Dick’s Picks: This week’s choice from our man Dick is this seldom seen slice of late ’60s surrealistic US comedy vinyl from the Firesign Theatre, to skip straight to the website info click here, or else read on…
The Firesign Theatre – Who?
The Firesign Theatre were/are an American comedy outfit comprising of Phil Austin, Peter Bergman, David Ossman and Philip Proctor. After paying their dues as live radio performers in the early ‘60s they soon began performing live together and found their particular brand of wacky, goof-ball surrealistic humour was in tune with the late ’60s West Coast hippie vibe. By 1968 word had spread, after inking a deal with Columbia Records they began releasing a series of comedy albums, needless to say with titles like ‘Waiting For The Electrician Or Someone Like Him’ or ‘Temporarily Humboldt County’ (a prime spot for growing marijuana in the US) they quickly gained a cult following.
How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You’re Not Anywhere At All
Released in 1968 the comedy troupes second long player benefits from much better production values than their first album. Side one of the LP is a series of sketches which all feature a heavy dose of social commentary deftly interwoven with parodies of American TV and Radio, they were all keen fans of the Goons and you can definitely hear their influence in the range of voices/sounds used, check this excerpt which pokes fun at the attitudes of American citizens to returning US service men…..
However, it’s the side-long “Further Adventures of Nick Danger” on side two where the action really is. Functioning as a a near perfect parody of a detective radio play, the actors background in radio really shines through as the quick-fire sharp wordplay adds real depth to the characters.
Played by Phil Austin ‘Nick Danger’ is a film noir-ish/Raymond Chandler-esque ‘40s style detective decked out in the obligatory fedora and trench coat. Endlessly pursued by Poilceman (and nemesis) Lieutenant Bradshaw (Bergman), Firesign Theatre leave no cliché unturned and the piece is littlered with other tropes of the genre; the suspicious butler, a succession of femme fatales etc.
The almost thirty minute piece offers is packed with references to the Beatles, the character Susan Underhill is described as “everyone knew her as Nancy” (from Rocky Racoon), throw into the mix jokes about the I-Ching and a hefty dose of post-modernism and you’ve got a counter-cultural, late ‘60s long player that’s sadly all but forgotten in the UK. In the US they lived on, performing sporadically and releasing new material right up until the ‘80s, the character Nick Danger was revisited many times by the group and he also inspired a clothing line ‘Nick Danger’, a garage band and a porn star!