Now that I’m thinking about it this may be one of the earliest records I bought at Desert Shore Records, the used record store in Syracuse that for several years provided nearly all of my record collection.
Desert Shore was in an odd location, in a windowless space at the very very rear of a long building on South Crouse Avenue that currently (and for a long time) houses Faegan’s. An apartment building with retail on the ground floor, you entered through a door on the side, which opened onto a small beauty salon, then went around a corner and way, way in the back was the little space that Desert Shore occupied when we first arrived there in 1978. At some point it moved into a more spacious room further up front in the building (and I don’t think anything ever took its place in what was the most hidden retail space I’ve ever encountered). Some years later, the original owner (Alan?) sold out and it moved to a second-story space on Marshall Street. By then, it wasn’t the same place and I moved on. But for those first few years, going to Desert Shore was one of our ways of blowing off steam, of decompressing . . . whether we bought anything or not, it was time not spent studying or working. In those days, most used records went for $2-$3 (at a time when new records ran $6-8). Quality varied, and I must say that they were willing to sell some pretty beat-up stuff, but I also got some treasures.
This was another one that my high school friend Dan had hepped me to . . . one of his mixtapes included a track or two from this album, so I had some idea what to expect. So, being very into the wild humor of those tracks, I wouldn’t have hesitated to put $2 or $3 into this find, in the fall of 1978 (when $2 an hour was about what I made)*.
This record was from 1975 — if you came at it in order, from The Turtles and the first two Flo & Eddie albums, you might have thought they’d lost their minds, because this is pretty much entirely a comedy album. There is only one song that I would say is a straight-forward rock song is “Rebecca,” (written by Albert Hammond and Mike Hazlewood) — but if you really study it, it’s an oddly bitter fantasy about a woman the singer doesn’t even know. He made up her name, her story, everything. We’ve all done something like that, but it comes off remarkably but effectively bitter in the voices of Flo & Eddie. It’s my favorite song on the album, by far.
Nearly everything else is comedy, but comedy that shows off their musical chops. The album screams to a start with “Illegal, Immoral and Fattening,” a warning to hide your daughters from these creeps: “Well, we won’t get fooled again / And if we do we’ll tell you when….”
“Kama Sutra Time” is an elaborate joke, as is “The Sanzini Brothers Return.” The side closes with a parody that would never be released today, “Livin’ In The Jungle.” I’m sure their hearts were in the right place, and that they meant this as a parody of what some white people thought about some forms of black music, but there are parts of this that are a little tough to listen to in the modern age.
“That’s what you call your African percussion. You pay eight bucks to see War do this shit! Santana! Earth Wind & Fire! Osibisa! Helen Reddy! . . . Helen Reddy?” And then it gets offensive . . . . funny, but offensive.
There’s also “The Kung Fu Killer,” which slays the pretentiousness of The Doors’ “The End,” and a long weird bit called “Eddie Are You Kidding” followed by a musical advertisement for a “Pop Star Massage Unit” — “Mick Jagger sings ‘Jumpin’ Jack Flash’ between your legs, ladies and gentlemen!”
Then it closes with a fairly normal song, “Let Me Make Love To You,” and a version of “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” done so straight that their tongues have to be in their cheeks.
Throughout the album, they show their penchant for mimicry and mockery, with snatches of this song or that, including “Bang A Gong” (they sang on the original), “Benny and the Jets,” and more. They proclaim that it’s a fine line between Joni and Yoko. They say that Jerry Garcia wouldn’t get up out of his own puke to sink with their audience. I’ve memorized practically every word of this album, and it’s easily my favorite Flo & Eddie record.
Danny and I played this record many, many times in our freshman year (though perhaps the humor is more sophomoric?), and were very excited when we had the opportunity to see Flo & Eddie perform live at the legendary student nightclub, The Jabberwocky. Was it the spring of ’79, or the fall? Unclear at this remove. I do remember that they put on an energetic show before a small crowd, that Danny and I were clearly the most excited to see them, and that at some point they discarded a drumstick and a prop sailor’s hat that we grabbed and kept for a very long time before realizing that what we had there was a sweaty old sailor’s hat, and that no one else cared who Flo and Eddie were. At the time, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for them or anyone who had been at the heights of show business and were now playing before bar crowds that may not have even really known who they were – that’s got to be an unpleasant feeling, but that’s where they were at that point. We appreciated them, anyway, and like true pros, they gave us a show, but you could tell it was a much smaller space than they were accustomed to playing.
*Just for reference, restaurant servers in Pennsylvania now get a minimum wage of $2.83, in case you’re wondering how great our economic system is — they’re guaranteed to make at least as much money as I did in entry level jobs 42 years ago.