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The Butthole Surfers go big time

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As freedom-of-expression milestones go, Capitol Records’ signing of the Austin, Tex.-based hardcore hooligans Butthole Surfers may not rival Lenny Bruce’s 1962 obscenity trial. Still, it ranks as something of an event for a major American label to align itself with anything even remotely scatological. With a list of former names that includes Ashtray Baby Heads and Abe Lincoln’s Bush, as well as a 1987 album entitled Locust Abortion Technician, the Surfers have spent their 12-year careers almost guaranteeing mainstream failure. Then here comes no less a figure than Capitol president and CEO Hale Milgrim to sign the band and supply former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones to produce their big-time debut, Independent Worm Saloon.

Don’t expect any wimpy diminutions of the name in anticipation of bluenose consumer backlash, either; Capitol’s spreading the moniker loud and proud. ”They have a controversial name to some degree, but it’s not going to cause and major problems,” insists vice president of marketing Jeremy Hammond. ”Our marketing plan isn’t about compromises. Radio stations can call them B.H. Surfers if they want. All I want is the airplay.” Surfers guitarist Paul Leary also pooh-poohs any impending flak, citing a brave new world of butt references on TV, including MTV’s new animated show Beavis & Butt-Head and Denis Leary’s heavily rotated video ”Asshole.” ”The Japanese have been into (butt) humor for a long time,” offers Paul Leary. And what does he make of his band’s success, almost in spite of itself? ”We just cracked up and charged ahead like the idiot fools we are.”

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