Dick’s Picks: The Firesign Theatre Surreal US Vinyl LP…….

MRA1

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…

dctd-i-l

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.

R-604905-1320610877.jpeg
The album sleeve, for full info click here

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!

 

 

 

 

3 Comments

  1. Thanks for highlighting this wonderful piece of psychedelic comedy, which remains eternally fresh!

    You can make a pretty good drinking game out of counting the number of White Album references in “Nick Danger.”

    Actually, the Firesigns continued to work into the new millennium, releasing three new albums on Rhino Records (Give Me Immortality Or Give Me Death, Boom.bust, and a final Nick Danger bit called Bride Of Firesign) and doing a lot of satellite radio. Their last release was a Nick Danger 4CD box set that is well worth having, full of rarities.

    Two of the troupe are no longer with us, I’m sad to note. Peter Bergman died in 2012 and Phil Austin in 2015.

    I’m proud to say they were my friends and mentors in the realm of surreal, mind-stretching humor. Austin even contributed to my literary humor site The Big Jewel.

    • Hi Kurt,

      Glad you liked it – I wasn’t aware of the record before putting the piece together, really great curio from the ’60s. You have a personal connection to them as well, superb.

      Thanks

      Tim

Leave a Reply