Monthly Archives: March 2012

Dave’s not here. Neither is Rodney.

A furlough week over, we’re back at work.

More importantly, we’re being paid for it.

That said, our mantra remains: If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.

Life in the newsroom is no less absurd this week than it was when I last worked two weeks ago. It often goes a bit like this.

“Dave,” Cheech and Chong, from “Cheech and Chong,” 1971.

Barely a minute long, this is about as good as a comedy bit gets. It’s fairly simple, yet it fires up your imagination as you envision Dave one one side of the door and the stoner on the other side.

There are plenty of days when your boss is as clueless as the stoner, aren’t there? You feel a little like Dave, don’t you?

Some days, you get no respect, I tell ya.

Head over to The Midnight Tracker for our take on that.


Filed under March 2012, Sounds

Furlough week, Day 5: Happy hour

Our mantra this week: If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.

Did you know George Carlin started out as a DJ? So did his first partner, Jack Burns, who eventually teamed with Avery Schreiber. There’s no shortage of DJs who cut comedy records.

In the early ’70s, the hottest such comedy team was Bob Hudson and Ron Landry, who worked mornings on KGBS in Los Angeles. Their on-air act was so good that they did four records.

The Hudson and Landry albums were recorded live at the Pomona National Golf Club, most likely in the bar. Judging from the gales of laughter, it sounds like a well-oiled crowd.

(They also filmed an episode of “Get Smart” there in 1969. That’s where this screen grab is from.)

Having listened to three Hudson and Landry albums, I’m not sure there was four records’ worth of material. Even so, some of their bits deserved all those big laughs from the friendly folks in the lounge. Here are two. Not sure you could do the latter today, but things were different in 1972.

“Ajax Airlines” and “Bruiser La Rue,” Hudson and Landry, from “Losing Their Heads,” 1972. It’s out of print, but both cuts are available digitally.

Bob Hudson retired from radio in 1988 and was 66 when he died in 1997.

Ron Landry became a TV comedy writer, working on “Flo,” “Benson,” “The Redd Foxx Show” and “Gimme A Break” among others, in the late ’70s and into the ’80s. He was 67 when he died in 2002.

Speaking of passings: Peter Bergman, another Los Angeles radio guy who became a comedian, died today. He was 72. To those hoping to hear some Firesign Theatre here, my apologies. Neither I nor my friends ever got into it.


Filed under March 2012, Sounds

Furlough week, Day 4: The news

Our mantra this week: If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.

It’s been a long day. A road trip with my dad, who is 86. Three hours down, six hours visiting, three hours back.

It’s time for …

“The 11 O’Clock News,” George Carlin, from “FM & AM,” 1972. Recorded live at the Cellar Door in Washington, D.C., in late June 1971.

This is Carlin’s third record, but the first on which he starts to move from mainstream comedian to caustic counterculture observer.

This is one of my favorite Carlin bits, complete with Al Sleet, the hippy-dippy weather man, and a partial score.

It’s one my dad and I heard Carlin do on television back then, and one we still could enjoy together today. You can’t say that for some of the Carlin bits that followed. Only one of us dug those.


Filed under March 2012, Sounds

Furlough week, Day 3: This side

Our mantra this week: If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.

The other day, I was listening to an old record from the ’70s and realized we usually played just one side of it, over and over, and rarely the other side.

It was this record.

It was one of the records we listened to in Jerry’s basement when we were in high school in the mid-’70s. But as I played it again the other night, it became clear that the most memorable bits were on the first side, which was called “This Side.” I flipped it over and listened to “That Side,” which again didn’t measure up to “This Side.”

Richard Pryor’s salacious, profane comedy was mind-blowing for a bunch of white kids from the middle of Wisconsin. Pryor may have been from Peoria, Illinois, not all that far from where we grew up, but his was a much different world than ours. Pryor had a keen eye and ear for those differences. His world was black and white, and he drew some sharp distinctions.

“White folks do things a lot different than niggers do. …
Black families be different.”

Here are two examples, recorded live in early 1974 at Don Cornelius’ Soul Train nightclub in San Francisco:

“Black And White Life Styles” and “Exorcist,” Richard Pryor, from “That Nigger’s Crazy,” 1974.  That LP is out of print, but both bits are available on “The Anthology, 1968-1992,” a 2002 compilation that also draws more from “This Side” than “That Side.”

A few words about the N Word: It’s used here only in the context of the time, as Pryor himself used it at the time.

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Furlough week, Day 2: Lampooned

Our mantra this week: If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.

Laugh we did at the take-no-prisoners school of comedy that carried the National Lampoon brand in the early 1970s. It led directly to “Saturday Night Live,” which though sensational for its time was still fairly sanitized by the time it made it to TV in 1he fall of 1975.

Branches of that school included the outrageous National Lampoon magazine, “Lemmings,” an off-Broadway musical spoof of Woodstock (in which everyone goes to the Woodchuck Festival to commit mass suicide), and the “National Lampoon Radio Hour,” which so frequently trampled the boundaries of good taste that you marveled that they could put it on the radio at all.

Bits like this.

And this.

Both are from “National Lampoon Radio Dinner,” the first National Lampoon comedy album. Though much of the material is surprisingly gentle, it pulls no punches. Nothing was sacred, especially ’60s icons and ideals.

Released in 1972, its targets included Richard Nixon, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and a New Age reading that had unexpectedly became a radio hit and was seen on posters everywhere.

“Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.”

If you are from that time, you may remember “Desiderata.” This is not that.

“Deteriorata,” Norman Rose and Melissa Manchester, from “National Lampoon Radio Dinner,” 1972. That LP is out of print but the cut is available on “Greatest Hits of the National Lampoon,” a 2004 compilation, and digitally.

Part of the genius of “Deteriorata” was hiring Rose, then a 55-year-old New York actor and radio announcer, to do the narration. Rose played it straight, bringing the proper gravitas to the piece. Anything else would have killed the satire.

And reflect that whatever fortune may be your lot,
It could only be worse in Milwaukee.

“Deteriorata” was written by was a 24-year-old Christopher Guest, who got to be pretty good at musical parodies. He was the musical director for “Radio Dinner” and wrote songs and skits for “Lemmings,” spoofing Bob Dylan in both. Of course, you best know Guest for writing and performing in “This Is Spinal Tap,” “Waiting For Guffman” and “A Mighty Wind.”

“Radio Dinner” did not lack for genius.

It was co-written and co-produced by Michael O’Donoghue, the dark savant who three years later became the first head writer on “Saturday Night Live.” His partner was National Lampoon editor Tony Hendra, who took Lennon quotes from a Rolling Stone interview and turned them into the savage parody “Magical Misery Tour (Bootleg Record).”


Filed under March 2012, Sounds

Furlough week, Day 1: Hi-yoooo!

“If we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.”

The wisdom of Jimmy Buffett, from “Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes.” That line from that 1977 song is our mantra for this week.

I work for a mainstream media company that for each of the past four years has had everyone take a week off without pay. It helps control costs, they say. (Such savings also help pay for the lovely $37.5 million parting gift given to the CEO who left the company last year.) After four years, it seems to be part of the business plan, like crack for the bean counters.

This is my furlough week. We’re going to take that lemon and make lemonade. Each day, let’s laugh so we don’t go insane. Just something a little different.

When I was a kid, I bought 45s until I could afford albums. In 1970, I was 13, a teenager, just barely. Yet old enough, I thought, that I should be buying albums. So I bought my first, probably with birthday money.

I remember going through the records at the J.C. Penney store in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. I couldn’t decide on what kind of music I wanted (or what would be acceptable to my parents’ ears, a consideration I thought wise at the time). So I made the safe choice, settling on this one.

“The Best of Bill Cosby” was released in 1969. Here’s a cut on which Cos almost gets edgy. Listen to this, and you can tell just how Cosby influenced Richard Pryor. All it needs is one “motherfucker,” and it’s Pryor, not Cos.

“The Lone Ranger,” Bill Cosby, 1964, from “The Best of Bill Cosby,” 1969. Recorded live at Mr. Kelly’s in Chicago and originally released on “I Started Out As A Child,” 1964.

What I never knew until this week is that this version of “The Lone Ranger” — the one I’ve known for 40 years — is just an excerpt of the original bit. There’s more of it in the video below, but still not the entire thing. My version runs 57 seconds. The video runs 2:26. The original cut from 1964 runs 3:07.


Filed under March 2012, Sounds

The Monkees, the Beatles and Jesus

The shock wave that followed the news of Davy Jones’ passing last week shook loose this realization: There have always been four Monkees. You thought there always would be four. Now there are three. There will never again be four.

It was the same shock wave that followed the news of John Lennon’s death in 1980. There had always been four Beatles. You thought there always would be four. Then there were three. And then, 21 years later, there were just two.

Davy Jones was the man the Monkees could not lose, just as John Lennon was the man the Beatles could not lose. Davy Jones and John Lennon in the same breath? Absolutely. Going on without them? Unfathomable.

Time proved Davy Jones irreplaceable. Girls who loved the young Davy Jones kept that torch burning for years. Fans — including some remarkable names — kept finding the Monkees’ music fresh and vital decades later.

In his solo shows and on Monkees reunion tours, the 60-something Jones gracefully navigated fans’ expectations as he — and they — grew older. He’d walk out on stage, hear the cheers, smile and announce:

“Hi, I’m Davy’s dad. Davy will be out in a minute.”

Only the most fearless, confident entertainers can pull off a self-deprecating line like that with such ease and charm, immediately winning over an audience not sure what to expect from a man who long ago was a teen heartthrob.

Micky Dolenz is a better singer. Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith are better musicians. But Davy Jones was a great entertainer, the straw that stirred the drink, and that’s why it’s impossible to imagine the Monkees without him.

Davy Jones and John Lennon were friends. Lennon enjoyed “The Monkees” TV show and thought the lads to be a bit like the Marx Brothers. High praise.

In a fascinating 2006 interview with a suburban Chicago newspaper, Jones said:

“He was a very big influence on my life, John Lennon, you know?
So were all the Beatles, and Ringo’s a good friend still.”

So when you think of the Monkees and the Beatles, remember their mutual admiration. “There’s talent there,” George Harrison was to have said.

But please, may we set the record straight on one thing? “The Monkees” TV show was not inspired by the Beatles’ film “A Hard Day’s Night.”

So says Bob Rafelson, who with Bert Schneider created the show. Rafelson told the Los Angeles Times’ Randy Lewis:

“This was a show I had written six years before the Beatles existed, and the pilot was based on my own life as an itinerant musician when I was 17 years old. What the Beatles did was to create a kind of permission for any rock ‘n’ roll to be a popular subject for television.”

And if the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, as Lennon suggested in 1966, then the Monkees must have been, too. Rafelson explains:

“This was a massive thing, They sold something like 23 million records in 1966 — and that was more than the Beatles, more than the (Rolling) Stones that year. They had more No. 1 hits. I tell this to people now, and they say ‘What are you talking about?'”

Ah, what a time it was. Imagine.

“Paperback Believer,” Mark Vidler (Go Home Productions), 2004, from “This Was Pop (2002-2007),” a free collection of the British producer’s mashups.


Filed under March 2012, Sounds