THE FIRESIGN THEATRE Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers (Columbia)
So, how can I justify taking up precious page space in Amplified with a review of what’s essentially a spoken word comedy album? Well, firstly The Firesign Theatre have some tangential rock credibility: they provided the battlefield sound effects on The Byrds’ “Draft Morning”, and this album, their third, originally released in 1970, was produced by James William Guercio, who’s worked with Chicago and Blood, Sweat & Tears. “Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers” has also been garlanded with accolades, cited as “the greatest comedy album ever made” by The New Rolling Stone Record Guide and, in 2006, added to the National Recording Registry, a list of sound recordings that “are culturally, historically or aesthetically important, and/or inform or reflect life in the United States.”. (Fellow inductees that year included “Are You Experienced”, The Mothers Of Invention’s “We’re Only In It For The Money”, Stevie Wonder’s “Songs In The Key Of Life” and Sonic Youth’s “Daydream Nation”.)
So, it should be good then, shouldn’t it? And, yes it is, kinda. Dense with allusion and illusion, it’s that rare comedy album that sustains, maybe even needs, multiple listens, revealing more of its complex chronological crossweavings with every spin. It plays like an episode of “The Goon Show” spliced with Frank Zappa’s “Lumpy Gravy”, at times seeming like “Airplane!” on acid, alive to the possibilities of stereophonic sound. The storyline encompasses religion, starvation, education, class warfare, the power of the media and a potential dystopian future. Some way beyond classification and easy summary, if it sounds like it might float your boat I recommend giving it a listen. Top tip: as Amazon’s MP3 shop charges by the track, of which “Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers” has but two, it can currently be obtained from there for the bargainatious sum of £1.38.