When Ted Nugent’s Hot Streak Began to Cool With ‘State of Shock’
While many of classic rock’s greatest artists were simply trying to get out of the ‘70s alive, Ted Nugent was absolutely thriving. He packed arenas coast to coast, while moving millions of records.
So, why not try to keep that hot streak going by slipping one final album into stores before the end of the decade? Unfortunately, State of Shock – Nugent's fifth proper solo effort, not counting his long association with the Amboy Dukes – offered decidedly mixed and unfamiliar results. It was a direct, if unintended, reflection of the LP's “electrifying” cover image.
Issued in May 1979, State of Shock certainly opened in scorching fashion, thanks to galvanizing first single: "Paralyzed" bore all of the familiar Gonzo trademarks and slithery slide guitars to boot. Not to be outdone, ensuing tracks such as the slow-boiling title cut, the provocative "Bite Down Hard," and the particularly vicious "Snake Charmer" kept the high voltage rock 'n' roll coming.
But additional rockers such as "Take It or Leave It," "It Don’t Matter" and "Satisfied" lacked that distinctly manic Ted Nugent energy – an issue that exposed their dull, seemingly thrown-together lyrics. There was also an unusually straight-faced ballad, "Alone" (which truth be told, was a great showcase for singer Charlie Huhn) and an ill-fitting, paranoid pop-rocker called "I Want to Tell You" that was oddly reminiscent of Cheap Trick.
In the end, the electrical charge promised by State of Shock was, at best, delivered via alternating, not direct current. This inconsistency was eventually reflected in the album’s rather brief passage through the U.S. Top 20, and disappointing sales; it "only" went gold, where all of its recent predecessors had gone platinum.
Nevertheless, Nugent and and his band — bassist Walt Monaghan and drummer Cliff Davies — carried on gamely promoting State of Shock, both on the road and in the media, throughout 1979 and well into 1980. This trek including stopping by ABC’s short-lived Fridays live comedy show for a sizzling rendition of "Paralyzed."
In a sign of things to come, the '80s wouldn’t treat Nugent nearly as well as the '70s did. By then, however, his legacy had long since been secured by everything that came before State of Shock.