Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Tom Lehrer In Concert (1959)

My father was never a punk rocker. And I'd never wish him to be... In fact I get mildly embarrassed at 75% of my music collection whenever our conversations turn to music - he is an austere classicist through and through, with a deep knowledge of classical (but not Stravinsky, he's got not melody you see) and a passion for light opera (Gilbert & Sullivan etc). We even got the marching band treatment as kids. I always loved it. Rock n' roll and doo-wop vinyl, recorded to cassette to put on in the car - that's as close as he got to letting his hair down. Don't get me wrong, he's not a blinkered old fart, just musically conservative, or at least uninterested in the frivolous nonsense I waste my time on. Sometimes I agree with him.

But this is all before you take account of Tom Lehrer. My father broke his leg in a motorcycle accident in the late 70's and Lehrer's literary brand of satirical sing-song kept him sane, apparently, and it's easy to see why: there's something very comforting about the best musical satire of the 20th century - it makes you realise you aren't insane after all and everything really is fundamentally fucked.

Don't let the cover fool you either, Tom plays a mean piano and has a meaner lyrical repertoire that covers everything from drugs and nuclear holocaust to rednecks and 'poisoning pigeons in the park' - which perhaps explains his popularity with 60's subculture.
Lehrer was infuriatingly educated, funny and conscious, with a head-spinningly deft playing technique and an ability to mimic other styles. This bloke and a piano could bring the house down and he was, predictably, bigger in the UK than his native land, I guess he was too much to stomach for a Cold War audience. At the time, the mainstream press deemed Lehrer tasteless. This is poppycock, obviously. His wit shines in the spoken interludes and the total lack of frills on this live compilation give it a warm and jovial atmosphere.
Not much here has dated, as long as you have the vaguest grasp of where the world was at in 1959. Step outside yourself, laugh and enjoy. If this was big with the hippies you mugs'll love it. I'll end on a quote from the 81-year-old himself. 'I'm not tempted to write a song about George W. Bush, I couldn't figure out what sort of song I would write. That's the problem: I don't want to satirise George Bush and his puppeteers, I want to vaporise them'

This is a sizeable upload and probably all the TL you'll ever need.
Part the first
Part the second

No comments: