Mojo Nixon and the city of Cincinnati – now those are two diametrically different entities. One thrives on controversy, the other wears its conservatism on its collective sleeve.
Since mid-1998, the sardonic roots-rocker has held court on the air in the riverfront city as host of “Mojo’s Saturday Night House Party” on WLW and morning-show man on FM sister station WEBN.
Can the man who once warbled “Don Henley Must Die,” “Bring Me the Head of David Geffen” and “Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant With My Two-Headed Love Child” peacefully coexist with the town famous for fighting the Mapplethorpe photo exhibit and trying to prevent the Playboy Channel from entering its borders?
So far so good, says the North Carolina native.
“A lot of it is the papers, the radio stations and the civic and church leaders are clinging to this 1950s ‘Donna Reed Show’ idea that never existed in the first place,” Nixon said recently, “but the whole town is just filled with hillbillies. I mean, you can see Kentucky! You can see my brethren floating over on logs.
“The funny thing is, they’re fighting to keep the Playboy Channel out (in the early 1980s), but the VCR’s been invented, so who needs the Playboy Channel? They’re fighting idiotic battles, like ‘We can’t have strip clubs,’ but you can go to Indiana and gamble on them boats.”
Nixon isn’t afraid to speak his mind, on the air and in the studio. Nothing is sacred on his latest album, “The Real Sock Ray Blue” (on Shanachie, released March 16). Backed by his Toadliquors band, Nixon takes on Disney, McDonald’s, the Internet, O.J. Simpson and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Not even Princess Diana is spared from his slings and arrows. On the biting track, “Drunk Divorced Floozie (The Ballad of Diana Spencer),” Nixon rants, “She’s just a jet set party girl, gone to meet her maker/ That nobility crap, don’t stop the undertaker.”
“The whole thing kind of incensed me, just the media frenzy that took place (after her death in 1997),” Nixon said, “and the fact that it was on TV nonstop for four or five days and they were blaming everybody in the world but her and her boyfriend. ‘It was the photographers’ fault for chasing them.’ ‘Oh, no, somebody may take a picture of me!’
“I’m sure it was a tragedy to her kids and her family and her friends, but to everybody else, she was a drunk, divorced floozie. First off, she’s in France, which is England’s mortal enemy. What was the 100-year war? It was between France and England! Who did the English blame for World War II? The French! She’s in France with this international playboy, they’re in a car driven by a drunk guy going 100 mph. Why? Because they don’t want their picture taken. It’s just ugly. There’s not one honorable thing in it.
“People go, ‘Well, she touched so many people’s hearts.’ She failed as princess; if she had been a good princess, she’d be married to ‘Big Ears’ (Prince Charles) right now. He’d be king and the old bat (Queen Elizabeth) would be in the old people’s home. I understand the roots of the adulation, but the problem is she sucked at it. She didn’t succeed.”
In “Rock n’ Roll Hall of Lame,” Nixon saves his best barbs for the sitting target off Lake Erie at the other end of Ohio.
“If there’s going to be a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, two people who should be in there are Bruce Springsteen and Curtis Mayfield,” he said of this year’s inductees. “It shouldn’t be called the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame if you’re going to put everybody in it. Billy Joel is not rock ‘n’ roll. Paul McCartney solo is barely rock ‘n’ roll. Is Paul McCartney in there because of ‘Silly Love Songs’?
“I hate the idea that we’re institutionalizing rock ‘n’ roll. And it shouldn’t be in Cleveland, it should be in Memphis, that’s where rock ‘n’ roll originated. The Rock and Roll Radio Hall of Fame maybe should be in Cleveland. This whole idea of a bunch of people from New York City putting on ties and tuxedos, riding in limousines to go to the Wardorf-Astoria … what the hell does that have to do with rock ‘n’ roll?
“If you’re going to put in the Mamas and the Papas, the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, let’s put in Blue Oyster Cult, the New York Dolls and the Ramones, goddamnit!”
THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: “I’m pretty sure it was the Beatles’ first album. I got it for Christmas and I played ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ over and over and over. One of the first records I truly loved was Arthur Conley’s ‘Sweet Soul Music.’ My father ran a black radio station and he’d bring home a bunch of records and I’d sort through them. I remember playing that one until I had to go buy another copy. It got played a lot.”
THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT TO: “Led Zeppelin at the Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum in ’73, but right before that, Rare Earth came to my town and played at my high school on the football field. I remember thinking, ‘I think someone’s smoking marijuana; I don’t know what it smells like but maybe that’s what it is.’ “