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Home > Music

Nu-Gent and Nugent: a party band and a rocker

Alan Connor is on the road.

29 August 2002

I am writing within earshot of a gig at Bar-Med by some band. It's like listening to someone else's Discman, when the someone else believes that cheap in-ear headphones possess magical properties such that only their owner can hear them. Anyway, the tunes are so familiar-yet-unrecognisable that I can't resist taking a look.

[pause: he ventures outside]

Okay. I've been standing outside Bar-Med, under the glare of a legless alcoholic (both words are necessary here: he's a man who had his legs removed after an accident and now sits outside Bar-Med with a bottle of sherry and no legs), trying to resist the urge to tell the brunette with her blouse hanging off that the man she was fellating against the delivery entrance to Marks & Spencer was asleep. The alcoholic was watching through the wondow of Bar-Med too. The brunette wasn't. And now I'm back to report.
The band were called Nu-Gent. Since Bar-Med ("Serious on style") showcase such a wide range of tribute bands, I became obscenely excited (though not as obscene as the dribble of spermy saliva working its way down the poster for the M&S Super Ego Bra) and presumed that a Ted Nugent tribute band were going to bring the spirit of The Nuge -- helmsman of the Amboy Dukes, contractor of Cat Scratch Fever and celebrity spokesman for the National Rifle Association -- into a Mediterranean-themed plub near me.

Until recently, I'd forgotten about the Nuge. My own fault. He does over 300 gigs a year. He got honoured by the US Senate for his recycling summer camps for children. It's not like the guy's gone quiet. But anyway, it took the release of his new cookbook to refix the guy in my head.

"When people read Kill It And Grill It, I hope they do go down to their local sporting goods shop," I read him explaining. Morally, he tells us, we are on thin ice if we buy factory-made food. And forget cutting out the middle man by going to farmers' markets: the recipes in Ted's (and his wife Shemane's) book begin with the instruction "Kill something!". It's simple.

"There's plenty of critters to go around, plenty of land to go around. There's not a farmer in America that if approached by a reasonably groomed, decent, courteous family wouldn't be pleased as punch to have you come in and help reduce the damned deer population! Or the mountain lion, or the elk [...]"

He concludes: "Everybody's got too many geese! Everybody's got too many turkeys! Everybody's got too many deer! Kill 'em and grill 'em!"

But, but, but. There were no guns, or cool yellow electric guitars on the stage in Bar-Med. Nu-Gent, in fact, are not a Ted Nugent & the Amboy Dukes tribute band. They are from a school far older than that of the tribute band: the party band.

Blackpool's Henderson Management is one of many stables of party bands; their roster includes, as well as Nu-Gent: Wyte Lyze, Big 'J' & the Piccolo Chickens, the Screaming Beavers and, bewilderingly, The Lex Icon Corporation ("Presenting excitement from the first beat, Lex Icon is engaging, witty, charming and in total control of your fun-buds!"). (If you want to book the Lex Icon Corporation, I'd recommend going through their other managers, the F4 Group, since you could cut a deal and snag motivational humour from FIFA referee Graham Barber as a warm-up.)

Some of these party bands specialise: Earth Wind For Hire, for example, are largely the disco outfit you'd expect. But by no means all, and certainly not Nu-Gent. A true party band pays tribute to pop in general, and in Nu-Gent's case, they do this with a saxophone for the jazzier numbers (Lou Bega, Macy Gray), one of those hand-held keyboard-guitar doodads for, broadly, synthpop hits (The Divine Comedy, Erasure) and a classic drum 'n' bass 'n' tight-rhythm-guitar set up for the Toploader covers they do.

Except that Nu-Gent used all of these instruments to smother all of the hits, and so even once I'd got close(-ish) to the music, it was still like listening to someone else's headphones. It took the crowd's desultory "ooh! aah!"s to reveal one track to be DJ Otzi's "Hey baby", and I'm still wondering if the Tex-Mex segue included the Mavericks' "Dance the night away" or if it was "Dance the night away" and not a segue at all.

But above all, I'm wondering how a man ends up in a party band. While I'm sure it's a fine living, I wonder how many of them started out as party bands. I reckon it just takes one offer of a paid wedding for someone to say "Look, we need the money and we'll only have to learn a few covers; don't worry, Tam: we'll always be doing your songs". Then it takes only a few more offers spinning off
of that for Tam's songs to find their way to the bottom of a drawer, under printouts of the chord sequences to "Tiger feet".

Or is it something to do with the names? You can sniff a party band name from across the street, unless you're dim and excitable and expect Ted Nugent covers. Does a name like Wyte Lyze mean you can only party, and not make people cry? Do you know better? And do you know how Lieutenant Pigeon -- who had a Number One hit and are now Henderson Managed -- how they started life? An lon ger article with all the answers is on the way. Let me know if you want in.

Actually, I suspect there might really only be one Toploader cover, which means that it's effectively a King Harvest cover and Toploader can go whistle.

Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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