STATE OF SHOCK
Released in May 1979 (Epic Records)
Aaaah — May 2nd nineteen seventy freakin‘ nine… A day that for me will forever live in rockin‘ infamy for it was on that day that, thanks to my dad, I first saw Ted Nugent live and in concert. Now mind you, this was still the “Tear you a new badass hole” Weekend Warriors Tour but Ted was set that month to release his latest Nuge bomb on the world, State of Shock, even including a couple new tunes in the set. I say I think, I think I say, ain’t no nobody was about to get mellow that night. Especially not the crowd in Russelsheim, Germany. In one hot night, I learned things that would leave a rock n’ roll impression on me then and later — Ted didn’t need a crazy elaborate stage to rock your face off and, come the ’80s, it was obvious who (intentional or not) every hard rock guitarist stole their stage moves from. Every wide-legged, rear back, guitar neck in the air, head and hair way back move, yeah — Uncle Ted was doing way back when. Sure these days, Ted‘s motormouth might spit out some pretty insane crap but there’s no denying that in the latter half of the ’70s, he was the epitome of all things gonzo that would raise a sleazy head come the ’80s.
Now by 1979, I was deeply invested in Nugent having made his music a necessity for my raccoon tail adorned boombox as I strutted my way through the Army housing area I called home In Germany. Never mind that the radio was so big it had a tilt that nearly caused it to touch the ground. Next to my scuffed up jeans and sneakers, that black and silver Sanyo fit in just rock n’ roll fine. Heck, I picked it because the colors reminded me of the main colors KISS wore up until then and few things sounded better coming out if than bastardized Chuck Berry inspired American rock n’ roll. “Red blooded American cock rock” my pals called it. Nothing fancy just loud, energy filled guitar rock and Nugent, along with other flag carrying guys like Mark Farner (Grand Funk), Leslie West (Mountain) and Joe Perry (Aerosmith) kept waving amidst an invasion of disco and new wave. Yeah, maybe it influenced heavy metal some, hair metal a bit, but pretty sure the lot would pretty quickly claim ‘rock n’ roll’ as the style and ‘loud’ as the fashion.
Despite more confidence than David Lee Roth at a baby shower, ol‘ Ted had his work cut out for him in 1979. Before he even had a shot to drop State of Shock on the faithful, their piggy banks were already being pilfered by future legendary releases by the Scorpions, UFO, Judas Priest, Van Halen and Motörhead, and that was just the start. Once out, State of Shock would have to go head to head with soon to be classic game changing albums from AC/DC, Rainbow and Foreigner, and the ’80s wouldn’t be any easier. Those bands and others (Def Leppard and Iron Maiden both released pre-label EPs in 1979) would help turn rock and roll into a multiple platinum, chart topping force in the new decade taking Ted‘s own vision of rock n’ roll into a whole new energized direction. On State of Shock, Nuge set out to show he wasn’t ready to lay down and die like the great white buffalo he once so loudly rocked about.
Clocking in at 40 blistering minutes, State of Shock was a no brainer for me to pick up. Since being smacked around by the sounds of early Ted by the older kids and further poisoned by an unexpected rec center encounter with a copy of Double Live Gonzo (my young brain couldn’t comprehend that cuss words could be so readily included on an album), I had become full blown gonzo for Nugent. Albums like Free-For-All, Cat Scratch Fever, Weekend Warriors, and Ted‘s 1975 self-titled solo debut wore our more record needles than humanly possible and from first crackle, State of Shock would turn out to be no different.
I can still remember hearing the guitar kicking off opener “Paralyzed” and immediately my gaze leaving the sight of a crazed wild haired Nuge as the album cover left my grip and fell to the floor. Yeah, I was always blown away by the energy and wildness of Uncle Ted‘s guitar playing but this was all that and something else. Something more frantic. I don’t know. Maybe, he was feeling the fire coming off of Eddie Van Halen‘s double tapped fretboard (Van Halen had just released Van Halen II after shocking the world with their guitar crazy debut) but whatever the deal was, here was Ted being Ted but like for a new generation. It would have been one thing if he had been like that old guy miserably trying to stay hip but Ted was pulling it off by doing nothing more than showing a little bit of Ted the world hadn’t seen yet. Still Ted… just showing he was more than Chuck Berry on steroids.
Further enhancing the badassness of State of Shock is the production and to this day, it stands as one of my favorite drum records. The reverb alone on the drums rolls on “Paralyzed” is worth the money spent on the record alone. First time I heard them fly side to side in my headphones, I hit up a couple of friends to come over, put my stereo speakers on the opposite ends of my bedroom and proudly blasted it in our third floor apartment. My pals were just as speechless as I was, the neighbors surely less than happy, my folks scared shitless, and me, well for a brief moment, I felt the pride of turning someone else on to something cool. Yeah, years later that seems kind of stupid but to a 13 year old kid still trying to find his spot in the world, it bordered on life changing.
That first spin of State of Shock actually took a while as I played the first track over and over a few times but eventually I left the needle alone long enough for it to make it to the first notes of “Take It Or Leave It” and at that point, never looked back. Dropping back into a more traditional Ted like groove, “Take It Or Leave It” could have easily fit on the previous release Weekend Warriors and features Ted in all his gonzo vocal / guitar glory. As rocking as it is catchy, it’s a track that could have easily fit on an arena stage as on a turntable.
After a couple of rocking Nuge fronted vocal tunes, rhythm guitarist Charlie Huhn lends his bluesy pipes to southern rock ballad “Alone”, a tune reminiscent of the Meat Loaf voiced track “Together” off of Free-For-All. Just a brief listen is all it takes to realize why Ted picked Huhn to replace Derek St. Holmes and why this journeyman rocker would go on to work with artists such as Gary Moore, Humble Pie and Foghat. Huhn possesses the perfect pipes for ’70s style American blues cock rock and whether it’s a rocker or a ballad, Huhn can pull it off. Despite criticism of hints of mellowness on an album that promised lightning blasts of rock and roll, “Alone” (as well as Ted‘s catchy take on The Beatles‘ “I Want to Tell You”) adds a wonderful break on an album of guitar driven rock and roll. But for those not having it, State of Shock hardly goes for mellow long.
To this day, my fave tune on the album (and one of my all-time fave Ted tracks), “It Don’t Matter” is a speedy drum driven rocker with classic stop and go verses that lead to a driving anthem style chorus that, despite the title, is actually filled with chants of “it doesn’t matter.” Fans of Ted‘s spastic lead breaks can’t go wrong with this tune that perfectly leads up to the album’s title track, the very classic Nuge sounding “State of Shock.” With a groove not far removed from earlier party anthem “Good Friends And A Bottle of Wine” off of Weekend Warriors, this is pure old school Nugent and delivers a style and sound that has hung around like a pesky fly since that 1975 debut solo release. Of course, not in a way that would make you want to swat at it other than in full-fisted concert adulation with several hundred other sweaty rock fans. Yeah, old Ted can yank and crank on a guitar but far from being a one-trick white buffalo, the dude could toss out a mighty fine rock anthem as well.
While on original vinyl and cassette, the title track turned out to be a pretty cool seque to the flipside, Ted‘s choice of kicking off side two with what can only be described as Nugent‘s version of bubblegum pop via his rendition of The Beatles tune “I Want To Tell You” for many fans was interesting at best. While not surprising that Nugent would pay homage to the Fab Four (after all what ’70s rockers weren’t at least partially turned on to rock n’ roll by The Beatles?), Epic must have been wondering how many hardcore fans would be turned off by this less than macho side of the Nuge. Heck, even Ted‘s ballads were kind of dark and still loaded with rock guitar, but a sticky sweet Beatles pop ditty? Not our wild gonzo skirt chasing leader! Luckily for fans of classic Ted Nugent, the rest of State of Shock sticks so close to home, it’s easy to forget this is post St. Holmes Ted. Yeah, Huhn definitely earns his keep down the stretch.
“Satisfied” grooves around “Stranglehold” territory at least in tempo and style and nearly bleeds kin to “Paralyzed” come the chorus although in slower fashion. It also marks the last time on the record Ted takes the old and gives it a dose of bastardized new. For sure, it’s classic Ted and makes you not care St. Holmes slid off the Nuge radar but still has traces of Ted giving a musical middle finger to those labeling him a dinosaur at the time. If only they had known then what he’d be like 25 years later, they would have thought he was still a dang wild ass teenager back in 1979!
I can’t really claim overplaying this album back in 1979 as merely a fan dedication as I can still put it on the turntable and rock out from jump to dump but as much as I dig State of Shock as a whole, I’ve got to admit that the last three tunes offer little that Ted hadn’t already pounded out on previous solo albums. Yeah, “Bite Down Hard”, “Snakecharmer” and “Saddle Sore” all come loaded with Ted‘s snarky lead guitar bouncing hard off the killer backing of an incredible band and punctuated with Huhn‘s more than capable pipes and some pretty choice backing vocals but at the end of the hunting trip, it’s pretty much still Ted albeit just as cool as anything off of Free-For-All, Cat Scratch Fever, or even the ever kickass Weekend Warriors. Not a bad thing of course, but at the time, nothing new. But maybe that’s what makes State of Shock so cool more than anything else — that Ted was still giving the fans what they had dug about him all along — no nonsense gonzo guitar rock.
AC/DC rarely changed their sound in 40 plus years. Deep Purple still sound pretty much like Deep Purple, yeah maybe the slight glimpses of new stuff was all we were supposed to get in 1979. Later in the ’80s, Ted changed things up even more and see how that went? Enough of a fail that he joined Damn Yankees and the land of middle age male sensitivity. Oh Uncle Ted, please say it ain’t so! Yep, from banging every chick in sight to leaning in close to Tommy Shaw on stage, my, how that stranglehold loosened up. So OK, the Damn Yankees tunes were cool but not Ted in a lion cloth jumping off tall ass PA speakers with a giant hollow body Gibson cool! Man, Nugent in a band with dudes from Night Ranger and Styx? Talk about a State of Shock, that was to a lot of Ted fans in the ’80s. Ted spent the ’70s tossing chicks around stone cold sober and suddenly he’s in a band that’s wondering if they can get taken high enough? A far cry from an everyday life of wang dang sweet… Yeah…
So like I said, May of 1979, this album came out and rocked dudes everywhere and that same month, I was witness to the onstage bombast of Ted live for the first time and it only made me want more louder and faster concert experiences. Yeah, I saw Ted a few more times, Damn Yankees too, but Ted in 1979 was about the best Ted possible. And for red blooded American rock n’ roll loving males, back in the ’70s, few things were better than a little Ted.
02. Take It Or Leave It
04. It Don’t Matter
05. State of Shock
06. I Want To Tell You
08. Bite Down Hard
09. Snake Charmer
10. Saddle Sore
Ted Nugent – lead and rhythm guitars, lead vocals, percussion
Charlie Huhn – lead and backing vocals, rhythm guitar
Walt Monaghan – bass
Cliff Davies – drums, backing vocals
Leah Kilburn – backing vocals (3)
Produced by Lew Futterman
Engineered by Tim Geelan
Assistant engineers: David Gotlieb and Lou Schlossberg
Mixing assistant: David McCullough
Reviewed by John Stoney Cannon for Sleaze Roxx, May 2019
Ted Nugent performing “Paralyzed” live at ABC-TV in Los Angeles, California, USA on October 24, 1980:
Lineup: Ted Nugent – lead guitar & vocals Charlie Huhn – guitar & vocals Dave Kiswiney – bass & vocals Cliff Davies – drums “Fridays” was a short lived TV show that aired on ABC-TV from April 1980 until April 1982.