If Terry Allen hadn't grown up to be Terry Allen -- renowned sculptor, artist, songwriter, playwright -- he probably would have grown up to be David Lynch. Throw Lynch's violent masterworks Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart in a blender with maybe Burroughs's Naked Lunch and Paul Bowles's The Sheltering Sky, and you're getting warm to Allen's 1975 album, Juarez, recently reissued by Sugar Hill Records. Like his complex multimedia installations, the violent yet poignant Juarez has that West Texas directness that gives Allen's work an impression of being linear and simplistic when in fact it is anything but.
The biggest surprise about Juarez is that no one has made a movie of it. Benicio del Toro would make a great Jabo, the Juarez-born pachuco taking a murderous joy ride on his way home from Los Angeles ("they go north to get south"). Maybe Gary Oldman as Sailor, the naive Texas navy boy who marries...and hmm...Salma Hayek as a Tijuana prostitute named Spanish Alice. Then there's the juiciest part, that of Jabo's girlfriend, Chic Blundie, "an enigma, rock writer and, occasionally, Jabo himself") who, once she and Jabo have crossed the border at Juarez after their killing spree, leaves him, changes her name to Carlotta and becomes a Juarez prostitute. Madonna, anyone?
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While Juarez will never be a popular recording, it proves that even 30 years ago the Lubbock native and godfather of the "Lubbock music mafia" was a master of his unique idiom. With his quirky rhythms, vivid characters and black humor, Allen is the Randy Newman of Texas music, an offbeat songwriter of virtually unlimited vision and creative skill. Juarez is a Tarantino script set to music and will be an absolute must for the small cult of Allen aficionados. It will also no doubt be anathema to fans of the current namby-pamby "Texas music." Maybe Allen was divining our musical future when he said, "Today's rainbow is tomorrow's tamale."