"Black Betty had a child..."
The band whose name garners a wary reputation while being based on a stupid joke*, created a masterpiece of a stupid joke on their first album, Psychic...Powerless...Another Man's Sac.
After four tracks of groaning, muttering, cursing, someone savagely beating chords, playing with the tape speed, the glimmers of a story about vomiting up champagne at his brother's doctor's....even though his mother threw furniture at him, a lone guitar taps out a very somber and crunchy riff. Developing quickly into a rambling little journey of a tune, the drums follow in, steady and significant, bass doing what a bass does.
30 seconds in you're reminded of what you're listening to, although compared to everything else you've heard so far, very subtly. A saxophone joins in and, alternating between somewhat atonal long bleats and short bursts, seems to disrupt the song entirely. And yet it works. The guitar stays its course, slowly building up and riding crests.
Gibby, now restrained, begins:
Well, I don't know what
Well, I don't know who
Well, I don't know where or when
Well, I don't know it
Well, I don't know they
Well I don't know thick or thin
Confusion usually comes up in the Butthole Surfers' lyrics. Whether inspired by substantial contemplation or inspired by substances, you'll find a lack of understanding about ones past, present, and future a common thread. Otherwise, Gibby seeks to instill that state in the listener. After the presentation of this theme, the saxophone again wails, and the guitar seeks to compete creating an amazing mesh of sound usually found when you'd have an over-layering four times the amount of the present instruments. Somehow it hits on an absolute value of any mood of background intensity. Driving during a long, empty evening through winding rural-into-megastore villages towards a house full of friends, or doing the dishes the morning after the culmination of social anxiety, or drinking in a bar of strangers that can all attune themselves for roughly three minutes, or lying in bed with a zaftig young girl during a break of tumbling and groping, or...
And without warning
Landing in empty parking lots
and deserted discount stores,
Neeeeeegrooooo OB-SUH-HUH-VERS are landing by the scores!
Dropping down in their low-rider cars
from Pluto, Venus, and Mars
Negro Observers are counting heads in singles bars!
Well, that's that. Can't point this song out to my mother if she makes fun of me for listening to experimental music again, let alone this particular band. I'm 18 and the specter of outrage is alive and frothing. I don't have the capacity for irony to understand that my dumb animal brain will override whatever fight I can formulate against television stereotypes whether or not I've spoken to a black person for longer than I have with a vending machine. However, these guys wrote that song about not giving a fuck about the FBI, CIA, or anything. No one who sings about a vacuum cleaner as if it were a formidable opponent could be a racist.
Walking up and down the empty boulevards
Negro Observers with muscles that are very hard!
Walking up and down and falling everywhere,
Negro Observers flying through the air.
They don't know what goes on,
but the Negro Observers are big and strong
Oh get it I get it now, man, I get it. Sexualized aliens with the threat of violence, alone outside. It's all linguistics, dude. Their categorization, based on the ambiguity of an adjective-turned-substantive-turned-adjective and a two-way actor designation, allows for duality of ridicule at both the idea of fearing a group of people due to generalization and aiming ridicule at the very people who would act on such malformed ideas. Why are you looking at me like that? Because of the redundancy? That's the humor, bra. Inappropriate for your daughter's christening? It's cool, I bet kids can absorb complicated ideas at a formative age. Yeah, I'll give her back, here.
Waking up in Denton, Texas on a cot in a place called the Skank-Bangers' House. Maybe I should have finished college. Is Gibby Haynes laughing at me from Austin? The American-Mexicans are playing Gears of War. The lovely Black-Mexican who looks South-East Asian got hit by a car on her birthday and should be coming back soon from the hospital. The Gay boy who will soon complain about getting hit on by an "old faggot" in Birmingham is knocking on the door. The handsome black gentleman with the 8-ball has left. The Albino Radscorpion is watching an old cartoon about a man who is a dragon man who is actually a dragon. A couple of while will pass and I won't know what goes on. I could have finished college, but it wouldn't have helped me here.
Haven't heard this song in a while. Not bad for some dirty white boys.
"...Hey. What's up?"
"Got any metal in there?"
"Dan leave any metal there? I'm the Metal Man."
"Oh! Right, let me open up the gate...... Drive on in."
"This it right here?"
"Hey, what's your name."
"I'm . What's yours?"
"My name's "
"Okay, I'm gonna remember that."
All lyrics, in italics, copyright Latino Buggerveil 1999, except very first line of node, from "Black Betty", traditional.
*Supposedly. Our basis of knowledge here in the E2ther tell us that the moniker was given by a DJ mistaking one song for their name. However, Gibby Haynes, certainly someone of trustworthy character, tells during a monologue at the UCB Theater of the true origins of the name. To hear this story with an improvisational riff from the UCB people, follow this link. Warning. A worse name is proposed here.