Parker Burwell Toop credit Jak Kilby

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An Advance Warning of Punk; Part Two. National Lampoon’s “Good bye Pop”

Good-bye Pop 1952 -1976 was recorded in 1975 and released in America in January 1976. The National Lampoon team, along with the now mostly-forgotten Firesign Theatre were two of the most well regarded early/mid 1970s counter-culture satirists of the American scene who used the recording medium. Personally, I found the Firesign Theatre to be about as tedious as Cheech and Chong even back then, but the Lampoon, especially Good-bye Pop, still sound largely as funny in 2019 (with a few obviously dated tropes that are eminently forgivable, somewhat like Monty Python?)  It is impossible to relate all the micro-references on this record (one apparently has over twenty musical pastiches), but so many are eerily prescient of subsequent developments in the rock/pop since the time that it was recorded. For our purposes here though, this forwards-thinking is in relation to the soon-come punk ‘revolution’, with it’s well-documented denigration of self-importance and grandiosity in all it’s many and varied forms. The album is more uncannily accurate and’ on the ball’ as to the next phase of the music than any other recording that I can think of from 1975 (some will argue for Horses, but that was essentially an art house album mainly concerned with it’s author’s inner world).

There should really be a dissertation or three on Good-bye Pop, given the amount of ‘asides’ and musical footnotes that there are on show here, about the parlous state of pop/rock music in 1975. It is tempting to discuss it track by track, but that would be inappropriate in such a format of this, but the best recommendation that I can make is that this record  is is the most obvious precursor to the classic ‘mockumentary’ This Is Spinal Tap. Yes, it’s that good, largely thanks to the overall input of Christopher Guest, who later landed his ultimate dream role, as Nigel Tufnel in Tap. He’d already had considerable parody experience, on The National Lampoon Radio, developing, among others, the Good-bye Pop characters of sleazy coke-head record rep Ron Fields, and the oleaginous English ethno-musicologist Roger de Swans. He then worked with Chevy Chase and John Belushi, well before Saturday Night Live, and before creating the immortally moronic Tufnel. He is accompanied on this record by the Bill Murray, who is magnificent in the part of the dozy, somewhat Bob-Harris-like, late night FM DJ Mel Brewer, and other Lampoon regulars such as Tony Scheuren, Gilda Radner and Paul Shaffer. This was still at a time when iconoclastic digs at the by then- established rock tropes was in its infancy. Nik Cohn’s Awopbopaloobopalopbamboom and Rock Dreams were among the first stirrings of the gradual puncturing of the Rolling Stone-type mythologising of the pantheon of “both rock and roll”.

A few of the many, many highlights of this record are: the foreseeing of the post-  Beatles obsession and historicisation of the Fab Four, by a quaaluded Flash Bazbo (played by Guest); the cruel- yet - fair, musically precise evisceration of Prog Rock (The Art Rock Suite, written by the Sid Vicious soundalike Sid Gormless and his band, The Dog’s Breakfast, a year before anyone had heard of that particular doomed junkie); the country rock spoof Clap (Is Just the B–Side of Love), which is as Zappa-like as America Drinks and Goes Home; the Neil Young parody Southern California Brings Me Down (which completely nails the grossly sexist side of the Young of Harvest and of hippie culture in general); Bob Dylan ‘going reggae’, much to Albert Grossman’s consternation. It all only strikes a slightly discordant note for the modern listener when Gilda Radner perform’s her painful I’m a Woman to the ridicule of  various studio hangers-on (this was some years before the late 70s disco divas laid down such immortals as Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive). Radner’s petulance and the studio hack’s patronising put downs (Bill Murray plays her emollient husband) probably won’t sit that well with modern progressive thinking, although it still remains essentially a criticism of eternal pomposity and self-importance (musically coordinated, as is much of the album, by the great Paul Shaffer)

There is so much more to say about this Cassandra of an album. Check it out on YouTube, which has it in its entirety (but without the lyric sheet, which I’m am still  in proud possession of. Never mind, the lyrics are eminently clear on the recording, and what lyrics they are, deserving of as much quoting as those that appear on This Is Spinal Tap.

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