BOOK REVIEW: “Butthole Surfers: What Does Regret Mean?”

Pre-Order Butthole Surfers: What Does Regret Mean? Available March 8th, 2019.

There was rock, there were drugz, there was fire, there was nudity, there was incoherence, there was transcendence, there was crazy, there were hallucinations, there were flashing lights, there was danger. Some of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen.”  – Lee Ranaldo

If someone thirty-years ago said, “I bet one day there will be a coffee table book about the Butthole Surfers,” they would probably be laughed out of the room. Nevertheless, it’s 2019 and that’s exactly what’s happening. Butthole Surfers: What Does Regret Mean? is a fully-authorized visual history of the band that includes a plethora of old show flyers, artwork, never-before-seen photos, and memorabilia, alongside a testimonials from countless musicians (see the full list below) who were inspired by their outrageous live performances and mind-bending recordings.

Divided into six chapters (1981-1983, 1984-1986, 1987-1988, 1989-1994, 1995-2002, and 2008-2018), the book opens with an introduction by Mickey Melchiondo of Ween and is followed by approximately 300-pages of photos, art, and other ephemera. Show flyers made on xerox machines, live and candid photos of the band, and pieces of album artwork are displayed in their entirety or mashed together into collages steeped in the bands unique aesthetic.  Presented in a wide 9″ x 9″ layout, the book bursts with eye-catching moments, iconography, and utter chaos that could only be claimed by a group of musicians who dared to call themselves the Butthole Surfers. Photos of baby-faced Paul Leary and Gibby Haynes are precious, as are photos of cymbals on fire or gig posters featuring Tammy Faye Baker with gouged out, bleeding eyes. If all this isn’t enough, how about a flexi-disc of the unreleased track “Locust Abortion Technician Medley” (that was originally intended to be the b-side to the proposed “Human Cannonball” 7-inch)?

There are many books and documentary films that take a retrospective look at an artist, scene, or record label and remain so entrenched within the confines of that specific bubble that it’s impossible to understand the true impact of the subject. These self-celebratory efforts satisfy only those who made them and the already dyed-in-the-wool fans who funded the Kickstarter. What makes Butthole Surfers: What Does Regret Mean? such a successful endeavor is that everyone but the band, their label, or their girlfriends appear to speak about their career. Rather, author Aaron Tanner has collected an impressive roster of musicians, who are either contemporaries of the Butthole Surfers or who were greatly influenced by them, to state exactly why they were so important. By taking this approach, we see how these San Antonio, Texas lunatics influenced or affected everyone from Ministry’s Al Jourgensen to singer-songwriter Neko Case, some guy from Sublime to David Yow of the Jesus Lizard. East coast, west coast, north, or south, the Butthole Surfers blew the minds of everyone they encountered. That’s not hyperbole. They were genuinely mind-blowing.

As I read through many testimonies recounting the first time one of these musicians saw the Surfers, it reminded me of my own first experience witnessing them live. It was 1993 and they were opening for Pearl Jam at an arena in Dallas, Texas (Moody Coliseum, if memory serves). I remember the band played in front of projector screens showing dental surgery. Vocalist Gibby Haynes was practically incoherent as he shouted into a megaphone and guitarist Paul Leary seemed to be playing a different song than the rest of the band. There was a gaggle of teenage girls standing next to me who were totally disgusted and bewildered by the display. One of them was on the verge of vomiting in reaction to the bloody gums and tooth removal playing behind the bands cacophony of noise and anti-pop. It was glorious. The following day in my high school class, I was one of very few who proudly stated that “Pearl Jam sucked! Butthole Surfers RULED!

Yes, the die-hard Butthole Surfers fan must own this book. But, even if you just had a superficial knowledge or interest in the band, What Does Regret Mean? is an excellent addition to your library or coffee table. It’s more than a mere document of the band, but a representation of their art.

– J. Kevin Lynch

Pre-Order Butthole Surfers: What Does Regret Mean? Available March 8th, 2019.

Butthole Surfers: What Does Regret Mean? testimonials: Rodney Anonymous (The Dead Milkmen), Eric Avery (Jane’s Addiction), Bobby Beeman (Stick Men with Ray Guns), Michael Bishop (Gwar), Derrick Bostrom (Meat Puppets); Dave Burns (author of Let’s Go To Hell: Scattered Memories of the Butthole Surfers); Neko Case, Sam Coomes (Quasi), Dale Crover (Melvins), Mike Derks (Gwar), Steven Drozd (The Flaming Lips), Gary Floyd (Dicks), Chris Gates (Big Boys), Bob Gorman (Gwar), Daniel Johnston, Al Jourgensen (Ministry), Cris Kirkwood (Meat Puppets), Stephen Malkmus (Pavement), Steven McDonald (Redd Kross), Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth), Mike Morasky (Steel Pole Bath Tub), Bob Nastanovich (Pavement), Nick Oliveri (Queens of the Stone Age), Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth), Henry Rollins, Kevin Rutmanis (Cows), Kim Thayil (Soundgarden), Eric Wilson (Sublime), David Yow (The Jesus Lizard), Rob Zombie.


Melodic Virtue - Butthole Surfers Book Spread 1

Melodic Virtue - Butthole Surfers Book Spread 2

Melodic Virtue - Butthole Surfers Book Spread 3


 

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