Friday, 22 July 2016

Wild Man Fischer: An Evening With Wild Man Fischer

Wild Man Fischer: An Evening With Wild Man Fischer
One of those artists whose stock has risen as his early albums have become increasingly difficult to purchase for less than a king's ransom, Wild Man Fischer was a discovery of Frank Zappa, the hugely respected but always controversial figure playing a pivotal role in bringing this tragic yet resourceful personality to the wider notice he craved. Having lost his father in his youth and with a mother showing little interest in him, Larry Fischer became an introverted youngster unable to adjust to the world around him. After altercations with his mother and brother that resulted in Larry threatening both with a knife, Fischer was sent to a mental institution where he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and manic depression (known now as bi-polar). However he was released a year later, although unable to hold down a job and with his family unwilling to house him, it was almost inevitable he'd up on the streets and ultimately back in mental care.

All the while Fischer had sustained himself with the belief that he was destined to become a huge, famous, recording artist as he earned money by accosting unsuspecting passers by on the Sunset Strip and 'demanding' he sang them an original song for ten cents. In truth what they got for their money was a repetitive piece punctuated by whoops, honks and whole hearted, full throated vocals that barely feel in control. It made him a notorious figure to the regulars of the areas he frequented. Zappa got wind of Fischer's performances and in the spirit of his own albums of the time believed that he could take a mixture of studio and street recordings of Wild Man and craft what became a double album from them.
So in essence what you have on An Evening With Wild Man Fischer is a mixture of acapella performance (with percussion added later) where all manner of vocal 'dum-dum-dum', 'yeah-yeah-yeah', 'boom-duh-bum-duh-boom' are the only musical basis holding up the not even attempting to be in tune vocals. The street performances are similar fare, yet on most occasions what you get is the full Wild Man interaction, where he asks his 'audience' if they'd like to hear a new type of song for a dime, before all manner of responses come forth. Once the 'songs' begin numerous cries of "you're insane" and other insults can be heard being thrown – the performer often breaking out of his song to hurl abuse back or scream "I'm NOT insane"… in truth it's hard going and questionable if something like this would even be allowed in our modern 'sanitised' world.
Even more revealing moments appear later in the trial by fire 36 track double (and first time available on) CD, the "In Conclusion" section finding Fischer acting out set-plays from his life where he portrays not just himself, but his mother, brother and others. It's voyeurism of the highest order and in truth hard to know who, or indeed if anyone, is being exploited here – the listener, Zappa, Wild Man, or everyone and no one all at the same time. The liner notes however add in the caveat that Fischer was genuinely unstable, on one occasion using the wardrobe of a stranger whose door he knocked on, as a toilet, and on others being physically abusive towards people he knew and their belongings. The fact that this record goes as far as playing this all out for either entertainment, or a document of a tormented, misunderstood soul, leaves it in the balance whether the results are disturbingly enlightening or simply downright weird. Whatever your conclusion, the word enjoyable never comes into it, although oddly the opening track, which continually appears throughout, "Merry-Go-Round", proves infuriatingly but undeniably catchy.
From the tasteless cover-art of Fischer spoofing the knife incident with his mother to the subject matter covered, and, most importantly, the unmistakably uncomfortable feeling that you're listening to someone play out real, genuine mental health issues that affected their entire life, just for your entertainment, An Evening With… is disturbingly compelling. And yet I'm not sure I could ever bring myself to listen to it ever again.

Track Listing
1. Merry Go Round
2. New Kind of Songs for Sale
3. I'm Not Shy Anymore
4. Are You From Clovis?
5. The Madness and the Ecstasy
6. Which Way Did the Freaks Go?
7. I'm Working for the Federal Bureau of Narcotics
8. The Leaves Are Falling
9. 85 Times
10. Cops and Robbers
11. Monkeys Versus Donkeys
12. Start Life Over Again
13. The Mope
14. Like Brand New
15. Who Did It Johnny?
16. Think of Me When Your Clothes Are Off
17. Taggy Lee
18. Rhonda
19. I Looked Around You
20. Jennifer Jones
21. The Taster
22. The Story of the Taster
23. The Rocket Rock
24. The Rocket Rock Explanation
25. Dream Girl
26. Dream Girl Explanation
27. Serrano Beach
28. Success Will Not Make Me Happy
29. Wild Man on the Street Again
30. Why I Am Normal
31. The Wild Man Fischer Story
32. Balling Isn't Everything
33. Ugly Beautiful Girl
34. Larry and His Guitar
35. Circle
36. Larry Under Pressure
Added: July 19th 2016
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: An Evening With Wild Man Fischer on Gonzo
Hits: 36

No comments:

Post a Comment

What happens when you mix what is - arguably - the world's most interesting record company, with an anarchist manic-depressive rock music historian polymath, and a method of dissemination which means that a daily rock-music magazine can be almost instantaneous?

Most of this blog is related in some way to the music, books and films produced by Gonzo Multimedia, but the editor has a grasshopper mind and so also writes about all sorts of cultural issues which interest him, and which he hopes will interest you as well.