When I was growing up in Michigan back in the late 60s and early 70s, we took a lot of pride in all the great Detroit rock bands that the rest of the country hadn’t discovered yet. We had the MC5, Iggy and the Stooges, Mitch Ryder, the Rationals, and of course Bob Seger, who for many of us was like Springsteen in Jersey or Lynyrd Skynyrd in the South.
Yet one of the most memorable songs of those days wasn’t by Seger or any of those others. “Journey to the Center of Your Mind” was a psychedelic freight train of a tune with a sinuous acid-blues guitar and lyrics that invited you, “Beyond the seas of thought / Beyond the realm of what / Across the streams of hopes and dreams where things are really not / Come along if you care / Come along if you dare.”
That band was the Amboy Dukes. Their leader was Ted Nugent. Today, he’s better known for calling the president a “subhuman mongrel.” Not to mention getting a visit from the Secret Service for some previous remarks and being proudly insane about guns, all of which have endeared him to various right-wing fruitcakes and politicians in Texas.
Right now I wish there were a few more miles between there and Atlanta. I have no idea how Nugent changed (“evolved” sure isn’t the right word and “devolved” would be an insult to Devo) from a longhaired guitar hero to a racist hatemonger whose language echoes what the Nazis called Jews. At one point, the words to “Journey” say the center of the mind is “A land unknown to man where fantasy is fact.” Today, that could mean Texas – or more likely Nugent’s own head.
We all know our musical and other heroes aren’t saints offstage. And I never cared about Nugent’s post- Amboy Dukes music; it was all full of the same boring guitar licks and dumb lyrics.
But back in the day, that one song was potent stuff, especially for a kid who’d missed out on the legendary San Francisco scene and wanted to catch that spirit. I always liked Jefferson Airplane too. At least I can still listen to them without feeling disgust and revulsion.