Recording of August 1975: The Complete Firesign Theater Recordings

You have probably read speaker reports that suggested that you audition with natural sounds like clanking chains, storms, animals and other things that give an easy reference to live experience. The problem is that most sound-effects albums are a real bore, dominated by reject Walt Disney announcers with adenoid problems.

Firesign Theater uses sound effects, but in a way that has to be heard to be believed. Firesign creates worlds based on sound; detailed and realistic sound. Where you are and what you perceive is based on puns, plays on words, free association, and subtle aural clues. We've missed parts of the albums repeatedly because we were answering the door or looking for the fire engire in the front yard. Most of you are probably already fans, but there are still areas all over the country where nobody has heard of the group because its recordings aren't played on the radio.

A couple of the albums have warnings that the FCC isn't too big on them, but I believe this is more because of the "War of the Worlds" factor (dummy news bulletins) than because of anything in the subject matter that would turn your sweet old granny into a psychotic killer.

I've heard several but not all of Firesign's albums, but I don't think you can get burned on any of them. They're all great.

Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him
Columbia CS-9518.

This was the first album, released in the mid-1960s. If you've never heard one, this is the place to start. Recording quality is above average and the subject matter is wide-ranging.

How Can You Be In Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All?
Columbia CS-9884.

If you just got the first you'll want this next.

Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers
Columbia C-3012.

This is my least favorite. The recording quality could be better, and nobody agrees with me that it is an over-extended concept.

I Think We're All Bozos on This Bus
Columbia C-30737

Sheer genius! I just can't do this justice. This album should be handed out at Freshman Orientation at every college.

Proctor & Bergman, TV or Not TV
Columbia KC-32199,

50% of the Theater, almost no loss of quality or imagination.

At this point, the albums started coming out faster than I could keep up with them. There are at least two movies out, and the group has been doing live performances that, by all reports, I should kick myself for having missed. I have, and can recommend. The Tale of the Giant Rat of Sumatra (KC-32730) and Everything You Know Is Wrong (KC-33141), although I have no way of knowing how they compare with the other recent albums.—Paul Karagianis

ednazarko's picture

I picked up four Firesign albums awhile back when I was doing a bunch of four hour drives every week. It was a wonderful throwback for me. The radio stations I listened to DID play them, and flipping the radio on straight into one of the scenes could be hugely disorienting.

While I loved the jokes, loved the really smart way they layered stuff - sounds, lines, jokes - I did feel like it's starting to get that fine patina of age.

I heard a great show on PBS with John Lithgow. His first job after finishing drama school in England was on public radio in New York, and he was part of a small group that pretty much ripped off the Firesign Theater style and quirks, but with his own fresh, weird humor underneath.

Jon Iverson's picture
"Don't eat with your hands, son, use your entrenching tool!"
mmole's picture

...and repeat after me as we learn three new words in Turkish:


Mars2k's picture

He's upstairs with the maid.....absolutely hilarious I still sing the songs. Nick Danger... Third Eye!!!

Robin Landseadel's picture

. . . and the Shoddy Showmanships award for 2017 goes to . . .

In the beginning was this turtle . . .

In the beginning there was Peter Bergman's fly-by-night [Sunday's, after eight until the cows came home] "Radio Free Oz", KRLA 1967, Peter Bergman and friends [said friends soon re-branded "The Firesign Theater" . . .

. . . and now that we're all so down-home tribal and all . . .

. . . what was soon to become a "Radio Religious Happening" [Dear Friends, KPFA, commencing 1970, dissolving 1972—the "Brown" years] had roots in the early Renaissance Faires, where they began with a play they wrote that resulted in their most polished and rehearsed audio play "Anythynge You Want To: Shakespeare's Lost Comedie":

But the missing Rosetta Stone [The "Case of" being a likely Nick Danger saga] is "Roller Maidens From Outer Space", the most Pynchonian tale this side of Lot 49. It's the biblical apocalypse presented as afternoon re-reuns of popular TV programs on Fresno Television:

"Duke Of Madness Motors" contains all the "Dear Friends" broadcast material in numerous edits, all in mp3 format on a single DVD. Worth it for the book it's packaged in:

mahatma57's picture

The Firesign Theatre has been a part of my life since I was in High School Madness. I sat in a tree, cut the soles off my shoes and learned to play the flute.