There was a time when Beavis and Butt-head, dear readers, stood astride over the culture of the 1990s like two mighty dipshit colossi. Back when the record industry was as large as it had ever become, and MTV was still culturally relevant, Beavis and Butt-head stood forth as the ironic mastheads of the decade. These two borderline-retarded teen burnouts from Texas, who did nothing but watch MTV, each nachos, and dream of perhaps someday doing something sexual with a female, were, oddly enough, one of the loudest voices of Generation X and the now-disused Generation Y.
Why Beavis and Butt-head? Did kids of the ’90s admire stupidity? Well, no. Gen-X and Gen-Y were disaffected and dismayed generations, marked by moody introspection and directionless dissatisfaction. There were no great wars to bind the generations together. Kurt Cobain perhaps spoke most loudly for Gen-X, but when it came time to hold up icons, kids of the 1990s chose to vaunt a pair of their worst. What batter way to tear down the notion of an all-binding generational icon than to choose dumb masturbating idiots as the figureheads?
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In 1993, when Mike Judge’s hit animated TV series Beavis and Butt-head was in full swing, Geffen Records put out a tie-in album called The Beavis and Butt-head Experience, which wasn’t so much a soundtrack album as an inspired companion record. The soundtrack to the show was largely just random MTV videos, so a direct soundtrack wouldn’t have been feasible regardless.
The Beavis and Butt-head Experience was a huge hit back in 1993, and, to this day, can still be found in record store dollar bins all over the country. Well, wherever there are still record stores. SoundTreks dug deep into that dollar store bin, fished out an old scratched CD of The Beavis and Butt-head Experience, and now present it to you, in all its glory.
Track 1. “I Hate Myself and Want to Die” – Nirvana
Generations X and Y may have been depressed and self-absorbed in their own moodiness, but Beavis and Butt-head were, themselves, not. The album begins with a fantasy sequence, wherein we hear our two stars taking the stage at a gigantic rock show, singing their favorite metal licks. Their reaction: “This is cool.” Beavis and Butt-head were most certainly metalheads, and had weaknesses for bands like Anthrax and Megadeth (see below), so it’s odd that the record should kick off with Nirvana, the beating, bleeding heart of ’90s disaffection.
Even though it doesn’t strike the right tone (at all) for Beavis and Butt-head, this song is excellent. It first appeared on this record, and would eventually make its way onto the deluxe edition of Nirvana’s In Utero. Kurt Cobain once said in an interview that this was a boring song, and it was dropped from In Utero for not being interesting enough. The lyrics are meant to be kidding suicide, but one could easily see it as an endorsement (from a song called “I Hate Myself and Want to Die??” No!!). I like that even Nirvana’s scraps and leavings are still exemplary. Including Nirvana on this record, however, feels like a commercial move rather than an artistic one. Cobain would have snorted at its inclusion here.
Track 2. “Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun” – Anthrax
Heavy metal didn’t die when grunge took over. Indeed, metal was just another voice in the eclectic chorus of scattered ’90s music trends. And of those trends, nothing lasted a shorter amount of time than that weird fusion of rap and metal that ran only about two or three years. Anthrax notably did “Bring the Noize” with Public Enemy, and here they cover a song by The Beastie Boys.
As I said, B&B were metalheads through and through. They banged heads and listened to their thrashy guitars as loudly as possible. So anything that Anthrax touches would be fine to them. But know that the boys were surprisingly hip in their tastes, and did not reject hip-hop or anything else in the pop gestalt with enough metal-like toughness. So rap was part of their education.
This track begins with a comedy sketch about Beavis masturbating on the Anthrax tour bus. It’s pretty funny, and it’s a shtick we’ll see again.
Track 3. “Come to Butt-head” – Beavis and Butt-head
“Come to Butt-head” is perhaps the highlight of the whole album. It’s a spoof of sexy slo-jam, narrated clumsily by Butt-head himself, back-up chortles by Beavis. “I would do something that really sucks for your love.” If anything can serve as the record’s single, it would be this one. It also may serve as a good introduction to the dynamic duo. “I wanna touch every part of you. Especially your thingies.”
Track 4. “99 Ways to Die” – Megadeth
The debut of a new Megadeth track is something metalheads could get excited about. I should perhaps admit that, in the early 1990s, I was closer to being a metalhead than any other type of music fan (although comedy records and showtunes were the largest representatives in my collection), so I have a soft spot for squealy guitars, overproduced metal epics, and squealing vocals. These days, it seems easy to make fun of heavy metal for how emotionally demonstrative it is, so I can see youths giggling at “99 Ways to Die.” But if you’re open to the bleakness, you’ll enjoy it.
Track 5. “Bounce” – Run D.M.C.
Another amusing sketch preceded this one, and I like that the bands were so game to take part in the comedic bits.
As I said above, Beavis and Butt-head, despite being dumbasses, had some pretty good taste in pop music. They weren’t deep-cut audiophiles or anything – they weren’t about to start seeking out rare 45s in record stores – but they were cool enough to take hip-hop in stride, and even knew about Run D.M.C., one of the best rap groups of all time. They were hip about the music that was floating through the air at the time. Gotta love ’90s eclecticism.
Track 6. “Deuces are Wild” – Aerosmith
Anthrax, I get. Megadeth, I get. But Aerosmith? Well, some Aerosmith, I can see Beavis and Butt-head grooving to. “Rag Doll” or “Toys in the Attic,” maybe. But a gentle ballad like this one? Taken wholesale from Pump, which was, at this point, already four years old? This is the first track that simply doesn’t fit on the record.
Track 7. “I Am Hell” – White Zombie
Yes, heavy metal was often associated with dumbness. In movies, you may notice that it’s only filthy, van-driving burnouts and asshole criminal bullies that listen to metal. There’s a reason the cliche existed. At least with White Zombie, you have a directly Satanic tone to deal with, and a more pronounced aural aesthetic. I prefer White Zombie to Anthrax and Megadeth, actually. I like the Halloween madness of the band, and the persistent personality of their frontman, Rob Zombie.
Track 8. “Poetry and Prose” – Primus
Primus is a wonderfully weird band, and perhaps one of the oddest to ever reach the top 10. Frontman Les Claypool also plays bass, and this is the only rock band I have encountered that is specifically bass-centered. Since I was (and am) a huge fan of Primus, I associate their sound with my early ’90s high school years just as strongly as I do Beavis and Butt-head. So, in my mind, the two are a perfect match, from a thematic point of view. Would B&B be fans of Primus? They would listen, but wait for Metallica to come on.
This is the only track on the record, not performed by Beavis and Butt-head, that is actually about Beavis and Butt-head. More specifically, it’s about watching Beavis and Butt-head on TV. It even references Frog Baseball, the very first Beavis and Butt-head short film that played at animation festivals, and on MTV’s Liquid Television. This song is a fun, bouncy, weird tribute to the show, and could even serve as its theme song. Primus is from the dirty South, and B&B are form Texas, so they could meet. Primus would, of course, eventually write and perform the theme song to South Park.
Track 9. “Monsta Mack” – Sir Mix-a-Lot
Although considered a one-hit wonder, Sir Mix-a-Lot has a pretty solid discography, and all his songs are fun and clever. He was a lighthearted rapper in an era when rap was becoming darker and more gangsta. This track would eventually make it onto Sir Mix-a-Lot’s fourth record Chief Boot Knocka.
Track 10. “Search and Destroy” – Red Hot Chili Peppers
Track 11. “Mental Masturbation” – Jackyl
Jackyl were one of the less notable hair metal bands to come out of the 1980s, but were notable for their dirty Southern sound. By the 1990s, they became a little dirtier, and more fun to listen to. I can picture Beavis and Butt-head wandering through their Texas neighborhood, and accidentally seeing a band that sounds exactly like Jackyl performing in someone’s backyard. They would fecklessly approach, try unsuccessfully to steal a beer, and pretend they were cool enough to hang with the tattooed, beer-drinking metal punks, and stare down the leathery metal girls in black vests. They would eventually wander into the night, humming a Jackyl song. For years thereafter, they would make similar walks, but never recapture the magic of that accidental Jackyl concert years ago.
Beavis asks what mental masturbation is. Butt-head explains that it’s what you think about when you’re “gettin’ the job done.”
Track 12. “I Got You Babe” – Cher with Beavis and Butt-head
“We need a chick.” Beavis and Butt-head hated love songs, ballads, or anything gentle, and they describe this song as “wuss music” and sounding like Nelson. Then the rock guitars bust in, and all is well.
Also, good for Cher for reprising her biggest hit, but changing “baby” to “Butt-head.” Some celebrities were hip enough to see that Beavis and Butt-head was more than just a string of “dumb” jokes. It was a satire of the sub-culture of rock-stupid TV obsessives that MTV was itself perpetuating. It didn’t glorify. It examined and tore down. Beavis and Butt-head were not charming or appealing. But we could watch them because we knew they were sincere in their passions, and too dumb to hide their basest, most honest desires for prurient, shallow stuff. Cher saw this, and was smart enough to play with it.
The record ends with a reprise of the rock concert opening, announcing that Beavis and Butt-head have left the building.
Hidden track. “Come to Butt-head (reprise)” – Beavis, Butt-head, and Positive K
So when people listened to CDs, they didn’t know how long track lengths were at first inspection. And if they played the record all the way through, it would merely end. This listening model allowed record producers to play cute little pranks on listeners like this one. The record would stay in the player, and the producers would add several minutes of total silence. The listener wouldn’t notice that the CD was still playing, and, all of a sudden, after expecting nothing, there would be a hidden bonus track!
The hidden track on The Beavis and Butt-head Experience was this expanded reprise/remix of “Come to Butt-head,” which might be his biggest hit after “I Got a Man.” It’s fun, and Positive K is a good rapper, but I think I like the Butt-head only version much better. It’s funnier.
Which is Better? The Soundtrack or the TV Show?
It’s a tough call, but I’m giving the TV show the edge. The show was a mixture of sitcom and variety show, wherein our heroes would directly comment on MTV videos, which was, at the time, tantamount to criticism of culture itself. There was more going on with the show, and the satire was easier to see when you could watch the squalor and stupidity first-hand, rather than just hearing references to it.
In short, the record was merely a tribute to the show, while the show had the actual ideas behind it. We all knew teenage wastoids like Beavis and Butt-head. We knew the dumb kid who couldn’t finish his math homework, but was really good at getting his hands on M-80s. Beavis and Butt-head looked at these mentally bankrupt people, and decided to find humor in their lives. Sure, we may laugh at Beavis and Butt-head mockingly, but we also recognize them.