The Reverend Horton Heat. No, really. This will be the last word on Texas music for a while.
While I am not generally in favor of the U.S. drug policy, nor of the drug trade itself, I am in favor of really good music. A few years ago, I heard a song that gave me hope for the future of humanity.
I had just discovered the Reverend Horton Heat, and I was looking to expand my Texas Blues library. The cd I bought that day on the Pacific Garden Mall in Santa Cruz, CA, in the early 1990s was a compilation record, Holy Roller. I bought that recording because it had “Where in the hell did you go with my toothbrush?” and because it had another twenty or so tracks on it.
The Reverend Horton Heat–Bales of Cocaine
Of those twenty or so other songs was one titled “Bales of Cocaine”. It is a rise to riches story where the hero of the song wants to give something back to the universe. I like that. The hero of the song is out in the middle of his field, checking out his dismal crops when a plane flies low over head and drops a few bales of cocaine in his field. After determining the quality of the product, he drives it to the nearest large city–Dallas, TX–to see if he could unload it. In the song, he writes “I didn’t have a notion if I could sell it there, but thirty minutes later, I was a millionaire.”
In the song, the hero sells everything he owns in Texas, and goes to South America. “So now I am a rich man, but I’m still a farmer, too. But, I sold my farm in Texas, bought a farm down in Peru…”
The last verse of the song finds the hero living the good life as a coca farmer in South America, but he would get bored from time to time, “…and when I get so homesick that I think I’ll go insane, I travel back to Texas in a low-flying plane”, presumably to give a few bales of good fortune to some other poor Texas farmer. Something about this story makes me fell that all is right in the universe.
Since the late 1980s, the Reverend Horton Heat has been Jimbo Wallace on upright bass, Patrick “Taz” Bentley on drums and the good Reverend himself, Jim Heath on lead vocals and guitar.
The Reverend Horton Heat–the most popular psychobilly band ever..?
It may be silly to say this, but the Reverend Horton Heat is perhaps the most popular psychobilly artist of all time. The psychobilly genre was pretty much created in the 1980s by bands like the Cramps and especially the Meteors. The Reverend –as both the three-man band and its guitar-playing frontman were known–built a strong cult following during the ’90s through constant touring, manic showmanship, and a twisted sense of humor. A twisted sense of dark humor was nothing new in the world of psychobilly, of course, and Heat’s music certainly kept the trashy aesthetic of his spiritual forebears. The Reverend’s true innovation was updating the psychobilly sound for the alternative rock era. In his hands, it was something more than retro-obsessed kitsch — it had roaring distorted guitars, it rocked as hard as any punk band, and it didn’t look exclusively to pop culture of the past for its style or subject matter. Most of the Reverend’s lyrics were gonzo celebrations of sex, drugs, booze, and cars, and true to his name, his concerts often featured mock sermons in the style of a rural revivalist preacher. The band’s initial recordings were released by that bastion of indie credibility, Sub Pop, at the height of the grunge craze; after a spell on the major label Interscope, the Reverend Horton Heat returned to the independent world, still a highly profitable draw on the concert circuit.
the Reverend Horton Heat–A Revival of Spirit
If you haven’t attended a “revival of spirit” by the good Reverend yet, and are a fan of both Texas Blues and psychobilly, you owe it to yourself to pick up on some ‘salvation’ at the hands of the Reverend Horton Heat.