100 Essential Albums of All Time – The BusBoys, Minimum Wage Rock & Roll (1980)

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The history of rock and roll – hell, the history of recorded music, be it country, pop, or otherwise – is replete with those groups, bands and singers who didn’t quite make it into the cultural mainstream. For every group like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones or Aerosmith (or virtually any other member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame), there are literally thousands of other bands who didn’t quite reach their level of popularity. Sure, some may have had that proverbial “cup of coffee” with the music industry – here’s a salute to you, One Hit Wonders! – but there are many more who never even achieved that level of success.

Arguably one of those who falls into one of the categories above – and which category is almost as difficult as categorizing their musical stylings – is the California group The BusBoys. Founded in Los Angeles in the late 1970s as disco was beginning its demise, The BusBoys featured singer/keyboardist Brian O’Neal and his brother, Kevin (bass), as the driving force behind the group. Joined by singer Gus Louderman, who handled most of the lead vocals for the band, Mike Jones (additional keyboards), Victor Johnson (guitars) and Steve Felix (drums), The BusBoys made inroads into the music world – and, in particular, the rock music world – although something wasn’t quite what some would expect…maybe you can identify it.

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That’s right. The entirety of the band was black save for Felix, who was Hispanic, and the band played driving rock music with both a rhythm and blues feel as well as tidbits of new wave tossed in. Lyrically the band took on some rather touchy subjects – even more then than they might be now – such as working for less than what one deserves, nuclear annihilation, minorities moving into the suburbs, the Ku Klux Klan, where blacks “should be,” and a host of other charged issues. Just as you would think there were too serious, then The BusBoys would break out the party time tunes and just rock your ass off!

The BusBoys released their debut album, Minimum Wage Rock & Roll, to resounding critical acclaim. Feted for their efforts at combining diverse musical genres as surf rock, new wave, doo wop and rock and pop stylings, Minimum Wage Rock & Roll didn’t have a weak point on the entirety of the album. The first song off the record, “Dr. Doctor,” was a stomping rock and roll song sung with gusto by the bluesy Louderman while the O’Neal brothers and the rest of the ‘Boys jammed behind him. “Minimum Wage” brought a Clash-esque vibe into the mix while discussing what someone had to do to make a living.

The BusBoys weren’t done yet. The group hit its stride on the record with “There Goes the Neighborhood” (not the version done by Ice-T and Body Count, let me assure you), a tune about how “the white folks movin’ in/there gonna bring their next of kin” – or a juxtaposition of what many suburban communities say when minorities come into their previously sacrosanct areas. “Johnny Soul’d Out” could be The BusBoys’ autobiography and an ode to Chuck Berry’s Go Johnny Go – about a singer/musician who is “into rock and roll and giving up the rhythm and blues.” The first side is rounded out by the Ramones-blitz of “KKK,” a recital of how a black man is good enough to do such things as go to war, but not allowed to fully be a part of the “American” culture.

The second side featured some strong material also. “D-Day” focused on the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust, while “We Stand United” and “Respect” reflected on the desires of many just to be accepted for what they are. There’s even a bit of a R&B/new wave influenced “grinder” called “Anggie” (the first sexual experience) and a song about being an athlete and ready for their starring moment (“Tell the Coach”) to add to the excellence of the album.

What made Minimum Wage Rock & Roll such an essential album was the racial comportment of the band – blacks just didn’t DO rock music in this era (Bad Brains were about the only other black rock band of this era as it was a few more years before Living Colour would reach prominence) – and the myriad of musical stylings that were featured on the album. Trying to include such a mixture of musical stylings would have been a failure in the hands of a lesser group; The BusBoys made it sound like it was all in a typical Friday night of partying with the band.

The BusBoys, alas, were like the proverbial Roman candle, rocketing into the stratosphere in a blur of flashing colors only to flame out or crash rather quickly. The band was featured in the Eddie Murphy/Nick Nolte classic 48 Hrs. as the bar band playing in Murphy’s “black” bar, and they contributed the title track, “The Boys are Back in Town,” to the soundtrack of the movie. Just as it seemed that they were ready to take off, however, The BusBoys crashed to earth.

The second album, American Worker (1982), for some reason did not feature “Boys” on it (although it featured another song that The BusBoys performed in 48 Hrs. called “New Shoes”). It did feature, however, a version of “Heart and Soul” that would be more successful for Huey Lewis and the News a year later. Although it reached the charts in the U. S., it wasn’t nearly as successful as Minimum Wage Rock & Roll and would signal the end of the run for The BusBoys, although they have continued recording (two more albums, Money Don’t Make No Man and (Boys Are) Back in Town, which finally corrected the error of The BusBoys not being able to put “The Boys are Back in Town” on one of their albums earlier) and are still active today.

Part of the reason that we all love music is its abilities to be able to surprise you. When you’re not even able to drive and discover that there are rock bands that aren’t lily white (I knew about Hendrix but hadn’t discovered Phil Lynott at that point) that are just as good if not better than what you’re being told is “rock & roll,” it has a way of sticking with you. The BusBoys to this day are a band that remains one of my favorites and their opus was Minimum Wage Rock & Roll. If you’ve never heard it or the band, you’d be well advised to check them out.

Previous entries in the 100 Essential Albums of All Time:

Rockpile – Seconds of Pleasure

Metallica – …And Justice For All

Rick Wakeman – Journey to the Centre of the Earth

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The Carnival is Coming to A Close

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Since January 20 of this year – hell, since the start of the 2016 Presidential campaign in what seems like eons ago but was only about two years back – the people of the States of America have been subjected to a macabre three-ring circus that is the Confederacy of Dunces united under Orange Foolius. Like a drunken clown with Tourette’s, the SCROTUS (So-Called Ruler of the United States) has veered from one controversy to another, infuriating opponents, supporters, and the entirety of the world as a whole and sometimes at in one statement. With this Mr. Hyde approach, many say that the embarrassment in the White House is distracting the public from some of the more heinous aspects of his Confederacy’s actions.

There is some truth to this. As a friend has pointed out to me several times (and we’ve debated heartily), instead of taking action to relieve Puerto Rico from the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria, the Jackass-in-Chief decided to launch his crusade regarding an issue that had all but died, the protests of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick regarding the treatment of young blacks at the hands of law enforcement and the general inequality that still exists in the country. Continuing a streak of disingenuous behavior that has been a hallmark of his existence, let alone his stint as the SCROTUS, Orange Foolius instead wrongly made the protest about dissing the military, the National Anthem, and the flag, which of course whipped up the knuckle-dragging Neanderthals of his slavering base. This served to distract the public for quite a few days as more than three million Puerto Ricans, without power, food, and potable water, suffered after the storms of Maria had passed.

Now, however, perhaps the carnival is coming to a close.

Yesterday the Vice Chucklehead, the Albino Howler Monkey to the twisted organ grinder that the SCROTUS is, decided he would insert himself into the mix. In a $250,000+ bill to the taxpayers – he came from Los Angeles to Indianapolis (reportedly to see the game, which was honoring future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning’s number retirement into the Colts Ring of Honor), then returned to Los Angeles once his panties got in a twist – Vice Chucklehead saw the 49ers continue the protest that EVERY TEAM in the National Football League is now doing. With his Victoria’s Secret finery firmly twisted in his rectal cavity, he walked out of Lucas Oil Stadium in a snit, purportedly as a part of a plan between him and Orange Foolius.

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In the past, there would have been plenty of dithering over the Albino Howler Monkey’s actions. Instead, there has been a blistering rebuttal of his actions and the fabricated plan by him and the SCROTUS to continue pushing the divisive issue. Indianapolis Star sportswriter Gregg Doyle penned a searing takedown of Chucklehead, blasting him for a political grandstanding that even Stevie Wonder could see. CNN pointed out the costs of the charade while NFL players and social media castigated the duo for the futility of their divisiveness.

There are signs that the patience of the people for the BS this administration is dishing out is coming to a head elsewhere. Although he is in the middle of a primary fight that could determine whether he’ll remain in the Senate, Arizona Senator Jeff Flake has issued a tome where he rips the takeover of the Republican Party. Entitled Conscience of a Conservative, Flake repeatedly attacked Orange Foolius, his abrasive, wafer-thin skin attacks on opponents and allies alike and his attempted takeover of the GOP. His fellow Arizonan, Senator John McCain, has also stood against the SCROTUS on several occasions, most notably the health care discussion.

The blasting from inside the party has recently come to head, however. Over the weekend, Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, who will resign his seat and not seek reelection in 2018, was the target of the Twitter screed of a 13-year old girl – oh, wait, that’s the ignoramus who squeaked his way into the most powerful position in the world. In several Tweets, the SCROTUS piled lie upon lie ON AN ALLY HE NEEDS TO PASS FOREIGN POLICY LEGISLATION. These were easily swatted aside by Corker and his aides, who repeatedly pointed out where the SCROTUS was a lying bastard while calling his administration an “adult day care” where someone had “missed a shift.”

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These actions are a noted change from what has preceded. In the past (this writer included), the press and the people have been peering too closely into the abyss, trying to divinate from the tea leaves, the cryptic tweets and the tossed off statements (like the “calm before the storm” comments from SCROTUS last week during a dinner with high-ranking military members) as to what the jackass is intending to do. This isn’t a criticism of the press or the public as this is what we’ve become used to…you know, when we have sane people that were in positions of power and took under consideration what might be in the best interest of the nation rather than just themselves. With the Carnival Barker in charge, however, people may be realizing it’s time that there was a change.

It has SLOWLY become obvious that people aren’t paying as much attention to what SCROTUS says as what’s going on with actions in the Congress and on the foreign policy stage. For example, while Orange Foolius and his Albino Howler Monkey continue the organ grinder ploy in Indy, there has been moves towards nonrenewal of the Iranian nuclear deal, something that the SCROTUS has been advised against by virtually every breathing human in the administration. There is also the Russian investigation ongoing, which is a Paul Manafort or Michael Flynn plea bargain away from finding serious criminal and electoral misconduct by the SCROTUS campaign leading to the 2016 election by special investigator Robert Mueller.

These things…and many others…aren’t escaping the attention of the people. At least those that are on watch.

The filtering of the white noise BS from this supposed head of state is only the start, however. It is time that people across the board – from the media, to those in either party, to worldwide leaders – finally stand up against the stain that is tarnishing what the country is about. Call the SCROTUS on his falsehoods, his lies and his “smoke and mirrors” attempts to divert attention from his complete and total inanity and inability to even act like a human being, let alone the leader of the free world. Call him out on his blatant racism and support for white nationalists, the Nazi Party and the KKK, which he continues with his dog-whistle actions regarding the NFL and his treatment of the Puerto Rican people (compared to Texas and Florida). CALL HIM OUT…the painfully vain, thin-skinned narcissistic bastard wouldn’t be able to handle it.

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It is time to start to watch this scumbag, his words, and his actions. The carnival sideshow is over and it is time to hold this person responsible rather than allow him to shift the blame elsewhere (another dubious trait he has). It is time to make sure the “adults in the room” – Chief of Staff John Kelly, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, and National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster (Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is a “dead man walking”…he’ll be out in a month) – ride this petulant child and make damn sure he doesn’t make a misstep that would inflict further damage on this country or the world. And it is time to make this SCROTUS act like he either wants to be the leader of the country or pitch him aside, starting with the 2018 midterms.