Blow in my ear and I’ll follow you anywhere
Hello friends, and welcome. What we’ve got here is another Dr Frank Weakly Reader, wherein I have attempted to index my own internet for the week. As usual it is annotated, augmented, illustrated, and jazzed up. I do it mainly for myself so I’ll have somewhere to search if I ever want to find anything, but feel free to read along if you like. There’s no charge.
The main thing we’ve got coming up is the Lookout Zoomout III, which is happening this Sunday, March 28, noon Pacific. Here’s the link for tickets. You can read more, if not all, about it below on FRONT BURNER.
First, though, a word about Ruth Buzzi.
— Very interesting… but stupid: I haven’t thought about Ruth Buzzi since I was a kid, but she barrelled into my front screen this week by posting “the weather is here wish you were beautiful” on twitter. (She is 84 years old now, and evidently having a great time on the internet, and good for her.)
A fair few people responded with a link to the MTX song of that title— which is how her post came to my attention — as well as a few posts of the Jimmy Buffett one. (Here’s my post from way back when where I compared the two, incidentally.)
This spurred me to take a look, after all these years, at Laugh-In, all six series of which are now on Amazon Prime.
Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-in was very much a presence in my world as a kid, though I’m not sure how much of it I actually literally watched back then. I was three or four when the show debuted in 1968 and just shy of nine when it ended in 1973. It wasn’t a show for kids and I’m sure my parents wouldn’t have let me watch it on purpose. But I knew it was Richard Nixon’s favorite TV show. The kids at school said “sock it to me” when they were trying to be cool. And I used to quote the Arte Johnson Nazi character saying “very interesting…” all the time, a lifelong habit.
Curiously, or not so curiously, Laugh-in shared an overall aesthetic with those PBS kids’ shows of the time: Sesame Street for adults is the mental box I put it in when I was growing up and it wasn’t all that far off. From my perspective, it was like a sexy, topical, Electric Company. I had (and still have) the LP, and I listened to it quite a lot.
Anyway, the show, qua show, watched in current year on an iPad, is surprisingly… good, I suppose you’d say. Not side-splittingly funny (what is?) But quite enjoyable, diverting, and aesthetically interesting. The revamped “mod” vaudevillian stuff is still pretty funny. The quaintness and dated-ness of the revamp is still mostly charming. The cringeworthy moments can be interestingly so. It’s an unexpectedly effective inadvertent combination as it turns out. The musical numbers, usually very traditional show biz set pieces with a superficial over-lay of swingin’ topicality and social commentary, are probably the best part.
Draft the Dodge!: Of course a lot of it is “dated” — it’s fifty years old. But as to the topical stuff, it’s notable how “un-dated” much of the dated stuff seems, if you know what I mean. We could lampoon our own version of “hip” culture, elite pretensions, and contemporary mores as they are publicly styled in broadly similar ways without missing much of a beat. 1968, like 2020, was a great year of mass upheaval and civil unrest. And there is, of course, nothing new under the sun.
And yet, it’s difficult to imagine in our time, e.g., the casual, absurdist mockery of protest culture — viz., replacing all the earnest “movement” protest sign slogans with “dad jokes.” At least not right out loud on whatever the equivalent of national TV would be now if there were one, and not without a whole lot of hedging. Many Laugh-in jokes, like so much of this sort of joking, would be prohibitively “complicated” now, if not impossible, gentle and shallow as they are. Something’s changed. Perhaps one difference is that in 1968 there really was a counter-culture seeping into (and being reacted to and exploited by) the “establishment,” so that each could be played off against the other gormlessly and with knowing winks and pratfalls and not a whole lot more; whereas now it’s basically just Establishment all the way down, and there are considerable risks for even the most trivial of the wrong sort of impropriety. (Today’s algorithmic police would have made short work of the Arte Johnson Nazi character, as they may well in fact be doing to this post, shadow-banning him in retrospect.) Portlandia, I suppose, played to and against both “sides” in a similar way — though in a much different style — as, arguably, did The Colbert Report: but those are also a blast from the past now. (Counterpoint: they killed Lenny Bruce, in effect, for impropriety, so perhaps we are not so very different after all.)
I’m not saying we need a New Laugh-in or a revival of the Laugh-in style of comedy. In all honesty it would sorely try the patience of most contemporary people in anything but small doses. I probably wouldn’t watch it. And yet, for whatever reason, and like most cultural artifacts from 1968, Laugh-in is miles and miles better than anything we’ve got going now. Or at least, that’s the way it looks from within a severely retrograde soul like mine. cf., the determinedly humorless and relentlessly tedious Saturday Night Live, our closest equivalent. Likewise, you know, Rosemary’s Baby, or the white album. Or the Strawberry Alarm Clock, who appeared via this film on the first Laugh-in episode:
That laugh-track reaction to the film is weird. But I like this music so much better than anything they make now, it’s off the charts. So to speak. And you’d have to pay me quite a bit of money to sit through a full ninety minutes of SNL. Laugh-in, on the other hand, I can dig just fine. Especially playing in the background while you do other stuff, which is the only way anything gets watched in 2021, let’s be honest. At least it looks pretty, flashing by in it’s little mini-iPad rectangle.
Brief aside here: the name “Laugh-in” is a play on the “be-in” and its various off-shoots, including the “love-in” and the “sit-in” as well as the hallowed “teach-in.” Somehow I’d managed to have the word in my vocabulary all these years but miss this till it it became instantly obvious when specifically brought to my attention by the show itself just now. It’s a hippie put-down, basically. All the deadpan riffing on the flower children, etc. is still pretty funny, and, of course, deserved.
As for Ruth Buzzi though, I’d thought of her mainly as an old lady in a hair net hitting people with a handbag, but it turns out she had a much broader range than that. Quite a gifted comedienne with a unique and very genuine screen presence. She had a spark. And she could sing.
Anyway, I enjoyed the shows I watched way more than I expected to, and I may well wind up watching more, maybe even the whole thing. Thanks, Ruth, for socking it to me.
And now, on to the weak that was.
— Lookout Zoomout III: it’s finally upon us, this coming Sunday, March 28, noon Pacific. Here’s the link for tickets:
LOOKOUT ZOOMOUT #3: a Lookout Records virtual show | Shows | Side Door
In the spirit of unity, togetherness, community, friendship, and good times, we present the third LOOKOUT ZOOMOUT, a…
And here’s a hi-light reel from “LOZO” #2:
They’re saying this is the last one, and basically it is, but never say never and if I’m invited to do another one, I’m sure I’ll do it. Till then though, this is your last chance.
This time around we’ve got (clockwise from top left): Ted Leo, Penelope Houston, Mass Giorgini, John & Judy Denery, (plus Chris Imlay and Virgil Shaw), yours truly (high school pic), and your host Grant Lawrence.
I’m still trying to figure out what to play, but I’ve been paying attention to the requests I’ve been getting I’ll play at least some of those. Tune in and find out, if finding out is your bag.
And here I am being interviewed by and in punknews.org about MTX re-issues and the Zoomout.
(That’s the picture they used, which is why I added it.)
THE MTX OF MYTH AND LEGEND
— Wednesday Night Live: MTX playing live on the Stanford college radio station KZSU, March 1, 1995, captured on cassette and posted to YouTube by a guy who collected it way back when. We’ve done a lot of live on the (college) radio shows over the years but few sounded as good as this, and I’d forgotten pretty much everything about it. “Itching Powder in the Sleeping Bags” from this recording somehow wound up as a “mystery bonus track” on the CD version of the split with Goober Patrol (and then on Shards Vol. 1.) March 1, 1995. Fun.
— ODIN: “The Complicated History of the Concept of the Soul” live in Harlow, Essex, UK, October 18, 1996:
— Things that never happened: I have no recollection of anything to do with the MTX double 45 on Dedbeet Records alluded to in this letter, but telling someone we’d record some songs and then not recording them, that sounds like us.
OTHER PEOPLE’S MUSIC
— AC/DC — “It’s a Long Way to the Top” on Australian TV, 1976:
That girl in the green dress, center background, steals the show.
— Roman calendar: Saint Cuthbert, in an illuminate miniature from Bede’s Vita Sancti Cuthberti, chapter xii, “HOW HE FORETOLD THAT, ON A JOURNEY, AN EAGLE WOULD BRING HIM FOOD, AND HOW THIS TOOK PLACE ACCORDINGLY….; Nicholas of Flüe’s meditation wheel; one of St. Nicholas Owen’s priest holes; Josep Oriel of Barcelona, and the miracle of the radishes (painting by Joseph Flaugier); the Archangel Gabriel, illuminated; The Annunciation, a glorious painting by Crivelli; the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady…
— Curio cabinet: not like ordinary mortals; I’m hungry ha ha; on an ominous avenue; a schizophrenic pervert who became a murderess; is there hope for me, Father?; Marilyn in the waiting room with skeleton; two girls with a five…
— … and:
IN THE NEWS
And that’ll about wrap it up here. But for those who’ve made it this far all the way down the page, here’s more Goldie Hawn:
See you next week.