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How Can You Be In Two Places At Once
When You're Not Anywhere At All?

 

1969 - How Can you be in two places at once, when you're not anywhere at all? Columbia CS 9884

From RollingStone:

But Waiting for the Electrician (there must be some subtle joke in the title that I've missed) was put out a while back. The second album shows a quantum leap in quality, and the title side is a masterpiece of twenty-century satire. Firmly based in the Dietpepsical Maternalism of (G.) Marx and (J.) Lennon, it is a panorama of the building of America and the triumph of the Little Man. It starts with the hero buying the car being advertised by the archetypal Los Angeles used-car salesman, and taking off onto the freeway "which is already in progress."

From there on, there is no real story lineójust a succession of brilliant bits of verbal effluvium and freewheeling panache. Examples: "Ah, yes," says a W. C. Fields voice, "at times of dexterity like this, my wee native compendium, Mo-ha-meet, would pray to the diveenitas, his brown froggy body aquiver at my loins, chanting a long stream of Ancient Egyptian holograms." Or the chant: "You ain't got no friends on the Left (You're Right!). You ain't got no friends on the Right (You're Left!). Hound dog (One two) Poontang (Tree Frog) Hound dog, poontang, coontown (I'se white!)."

Or "Ask the cop on the corner; ask the cop in the store; ask the cop on the rooftop; ask the cop in the woodpile; ask the cop that's knock, knock, knockin' at your back door. (Knock knock)..." A whole twenty-eight minutes and twenty-seven seconds of it, concluding with a brilliant parody of late night television winding up with the same used-car salesman, only selling dope this time, his rap eventually turning into Molly Bloom's soliloquy from Ulysses.

The second side is not quite the masterpiece that the first is, being "The Further Adventures of Nick Danger, Third Eye," but it has plenty of the same elements. For example, how many puns can you spot in this sentence: "There was something fishy about the butler ó I think he was a Pisces, working for scale." Fishy-Pisces, working for (union) scale, Pisces-Scale-Libra, etc. Towards the end of this classic of detective drama, the program is interrupted by Franklin D. Roosevelt himself (or a fine imitation of him, anyway) announcing the unconditional surrender of the United States after the dastardly attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor. In fact, there are several references to the U.S. losing the Second World War, and they may have a pointówe were fighting again Fascism, weren't we?

At the moment, the Firesign Theatre is adapting their material to live presentation (now that'll be a feat!) and working on the script for a Western called Zachariah, which will star Ginger Baker. All I can say is that you're going to be confronted with these guys a lot in the years ahead, and you'd better start getting used to them now so you won't feel obsolete a year from now. (RS 49)

ED WARD

 


Righter than Jim

This is the funniest thing I have ever heard. I constantly quote it and use bits in tapes I make for my friends in order to give them snippets, more palatable to the uninitiated, in order to turn them unknowingly into fans. I will stop at nothing!!! The second half of this hilarious 40's war movie/training film/ newsreel is a Nick Danger adventure that involves, possibly, my favorite character, Rocky Roccoco. Delivering, possibly, my favorite line -"You may have seen me hanging around the drugstore drinking chocolate malted falcons and giving away free high schools." This record has changed my life..."He's no fun he fell right over,"..."No anchovies? you've got the wrong number pal, I spell my name, Danger" "What kind of chump do you take me for? - First Class" "Bad news Mary, the President is named Schiclegroover" and don't forget "So there, Mr. Smarty pants communist, Mr. Beetnick, Mr. Hippie, what have you done for me lately?" -These seemingly unusable phrases creep into my conversation constantly! You can't stop yourself from laughing at this record, and if you try, you just haven't got the spirit yet, and you have a too highly developed urge to compete...settle down and maybe "You're ready......for this!!!"

 

 This record presents the first full-fledged example of Firesign genius. "Waiting For the Electrician" was a strong first album, showing the Boys' toying around with a long-form stream-of-consciousness piece on the second side if the album. On "How Can You...," it seems that they've gotten the hang of it and perform one of their best - and certainly most literary - long pieces. Though they would stretch one piece over an entire record on their next release, "Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers," the first side of this album is the blueprint for all subsequent efforts: the first time the Boys' heady bew of literay references, TV & film parody, and political satire jelled without a stitch showing.

As with many other classic Firesign albums, side one takes us on a journey. Quite literally, it turns out, as we follow the lead character, Babe (Bergman), as he purchases a new car from Ralph Spoilsport Motors and takes off on an adventure which leads him straight into a boisterous pageant on the history of America. The pageant climaxes with a scene set in a USO during WWII, which turns out to be a scene from a classic '40s movie, "Babes In Khaki." This, in turn, leads the Firesign to switch TV channels on us for the first time, as they flip around the dial from "Khaki" to cop shows, chat shows, etc. Though this would become a fixture of Firesign humor and probably the device they are most identified with, it is presented for the first time here.

Side two gives us another important first in Firesign history: our introduction to their most famous creation, "Nick Danger, Third Eye." It is the first and hands-down funniest of the Nick Danger adventures, a cockeyed, pun-filled Dashiell Hammett/detective take-off rife with pot jokes and Beatles' "White Album" references. It is not a whack at corny private dicks, but a loving re-creation of the Godlen Age of radio, spruced up with contemporary references and topical concerns. It is one of the most affectionate Firesign pieces, which is why the characters from it have endured as they have. The Firesign never felt the need to adopt a "take no prisoners" stance to their comedy; their satire is a softer-edged, more "thinking-man's" comedy.

This record is a classic, the only title from their canon which is still in print and readily available. It contains many of their most famous characters and represents the highest and lowest concerns in the Boys' comedy - dealing with duality, patriotism, time-travel, TV, '40s noir... and lots and lots of James Joyce.

-- Phil Buchbinder