Monday, April 04, 2016
Offensive Humor + Space-Age Music = ROY AWBREY's "Laugh It Up!"
This is one of the greatest bad comedy album I've ever heard, an amazing documentation of mid-'60s culture at its' sick weirdest. I was personally knocked out by the fact that side 1 is recorded in my own San Fernando Valley stomping grounds, in a bowling alley cocktail lounge that I've actually been to. And what a side it is: when he isn't showing off his expensive Space-Age accordions' many hi-tech goo-gaws to the point that this is almost a demonstration album, he throws in one dud of a joke after another. It's just like a Neil Hamburger album, but while Neil's worst-comic-ever routine is the shtick of post-modern performer Gregg Turkington, this is the real deal: there is no, I mean NO audience reaction to any of his jokes. It's both hilarious and ghastly hearing him die on stage like this. Then sometimes when he completes playing a song, obviously fake crowd sound effects are ludicrously dropped in, making it sound like the Royal Room has the TARDIS-like ability to fit thousands into its small space.
Joined only by a drummer, Awbrey performs snippets or sizeable chunks of standards like "12st St Rag," "Never On Sunday," "Twilight Time", "Alley Cat," "Moonlight Serenade," and "Holiday For Strings," interspersed with jokes. It all ends with a lengthy, furious boogie-woogie jam (complete with drum solo) that must have had those suburban savages a-whoopin' and a-hollerin', dancing around the joint wearing novelty cocktail napkins on their heads. Just listen to that fake applause!
A newspaper ad has him billed as "the King of Comedy," leading Kliph Nesteroff to wonder if that's where Scorsese got the idea for his film of the same name...
Side 2, recorded in Anaheim (in a county south of L.A.) is an altogether different beast, a song-free non-stop cavalcade of bad jokes, usually of a naughty or lewd nature, in front of an actually appreciative audience. Rape jokes! "Queer" jokes"! More rape jokes! What is wrong with you, Orange County?!
That album cover makes it clear that his live show took it all to another level: a toilet-seat guitar! A three-boob bikini top! And that fact that there is zero biographical info on Awbrey out there makes me wonder if I didn't just dream up this whole thing.
ROY AWBREY "Laugh It Up!" (1965)
This blog has been on hold for a while, but, as I reported in the previous post, it looked like my hard drive with all my latest-and-greatest (including a number of vinyl rips) had died. I recovered most of it, and will endeavor to make up for lost time. Lots of stuff in the pipeline, dear maniacs, thanks for your patients.