worship!) And supposedly rapmetal acts don't open doors for women or something like that - they're being implicated by association in all sorts of young-male nastiness. (Mostly because no one has the guts to implicate lazy lousy boomer parents who provide shitty role models.) It gets real confusing, because even politically correct acts like Rage Against the Machine can't catch a break; they get called contrived (or worse, capitalists.) Basically, the only problem magazine writers have with rapmetal artists is that they're metal. Freakin' nerds.
Anyway, Ted, five years after Aerosmith's "Walk This Way" and six years before Run-DMC's rapmetal landmark cover of that song; reaches back into metal's past of garage rock and also has a hand in creating its future of rapmetal. Damn.
Oh yeah, the lyrics are dumb as hell, of course. 'Specially when Ted starts jive-talkin later in the song. What the hell does "pretend your face is a Mazerati" or "Gonna get a little talcum / I'm gonna borrow it from Malcolm" mean? Who cares! It does that make-the-word-fit thing that rappers are masters at. Y'know sometimes it doesn't matter that the words don't mean much - just so they sound good. Besides, they're better goddamn lyrics than anything those new-wave twerps came up with back in '80 and they're delivered with a hell of a lot more salaciousness! Plus Ted has some great catchy chords and a funky beat - fuck all those cheesy keyboards and that distanced irony that Devo and the Cars were using! This is rock 'n' roll, not a goddamned art project! "Wango Tango" has the title yelled as its first words (just like its forefather, "Wooly Bully") a count-in, it has a "c'mon boys!" yelled before a delicious, fluttering bass joins in. It has a trashy riff, it has psychotic singing, it has girlie background singers, and it has a great chorus.
Also its title rhymes, which is probably the most important thing about the song. Songs Whose Titles Rhyme isn't so much a genre of rock 'n' roll as it is an attitude - a dare-to-be-great-because-we're-daring-to-be-dumb situation. I'm guessing most songs whose titles rhyme are great and they're great because they're catchy and they're fun ... "Tutti Frutti," "Wooly Bully," "True Blue," "Blue Bayou," "Double Trouble," etc. etc. (The Clash's "Train in Vain" doesn't count - ya gotta drop those prepositions!) Blues rockers don't write songs like these, neither do smart art-rockers, nor do intimate singer-songwriters. (And just for piling-on's sake, the name of Ted's album that "Wango Tango" was on was titled Scream Dream. Ted had quite the knack for being a rhyme-master - he had previously recorded a song titled "Wang Dang Sweet Pootang"; he also used an internal rhyme for "Yank Me, Crank Me." His next album after Scream Dream would be titled Intensities in Ten Cities.)
So that's why "Wango Tango" is the greatest rock 'n' roll song ever. Of course there's about a thousand more I could argue for also, and they'd be songs like "Wooly Bully" and "Stagger Lee" and "Paradise City" and "Louie Louie" and "Cowboy" and "Bust a Move." Hardly any of 'em were made by Artists and there's probably not a single Songwriter's favorite in the bunch either. But just bring the goddamned noise already, okay?
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