Whatever you think of Ted Nugent’s politics, there’s no denying he can deliver some belting good tunes when he wants to. In a career that spans over half a century, the Motor City Madman has given us classics like ‘Wang Dang Sweet Poontang,’ ‘Cat Scratch Fever,’ and ‘Stranglehold.’ He’s also given us some downright doozies like the 80s horror ‘Angry Young Man,’ the cliched ‘Body Talk,’ and the frankly alarming ‘Jailbait.’ But let’s forget the disappointments for now. Let’s put aside the inflammatory comments and the questionable ethics. Let’s concentrate instead on what he does best. And what he does best is deliver a madcap blend of musical styles that somehow just works. Ready for the ten best Ted Nugent songs of all time? Here they are.
If you’ve ever seen Nugent live, you’ll know he likes to kick things off with ‘Stormtroopin’.’ So, what better way to start our list than with this ballsy rocker from the 1975 album, ‘Ted Nugent?’ From the insistent guitar riffs of the verse to the hooky “Get ready / Ready / Ready” chorus, it’s a fast, furious song with an inspired, ramped-up guitar solo that will convert even the most dedicated Nugent skeptic to the cause.
‘Little Miss Dangerous’ is an easy album to hate. All Music has even gone so far as to call it the worst album Nugent has ever made. Considering it features outright lemons like “Body Talk” and “Angry Young Man,” it’s not hard to disagree. But dig beneath the horrible 80s production and the dodgy lyrics, and there are a few treasures to be found. Well, one anyway. ‘Painkiller’ might have been a world away from Nugent’s usual hard rock style, but it manages to escape the experiment with synths and drum machines unscathed. Unfortunately, this being the final track of the album, too many people had already turned off in disgust for it to get the credit it deserved.
8. Fred Bear
Fred Bear was an American bow pioneer and a close friend of Nugent’s. When he died in 1988, he clearly left a hole in Nugent’s life as, 7 years later, the singer was paying tribute to him on his 1995 album ‘Spirit in the Wild.’ He’s since said that ‘Fred Bear’ is his most treasured composition. It’s also one of his most enduring classics, with the combination of raw vocals, heartfelt lyrics, and subdued guitars combining to create something tense, passionate, and very, very powerful.
7. Great White Buffalo
Ted Nugent is a man of contradictions. The same man who raises heckles with statements like “I’m stymied to come up with anything funnier than people who think animals have rights. Just stick an arrow through their lungs” is also responsible for songs like ‘Great White Buffalo.’ A cry from the heart for environmental balance, this standout track from 1974’s ‘Tooth Fang & Claw’ bemoans the pillaging of the land and calls for a return to the days when people took what they needed and no more. The American businessman gets short shift, with lyrics like “with his thick and empty head,” who “couldn’t see past the billfold (and) wanted all the buffalo dead,” dealing a savage blow to those who, 40 years on, would ironically form the core of Nugent’s fanbase.
Nugent never knowingly misses the opportunity to show off. When the results are as show-stopping as the guitar solo on ‘Paralyzed,’ who really cares? According to ultimateclasicrock.com, the song is about a man’s “mission of mercy” to save someone who lost their emotions. But let’s face it, it’s not the lyrics we care about when we listen to a Teg Nugent song (which is just as well, really – David Crosby once said Nugent “could not write a decent song if his life depended on it.” Harsh though it is, it has a ring of truth). Rather, it’s that irresistible mishmash of Detroit garage rock and rhythm and blues, something that’s on full display on this standout track from 1979’s ‘State of Shock.’
5. Motor City Madhouse
Nugent’s love for his hometown runs deep, at least if this little gem from 1975’s ‘Ted Nugent’ is anything to go by. ‘Motor City Madhouse’ is a big, bluesy, belter of a number. While Nugent waxes lyrical about Detroit’s cars, people, and streets (pausing just long enough to let rip with the occasional guitar solo), the session musicians get on with delivering a scintillating mash-up of Motown and garage.
4. Wang Dang Sweet P****tang
‘Wang Dang Sweet P****tang’ isn’t subtle. It’s not even very nice. In fact, it reeks of misogyny. But for all its faults, ‘this rawwwk doesn’t get much rawer,” as Chicago Tribune music critic Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune says. We’re all allowed one guilty pleasure – if you like dirty lyrics and even dirtier beats, better make this yours.
Nugent never backs down from a fight. In ‘Free-For-All,’ he’s positively looking forward to it. If the biting lyrics, vitriolic delivery, and aggressive guitars are anything to go by, whoever crossed him is going down.
2. Cat Scratch Fever
Listeners new to ‘Cat Scratch Fever’ probably have high expectations. This is, after all, one of Nugent’s most famous songs. They won’t be disappointed. Its infectious blend of hard rock and soul sums up everything that’s great about Nugent’s work, leaving the politics, the peacocking, and the occasional bouts of self-indulgence at the door.
If ‘Stairway to Heaven’ is Led Zeppelin’s magnum opus, ‘Stranglehold’ is Nugent’s. From the iconic opening riff to the heavy guitar solo, this is 8 minutes of sheer listening pleasure. Next time you hear a liberal moaning about what a piece of work Nugent is, play them this. It won’t change their mind about his politics, but it will about his music.