How Ministry's "Jesus Built My Hotrod" Became a Hit and a Middle Finger for Warner Bros.

How Ministry’s “Jesus Built My Hotrod” Became a Hit and a Middle Finger for Warner Bros.

In the summer of 1991, Al Jourgensen of the industrial band Ministry had a song that he was convinced would be a hit. But he wasn’t happy with their lyrics and vocals. A chance backstage meeting with Gibby Haynes of The Butthole Surfers turned into an invitation for Haynes to come into the studio and test his vocal prowess.

In a situation similar to George Clinton showing up cake-faced to record Atomic Dog and spouting gibberish, Haynes showed up drunk and could barely stay on his stool in the studio. Between vomiting and stumbling, Haynes came up with the verbiage that became the song’s lyrics. “Gibby threw up, spit up some bullshit and left,” recalls Uncle Al.

The band was in a tight spot with their label, Warner Brothers, and hearing a demo of “Hotrod” only scared the label even more:

“Warner Brothers had given us a lot of money to make this album, and we still didn’t have any songs,” says Jourgensen. “And they were adamant about listening to anything we had done. I refused to send them demos, because these people really didn’t know anything about music, they had no idea. But they kept pushing. So I decided to send them Jesus built my hot rod. They were crestfallen, absolutely horrified: ‘This is not Ministry, this is the worst shitty song we’ve ever heard in our lives.’ But I told them that was all I had.”

Jourgensen, never flinching from confrontation, gave the label an ultimatum: cancel Ministry’s contract or send more money to complete the album. Sire chose the second option. Conscious of recouping their losses, and despite reservations, they released Jesus built my hot rod as a single that November.

To Sire’s amazement, it turned out to be a huge success. The track quickly became a fixture on college radio and the alternative rock charts. In the early summer of 1992, by which time Ministry was finally ready to release its parent album, Psalm 69: The way to succeed and the way to suck eggs, the single had sold 130,000 copies. And he kept selling.

Read the rest of the story on stronger.

Thumbnail: Selbymay, CC BY-SA 4.0

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.