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How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All

How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All was the second comedy album recorded by The Firesign Theatre. It was originally released in 1969 by Columbia Records.

Track listing

Side one

  1. "How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You're Not Anywhere At All" – 28:27:
    1. "Drink To Me Only With Thine Fox" (Mr. Catherwood And Ensemble) [CD retitle: "The Ralph Spoilsport Mantrum"] – 4:21
    2. "The Policemen's Brawl" (Officers Bradshaw And Henderson) [CD retitle: "Zeno's Evil"] – 4:34
    3. "Yankee Doodle Came To Terms" (All Fecal People's Chorus) [CD retitle: "The Land of the Pharaohs"] – 2:47
    4. "Über Dubbing Over Alice" ('Arry 'N' Friends) [CD Track retitle: "VACANCY-NO VACANCY"] – 1:34
    5. "You Ain't Got No Friends On The Left" (Babe And The Unknown Soldiers) [CD retitle: "The Lonesome American Choo-Choo Don' Wan' Stop Here Any Mo'"] – 7:34
    6. ""We're Bringing The War Back Home!" From Babes In Khaki" (Lilly Lamont*) (*Miss Lamont Courtesy Of Paranoid Pictures) – 7:31 [split into 2 tracks on the CD, track titles below]:
      1. "Babes In Khaki" – 3:53
      2. "TV or not TV" – 3:38

(This side of the vinyl LP was not divided into separate tracks, but the liner notes list the above titles and tracks.)

Side two

  1. The Further Adventures Of Nick Danger – 28:11

"From the Archives of The Original Firesign Theatre Radio Hour. As First Broadcast December 6, 1941. Rebroadcast Courtesy Of Loostners Bros. Soap Co."

Detailed track information and commentary

The album consists of two 28-minute pieces, each taking up one side of the original vinyl release.

"How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You're Not Anywhere At All"

On side one, the title track opens with Philip Proctor playing car salesman Ralph Spoilsport, a spoof of Southern California Ford dealer Ralph Williams, who was well known to Los Angeles-area late-night TV viewers of the time. (Williams is eventually imitated on this track by all four Firesign members). As Ralph is extolling the virtues of a featured new car, the main character, Babe (played by Peter Bergman), drives onto the lot and interrupts Ralph's spiel with an immediate desire to buy the car in question. Ralph responds enthusiastically with, "Well, OK, fine. Let's just take a look inside your beautiful new home! C'mon in!"

The impossibly luxurious car contains what would now be called a "home entertainment system", each component of which Ralph demonstrates one by one, in an increasingly complex stereophonic jumble that is the sonic equivalent of the stateroom scene in A Night at the Opera.

Persuaded, Babe buys the car and drives it onto the freeway, and as he talks to himself, the signs along the freeway also "talk" as he passes them. One set of signs even shows Babe to be caught in one of Zeno's paradoxes, as the signs intone "Antelope Freeway, 1/2 mile.. Antelope Freeway, 1/4 mile... Antelope Freeway, 1/8 mile... Antelope Freeway, 1/16 mile", ad infinitum. (This joke is also a reference to a series of signs on an L.A. area freeway.)

At this point, Babe notices the climate control switches, each with a themed name. He clicks "Tropical Paradise" and is suddenly transported to a tropical rainforest (complete with sounds of exotic birds and rainfall). He is then set upon by a troupe of wise-cracking explorers, including a W. C. Fields pastiche, who appear to be on a half-hearted expedition. Frustrated by the interlopers, he switches the climate control to "Land of the Pharaohs" and is suddenly transported to Egypt... along with the explorers. Increasingly annoyed, he complains that the sun is setting and it will be night soon, whereupon they stand him on his head and try to convince him that it is morning. He suddenly spots a doorway opening on the side of a pyramid ("Which one?" "The one with the ever-widening hole in it!") and runs into it, to discover a hotel lobby inside.

The piece gradually morphs into an ironic celebration of America itself, as presumably exemplified by Babe's new car purchase. A panoply of characters talk and sing, in a manner reminiscent of a Norman Corwin patriotic radio pageant, about America and its history, including sardonic references to slavery and gun ownership. At one point, each member of the group repeats the names of the politicians who ran in the 1968 American presidential election in a way that mimics a steam locomotive: "Rockefeller, Nixon, Humphrey, Kennedy... ."

At the end, Spoilsport returns with an increasingly insane monologue that begins with him promoting himself as a major drug dealer and climaxes with a close paraphrase of Molly Bloom's Soliloquy, the closing portion of James Joyce's Ulysses. Not quite a direct quote, Spoilsport omits a few brief passages and alternates repeatedly between masculine and feminine pronouns when addressing the object of his reverie. (In the original, Molly, dreaming of a past liaison, speaks only of "he" and "him.")

"The Further Adventures of Nick Danger"

"The Further Adventures of Nick Danger" is probably the group's most famous recording, its characters having been reused in many subsequent sketches. It is presented as a 1940s radio drama, the "episode" title here being "Cut 'Em Off at the Past."

Nick Danger (played by Phil Austin) is a '40s-style detective character in the Raymond Chandler mold. In live performances and photographs, he wears the stereotypical fedora and trench coat. He has the obligatory nemesis on the police force, Lieutenant Bradshaw (Bergman), who questions his every move. His "mark" is Rocky Rococo (Proctor), a Peter Lorre imitation. True to the clichés of the genre, there is a butler, Catherwood (David Ossman), and a femme fatale, Nancy (Proctor).

Compared to other Firesign Theatre material this sketch is rather straightforward, though it is loaded with references to The Beatles, the I Ching, and other counterculture topics. It also features various self-reflective post-modern jokes, such as a scene where the fire two characters are ostensibly sitting around is referred to as "the cellophane". (The sound of fire was famously simulated by crinkling cellophane on old radio dramas.)

Issues and reissues

This album was originally released on both LP and 8 track, and was later released on cassette.

  • LP - Columbia CS-9884
  • 8 Track - Columbia 18C-09884
  • Cassette - PCT-09884

It has been reissued on CD at least 5 times:

  • In 1988 by Mobile Fidelity - MFCD-762
  • In 1995 by Sony/Legacy - CK-9884
  • In 2001 by Sony/Legacy - CK-85774, purchasable from Laugh.com - Order #LGH1070

Miscellanea

The front cover of the album features photographs of Groucho Marx and John Lennon framed by the pseudo-Communistic slogan "ДLL НДІL МДRX LЄИИФИ". Because of this, the album is sometimes erroneously referred to as All Hail Мarx and Lennon.

The back cover is an overhead shot of the four members looking up at the camera, with Proctor standing on Austin's foot.

Inside the gatefold of the album there are eight posed photos representing various scenes from "The Further Adventures Of Nick Danger."

The album Not Insane or Anything You Want To is the next to make use of some of the characters introduced on this album.

The phone call that Nick Danger answers immediately after he steps into his office is placed by George Tirebiter on the group's next album, Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers.

In many interviews Phil Austin has said that the script for "Nick Danger" was primarily inspired by the 1950s radio detective show Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar.

In the early 1970s a pizza parlor opened in Madison, Wisconsin named Rocky Rococo, which has now become a major midwestern chain. There doesn't seem to be any direct relationship to the character in "Nick Danger", apart from the name. . (Given the large number of other Beatles references in the track, it's likely the character's name was inspired by the Beatles song "Rocky Raccoon".)

There are several bars around the United States named "Nick Danger's". There is a clothing line called "Nick Danger", as well as a garage band, a porno star, a site about board games (now defunct), and a radio DJ all using the name.

References

External links

  • Firesign Theatre. Firesign Theatre. 19 Jan. 2006 .
  • Firesign Theatre. How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All. Columbia Records, 1969.
  • "FIREZINE: Linques!." Firesign Theatre FAQ. 20 Jan. 2006 .
  • Marsh, Dave, and Greil Marcus. "The Firesign Theatre." The New Rolling Stone Record Guide. Ed. Dave Marsh and John Swenson. New York: Random House, 1983. 175-176.
  • Smith, Ronald L. The Goldmine Comedy Record Price Guide. Iola: Krause, 1996.

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