120 Reasons To Live: The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion

Nothing did more to further the cause of Alternative Nation-building than 120 Minutes, MTV’s Sunday-night video showcase of non-mainstream acts. For nearly two decades, the program spanned musical eras from ’80s college rock to ’00s indie, with grunge, Britpop, punk, industrial, electronica and more in between. MAGNET raids the vaults to resurrect our 120 favorite and unjustly forgotten videos from the show’s classic era.

#94: The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion “Bellbottoms”

The Black Keys? Really? The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion creeps closer to legend every year. JSBX isn’t dead—they’ve been tabbed by Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum to play the ATP festival this spring—and you probably can’t ever kill them, but the band largely built its reputation on live shows instead of recordings. And sometimes even the recordings are great, as in the case of 1992’s “Bellbottoms.”

On a tangent, MAGNET’s Jud Cost interviewed Spencer in 2010; while discussing his pre-JSBX band Pussy Galore, Spencer offered up one of the greatest rock stories ever told:

Spencer: The classic story is when we did the very last tour with Pussy Galore after Julie Cafritz had left the band, right after Dial M For Motherfucker. It was the lineup with me and Bob BertNeil Hagerty and Kurt Wolf, the four guys. We did four weeks in August, not the best time to tour, all through the south and southwest. The whole tour, Neil had a Samsonite piece of luggage, a big old-fashioned suitcase. But he always wore the same clothes. He’d change his clothes when somebody gave him a T-shirt or he got something at a Salvation Army. We were coming back into the U.S. from playing Montreal going to Boston. And we’re getting stopped at the border and they’re going through our stuff. We’re getting tossed. So, they go to open Neil’s bag, and we’re all standing around. And the only thing that’s in there is a deflated basketball. Neil says his father suggested it might be a good way to stay in shape, to shoot a few hoops.