“How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You’re Not Anywhere at All” – Firesign Theatre and Mary Ellen Bute

MARY ELLEN BUTE, born Nov. 21, 1906, produced trailblazing films of light and music which might be called avant-guard. The Firesign Theater produced comedy albums made popular during the 50s and 70s. John celebrates the innovative filmmaker with a psychedelic 60s playlist spiced with Firesign Theater clips on Crosscurrents, Monday Nov. 21st at 8:00 AM. Listen live at www.KRNN.org, 102.7fm, or 103.1fm.

By fusing the high-concept comic vision of Stan Freberg with the expansive studio experimentation of the Beatles, the Firesign Theatre singlehandedly dragged the comedy album into the psychedelic era. Creating densely layered montages of improvisational routines, overheard dialogue, media manipulation, commercial parodies, and sound effects, the four-man troupe devised a hallucinatory brand of surrealist comic performance and Joycean satire laced with puns, metaphors, and obscure literary allusions that redefined the very concept of recorded comedy.

Formed in Los Angeles, California, USA in 1966, this satirical comedy troupe comprises Philip Proctor, Peter Bergman, David Ossman and Philip Austin. The quartet’s work drew on a multitude of disparate sources, encompassing 30s radio serials, W.C. Fields, Lord Buckley, the Marx Brothers and contemporary politics. Their surreal humour found favour with the late 60s’ ‘underground’ audience, but despite punning wordplay and sharp wit, many cultural references were too obtuse for widespread appeal. Produced by Gary Usher, they were used to provide the spectacular gunshot effects on ‘Draft Morning’ on the Byrds’ The Notorious Byrd Brothers. They subsequently completed the film script for Zacharia (1970), ‘the first electric Western’, but the final draft bore little relation to their original intention. A series of adventurous albums, including How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You’re Not Anywhere At All?, Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers and I Think We’re All Bozos On This Bus are among the quartet’s most popular collections, while Dear Friends included several highlights from their radio shows.

The Firesign Theatre (also known as The Firesigns) was an American surreal comedy group who first performed live on November 17, 1966 on the Los Angeles radio program Radio Free Oz, first on station KPFK FM, then on KRLA 1110 AM, then on KMET FM through February 1969. They produced fourteen record albums and a 45 rpm single under contract to Columbia Records from 1968 through 1976, and had three nationally syndicated radio programs: The Firesign Theatre Radio Hour Hour in 1970 on KPPC-FM; and Dear Friends (1970–1971) and Let’s Eat! (1971-1972) on KPFK. They also appeared in front of live audiences, and continued to write, perform, and record on other labels through 2012, occasionally taking sabbaticals during which they wrote or performed solo or in smaller groups.

SOURCE: Allmusicl.com; Oldies.com; Firesign.com

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