SLACKJAW by JIM KNIPFEL
April 11, 2010

Shocked and Grossed to the Max

 

It was almost midnight, and Grinch and I were sitting in a sort-of Mexican bar in Brooklyn. The place was all but empty. We’d been to a soccer match earlier that night, and he was heading back to Chicago with his family the next day. It had been a long time since we’d seen each other, and a few last beers were necessary.

            We were talking about some of the freaks we used to know, some of the trouble we used to cause, politics, academics, nonsense. But somehow—somehow—the conversation kept coming back around to The Mentors.

            “The Mentors were the perfect vaccine against Madison,” he said.

            There were bands we listened to quite a bit in college—Killdozer, G.G. Allin, Joy Division, The Russian Meat Squats—but none of them had as deep, or as lasting, or dare I say, as life-changing an influence on us as The Mentors.

            Formed in 1976, The Mentors—El Duce, Dr. Heathen Scum, and Sickie Wifebeater, who looked like fat bikers and performed in executioner hoods—were a metal band from L.A. who soon established themselves as one of the most deliberately offensive bands on Earth. With songs like “Golden Showers,” “Free Fix for a Fuck,” “Heterosexuals Have the Right to Rock,” and “Woman From Sodom” (“She likes to take it up the bottom”), it’s pretty clear what they were up to. Most of their songs celebrated drug use and sexual assault, all with charming good humor and catchy rhymes. They called themselves “the masters of rape rock.” Others called them “the kings of sleaze rock.” Tipper Gore held them up as Public Enemy Number One during her PMRC hearings, and it was the best thing that ever happened to them.

            I’d first heard the Mentors in high school, but at the time they didn’t make that big an impact. I thought they were funny, but not much else. Then in the mid-eighties I enrolled at the UW-Madison, where Grinch and I found ourselves surrounded by the most loathsome and pathetic creatures on the planet—young neo-hippies, tromping about campus in their Birkenstocks and tie-dyes, stinking up the joint with their patchouli oil, and boring us senseless with their stupid platitudes about, christ, anarchism and Guatemala. Biggest goddamn school in the country, and there was no escaping these cretins. Add to that the poisoned fog of political correctness that permeated every crack of that university, and a rediscovery of The Mentors was nothing short of a cosmic necessity. It was, as Grinch said, a vaccination. They represented everything that was anti-Madison. They were the simple, direct, head-first Opposition, and we took their lesson as our own. There is a value in offending people for the sheer, simple joy of offending people.

            While the puny stink bugs around us quoted Bono and Dylan lyrics to sound deep and insightful, Grinch and I turned to the poetry of Mentors’ front man, El Duce (aka Eldon Hoke). Many of the often self-referential lines from Mentors albums began dribbling into our public (and very loud) conversations with a Biblical reverence: “All you les’bans with your leather an’ spikes/All you are, are lesbians and dykes.” “Baby, you better learn to bite the pillow so you can take it like a real lady,” “I don’t just give out fixes—ya gotta earn it, baby. You got a mouth, and a pussy, and a butthole—now use ‘em!”

            And so forth—far too many became part of our language to list them all here.

            At some point in there, Grinch and I formed a band called The Pain Amplifiers. And while our music and lyrics were not in any way related to what The Mentors were doing (neither one of us came even close to knowing how to play an instrument), they were still a major spiritual influence, especially when it came to live shows. Our final show, in fact, was an opening slot at a Mentors gig in 1987. As if that wasn’t honor enough, after the show the club owner approached us and said, “People came here tonight to see a really obnoxious, offensive show—and you guys gave it to them.” Then he gave us thirteen dollars.

            Grinch and I are older now, maybe a little smarter, maybe a little wearier. Neither the knees nor the eyes are what they used to be. And El Duce, the mastermind behind The Mentors, has been dead for fifteen years (after stepping in front of a train). But The Mentors are still in our hearts and heads, and they still offer us a strong defense against a world controlled by sissies. Their wit and wisdom still litters our speech. One phrase in particular—”shocked and grossed,” as in “I’m shocked and grossed,” uttered upon encountering something that is displeasing in some way—has even become standard corporate-speak at one of the most powerful pharmaceutical companies in America thanks to Grinch.

            On my end, The Mentors have become a personal gauge, a way to judge the people I deal with. If they react with disgust and righteous indignation, well, then we likely won’t have too much to talk about in the long run. I was convinced again that Morgan was the gal for me when, even after my warnings, she insisted on watching a collection of Mentors videos and laughed harder than I did.

            Just as an illustration of how deeply ingrained the kings of sleaze have become, I would like to reprint something here. A few years ago, I came across the lyrics to a Mentors song called “Donkey Dick,” and dropped Grinch a line:

 

There are scholars who argue that there was a Golden Era when it comes to Hoke’s poetic output. The period, they claim, lasted only four years (1980-84) during which Hoke gave us ‘Woman From Sodom,’ ‘Golden Showers’ and ‘Get Up and Die.’ Yet given the sweep, vision and sheer depth of feeling expressed in ‘Donkey Dick,’ written only two years before Hoke’s death, I think it’s clear the scholars are misguided.

 

            Later that day I received his reply, which I immediately saved as I think it remains one of the most significant pieces of academic writing I’ve ever encountered:

 

      Every time that I return to a serious analysis of the poetics of El Duce (aka Eldon Hoke), I am awed and fascinated. What I find most striking is the irreconcilable tension between the manifest content and rhetorical structure of his language. Idiot-savant tautologies and blatant non sequiturs are expressed as profound revelations. His rhymes are so obvious, they fly below the radar. We wouldn’t have thought of rhyming “woman form Sodom,” with “likes to get fucked in the bottom” because, well, it’s just too obvious. In doing so, Hoke has accomplished that great task to which most writers strive, and yet almost always fail: to make all that which goes unnoticed and unanalyzed, the obvious, the mundane, the overlooked -- to make it strange and new again.

      Another canny trick in Hoke’s arsenal is the reversal of the status of metaphor. Indeed, metaphors, when they do appear in The Mentors’ lyrics, are not really metaphors at all. They are presented as an unmediated first-order description of a blood, guts, sweat, and semen reality that exceeds even the strident materialism of the most vulgar of Marxists. Thus, El Duce tells a girl that “your face is my toilet paper,” not to illustrate his disdain for her, his emotional cruelty, or the death of his feelings for her. No, her face is his toilet paper simply and truly because he actually wipes his ass with it.

      We use metaphors as a linguistic trick to deal with those elusive objects that defy description. Thus, to describe that which left the body at death, but which could not be seen, measured, or understood, the Greeks derived the metaphor essence, from esse, the word for “breath.” In Hoke’s world, even with regard to the most ethereal of metaphors (“ethereal” is itself an ethereal metaphor), he is not merely content to take these so-called metaphors as face-value first-order descriptors of the physical world. He goes one step further. He performs the metaphors.

      “I’ve got a great big donkey dong, So shut up, bitch, and listen to the song” is a classic example of mise en abîme. The bitch is ordered to listen to the song. What does she hear in the song? That he has a great big donkey dong, and that she should shut up and listen to the song, and so on. Mise en abîme for Hoke was more than just a metaphor for the self-referential content of his lyrics. After all what does “mise en abîme” actually mean? The literal translation is “to place into the abyss.” You know where this is going. Really, any single selection from the Opus of the man who said “I’m gonna open up your pussy lips real wide, and hock a lugie inside” would no doubt provide an illustration of this.

      Ultimately, Eldon Hoke took the performance of this metaphor to its logical conclusion. When he fell into a slumber upon those railroad tracks, he placed himself permanently into the abyss. As for us, we are just lucky to have had such a giant of letters as our contemporary.

NOTES

“Donkey Dick,” by Eldon Hoke, Copyright 1995

I’ve got a great big donkey dong,

So shut up, bitch, and listen to the song

I got a donkey dick, it’ll make you sick

I got a donkey dick, it’s big and thick

I got a donkey dick, it’s a hell of a fact

I got a donkey dick, it’s where it’s at

I’ve got a great big donkey dong

It’s over 15 inches long

I’ve got a great big donkey prick

So shut up bitch and suck my dick

I got a donkey dick, it’s big and long and white

I got a donkey dick, it packs a lot of might

I got a donkey dick, it’s fucked old bags

I got a donkey dick, it’s so long, it brags

I’ve got a great big donkey dong

It’s over 15 inches long

I’ve got a great big donkey dong

So shut up, bitch, and listen to the song

I got a donkey dick, it will pass your test

I got a donkey dick, you will say it’s the best

I got a donkey dick, and I’m not a real goal

I got a donkey dick, and it will really pack coal

I’ve got a great big donkey dong

It’s over 15 inches long

I’ve got a great big donkey dick

So shut up bitch and lick my prick

Donkey dick, donkey dick

I got a donkey dick

I got a donkey dick, it’s a real fact

I got a donkey dick, it’s where it’s at

Donkey dick, suck my prick

Donkey dick

 

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