The Mojo Manifesto
10-CD/DVD Box Set
Count on the unconventional Mojo Nixon to do the outlandish. The now Sirius/XM radio host of “Outlaw Country” and NASCAR decides to essentially cap his recording career with not just a single or double alum set but instead package all ten of his albums plus a DVD in a box set. “In my career, I over-performed,” says Mojo, humbly. “At the time, I was all in a huff, but now looking back at the fact that I made 10 albums and did all these things is fucking amazing! I gotta say – I got a lot out of a little.” He never considered himself much of a singer or guitar player, but he sprang out of the college rock explosion of the ‘80s, did so as irreverently as possible, in a hybrid punk-rock/rockabilly shocking style with lyrics that traced probably unconsciously to Lenny Bruce but consciously to comedians of the time like Richard Pryor, thereby putting an enduring stamp on his singular career. This writer will always remember the long lines on Saturday morning beginning at 9 AM for “Mojo’s Mayhem” at the Continental Club beginning at 10 AM. One year I arrived around noon. The bar was already out of Bloody Mary mix.
No, this writer didn’t listen to all ten in the box, at least not yet. Nixon was always an acquired taste and even more so now that his career is in the rearview. Yet, his style and certainly his song titles will bring smiles and admiration for his ballsy approach. Who else could have penned “Jesus at McDonald’s,” “Stuffin’ Martha’s Muffin,” “Elvis Is Everywhere,” and “Don Henley Must Die”? As long as we’re on a roll, here are a few more: “Gonna Put My Face on a Nuclear Bomb,” “I’m Living with a Three-Foot Anti-Christ,” “Burn Down the Malls,” “I Ain’t Gonna Piss in No Jar,” “I’m Gonna Dig Up Howlin’ Wolf,” She’s Vibrator Dependent,” “Put a Sex Mo-Seen in the White House,” “Bring Me the Head of David Geffen,” “Destroy All Lawyers,” “I Don’t Want No Cybersex,” “I Want to Kill My Wife Tonight” and “What’s Up Judge Judy’s Ass.” And, yes, that’s just a small sampling of insanity. (Wow! Just putting these titles down is bizarre, never mind writing a song)
In the extensive, 40-page booklet from journalist Craig Rosen, this quote from Mojo appears in the introduction, basically an explanation of his songwriting approach – “I’m not a very good singer-songwriter or guitar player but I am quite the bullshit artist. My talent lies in coming up with something like ‘Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant with My Two Headed Love Child.’ That’s a good title, right? That gets people interested. And then there’s work. You gotta have a verse and a chorus and a solo.” Arguably his other key to success, especially among the boozed-up college age audience was his anthemic singalongs like “I Like Marijuana,” “Beer Ain’t Drinkin’,” and “Are You Drinkin’ With Me Jesus” to name just a few.
The set was timed for release shortly after the unveiling of a new documentary, The Life & Times of Mojo Nixon, celebrating his life at the SXSW Festival this month. So, we know that didn’t happen and the whereabouts of this premiere is still unknown at this writing. In the meantime there’s plenty of history in the booklet including fascinating stories from people who played on the albums including the Beat Farmers’ Joey Harris, X’s Doe, Dream Syndicate’s Steve Wynn, Bill David of Dash Rip Rock, Eric “Roscoe” Ambel of the Del-Lords, and others as well as photos and the posters.
Across the discs are 147 songs, Mojo’s entire studio output. The DVD includes seven wild videos of many of the mentioned songs in previous paragraphs. His early days with multi-instrumentalist and usual washboard companion Skid Roper are represented by the 1985 self-titled set, 1986’s Frenzy/Get Out of My Way!, 1987’s Bo-Day-Shus!!!, and 1989’s Jim Dickinson-produced Root Hog or Die. His mid-period has 1990’s Otis, where Mojo is backed by an high caliber band featuring the Beat Farmers’ Country Dick Montana, John Doe, Bill Davis and Eric “Roscoe” Ambel. Mojo’s stint with the Toadliquors has 1992’s Horny Holidays and 1999’s rockabilly The Real Sock Ray Blue. His collaboration with Ambel is 1995’s Whereabouts Unknown. 1997’s GADZOOKS!!! Is the one that has lots of singalongs and his final (not going quietly) project 2009’s Whiskey Rebellion caps the collection.
Mojo had raw enthusiasm, boundless, just shy of X-rated subject matter on some songs, and an energy that rivaled Johnny Rotten. When our period of self-quarantine passes, it might be fun to break your cabin fever with a hellacious road trip. Bring this box set. Even if you don’t listen to all ten discs (practically impossible in a continuous listen), put them in from time to time. Face it, you’ve gone weeks without laughter. You’re overdue.
- Jim Hynes