35 Years Ago: Ted Nugent’s Uneven ‘Scream Dream’ Marked End of an Era
In June 1980, gonzo guitar god Ted Nugent woke up from a Scream Dream. It was a rather fitting title for Ted’s sixth full-fledged solo effort (notwithstanding earlier releases with the Amboy Dukes), since Nugent’s high flying solo career was losing altitude fast – and his longtime label, Epic Records, was losing faith in am artist who, until very recently, seemed as unstoppable as a force of nature.
With the release of a career-defining triumvirate of LPs (1975's Ted Nugent, 1976's Free-for-All and 1977's Cat Scratch Fever), Nugent had established himself as a reliable platinum seller. Before too long, Nugent had been crowned the highest grossing tour act in America, too. His studio magic began waning, however, when 1978’s Weekend Warriors barely went platinum. That was followed by 1979’s merely gold-certified State of Shock. Now, Scream Dream was lending further evidence to this disturbing commercial trend, as it quickly slid down the Billboard chart after the brief promise of a Top 15 debut.
The reason: Scream Dream’s songs rarely paid the rent on the vinyl grooves they occupied. Obvious exceptions included a momentary return to gonzo greatness via by the album’s undeniable first song, “Wango Tango,” and the ensuing, frantic title track (backed by a quaint, pre-MTV music video where Ted practices facial contortions worthy of comedian Jim Carrey while being haunted by the same animals he was so fond of hunting).
Elsewhere, intense rockers like “Hard as Nails,” “Violent Love” and “Come and Get It” may have had their moments, but they were largely recycled from those aforementioned peak-period LPs. The promising “Spit it Out” lost every ounce of goodwill because of its lyrics. Even worse, second guitarist Charlie Huhn’s “I Gotta Move” and “Don’t Cry” were little more than jumped-up ‘50s rock workouts; “Flesh and Blood” was poorly produced and “Terminus Eldorado” saw Ted on some weird ZZ Top trip that didn’t pay off in the end.
Ultimately, the wildly inconsistent Scream Dream was emblematic of difficult era for Ted Nugent, who was by turns either experiencing some career growing pains or – given the almost impossible standards set by earlier LPs – a victim of his own success. In any case, time was running out on Nugent’s Epic deal, as this marked his final studio effort for the label.
Epic would also release the following year’s reliably explosive live document, Intensities in 10 Cities. The next decade, however, would be filled with constant change and adversity – just like a sequence of not-so-good dreams. Even so, Ted Nugent did everything on his terms, then as now. The good news is that his guitar still often speaks louder than everything else.
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