Jimmy Eat World vs. Ted Nugent: Emo vs Macho?

You fabled, pass-along-readership people who never touch an alternative weekly can’t be expected to know this, but Jimmy Eat World is not really emo anymore. Even when the group out-cloudied Sunny Day Real Estate with its yeah-still-emotional second album Clarity, Jimmy Eat World was already gunning for the arena rock vote. It may not have been the first band to chide a doper friend or fess up to nerdy shortcomings in song, but since Rites of Spring, Minor Threat, Shunned to Think, Moss Icon, the Promise Ring and Embrace never produced a hit single like “The Middle” or placed a song in a Drew Barrymore film, Jimmy is gonna be the band you remember as The Year That Emo Broke.

And now, Detroit, we will bear witness to the band named Jimmy as it hunkers down on the 14,000-seater dream — headlining precious Cobo Arena (site of, among others, the Kiss Alive album before all the costly overdubs) playing those toe-tapping, heart-tugging songs about pain, work, drugs, honesty and cherry lipstick (someone else’s). Jimmy’s triumph in 2004 is one heckuva giant step for emotional rock. Sensitive 23- to 44-year-old males who in previous decades had only wuss emissaries like the Moody Blues, Tears for Fears and the Richard Marx Experience to bring widespread yearning to beer-guzzling stadia now have an honest-to-Fugazi rock band. It’s no coincidence that the band from Mesa, Ariz., named its new album Futures, for in its 11 tracks these sons of the desert not only secure their place in rock history but also rewrite anew the face of rock amphitheater entertainment to come.

“Not so fast,” shouts a voice with a familiar wail from the back of the coliseum. Why, it’s Ted Nugent, star of stage, screed, bloodshed and conservative radio, returning for his annual Whiplash New Year’s Bash at the Palace of Auburn Hills, and the only other serious contender for your arena rock dollar this December.

Incidentally, KISS invited the Nuge to support them on their first farewell tour back in 2000, and by the time those painted old whores are through retiring, they’ll probably ask Jimmy’s people if they’re available. It’s a testament to the Motor City Madman’s showmanship that it takes KISS four hydraulic lifts, smoke machines, a giant Lite Brite screen, eight impossibly high heels, blood, fire and Roman candle-spitting guitars just to equal the hedonistic rip-snorting that Ted achieves with just a hollow-bodied guitar and a potty mouth. This man shits stadium rock. Nuge, Nuge. Say no more.

The only trouble is he’s been preaching to the converted for too many years. Nugent released two double live sets in as many years which virtually duplicate the contents of Double Live Gonzo, and his last studio set, 2002’s Craveman, was a hard-rockin’ return to form that missed an opportunity to present a new, mature Ted — a compassionate conservative who not only kills and guts his own venison, but isn’t afraid to admit he’s got anguish issues in songs like “My Baby Likes My Butter on Her Gritz” and “Pussywhipped.”

What needs to happen is a summit somewhere in The Middle between these two giants of decidedly different rock. Imagine Jimmy and Terrible Teddy learning and growing together, each imparting his own wisdom on the other. Jimmy Eat World will probably be expected to release the obligatory live album soon and will have to come to grips that they don’t have a set list with song titles as funny as “My Love Is Like a Tire Iron “ and “I Am a Predator.” And if Uncle Ted ever hopes to get back on the radio with anything other than flying lip-lock aimed at vegans and the French, he could follow Jimmy’s lead, tap into his introspective side and not worry what the bitter hearts are gonna say. Just follow these six handy lessons to Jimmy and Ted’s excellent reinvention!

Lesson 1. What Jimmy can teach Ted about guitars

No one has to show the Nuge around a six string. Like Johnny B. Goode, he can play a guitar just like a ringing a bell but even he never went to the lengths Jimmy’s Tom Linton goes to to make a guitar actually indistinguishable from a bell. Any bell. Imagine how more effective Terrible Ted’s lusty anthems would be with a guitar than sounds like mega-decibel benwas, overpriced Tibetan hanging bells, parrot chewtoy ringlets or the chime tones on a Nokia phone. Plus there’re all those weird emo chords that the Mel Bay theory books still don’t cover: the E-sad-diminished, A-flat despondent and the annoying C-sharp auspicious.

What Ted can teach Jimmy about guitars

Uncle Ted knows which gauge strings you need so you can bend them back and fire flaming arrows into the concession stand. And he could impart the importance of pulling and sustaining a note long enough to shake all the wilderness dandruff out of your hair.

Lesson 2. What Jimmy can teach Ted about love songs

Chicks dig songs like Jimmy’s that say “I know I’ve made mistakes” and “I’ve always been afraid/ I’ve always been afraid.” It lets them know you care enough to apologize for not sending half-year anniversary cards. And Ted’s fan base can always use some surplus poon. Ever see the cover of his 1981 live album Intensities in 10 Cities? There’re more teenage boys there than in Quentin Crisp’s diaries. And how’s this for consideration — Jimmy’s Jimmy Adkins goes the extra mile for his car-shagging date in “Night Drive” by remembering to bring wine and blankets, and he gets extra sensitivity points for warning her that the cold will probably kill them before the running car’s fumes do.

What Ted can teach Jimmy about love songs

You can really sell a love song in a live setting if you can:

Preface it by talking like an auctioneer; make sure the mood is right by requesting that “Anybody who wants to get mellow get the fuck out of here, alright?”

Then and only then you announce, “This is a love song I’d like to dedicate to all that Nashville pussy.”

You launch into your most romantic composition, “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang.”

Lesson 3. What Jimmy can teach Ted about drugs

Ted has been staunchly anti-drug since his days as a member of the Amboy Dukes, a band that played nothing but LSD-inspired psychedelic music and showcased a fantastic collection of pipes on the cover of their second album that looked like a Tommy Chong catalog. Incredibly, when he first heard “Journey to the Center of the Mind,” he thought it was a song about self-reflection and not about playing connect the dots on an acid blotter. Jimmy’s slower music can demonstrate to Ted, who built his career on approximating the adrenaline rush of drugs he’s never taken, that there’s a whole Physicians’ Desk Reference of pharmaceuticals he could be emulating. And, as Futures handily demonstrates, a song doesn’t necessarily have to be about drugs to sound like a Dramamine sandwich.

What Ted can teach Jimmy about drugs

If you’re gonna write an anti-substance abuse intervention like Jimmy’s “Drugs or Me,” you can’t make it so goddamned pretty that couples will want to choose it as their prom slow dance song. Nah, Ted would tell Jimmy it’s their duty to scare the pants off the audience by laying down some serious cosmic shit like the Amboy Dukes’ “Why a Carrot is more Orange than an Orange” or “Journey to the Center of the Mind,” which cautioned the listener that “You might not come baaa-haaaa-ck” like even some Dristan was gonna be like an episode of Land of the Lost. Ted lost his entire group to demon drugs. Two Amboy Dukes are now dead and one is a Los Angeles real estate agent. Ooga booga kids!

Lesson 4. What Jimmy can teach Ted about clothes

Ted’s stopped wearing the loincloth not to appease the PETA people but because he’s only a couple of years from reaching the age Johnny Weissmuller was when he was committed for thinking he really was Tarzan. Jimmy says, “Ted, it’s time to just be you. It doesn’t matter if it’s good enough for someone else.” Umm, wait a sec, guys, I think he actually wears bison pelts at home. Then, be gone, Nuge! Jimmy can teach you no more!

What Ted can teach Jimmy about clothes

In the past Jimmy Eat World has been accused of looking like unshowered roadies on stage. And as Nuge will tell you, no double live album ever started with a three-minute number called “Taping 36 Plectrums to a Shure Mic Stand.” If you’re gonna dress the part, be prepared to ball the most annoying groupies.

Lesson 5. What Jimmy can teach Ted about audiences

They like to be ignored for long stretches of time, and can be pacified with a brief “How ya doing?” or a brisk reminder about where the band played in town last year. The audience knows the love is there and that if they were onstage with the band, they’d find the scrawled set list every bit the fascinating read Jimmy, Tom, Rick and Zach do.

What Ted can teach Jimmy about audiences

Teach an audience to hunt and fish and you’ve fed them for life. Imagine how much greater a concert Live Aid would’ve been with a couple of well-timed archery lessons.

Lesson 6. What Jimmy can teach Ted about rock ’n’ roll

It’s possible to go through an entire album and not have one song with “Wang” in the title and still be considered rock ’n’ roll.

What Ted can teach Jimmy about rock ’n’ roll

It’s possible to shoot a squirrel at close range and still be considered rock ’n’ roll. But not to squirrels, of course.


Jimmy Eat World appears at Cobo Arena (301 Civic Center Dr., Detroit; 313-983-6616) on Wednesday, Dec. 1, with Good Charlotte, Taking Back Sunday, Franz Ferdinand and the Used.

Ted Nugent performs Wednesday, Dec. 29, at the Palace of Auburn Hills (3 Championship Dr., Auburn Hills; 248-377-0100).

Serene Dominic is a freelance writer. Contact him at [email protected]
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