Cameron Carpenter: The ABC’s Of Rock’n’Roll – J is for Just For Laughs

CamI don’t know about the rest of you but I could sure take a break from what is going on in this city (Toronto) and the constant wave of recent passings.

In the sixties and seventies the comedy album was king. Teenage beer drinking parties were not complete without someone slipping on a George Carlin or Monty Python record, while stoners tended to listen to Cheech & Chong. Pot humour just wasn’t for me. Some of the older crowd would listen to National Lampoon or Firesign Theatre records but their humour was a little to advanced for me at that point in my life.

Maybe because I still listen to most of my music on my iPod when I am mobile I just can’t be bothered with listening to comedy. I know there is a generation of comics that I have only heard bits and pieces of such as Louis C.K., Mitch Hedberg, Patton Oswalt, Jim Gaffingan and a host of others and I should give them a chance. Perhaps the site of a middle-aged man laughing hysterically while walking along the boardwalk is something the city can live without.

The+ButtonDown+Mind+of+Bob+NewhartThe key to a great comedy album was the ability to play an entire side and never skip a cut. There were comedy bits that I loved but would never shell out for an entire album. “The Driving Instructor” from “The Button-Down Mind Of Bob Newhart” is an absolute classic but no self-respecting teenager was going to pull out a Newhart album at a party and wedge it on the turntable between Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Deep Purple. Everyone knew “Who’s On First” from Abbott & Costello but it was a record that belonged to our parents and had no cool factor at all.  Musical comedy had its moments but a whole album from Ray Stevens or Dickie Goodman would have been overkill.

With a few exceptions most of these albums were from the early seventies when peer-pressure was at its highest and Friday night basement parties were at their peak.

Depending on which clips Bob includes you may not want to all of these in the office.

Lily Tomlin – “And That’s The Truth” 1972

Lily Tomlin and that's the truthAlthough it is now a little embarrassing this is the first full length comedy album I owned. After being one of the hosts of the short-lived series “The Music Scene” Lily quickly rose to stardom on the very hip “Rowan And Martin’s Laugh-In”. It was here that she introduced the character Edith Ann a precocious five year old that sat in an oversized rocking chair and pontificated about her dog Buster, sister Mary Jean and boyfriend Junior Phillips. It was the second impression that I learned (after Frank Fontaine’s “Crazy Guggenheim” character on the Jackie Gleason Show). I would probably cringe if I heard the album today but back then I thought it was hilarious.

Monty Python – “The Monty Python Matching Tie And Handkerchief” 1973

the-monty-python-matching-tie-and-handkerchief-50239dd9798f7Monty Python were The Beatles of comedy as far as we were concerned. They were British, edgy and way ahead of the curve. At the time we didn’t know there roots were firmly planted in the ground breaking comedy of The Goon Show (with Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers) and Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. This album was rather brilliant and there were two completely different B-sides and depending on where the needle landed in the grooves entirely different sketches would play. This classic contains “The Cheese Shop” and “Bruce’s/The Philosophers Song”.

george_carlin_-_fm_and_am_-_front_[covertarget_com]George Carlin “FM & AM” 1972

This was the first George Carlin album when he transformed from the suit and tie “Tonight Show” comic (and former partner of Jack Burns) to the counter-culture, long haired, early seventies edgy comedian. Not his most famous album this is the one that blazed the trail for what was coming next. “FM & AM” dealt with hair “The Hair Piece” social issues “Birth Control”, “Drugs” and “Sex In Commercials” and “The Eleven O’clock News”.

Monty Python – “Monty Python’s Previous Record” 1972

Monty+Python+-+Monty+Python's+Previous+Record+-+LP+RECORD-532512For a couple of years all of the Monty Python records seemed to merge together into one three hour comedy mass. Most of the bits we had seen on television as we adjusted the rabbit ears to pick up WNED on channel 17 in Buffalo to watch “Monty Python And The Flying Circus”. Hell, we would even put up with the pledge drives (Goldie anyone?) to have a chance to see the show (this would also happen later in the decade for their “Fawlty Towers” marathons). Classic on this disc are “The Argument Clinic”, “Eric The Half-A-Bee” and “Miss Anne Elk”.

Steven Wright – “I Had A Pony” 1985

In the eighties Steven was part of yet another new wave of comics. Completely dead pan he offered droll one-liners “I was speed reading, I hit a bookmark”. It was his debut album and he wouldn’t follow up until 2007’s “I Still Have A  Pony”. An acquired taste but a classic.

franklynajaye444261Franklyn Ajaye – “I’m A Comedian, Seriously” 1974

I don’t know how many times Segarini and I played this album at his old homestead on Armadale Avenue. I’m sure we warped the young Amy for life. Franklyn was kind of like a Robert Klein brought up in Richard Pryor’s hood. It was worth the price of admission just for “Caught in Zipper” alone.

imagesGeorge Carlin – “Class Clown” 1972

This is the one that got George arrested on obscenity charges when he performed “Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television”. This was the record that offended our parents and outraged our teachers. I’m sure I could still recall every moment on this record if I was ever to sit down and listen to it again.

downloadSteve Martin – “Let’s Get Small” 1977

Who knew Steve Martin had dark hair? Yet another ground breaking comedy record and one that introduced “well excuse me” into the modern day lexicon. This is the record that made Steve a star and opened the doors to Hollywood. The Segarini Band did fool many an audience with their Steve Martin doppelganger back in the day.

Monty Python – “Another Monty Python Record” 1971

What can I say? Loved the Python records. Faves here “Spam”, “The Spanish Inquisition” and “Penguin On The TV” (another impression I thought I mastered).

Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band – “The Best Of The Bonzos” 1970

I didn’t start listening to this album until the mid-seventies but quickly feel in love with the musical comedy (pre-dating my love for Sparks). An obvious influence on the Python crew and the precursor of The Rutles. Check out “The Intro & The Outro”, “Urban Spaceman”, “Jollity Farm” and “Trouser Press”.


Follow Cam on Twitter @CC59

Cam’s column appears every Thursday

The ABC’s Of Rock’n’Roll are proud to be presented by The Bovine Tiki Bar. The bar and BBQ opens daily at 4 PM and the BBQ rocks until 10 PM. Cocktails available after 10. Time is running out to hit the patio so the sooner the better. If it is cold or rainy plant yourself at The Rock Lobster Food Co. in the former home of the late great Shanghai Cowgirl.

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DBAWIS_ButtonCameron Carpenter has written for The New Music Magazine, Music Express, The Asylum, The Varsity, The Eye Opener,  The New Edition, Shades, Bomp!, Driven Magazine, FYI Music News, The Daily XY, New Canadian Music, NXNE Magazine and Don’t Believe A Word I Say.


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