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Detachable Missile

from SPIN

The, Um, Oral History of King Missile’s ‘Detachable Penis’

by David Peisner

King Missile in 1992 / Photo by Bob Berg/Getty Images
King Missile in 1992 / Photo by Bob Berg/Getty Images

The meaty truths behind a monster hit

It’s easy to forget just how weird the landscape of popular music was in the early-to-mid-’90s. The success of bands like R.E.M., the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and especially Nirvana had convinced major labels that “alternative” was the next big thing, and those labels decided they had to start signing bands that could fit the bill. But major-label conceptions of “alternative” turned out to mean anything from Better Than Ezra to Butt Trumpet. The Flaming Lips, Butthole Surfers, Ween, Primus, and the Meat Puppets all scored at least minor radio hits, but few weirdo-rock success stories better speak to just how warped pop music had become than King Missile’s “Detachable Penis,” a musical tale of a man who loses his prized package while drunk at a party, only to find it later being hawked by a street vendor in New York’s East Village.

Released in the final weeks of 1992 and delivered to MTV in 1993, the whole story is relayed in deadpan spoken word by the band’s frontman and founder John S. Hall. Hall was a sardonic New York City poet, who’d formed the band in the mid-’80s in order to make his spoken-word performances more dynamic. He recruited a guitarist who went by the moniker Dogbowl, and later a saxophonist and a drummer. That lineup recorded two oddball psychedelic folk/spoken-word albums as King Missile (Dog Fly Religion) with the outré producer Mark Kramer, for his Shimmy Disc label. The band splintered and Hall pulled in guitarist Dave Rick and bassist Chris Xefos for 1990’s more rock-oriented Mystical Shit. The album spawned a college-radio hit, “Jesus Is Way Cool,” which caught the attention of Atlantic Records.

[ click to find out what genius John S. Hall is up to these days ]

Posted on March 2, 2013 by Editor

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