White Zombie’s now classic 1992 album, La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Vol. 1, was far from a hit out of the gate. Being on the same label as Nirvana in 1992 certainly set impossibly high label expectations for what success for any heavy sounding band should be, and White Zombie felt the strains early on.
Per a conversation with Stereogum, Rob Zombie explained: “White Zombie were on tour after being signed to Geffen. Our record had come out, but no one at Geffen really believed in us or cared. It was a typical signing, where our A&R guy got fired early on in the process. We probably sold 100,000 copies, which to us was cool, but no big hit for anybody. Expanding on their lack of initial success, Rob reiterated:
“Our record was already pretty old. We had been touring quite a bit for it, because I always figured it was always gonna be a touring band. That how it was gonna be done; I didn’t expect hit records or anything from the radio. MTV was playing the video; it’d been on Headbangers Ball, late at night, maybe once or twice…
I always felt that the video could connect if it just got some exposure. To that point, we’d been on Headbanger’s Ball and 120 Minutes — our one play at two in the morning. I was like, “If we could just get played at a normal hour, we could get something going!”
And then, literally overnight, White Zombie’s fortunes changed forever thanks to a few “compliments” from 2 teenage metalhead cartoons:
Per Zombie, the Beavis and Butt-Head impact was massive and immediate:
“Beavis and Butt-Head, that was our first prime-time exposure. I mean, I didn’t even know what it was. … It was so new, I hadn’t even seen it yet. And that started it all… No one realized the impact it could have, and it didn’t have an impact for everybody, but for us it really did.
And Beavis And Butt-Head was the first time the video ever got played at a time where people could see it. The reaction was immediate. The record sales just jumped the following day. It was kind of amazing, how [immediate] the reaction was back then….
Back then, the week before you were on Beavis And Butt-Head, maybe you sold a thousand records. The week after, 10,000 records. The week after, 100,000 records. Things would just move in a way that you couldn’t believe.”
And from there, it just spread like wildfire:
“The record immediately started picking up in markets where we never played, like Wyoming and Missouri-places where Beavis and Butt-head was the only thing happening, where it’s just cows. It always seemed we needed something to give the album a kick in the butt, and I guess this was the thing.”
The album quickly jumped into the Billboard Top 40 charts (which, back then, was a pretty huge barometer of success). It’s since gone on to sell over 2 million copies. All hail Beavis And Butt-Head.