Days like this one 20 years ago always makes me regret not being more of a shutterbug but back then cameras were just such a nuisance: the film, the delays to develop and worst of all, not knowing how well it turned out until it was too late. Digital might be flawed yet it’s nice to get some instant gratification. A picture would make this story appear more interesting.
Now the date is a best guess too. I can never remember when final exams were at Marquette since I’m normally puzzled by nearby UT’s schedule plus I have been out of college for almost 20 years. So I decided to go with this day yet keeping it short.
Back in early 1989, Mojo Nixon mania was at its pinnacle. He had become a minor celebrity on MTV thanks to his 1987 hit “Elvis is Everywhere” and hilarious TV spots for the network. I think he participated in their Spring 1988 or 1989 promotions. Then he followed it up with “(619) 239-KING” and “Debbie Gibson is Pregnant with my Two-Headed Love Child,” with a more extensive tour in 1989. Hard to believe he came to Milwaukee and it was some place larger than Shank Hall or the beat-up house off Kinnickinnick (or as the locals called it, KK Street). The biggest surprise was Mojo and Skid Roper (he used to be part of a duo until 1990) coming to WQFM because Mojo’s music was more of a novelty at the Dinosaur Rock station than something played out sincerity. Still, I was ecstatic. What a week I was having. First, meeting The Fixx on Monday and now this.
Afternoon DJ Downstairs Dan liked Mojo and Skid’s material so he knew what to play. They were great sports as well: going along with Dan’s chicken-drop game with callers and their live accompaniment to “Elvis is Everywhere” in the studio.
Being the unpaid intern, and a fan, I got the opportunity to give them a ride back to the venue. We spoke a tad. In person, Mojo isn’t too much different than his on-stage persona, he’s more laid back and relaxed, still witty though. Skid was quiet and I sadly have little memory of him other than his musical skills on stage later in the evening.
The show was an awesome tour de force of music, comedy and silliness. They did the hits “Stuffin’ Martha’s Muffin,” with Mojo wearing the TV set at the intro, “Mushroom Maniac,” “Debbie Gibson,” “Chicken Drop,” “Jesus at McDonald’s,” “Burn Down the Malls,” etc. When he broke a guitar string, Mojo danced a little jig while the roadie restrung it. The current owners of the venue never removed the basketball hoops so Mojo took advantage of one by doing shooting free throws to “Mushroom Maniac” a capella. Concerts like his makes me wish I was wearing a SQUID device to preserve such memories. The only tangible souvenir I have is a concert shirt. His were the best too: blue-collar, gas-station attendant shirts with Mojo name tags stitched on and another patch saying “Mushroom Maniac.” The real thing from a work shirt manufacturer, not a replica. I did have an autographed poster. Sadly, it was ruined by a water leak in the Bloomington apartment in 1993.
I got to see him one last time in 1995 at Antone’s (when it was on Guadelupe, near Hyde Park). He remained as funny and energetic. He then retired in 2004 but usually comes back every Spring to headline his SXSW showcase at the Continental Club. Mojo also threw his support behind Kinky Friedman. Too bad he didn’t coach the failed candidate for the debate; Mojo’s faster wit would’ve helped the Kinkster beat political opportunist Carole Keeton McClellan Rylander Strayhorn (now trying to be mayor of Austin, I’d rather have Mojo).
Last I read or heard, Mojo Nixon is on the radio in OH or something but with how badly that industry is doing, I’m sure he’ll do one more, final, retirement tour. I figure, why not, The Who and Cher have been “quitting” for a couple decades. I did check his website, he was on Sirius. Nothing new posted after last Fall. Fingers crossed he’ll come to Austin in a non-SXSW or satellite radio capacity.
The final legacy of my partial day with Mojo was it being the kick-off to the best Summer of my college years (and teenage ones). Romantic matters began to gel with Carrie, I had an interim apartment for when my permanent one came on line in June, I had a decent-paying job to get through the season (actually two which is another story), two new friends I made at Mashuda would be around to hang with (Phil and Jose) and the big one, I was turning 21.
Thanks for the memories Mojo!