Ted Nugent: ‘Weekend Warriors’
Released on September 1, 1978 (Epic Records)
1978 was the year I truly discovered the all-out gonzo rock and roll greatness of Ted Nugent, the one-time fast talking, classic rocking, state of shocking wild man of ’70s arena rock. Yeah, forty years on many might say that ol’ “Uncle Ted” has pretty much morphed into a half-senile, grumpy old fart whose mouth writes far more checks than his brain can actually cash, but back in the ’70s, Nuge was the epitomy of what most jean wearing, bare chested red-blooded American males wanted to be — loud, laid, and full of themselves. Heck, you don’t give your records names like Free for All and Cat Scratch Fever and load ‘em up with song titles like “Wang Dang Sweet Poon Tang” and “Hammerdown” without being at least somewhat cocky. Turns out, Ted Nugent was, is, and always will be cocky ALL the time. Difference is, back in the ’70s and ’80s, he also still had a half a brain on his hair covered shoulders.
Early that year, I stumbled into the land of gonzo when the Youth Activities Center in the small US Army housing area I lived in outside of Frankfurt, Germany acquired a record player and a ton of records. Somehow, Double Live Gonzo, with all of its loud guitar, cuss words, manic crowd and over the top live insanity found a spot in the pile. If you read my retro review on this website, then you know that I rescued that very copy of Double Live Gonzo from a certain banned future and afterwards discovered an already long-time Nugent admirer in my late father. So moved was I by the massive machoness of that album, I even stole a few of the albums’ on-stage raps to try and talk my way into a young lass panty or two but unfortunately for me, my teen swagger was nowhere near the level of Nuge nookie mastery and my attempt to spit Ted lines on the fairer sex was swatted down like fat flies in a field of fly swatters. Yes, despite a growing knowledge of Ted (within weeks I was the proud owner of the first three Nugent studio albums — Nugent, Free for All, and Cat Scratch Fever), I was still pretty much an awkward shaggy-haired 11-year-old kid with a ton of raging hormones but no clue how or what to do about it. Needless to say, even with my lack of cool, I was now a male on a mission with a new hero to attempt to emulate, the heart stopping, panty dropping Uncle Ted.
When I saw the guitar to shotgun artwork of Ted’s next album Weekend Warriors, I was frozen in awe. Still one of the coolest pieces of rock record cover art ever. So cool in fact, I managed to also lift a copy of the tour poster as crews were out pasting them all over Frankfurt, partially to put on my wall but mainly to try and get Dad to let me go to the show. Dad not only let me go, he took me and maybe rocked harder than I did that night. If the cover of Weekend Warriors left a lasting impression, then attending a Ted Nugent concert with Dad left an everlasting priceless memory. But before that concert in May of 1979, I was blasting the tunes in just about every ear I could find. Yeah, for a brief moment in my history, Weekend Warriors became an important chapter and verse in my rock and roll bible. For a minute, I was stunned that the great Derek St. Holmes was somehow missing from the party, replaced by some guy named Charlie Huhn, but a few power chords later and that same urge kicked in to play air guitar and get my face melted and all was beyond cool.
It’s kinda funny to think about now but Weekend Warriors starts off with that desperate plea of a song in “Need You Bad” which could have been my mantra in regards to just about every chick that walked within a few feet of me in 1978. This air guitar ode to attraction was maybe the closest I could get back then to relating to Ted… OK, actually even in this area I was still pretty dumb but I was smart enough to know this rocked. Even now 40 years later, this tune rocks hard enough to make my much older self beat on the table, play air guitar, and even sometimes throw down a rock pose or two despite older, less capable bones. It’s near impossible not to be pulled in by the breaks in the early part of the guitar solo, and when it kicks fully in? Holy gonzo! Few back then could play as fierce as Nugent in all his amped-up Chuck Berry on steroids splendor. Thinking Nuge didn’t drop panties. More like he would pick up a guitar, aim, and blow ‘em clean off.
At the end of the day, even with all his over-the-top antics and playing, the roots of Nugent’s rock and roll lies in the same garden as that of most of his ’70s guitar contemporaries like Jimmy Page, Peter Frampton, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and even Eddie Van Halen — the blues. “One Woman” is Ted’s version of the blues much like many of the grinding songs of Deep Purple and Whitesnake are theirs. It’s an arrangement heard many times through sixties and seventies rock and roll but in the hands of Ted and the capable soul of the supporting cast is given a rock and roll life of its own. Maybe one of his lesser known tracks (like most of the tunes of Weekend Warriors), it still is a killer on an album with very, very little filler. Luckily, in the era of arena rock, a great album overall was still a great album even if none of the songs hit radio or some level of mainstream success.
Starting off with a blistering solo over a fast driving groove, “I Got the Feelin’” is classic ’70s boogie woogie romp rock made to move stadium audiences. The kinda track that conjures up visions of Ted, big ass Gibson hollow body guitar in hand, jumping down onto the stage from the top of one of the huge mains. Of course, it’s got a killer solo complete with breakdowns and even with a few Nuge grunts, groans, screams, and rants. This all-out rocker shows up in time to give the listener just enough of a blast to hold ‘em over a while so Ted and the gang can mix things up a bit. In 1978, this was more than likely Ted being smart, even if I was clueless, he knew that a good rock album needed at least an ass shaking groove or two to please the ladies and after this bit of male angst, he was happy to oblige.
“Tights Spots” is a classic Nugent groover in the vein of early fan favorite “Hey Baby” from his self-titled 1975 debut. Catchy and bordering on southern rock, Ted even manages to throw his own guitar wrench in the middle with a change-up solo section while Huhn is in fine soul / blues vocal form making this tune all the more interesting. With a catchy chorus complete with simple lyrics not needing a rocket scientist to decipher, it’s a cool song and one of my favorite listens from one of my fave records.
Before bands like the Scorpions and Dio were creating legend partially due to dark power ballads, ol’ Ted was already dabbling in the dark “soft” underbelly of rock balladry with songs like “Together” from Free for All and “Venom Soup” revisits this small corner of his musical arsenal. While only occasionally exhibiting this “softer” side on his albums, it’s just enough to give the listener a break from the balls out rock and roll Ted would become known for. Here, “Venom Soup” is every bit of a power ballad as similar slower tempo heavy songs from that period of rock and roll with a classic picked guitar intro and power chord blasts before the emergence of droning bass guitar creeps in. The build-up tricks the first time listener into being caught off guard by the eventually blast to come. Compared to usual Nugent fare, “Venom Soup” is also heavier in terms of theme and style with deeper lyrics and context. Not even sure if that should make sense in an article about Ted Nugent but, it’s there and for what it’s worth, pretty badass.
The next track “Smokescreen” is classic Nugent — driving and chugging bass guitar-driven with wailing lead guitar over the top. If there was a track that I could have picked to come out in time to be played on Double Live Gonzo, it woulda been this one. “Smokescreen” just begs for a live arena setting complete with buffalo blasting guitar improv like only Nugent can give. One of my all-time fave Ted Nugent tunes, it’s a full on memory blast of the times taking me back to the days of barefoot, bare chested, faded denim backwoods summer days with the boombox and a stack of cassettes. You can toss in your own ending from there but this song and this album was a pretty good summer jam for a few years to come.
Not every album in rock and roll is privileged to have its own title track and not only is “Weekend Warriors” a blast of a title tune, it’s also a pretty darn killer party anthem. Can’t count how many times riding the bus home on Friday, my friends and I hollered “Finally it’s Friday I’m out of my cage…” before eventually dropping the school books off at home, grabbing boomboxes and heading out for some fun and mischief. Even within the confines of our tiny American housing area, fun was just a bus and train hop away and the times were definitely mellower. Toss in living in a country with no drinking age and yeah, we pretty much lived in our own version of the movie Dazed And Confused and the music was a huge part of the experience definitely including Uncle Ted. You can’t get a better weekend anthem than this one — “Working for the weekend?” Ted was bulldozing through to the weekend!
If I had been a tad older, “Cruisin’” might have made for great windows down crank the stereo all the way up driving music. Years later, I would actually test that theory and annoy my high school friends blasting the tune (and other Nuge nuggets) while hanging out in the skating rink parking lot. Yeah, I was fully digging bands like Poison and Def Leppard come the ’80s but never left the likes of early Ted, Aerosmith, KISS, and more out of my weekend soundtrack.
Speaking of soundtracks, I always thought “Good Friends And A Bottle of Wine” would have sounded great during the party scene at the water tower in Dazed And Confused but I guess I kinda get that maybe the time period was set earlier hence the use of Nugent songs like “Hey Baby” and “Stranglehold.” It’s every bit the sing-a-long party anthem as “Weekend Warriors” and thinking back, kind of funny as I seem to remember teens trying to sneak a beer way more than a bottle of wine but even so, the sentiment of hanging out and making good time memories with friends is there and duly noted in this fun anthem. The biggest shame here is that this song didn’t get a bigger push. It certainly would have been a lot cooler radio party hit than a lot of the stuff being blasted on the radio in 1978.
Thinking about Dazed And Confused, there is this sound associated with that movie — a very cock rock sort of feel if you will. A vibe that lands somewhere in between “I’m Eighteen” era Alice Cooper and “Fool For The City” style Foghat and closer “Name Your Poison” lands smack in the middle of that. Not sure if it’s so much a style as it is a production sound but it lends itself nicely to that American summer, old muscle car, no shoes — no shirt, party at the lake feel and for a lot of us guys, that’s a feel we remember fondly and would give our Van Halen records up to revisit for even just a day. There’s no super-secret rocket science formula here or on any other tune on this album, just good fun three chord party rock and roll with a free for all guitar solo. Just like the tracks before it on this one, it’s simply what Ted does, nothing more and nothing less.
So yeah, after months of blasting my brain with this great record, Dad and I caught Ted and his band just at start of the summer of 1979 in Russelheim, Germany and to this day it stands as one of the best concert memories from my youth. Dad drove a friend and I to what was essentially a German gymnasium in our little blue Volkswagen bug and while us crazy kids hugged the front rail mere feet from the stage, Dad settled in to a chair just above the left side and when I would look over on occasion, would be sporting the biggest smile while rocking back and forth. Needless to say, all of our smiles and bouncing around were due to Ted Nugent and company tearing up the stage with songs from not only Weekend Warriors but also our favorite gonzo hits. Afterwards, he let us hang in the parking lot with my boombox on the roof of the car blasting all kinds of rock and roll until the place emptied out enough to not have to sit in line. We probably thought we were way cooler than we were but did get the attention of a few German gals who whistled at us… but then again, they could have been whistling at Dad in his freshly donned Nugent tour tee. Sometimes, cool swag has a way of grabbing people’s attention especially if you’re a weekend warrior! In all honesty, being just the son of an US Army sergeant, I was the “Weekend Warrior”… and Dad, the all-out seven day a week freedom fighting American warrior! And for the next few years, through all our travels, we shared in our love of future albums like State Of Shock (another personal fave), Scream Dream and Intensities In 10 Cities. The last time we enjoyed a concert together while he was still alive was an outdoor Damn Yankees show in Augusta, Georgia with, you guessed it, Ted Nugent!
01. Need You Bad
02. One Woman
03. I Got the Feelin’
04. Tight Spots
05. Venom Soup
07. Weekend Warriors
09. Good Friends And A Bottle of Wine
10. Name Your Poison
Ted Nugent – lead and rhythm guitars, lead, bass (10_, percussion
Charlie Huhn – lead and backing vocals, rhythm guitar (2)
John Sauter – bass
Cliff Davies – drums, backing vocals
David Hull – bass (2, 5, 6, 8)
Produced by Lew Futterman and Tom Werman
Engineered by Steve Klein and Tim Geelan
Mixed by Tim Geelan
Assistant engineers: Kevin Ryan, Lou Schlossberg and Phil Giambaivo
Reviewed by John “Stoney” Cannon for Sleaze Roxx, September 2018