Dollar Records: Tom Lehrer and BTO

in rod we trustBefore the term politically incorrect was coined, the world had Tom Lehrer. The Harvard mathematician savaged showtunes on his piano to make playfully sardonic satire like “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park” and “The Masochism Tango.” By the late fifties, Lehrer had earned himself an east coast cult following, and was able to release several albums on the Harvard label, the most effective being 1959’s An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer.

Recently, I was pleased to find, in The Groove‘s 99 cent bin, 1965’s That Was The Year That Was. It’s a live set of songs Lehrer wrote for ABC’s weekly program That Was The Week That Was, more or less the Daily Show of its (brief) era. The googling I’ve done to better know the objects of Lehrer’s topical satire has made me a more fascinating guest at cocktail parties, for sure. Among the targets: New Math, actor George Murphy‘s senatorial candidacy, the popularity of folk music, and Germany’s inclusion in NATO’s Multilateral Force.

You’d think dated subject matter like this would make TWTYTW a lesser work, but Lehrer’s sharp comic timing and brutal irreverence make it timeless. A genius of material and delivery, Dr. Lehrer, long retired from performing, deserves to be talked about in the same breath as Lenny Bruce and Woody Allen; his sixties work appears to have aged better than that of either man.

In other news, my love affair with the bearded trolls of Bachman-Turner Overdrive continues with the recent acquisition of 1974’s Not Fragile (what a name!), also purchased from The Groove’s delicious 99 cent bin. It’s a slab of grandiose stupidity, smothered in legit 70’s rock chops, stuffed into a footlong meatball sub of pop hooks. If BTO’s catalog consists exclusively of concept albums about playing and touring in a rock and roll band, consider that members of BTO are actually all guys who play and tour in a rock and roll band! Holy META! Anyway, this really is great heavy-ish rock for people who don’t care to rock any heavier. No shame in that.