In the late 1960s, Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes emerged from the American midwest playing thunderous rock which knew no discipline or boundaries.
Nugent played every solo as though it were his last, although the band’s songs never seemed to warrant his wild-eyed frenzied treatments. Listening to the Amboy Dukes’ albums was like going into hand-to-hand combat with your speakers.
The dawn of the 70s had little effect on Nugent. Throughout a series of personnel changes in his band and a constant changing of labels, he continued to preach the gospel of the guitar.
In 1975 he landed a contract with Epic and, with the corporate hype machine laying the foundation (forewarning the masses, actually), Nugent finally set off to conquer America.
Youngsters in the audiences gaped at this bona fide hippie madman, wearing skins from creatures that Nugent the hunter had captured and killed himself, and marvelled at a brand of open-ended loose-screwed guitar playing that had been rendered virtually extinct by all clearheaded, success-oriented guitarists.
It was extravagant riffing with feedback, distortion, echo, fuzz and wah-wah implemented not for effect or colouration but as weapons for attack.
With Eddie Van Halen outshining him in the musician magazine polls and Manowar stealing his loincloth, the 80s were dark days for Ted Nugent.
On 1982’s Nugent, he spars with Rod Stewart‘s old drummer Carmine Appice on a collection of flaccid rockers, branded only by clumsy politicking on Bound And Gagged. Horrible.
1984’s Penetrator was stronger, but despite the big choruses radio play never came. With his career on the skids, Nugent moonlighted as a DJ and appeared in Miami Vice. A good move, perhaps, as 1986’s Little Miss Dangerous remains rubbish metal-lite fit only for suburban pole dancing clubs.
Fast-forward two years and, incredibly, If You Can’t Lick ‘Em . . . Lick ‘Em sounds even worse: the once-proud Nugent dusting off his old riffs and hoping no-one will notice.
Nugent’s huge success in the US has always been a source of bemusement to the average UK rock fan. Nowadays his musical pursuits play second fiddle to teaching toddlers to hunt moose. It’s easy to see where it all went wrong.