Dear Friends March 9, 2012 6:18 PM   Subscribe

Just days before the sad news of the death of Peter Bergman of the Firesign Theatre today, we had another thread that was a delightful FST love-in and reference-a-thon, and I was moved to hear that he saw and enjoyed it.
posted by Horace Rumpole to MetaFilter-Related at 6:18 PM (28 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

Thanks for MeTaing this, Rumpole, and thanks to chromium.switch for sharing that in the thread.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:23 PM on March 9, 2012


Wonderfully serendipitous. So, so glad he got a chance to see that. The Universe is so big, and it's going to kill us all someday. But sometimes you get a little lucky.
posted by Trochanter at 6:27 PM on March 9, 2012 [5 favorites]


I was trying to tell my mom about it, and I couldn't stop crying.
posted by Trochanter at 6:31 PM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'd been doing occasional searches to find that Firesign Theatre album to post in its entirety for a while now, and finally found it and made the post. I didn't realize (how could anyone have known?) that it was going to come so shortly before Bergman's death.

I feel somehow happy that the thread turned out to be such a love-in and that Bergman knew about it and liked it. Some small gift back to a man who has warped and influenced me in so many positive ways during his final days.

Thanks to all the FT-heads here on MetaFilter for making it so wonderful.
posted by hippybear at 6:32 PM on March 9, 2012 [6 favorites]


Wonderful.

And from this Firesign Theatre fan from way back, RIP, Peter Bergman.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:51 PM on March 9, 2012


I saw Firesign live, back in the early 70's, a concert in Ann Arbor. It was an eclectic experience.

This is a good place to tell hippybear thanks for bringing back those memories, and, the karma will be good that you posted this when you did, and it was received and appreciated by Mr. Bergman. I believe it was meant to be.
posted by HuronBob at 6:58 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I was a little disappointed that the original thread seemed to be nothing more than people quoting Firesign Theatre bits, but I'm glad it gave him something to smile about.
posted by crunchland at 7:30 PM on March 9, 2012


Yeah, it was mostly quotes, but there are over 200 comments, w/ very little duplication. If I were him, I'd feel... very well remembered. So it seems to have been excellent timing.
posted by hap_hazard at 7:36 PM on March 9, 2012 [3 favorites]


That's really touching.
posted by thelonius at 8:06 PM on March 9, 2012


I grew up on my dad's Firesign Theater records. "I Think We're All Bozos On This Bus" is sort of imprinted on my mind permanently, and I like it that way just fine.

This is really wonderful. Thanks for sharing, Horace.
posted by koeselitz at 8:07 PM on March 9, 2012


"We're all Bozos on this Bus" was the performance I saw back in the day. I think it took me about two years to figure out what the hell it meant, and even then I wasn't sure.

I still use that phrase, but the number of people that have a clue as to what it means is dwindling rapidly. But, it's probably worth saying....before it's too late...

Metafilter: We're All Bozos On This Bus
posted by HuronBob at 8:16 PM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


"We're all Bozos on this Bus" was the performance I saw back in the day. I think it took me about two years to figure out what the hell it meant, and even then I wasn't sure.

It's about a bus full of Bozos, isn't it?
posted by philip-random at 8:19 PM on March 9, 2012


chromium.switch: I hope you'll take this in the right spirit.

You joined meta in august 2008, and your first three comments were in this thread.

The question must be asked: Christ man! Will you never shut up?
posted by Trochanter at 8:21 PM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]


"It's about a bus full of Bozos, isn't it?"


Well, yeah, but....not really.... I don't have enough ganja to really grok this at the moment...
posted by HuronBob at 8:30 PM on March 9, 2012


bozos
posted by HuronBob at 8:31 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wanna squeeze my nose? Go ahead. It duddn' hurt.
posted by Trochanter at 8:32 PM on March 9, 2012


bozos
posted by HuronBob


Okay, it's about a bus full of Bozos on a trip into the future, and somehow Richard Nixon's involved.

But seriously. I didn't have much to say in the Firesign thread because I've never really talked about them much, just listened ... for getting on four solid decades now.

It started in the early 70s when the local cool FM station started playing what they called The Firesign Theatre Radio Hour every Sunday night. Being a young teen mad for anything that even hinted at cool, I listened ... and I was confused. I could tell it was supposed to be funny, and yeah, I laughed, but it felt deeper than that somehow, like there were stories being told, and stories within those stories, with stories inside them as well. I remember a friend's older brother referring to it as comedy for LSD heads, whereas Cheech + Chong was for marijuana heads. Which would have made sense, I guess, if I'd done LSD.

Jump ahead to 1983, and now I was doing LSD, and programming a radio show, and somewhere along the line, on a whim, I bought a Firesign Theatre album out of a used bin. I believe it was In The Next World You're On Your Own. Shortly afterward, I was doing my radio show (a late night anything goes thing) mildly high on acid and at some point I just started mixing it in, and the thing is, it worked. With everything. I could mix that relaxed, random flow of dialogue and moody fx into, over, out of, through the middle of pretty much any song, any sound effect -- EVERYTHING.

Long story short, I hastily bought a bunch more Firesign Theatre albums and they quickly became a huge part of the radio programming I'd continue to do for the rest of the decade ... and beyond. Indeed, I still use them in my mixes. But have I ever sat down and actually listened to the albums from beginning to end, tried to figure them out?

No.

With two exceptions. Bozos and Everything You Know is Wrong, because I was on a long car journey with a friend and he insisted on it. Everything -- I guess I could say I know what it's about (paranoid FUN concerning aliens being among us, messing with reality for aeons). But Bozos -- I've never really got past the details, the amazing individual trees that comprise the forest. And I don't know if I ever will. I love those trees so much. I believe they really have become part of how my brain functions -- something to do with not sweating it when shit gets overwhelming, confusing, just enjoy the weird details and trust that there is an underlying scheme.

So yeah, that's me and Firesign Theatre (the short version) -- pivotal in my worldview. And oh yeah, my name philip-random. That comes in part from a character from In The Next World You're On Your Own whose first name was Random (I believe his wife was Peggy). The Philip part has no particular source. It just sounded right.
posted by philip-random at 9:21 PM on March 9, 2012 [7 favorites]


Yes, Bozos is available on Spotify...

My mother didn't talk to me much....
posted by HuronBob at 9:25 PM on March 9, 2012


I was at work when the post was made, and only '.'ed. But I became curious as to what show I had seen in the late 90s at San Francisco's Warfield Theater.

DuckDuckGo answered with the name of the tour. It was the 1999 "Immortality Tour": Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death.

I guess he got both. He wins. We all win. Thank you, Peter, and thanks for checking in before you checked out.
posted by trip and a half at 11:44 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know why all you people seem to think this is magic. It's just this little chromium.switch here.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:37 AM on March 10, 2012


But Bozos -- I've never really got past the details, the amazing individual trees that comprise the forest. And I don't know if I ever will.

I can help you out here.
Bozos is the story of a shoeless (shoes being a FT symbol for participating in the dominant culture) hippie's trip to the Government-sponsored Future Fair, a fair for all, and no fair to anybody. He's recruited for a visit by a passing bus, which senses his presence as he's outside in his neighborhood, and is invited by three holograms to get on and visit the future. On board the bus, he discovers it is full of Bozos, people who never take anything seriously and who avoid looking beneath the surface of anything they're presented with.

After befriending Bozo Barney on the bus ride, Our Hero strikes out on his own and visits the Wall Of Science, where he's treated to a Disney-like ride which depicts the ascent of Man through history, beginning with superstitious belief, and then giving way to Scientific explanations. After describing the development of industrialized society, it finally wraps up with a celebration of the Future which Science has made possible. Part of this Future is the Government, which is promoting itself as the solution to all problems via the Fair.

Ultimately the ride ends with a visit to an animatronic President (then Nixon), who is programmed to give "answers" to questions from visitors, embodying the Government as somehow having solutions for all problems. Our Hero (who after a moment's hesitation has selected Clem as an alias), turns out to be a programmer who sees beneath the illusion he's presented with, and when his turn comes, he circumvents the programming to access the underlying operating system and asks a question which breaks the logic circuit that interprets the questions and the ride shuts down.

After meeting back up with Barney, (uh)Clem discovers the park authorities are looking for him. While looking for a way to evade them, he ends up being detected and when confronted by one of the holograms which invited him to the Fair, he reprograms the system to create an electronic clone of himself which he sends into computer system which controls the park itself.

The clone confronts the security system guarding the memory systems of the Future's OS, and finally makes his way into the core level controlling all of the Future. Once he gains access, the clone confronts the underlying logic programming of the Future with logic bombs that lead the entire Fair to both activate and shut down at the same time, causing the Government-envisioned Future itself to cease to exist.

This tale fades into a Gypsy fortune teller (Clem) who has just wrapped up telling the future for Barney, who is mystified by the baffling tale he's just heard. The album ends with another fortune beginning, perhaps to lead to the same conclusion: that the future is unknowable and any certainty can be undone by forces unforeseen.
The album as an entity is a counter-culture fantasy, depicting the outsider as being able to undo the planned future for the country and allowing the forces of the Universe to determine the fate of the people rather than the forces of Industry (shoes for industry) and government being allowed to determine the outcomes for all the people.

This is far and away my favorite FT album, containing much which is nearly techno-prophetic (the insert of vocal samples into preprogrammed phrases is very similar to how many voicemail systems identify who you're going to leave a message for), and encapsulating the idea that individuals who have enough knowledge of How Things Really Work can circumvent the planned outcomes for those who are In Power and restore Free Choice for the population despite the machinations of many generations of power-grabbing and populace-manipulation by those who seek to make sure the Future suits their ends.
posted by hippybear at 12:32 PM on March 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is far and away my favorite FT album

Mine too. Thanks for your excellent, cogent synopsis of this brilliant piece of sound art/theater/comedy, hippybear.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:18 PM on March 10, 2012


Bozos is the story of a shoeless (shoes being a FT symbol for participating in the dominant culture) hippie's trip to the Government-sponsored Future Fair, a fair for all, and no fair to anybody.

A few more thoughts about I Think We're All Bozos on this Bus:

Many believe that bozos came into English by way of Spanish vosotros ("the v and the b being the same"). Before 1960 or so, it was used in the same way, essentially 'you-all' or 'you guys', an informal way of addressing a group.

So we _are_ all bozos on this bus.

= = = = =

Before clown came to mean a kind of circus performer, it meant a provincial, a rustic, a peasant. Just the kind of gullible rube who might seek entertainment on a gaudy bus cruising down Dutch Elm Street in beautiful This Area.

= = = = =

Clem and barney are both carney slang terms for a donnybrook, a freeforall, a dust-up, a brouhaha, that is to say, a fight, usually between carnies and townies.

= = = = =

Clem doesn't need inflatable shoes to walk across the water. So that guy who comes out of nowhere, shakes everything up, and talks directly to the Power behind the power?

He can walk on the water.
 
posted by Herodios at 6:30 PM on March 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


1931: Arborists discover a new outbreak of Dutch elm disease in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. It’s an early marker of a decades-long scourge that will kill millions of trees and denude the parks and tree-lined streets of many North American cities. "Many of us remember how painful it was for our communities to witness the tragedy that recurred throughout the eastern states during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Many remember watching helplessly as countless main streets, parks, historic sites and neighborhoods that had been so handsomely graced with fine elms were transformed within a few years into barren, urban-looking landscapes devoid of trees, the result of a frighteningly efficient epidemic that had appeared suddenly."
posted by crunchland at 7:51 PM on March 10, 2012


an animatronic President (then Nixon)

Am I the only one who thinks that in hindsight, the soft-spoken platitudes of the robot President sound less like Nixon and more like Reagan?
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:51 AM on March 11, 2012


The Firesign Theatre website's tribute to Peter Bergman includes both a transcript and an mp3 of the end of his last Radio Free Oz broadcast, three days before his death. It makes my heart hurt all over again.
posted by bakerina at 9:59 AM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


1931: Arborists discover a new outbreak of Dutch elm disease in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.

I don't have a cite on this but I remember hearing that the only stand of Dutch Elm left in the world is in Central Park, Manhattan ... because the disease just couldn't penetrate the miles of cement and concrete that surround it.
posted by philip-random at 11:37 AM on March 11, 2012


Don't forget that a bus, on a mixing board, is a channel where you can sum several inputs. If I remember correctly, this was part of the inspiration for the title – that at one point during recording they were all bozos on one bus.
posted by argybarg at 11:54 AM on March 11, 2012


« Older Was it because I said "gramps"?   |   Favorite categorization revisited Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments