There have been two very recent deaths which are worth commemorating on this blog. We will begin today with the one that most effects me personally: the death of Peter Bergman, 1/4 of the great Firesign Theater.
Firesign Theater is one of the greatest, most brilliant, original and headiest comedy troupes ever produced by America. The British undeniably have the edge when it comes to exploratory, expand your mind, otherworldy comedy, a la Monty Python or The League Of Gentlemen (or the original Hitchhiker’s radio show). However, in the late 60s early 70s Firesign Theater was blowing minds with their inventive, surrealist humor and were considered by many at the time to be the Beatles of comedy.
The Beatles of comedy comes from the fact that Firesign Theater made albums. High concept, trippy comedy concept albums using recording technology to create a full, immersive experience instead of just delivering spoken comedy bits. One of their most famous albums, Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers was not only nominated for a Hugo award (a prestigious award given for best sci fi fantasy books) but famously written out word for word one of the bathroom walls at Yale.
The group’s first 3 albums inspires extreme, uber nerd devotion. While obscure today, i assure you, when one Firesign fan meets another, it’s very much like a secret club of respect. It’s like, if you’re hip to Firesign, i thus know you are definitely shagging the Dharma fairies and i salute you, fellow purveyor of awesomeness.
The first 3 albums are mind blowing.
Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him
How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You’re Not Anywhere At All?
Don’t Crush The Dwarf Hand Me The Pliers
After that however, it all goes south. Many adore We’re All Bozos On This Bus, although i confess, i never cared for it, and later albums follow a downhill spiral, where the psychedelic humor simply becomes utterly meandering and loses it’s sharpness and poignancy. In the past 10 years the group reformed and produced two new albums one of which, The Bride Of Firesign, i found especially good and on par with the classics.
Because of the nature of the “classics,” that is the first 3 albums, it is almost impossible to find short bits that illustrate the greatness of Firesign. Just like a great concept album, they are best appreciated when heard in context. Thus, i present here examples of why i adore this group and mourn the loss of Peter Bergman and these are long. Still, this is the internet, you can listen to however much interests you at your leisure.
(Which is a shame actually. Back in the day, not that i was there mind you, but I’m just saying as i romantically reimagine the past, you’d go over to your friend’s pad to hang out. “Hey man,” they’d say, “you just GOTTA check this groovy shit out. Here, smoke this and listen. Trust me man, it’ll blow your mind.” And then you lay back and just listen to the entire thing. There’s no remote control to switch anything, no other pages to click to, you’d just sometime lay in a damn room and listen to cool shit.)
This here is some cool shit, man. Totally groovy.
Waiting For The Electrician Pt1:
And of course, the great, utterly classic Nick Danger, Third Eye. Cut ‘Em Off At The Past.