In a county where campaign promises to deport Mexicans get politicians elected to Congress, Manic Hispanic is our great unifier. These O.G.s of OC's punk scene (Steve Soto, Gabby Gaborno, Warren Renfrow, to name the most famous) play at the Galaxy Theatre every Cinco de Mayo to celebrate the only time Mexicans and whites can smash into each other without fear of arrest (for the Mexicans, at least). Manic's act finds them freely borrowing from the lexicon of punk and mexicanidad to create songs that match punk classics beat for beat but are refried to reflect Mexican sensibilities.
For wabby punkers and gabachocholos, the in-jokes and references to their dual heritage are relentless and hilarious. But many Manic Hispanic fans understand only half of the shtick—the gabachos know the songs being covered and might laugh at Gaborno's slurred Spanglish but don't realize what the Spanish words mean, while Mexicans do but wouldn't know Darby from Dolores. In the interest of uniting the races, we decode five of Manic Hispanic's best songs.
"Mommy's Little Cholo (Mommy's Little Monster)"
Cover of: Social Distortion's "Mommy's Little Monster"
The tweaks: Small but significant. Social Distortion's hit deals with disaffected youth in suburbia, while Manic's remake tries to paint an accurate picture of barrio life. Mike Ness' male social reject "doesn't wanna be a doctor or a lawyer get fat and rich"; Manic Hispanic's guy "doesn't wanna be a gardener or a dude diggin' in a ditch." The women in both songs are sluts, but while Social D's gal dresses like a punk, Manic Hispanic's chica has eyes "like a raccoon," hair "hair sprayed up to the sky" and a "teardrop tattoo under her eye."
"My Homeboy Is a Joto"
Cover of: D.I.'s "Johnny's Got a Problem"
The tweaks: Almost the entire song. While D.I.'s song dealt with the perils of drug abuse, "My Homeboy Is a Joto" involves a friend worried his carnal has "verga [penis] on the brain." Manic Hispanic begins its version with banter: one cholo tells another he loves him, then the doomsday riffs of "Johnny's Got a Problem" barrel on. The rest of the song is an anti-joto screed, parodying the homoerotic cholo lifestyle with lyrics like "Saturday night and we're supposed to go cruisin'/But his idea of cruisin' is different than mine."
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"Before the Next Teardrop Falls"
Cover of: Freddy Fender's "Before the Next Teardrop Falls"
The tweaks: One of the few non-punk songs Manic Hispanic has covered. This song is a bilingual country weeper by the late Fender, a Tex-Mex superstar with the unwieldy real name Baldomer Huerta. Nothing punk about this song, but Manic Hispanic dirties it up with distortion and sputtered lyrics. Best part: the Spanish-language section, where Gaborno mangles Spanish words like the hilarious pocho he is.
"Get Them Immigrated"
Cover of: The Offspring's "Come Out and Play (Keep 'Em Separated)"
The tweaks: The Offspring's description of schools plagued by gang members gets turned into the plight of Mexican families trying to sneak their families across the border. Manic Hispanic also throws in a mariachi horn in homage to Offspring lead singer Dexter Holland's unacknowledged Mexican heritage (read my food story this week for further detail).
"The I.N.S. Took My Novia Away"
Cover of: The Ramones' "The K.K.K. Took My Baby Away"
The tweaks: Manic Hispanic remade the Ramones' classic song about love and lynchings by changing the town of destination from Los Angeles to the Mexican barrio of East Los Angeles, and making the girlfriend in question a native of Mexico's Orange County protectorate, Santa Ana (they pronounce "SanTana" just like the natives, natch). The I.N.S. (also referred to in the song as la migra) takes the place of the K.K.K. Gaborno replaces Joey Ramone's melancholy "Oh oh oh oh" chorus with the mexcelente "Ay yi yi yi," the mandatory chorus for every Mexican song ever performed.