Music Video of the Day: Pepper by Butthole Surfers (1996, dir. Gavin Bowden)


Just like with Alanis Morissette’s You Oughta Know, Pepper by Butthole Surfers was one of those songs that came at an odd time. That brief little window between the musical renaissance of the early-90s and the musical plague of the late-90s. In between we got interesting transitional groups like Butthole Surfers and PUSA.

The music video is simultaneously dark with it’s lyrics and crime scene presentation, but then we suddenly switch gears to something that looks like a variety show and/or old commercials. Even the cops from the dark part come over to act as backup dancers for the band. On the dark side, Erik Estrada shows up as a kidnapping victim who is being rescued from the lead singer of the band. For people who are older than me, the name means the show CHiPs, which I’m sure is why he is in this music video. However, to people of my generation, he will always be Marco Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar Diego Garcia Marquez from Sealab 2021.

I honestly don’t really get it all too much. To me it’s all about contrast in how songs tend to switch gears from the verses to the chorus and back. Much like the video switches from the police scenes during the verses, then goes to the colorful portions during the chorus and back again. Sometimes it intermixes them a bit, but by and large, they are divided. That’s about all I’ve got other than that I like this song, and the video reminds me of the one for Frontier Psychiatrist by The Avalanches.

However, Wikipedia adds a little more to the story. It tells me that the reason the police and Estrada are shown eating corn from a can is a reference to how music videos are made. Apparently music video directors are told to “have this shot and that shot – how they’re spoon-feeding images to the audience.” Sounds like he is describing making any film. Except maybe Derek Jarman’s Blue (1993), which is just a blue screen while audio plays over it. There had to be more to the quote. Some context that makes the statement make more sense like that he is talking about being given direction by producers and people from the band’s record company about things they have to include.

Lisa has since added even more to the story in the comments.

Enjoy!

3 responses to “Music Video of the Day: Pepper by Butthole Surfers (1996, dir. Gavin Bowden)

  1. Interesting video. A lot of the kidnapping scenes feel very Dallas-specific. If you go through the news archives and look at any big police stakeout that occurred down here in 60s or 70s, one image that you’ll always see will be a bunch of detectives and Texas rangers — all wearing cowboy hats — standing around and smiling and laughing for the cameras. (As well, the motel looks like one of the many hourly motels that you can find on Harry Hines Blvd.) One of the cops — the one who does the elaborate limp — appears to have been made up to look like the guard who was standing next to Lee Harvey Oswald when Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know next to nothing about the group Butthole Surfers other than that they also did a song called Dracula From Houston, but just looking at the face of the lead singer tells me that all the things you mentioned are probably–to quote My Cousin Vinny–dead-on ball’s accurate about the music video.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The lead singer, Gibby Haynes, is quite a beloved figure in Texas music circles. He’s from Dallas, where his father was a local actor who hosted a children’s show and was also the first journalist to report that JFK had been shot. Gibby worked as an accountant before hitting it big. He was interviewed for a documentary called The Devil and Daniel Johnston and, if you ever get the DVD, there’s a whole special feature of just outtakes of Gibby saying strange stuff.

        Liked by 1 person

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