ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, MARCH 18, 1993
By Steve Newton
Ain’t technology grand? Why, with today’s awesome tools of communication, you can phone people from your car, beep their bodies with a pager, or send dirty cartoons to them on a fax machine. Heck, you can even use a speaker-phone to talk to both Mojo Nixon and Country Dick Montana at the very same time!
“Country Dick’s got on rhinestone underwear!” blurts out Nixon by way of introduction. He’s yukking it up from a central Hollywood hotel room where the two gonzo rockers have holed up for a few long-distance interviews.
“It’s not comfortable,” responds the growly-voiced Montana, “but it looks good, and that’s the important thing.”
Yours truly can’t quite picture the six-foot-two, 200 plus–pound, bearlike Montana in rhinestone underwear, and that’s probably a good thing. But I can picture—and remember—him flat on his back on the Commodore stage, his cowboy boots high in the air, the beer trapped between them dousing its foamy contents into the dark chasm of his bearded mouth.
That’s a clever trick Montana regularly performs with his band, the Beat Farmers, although this time around he’ll be in the company of a much classier outfit, the Pleasure Barons, an 11-piece roots-rock cavalcade led by himself, Nixon, former Blasters guitarist Dave Alvin, and ex-X bassist/actor John Doe. The Barons will be bringing their self-proclaimed “trailer-park trashabilly” to the Commodore on Wednesday (March 24), and anyone who likes a wild good time should be there.
The Pleasure Barons are touring behind their brand-new Hightone Records release, Live in Las Vegas, which features Baronized versions of Joe South’s “Games People Play”, Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?”, and Johnny Cash’s “Jackson”—not to mention a thrilling Tom Jones medley crooned by Montana that includes “It’s Not Unusual”, “Delilah”, and “What’s New Pussycat?” But there have been rumours flying about—as in the band’s own bio—that Live in Las Vegas wasn’t recorded in Vegas at all.
“Aw, our record company lies about things like that,” says Nixon. “Those are vicious, ugly, Mafia, gangster, hoodlum rumours.”
“Yeah,” interjects Montana. “What kind of people would we be if we labelled an album Live in Las Vegas that wasn’t actually recorded in Las Vegas? That would make us, like…scoundrels!”
“If that’s true, may we be short, one-eyed, black Jewish guys!” adds Nixon jokily, before doing his own impression of a short, one-eyed black Jewish guy.
Whether the Pleasure Barons actually recorded Live in Las Vegas in Sin City or not, the photos accompanying the new CD are proof that they at least played there at one time or another. They show the band decked out in white and black tuxedos, hamming it up on the casino-lit Vegas strip. The question is, won’t those fancy suits get wrecked by all the beer that normally drenches the stage whenever Country Dick appears?
“No beer spraying on this tour,” cautions Montana. “You might want to mention that. We don’t want innocent fun-seekers to get hurt, but what may look like proper comportment at a show where I’m singing is not gonna be acceptable behaviour on this tour.”
“And Dave Alvin is actually a hate-filled psycho,” butts in Nixon, “so he’s gonna kill anybody that sprays beer!”
So beer spraying is out. Well, I for one always thought that practice was a serious abuse of alcohol, anyway. But what about that other Montana tradition, wherein a horde of crazed partiers carry the big guy, microphone and all (“Watch the penis!”) to the bar for a shot of tequila? Before Montana could respond to that vital query, motormouth Mojo answered it for him.
“We’re building a giant catapult, like in the storm-the-castle days, and we’re gonna catapult Country Dick to the bar!”
“Yeah, a big, rhinestone-covered catapult,” seconds Montana.
Lest any readers who might be unfamiliar with the Country-style approach to live performance get the impression that a Pleasure Barons show is all flashy rhinestone-covered catapults—and no musical substance—it should be mentioned that the band includes several fine players, including axeman Johnny Viau (Etta James, Bo Diddley), trombonist/pedal-steel guitarist Tim Cook (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Merle Haggard), and former Divinyls and Brian Setzer drummer Jerry Angel.
Beat Farmers fans will also be glad to hear that Joey Harris will be contributing his estimable guitar talents to the show. Harris’s guitar partner in the Farmers, Jerry Raney, is staying home, though.
“Jerry’s got a wife and two kids,” explains Montana, “and…”
“No!” kicks in Nixon. “Don’t you remember that show in San Diego where they had to wrestle on-stage to see who’d be in the band? Joey put the sleeper on him!”
“Oh yeah,” Montana recalls. “Joey cheated, you’re right.”
While it will be the musical talents of the Pleasure Barons that are the main attraction on the Commodore stage, several band members have proven themselves quite capable on a soundstage, as well. John Doe has acted in several movies, including Great Balls of Fire, in which he and Nixon portrayed members of the Jerry Lee Lewis band. And Dave Alvin landed a role as a member of the backing band for 20 Elvis impersonators in the hit comedy Honeymoon in Vegas.
Montana is the only one of the four principle Pleasure Barons not to taste the glory of the silver screen, although he could just be biding his time, letting his charismatic persona mature until the time is right to take Tinseltown by storm.
“You’re hittin’ the nail right on the head there,” says Montana. “I mean, who is interested in a young Bogie? Nobody!”
“He’s gonna be the next Ward Bond,” says Nixon, talking out of turn again. “He’s gonna be bigger than Ward Bond! There’s gonna be a whole new Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and look out—this is the new Big Daddy. The neeewww Big Daddy!”
Thinking that I might as well let the quick-talking Nixon answer a question that is actually directed at him, I ask the wacky tunesmith behind “Don Henley Must Die” and “Debbie Gibson Is Pregnant (With My Two-Headed Love Child)” if he has any movie projects of his own in the works.
“I’m gonna be in this Super Mario Bros. film that’s comin’ out at the end of May,” he says. “It’s got Dennis Hopper and Bob Hoskins and a whole host of megastars, and I play the drunk musician. I’ve been studying for that role for years!”
Realizing that those rhinestone gaunchies must be getting pretty painful for Montana, sitting by the phone as he is, yours truly prepares to sign off and leave the two Pleasure Barons to whatever fate the coming Hollywood night has to offer. But first I simply must know what the best thing about being a Pleasure Baron is, anyway.
“Respect,” is Montana’s quick reply.
“And all the pleasure you can get,” says Nixon. “People spend too much time in their lives dwelling on little hate-filled, minuscule facts, when in fact we see before us a large table—a banquet of love and pleasure!”