Proctor & Bergman — What This Country Needs

Sometimes I can be an idiot. Other times, even when I wasn’t an idiot, I remember how close I came to being an idiot. And this record is an example of that.

What This Country Needs front cover
What This Country Needs front cover — weirdly, not the only album cover referencing a cigar box that I own. Also, when I was growing up, cigar boxes were a very common thing, even though almost no one I knew smoked cigars.

Honestly, I don’t remember ever seeing this record before this past February, 2020. I don’t remember having heard of it, either. Looking at Wikipedia now, it appears that this came after the completion of “In The Next World, You’re On Your Own,” which wasn’t well received. Proctor and Bergman wanted to get away from the crush of an annual concept album and instead do more live performances with lighter material (according to Phil Austin). They took a previous production called “TV or Not TV” from 1973 (which I’ve never owned) and reworked it into a live performance, adding some new material and turning it into this production, recorded live and released in September 1975.

Again, while I’ve at least seen “TV or Not TV” (and haven’t bought it, though now I see that it was fairly well reviewed), I have never seen this album cover before. While on a record crawl with my local vinyl-crazed friends, I found this and another Proctor and Bergman album, “Give Us a Break,” that I also hadn’t seen before, at Siren Records in Doylestown. It was the first stop on our tour, I already had a big pile of blues records I absolutely had to have, and I picked up both these Proctor and Bergman records, wandered around with them, and then put them back. Then I hemmed and hawed — did I really want them? How much were they worth to me? (They weren’t pricey.) Would I really play them, or was I getting them just to be a completist? Picked them up again, put them back again. Then as we started to gather around the cash register and I started tp get a sense of how much damage I was doing in my first record store of the day, logic finally kicked in: Here were records by artists I valued and collected heavily, records I had never seen before, and I was going to just leave them there? What the hell, man? (They’re both pristine, too.)

So I went back and grabbed them, and I’m glad I did. I haven’t listened to it a lot, but enough to know it’s fine, and I’m glad I got it. So weird to just be picking up on a 45-year-old album, but so be it. The President Ford jokes may be a little untimely; some of the other commentary may be a little more on point. Someday the parody of radio talk shows will have faded, and no one will know why you had to turn your radio down when you called in; they really won’t understand people calling in to the wrong radio show. While recorded live, unlike “Not Insane,” you can make out most of what is going on. Still, there is a substantial difference between actors in a radio play, playing to an imaginary audience, and actors on a stage, playing to a real, reacting audience. Especially when they’re doing cute little callbacks to famous Firesign Theatre lines — when you’re not in that real audience, reacting, all those pauses, all the laughter, it’s all distracting. I could do without it; I don’t think it well serves what the comedy duo is doing.

The absolute best line, and one that unfortunately is still timely:
“Are you too poor to afford a job?”

What This Country Needs back cover
What This Country Needs back cover
What This Country Needs label
What This Country Needs label

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