The Art of the Sell — Mojo Nixon for MTV

These posts celebrate the movie trailers, movie posters, commercials, print ads, and other promotional material that stand as their own works of art. 

In the most recent College Countdown entry, I became reacquainted with the Dead Kennedys, including some of the more eye-rolling aspects of Jello Biafra’s posturing. Chief among the more insipid rages against the machine on the album Frankenchrist is the track “MTV — Get Off the Air,” which takes aim at the cable channel that once stood for “Music Television.” At the time, the network was a familiar target for anyone with an indier-than-thou attitude. The animosity wasn’t entirely unearned, but I hearing that Dead Kennedys song again stirred me to think about how many amazing artists I encountered for the first time through MTV. Living in a place well away from college radio or any other FM outlets with a sense of daring, MTV likely provided my first exposure to a legion of vital performers: The Cure, the Jesus and Mary Chain, R.E.M., The Smiths, Robyn Hitchcock, and countless more.

And I know for certain that MTV introduced me to Mojo Nixon, although his music was, at best. a secondary component. Around the time “Elvis is Everywhere” became a novelty hit, MTV enlisted Nixon to star in some interstitial bumpers. Seemingly delivered as improvisational sermons on his various obsessions, the segments were riveting cornpone, unpolished and delivered with verve. When Nixon expounded on his personal Holy Trinity of Elvis Presley, Foghorn Leghorn, and Otis Campbell (or, as Nixon more clearly put it, “Otis, the drunk from The Andy Griffith Show“), his conviction was admirable.

When I finally did make it to a place with a first-rate college radio station, I thankfully found my way into the studio. And I routinely sought out Nixon’s album with his partner, Skid Roper. I had a few catalysts to that particular playlist choice, including peers and rave reviews in favored music magazines. Almost every time I played one of his songs, though, I realized the genesis of my interest started deep on the cable dial.

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