After half a century of putting out tony conservative works such as William F. Buckley’s God and Man at Yale and Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind, Regnery Publishing has decided to embark on a journey to the center of the mind of Ted Nugent. “I am conservative,” says the 52-year-old author of God, Guns, & Rock’n’Roll and composer of “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang.”
“And, yes, you can be conservative and exercise the middle finger. Why? Because conservatism is defiance of the fantasy-based, liberal status quo, and if defiance isn’t manifested in the use of the middle finger, my name is Michael Jackson!”
Too bad Regnery’s editors didn’t defy Nugent’s fantasy-based grammar, syntax, punctuation, and spelling (“calvary” for “cavalry”!), all of which could have been “upgraded” (a favorite Nuge word) without neutering Nugent‘s passion—a passion, incidentally, rooted less in conservatism than in transcendentalism. In his commitment to self-reliance and the restorative powers of nature (especially during Deer Season), Nugent echoes no one so much as Ralph Waldo Emerson. “In the wilderness,” wrote Emerson, “I find something more dear and connate than in streets or villages.” Nugent: “God knows we all need to escape to Mother Nature today more than ever.” Emerson: “Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist.” Nugent: “Peer pressure is for stupid sheep.”
Emerson also wrote “Terminus,” a poem about coming to terms with old age and death; Nugent wrote “Terminus Eldorado,” a song about swiping the family Cadillac, becoming roadkill in the resulting wreck, and having crows pick at your flesh.
Only the thin-skinned will find God, Guns, & Rock’n’Roll offensive. Only the dour will find it unfunny. But anyone who’d rather read it than listen to Great Gonzos has such a strange way of pursuing happiness that his ideas about life and liberty could probably stand an upgrade as well.
Ted Nugent plays Irving Plaza September 17.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 12, 2000