Thursday, April 12, 2018

Does Humor Belong In Music?

Sure it does as it is one of the greatest weapons against misplaced authority.
While Elvis didn't exhibit much, intentionally anyway, The Beatles sure did.
Here is another album that made an impression and remains in rotation.

Phil Austin, Peter Bergman, David Ossman, and Phil Proctor weren't a band in the usual sense, but wrote and performed songs here and there on their albums. In 2005, The US Library of Congress, added "Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers" (1970) to the National Registry, calling The Firesign Theater "The Beatles Of Comedy".

In High School, my best friend and surfing buddy, "Stretch" had an older brother, whose records we plundered and stacked on the turntable while we played pool in the "rec" room. (It actually had a refrigerator outfitted with a tap on the door for kegs).

That's where we found The Firesign's  classic albums. Cheech And Chong records were funny once, and George Carlin's "7 Dirty Words" hilarious food for thought, but The Firesign's were something different altogether. No one-liner's or jokes, exactly, but a surreal melange of layered wordplay.
Their records insisted being heard many times, preferably with headphones, just to figure out what the heck was going on.

Fortunately, big brother also had "The Firesign Theater's Big book Of Plays" which we borrowed and studied in detail. Out in the water, between sets, we'd recite whole passages.

Here is one of our favorites, featuring their most well known and recurring character, 
Nick Danger, Third Eye.

After 1973 they were on again off again until the deaths of  Peter Bergman (2012) and Phil Austin (2015). One of my favorites of their later years is "Boon Dot Bust", from 1999.

Here is a tidbit:


Don't forget to tune in for tomorrow's Weekend Mix


Troy said...

I haven't listened to those since college. Thanks for the flashback to Nick Danger. Great stuff.

Shriner said...

At some point, I should revisit these. I'm a big comedy album fan, but I've tried the FT in the past and it never connected (though "J-Men Forever" was pretty funny...)

It must be me, but I've often felt I was missing the party with them.

rick said...

Being 'in the know' meant dropping lines of theirs into everyday conversation to see who would pick up on it or to have a friend follow up with another line. Close the door and the light stays on!

ge said...

Firesign is so great... i would argue maybe the most unique
significant master media manippers of the frikkin century!
So much more than music, humor, tho' they use both,
mixed with esotericism, art, literature, politix, sci-fi/futurism,
plundering radio-tv-film-pop culture, shakeyspeare, psychedelicism,
world history, layering levels of meaning & nonsense giddily profound
lo i must leave off now the maid's here

Michael Giltz said...

Beyond comedy albums, I think humor is a major strand in some of my favorite acts. It's viewed with almost as much suspicion in literature -- if a book is actually funny, it can't be that important! After Mark Twain, it's hard to think of a lot of funny authors who are embraced. Same with popular music. I don't mean comic songs a la Tom Lehrer but just...humor. It's a big part of Steely Dan, Randy Newman and of course Bob Dylan among many others. I almost drove my car off the road the first time I heard the Dylan song "Highway 61 Revisited." The deadpan pause between God telling Abraham yeah sure, you can ignore me and not sacrifice your son but the next time you see me you better run and Abraham's response "Where you want this killing done?" is comedic timing of the highest order. Ditto "Talkin' Bear Mountain Picnic massacre Blues.:" it's a big part of Courtney Barnett's draw for me. And as with so much else, the Beatles were masters.

Sal Nunziato said...

When I was a teenager, I howled with laughter while listening to some of Frank Zappa’s classics. And while I am still a fan, it is mostly of Zappa’s more musical pieces. I now find his humor smug and sophomoric. I think there is a fine line here. The Darkness is a band that i find absolutely hilarious and yet there is nothing subtle about their lyrics. It helps that the music is balls out rock played with a fierce intensity by guys who excel on their instruments. This works for me. It’s fun.

Like Michael Giltz examples, it makes a difference when it’s smart, and delivery is everything. I guess you could say that about stand-up comedy or any comedy, for that matter.

We're gonna blow people's fucking heads off
Ooh, they're gonna shit themselves
Crying out for more
Caution, wet floor
This one's going out to the fans
Hell bent for denim and leather
Notoriety and wealth
After the show
I think we both know
This fist ain't gonna bump itself
We are legends
With a power that you can't deny
We're immortal
'Cause these songs will never die
And we're never gonna stop
Shitting out solid gold
And we're never gonna stop
Shitting out solid gold

Shriner said...

The only thing I can add to Sal is -- I am finally seeing The Darkness live tomorrow night in The D (that's "Detroit" for those of you not from around here...)


Will report afterwards!

Sal Nunziato said...

Shriner, will be seeing them in NYC next week and then in New Orleans a week after that.

Dr Wu said...

I humbly nominate the poets Bon Scott and David Lee Roth as evidence of humor in music that works. Their lyrics still bring a grin to my face all these years later. I think it’s found in all genres, particularly country. Great topic, BBJ!

Ken D said...

The Firesign stuff certainly brings back memories. One of the coolest parts of my high school years.

Also for the Humor in Music Hall o' Fame: Loudon Wainwright III. (Wasn't his fault that "Dead Skunk" was a semi-hit...)

Shriner said...

The Darkness was awesome! No variations from recent set lists (and it's about what you'd expect), but Justin is a great front man who looks like he's having the time of his life on stage. Loud, hard and fast. No "breather" songs anywhere. Loved it!