Hairway to Steven album cover
Hairway to Steven

Butthole Surfers

1988
Touch And Go

The songs on Hairway To Steven originally had only small stick-figure drawings for titles, but they were eventually titled in a more conventional manner. The opening “Jimi” is a nearly 13-minute showcase for guitarist Paul Leary’s post-Hendrixian wailing, as Gibby Haynes roars “What do you know about death? I am death” and the like in an electronically lowered voice. If you don’t listen to the lyrics, “Ricky” and “Rocky” (and “I Saw An X-Ray Of A Girl Passing Gas”) could almost be conventional college rock (as it was known back then), but “John E. Smoke,” with its dubbed-in applause and waves of post-Beat nonsense from Haynes, is the album’s moment of peak Butthole-ism, bafflingly hilarious while still obviously the product of people who know exactly what they’re doing.

Phil Freeman

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