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Tom Lehrer article in the Guardian

Started by Barry Admin, May 25, 2024, 02:15:01 PM

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Barry Admin

Just flagging this up as I missed it myself, and am looking forward to reading it: link

Today's letters page is full of rather nice anecdotes about Lehrer, from people who grew up listening to him and met him at shows etc, I really enjoyed reading this: link



Barry Admin

#2
Man, this version of Vatican Rag has one of the greatest audience responses of all time. It never fails to lift me up. They're just slayed by the first "genuflect, genuflect, genuflect."


What an incredible talent he is. Every time I come back to him, I'm floored all over again.

SpiderChrist

Lovely.

This

Quote"You had to admire these folk singers," he says on the live LP. "It takes courage to get up in a coffee house or a student auditorium and come out in favour of the things everyone else is against, like peace and justice and brotherhood, and so on."

got a big laugh.

Agent Dunham

Too busy to read these today, but just wanted to note that Tom is the bomb.

Kankurette

Absolutely love Lehrer. I recited the lyrics of I Hold Your Hand in Mine at my parents' wedding. Luckily they saw the funny side.
Quote from: Barry Admin on May 25, 2024, 02:53:15 PMMan, this version of Vatican Rag has one of the greatest audience responses of all time. It never fails to lift me up. They're just sleighed by the first "genuflect, genuflect, genuflect."


What an incredible talent he is. Every time I come back to him, I'm floored all over again.
It was very hard not to sing that song in St Peter's Square. Absolute banger.

Hugl


Marty Feldman did a cover of the Vatican Rag

Barry Admin

The Guardian article is a good read, enjoyed it. 

It's just crazy how perfect Lehrer is, and a large part of the admiration people have for him is due to his disinterest in fame and money, and the decision to release all his material into the public domain 4 years ago. 

The material itself is, of course, mindblowing, with an incredible contrast between the bouncy, uptempo piano accompaniment, and the dark subject matters he sings about. Murder, incest, cannibalism etc, he makes it all hilarious.  And the political satire is timelessly exquisite.  Amazing wordplay too. Oh, he's just a remarkable talent.

Kankurette

My maternal gran mentioned at a family get together once that she thought I might like him. I expected him to be some boring old fart and looking back, I should have known better. I found a songbook and thought the lyrics were funny as fuck and then went down the Lehrer rabbit hole. I'm always pleasantly surprised when I meet someone my age who likes him (a guy I fancied at school was also a fan). Clementine is so clever.

The reason he gave up satire, IIRC, was Henry Kissinger getting the Nobel Peace Prize. He found it too horrible to satirise.

Tiggles

Been too busy today for this thread but 1) that article is great 2) Tom Lehrer is great 3) thank you for posting that great link to Vatican Rag, I reckon tomorrow is going to be a proper Lehrer day.

checkoutgirl

So that's who this guy is based on.




Hugl

Quote from: checkoutgirl on May 25, 2024, 10:26:29 PMSo that's who this guy is based on.





This is a parody of Mark Russell


I think he name checks Lehrer in this or another special.

Kankurette

Kudos to anyone who manages to cover The Elements, because it is a very, very hard song to sing.

Bad Ambassador

I learned it for a charity fundraiser 25 years ago and it is still seared onto my brain.

Barry Admin

Well I just found out today that 1) there's a Wild Al biopic, and that 2) Daniel Radcliffe was picked for the role because of this performance of the song:


And there's also the Aristotle version by Lehrer.

I was thinking about "The Elements" today, and comparing it to those speedy, furious rants some stand-up comics do, you know what I mean?  Jack Whitehall is the sort of guy who would do it all the time, he's rattle out this longish spiel very fast, and it wouldn't be terribly funny or inspired, but the audience would all applaud it as a feat of skill anyway. 

And I wondered if there were earlier examples of that kind of thing than The Elements. 

Kankurette

Quote from: Bad Ambassador on May 25, 2024, 11:56:48 PMI learned it for a charity fundraiser 25 years ago and it is still seared onto my brain.
I remember a couple of science teachers doing it as the intro to a talent contest for Comic Relief (which I won!) in 1999.

Bad Ambassador

Quote from: Barry Admin on May 26, 2024, 12:04:06 AMI was thinking about "The Elements" today, and comparing it to those speedy, furious rants some stand-up comics do, you know what I mean?  Jack Whitehall is the sort of guy who would do it all the time, he's rattle out this longish spiel very fast, and it wouldn't be terribly funny or inspired, but the audience would all applaud it as a feat of skill anyway. 

And I wondered if there were earlier examples of that kind of thing than The Elements. 

Bit later, but Dan Aykroyd liked to give himself paragraph long chunks of dialogue to deliver like a machine gun.


Barry Admin

Quote from: Tiggles on May 25, 2024, 10:24:06 PMBeen too busy today for this thread but 1) that article is great 2) Tom Lehrer is great 3) thank you for posting that great link to Vatican Rag, I reckon tomorrow is going to be a proper Lehrer day.

Awesome!  Here's a Spotify link to the whole "That Was The Year That Was" record, the hungry i audience is just amazing: Live

Dunno why the tracklist is in a different order to that on Wiki and AllMusic, though.  Wiki has some nice notes on the songs.


SirDoris

I can't remember how I found it, but years ago I stumbled across an old blogpost where someone talks about how, purely by chance, they ended up being Tom Lehrer's last student. It's a really touching tribute to Lehrer, who comes across as witty, humble, intelligent, and the platonic ideal of a maths lecturer. The ending never fails to bring a tear to my eye.

Link

Barry Admin

Quote from: SirDoris on May 26, 2024, 02:01:15 AMI can't remember how I found it, but years ago I stumbled across an old blogpost where someone talks about how, purely by chance, they ended up being Tom Lehrer's last student. It's a really touching tribute to Lehrer, who comes across as witty, humble, intelligent, and the platonic ideal of a maths lecturer. The ending never fails to bring a tear to my eye.

Link

That was phenomenal, thank you.  Hard to get over Lehrer's modesty and brilliance. 

famethrowa

Quote from: SirDoris on May 26, 2024, 02:01:15 AMI can't remember how I found it, but years ago I stumbled across an old blogpost where someone talks about how, purely by chance, they ended up being Tom Lehrer's last student. It's a really touching tribute to Lehrer, who comes across as witty, humble, intelligent, and the platonic ideal of a maths lecturer. The ending never fails to bring a tear to my eye.

Link

That's really quite aggravating. Some fanboy signs up to his class, annoys him with fruit, gets a few vague jokes out of old Tom but nothing more beyond a curt goodbye? Kind of a letdown.

SpiderChrist

Quote from: Kankurette on May 25, 2024, 09:48:00 PMThe reason he gave up satire, IIRC, was Henry Kissinger getting the Nobel Peace Prize. He found it too horrible to satirise.

That's what I remembered hearing too, but not according to that Guardian piece:

QuoteWas it because, as he once said, "political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel peace prize"? No. Kissinger did not get the prize until 1973, by which time Lehrer had already retreated into as much obscurity as his fans allowed.




All Surrogate

I didn't know he was a mathematician. It makes me like him even more, being someone with a mathematical bent myself. It seems he's taken the Epicurean 'live unknown' to heart, but is still personally charismatic and talented. Thanks for starting the thread, Barry Admin.

A mathematician, a musician, a good guy, and very funny. And we get lumbered with pancreas.

Tiggles

Quote from: Barry Admin on May 26, 2024, 12:42:32 AMAwesome!  Here's a Spotify link to the whole "That Was The Year That Was" record, the hungry i audience is just amazing: Live

Dunno why the tracklist is in a different order to that on Wiki and AllMusic, though.  Wiki has some nice notes on the songs.



Thank you! Downloaded :-)


Agent Dunham

Quote from: All Surrogate on May 26, 2024, 10:28:11 AMA mathematician, a musician, a good guy, and very funny. And we get lumbered with pancreas.

I nearly spit my tea.

dissolute ocelot

Quote from: Barry Admin on May 26, 2024, 12:04:06 AMI was thinking about "The Elements" today, and comparing it to those speedy, furious rants some stand-up comics do, you know what I mean?  Jack Whitehall is the sort of guy who would do it all the time, he's rattle out this longish spiel very fast, and it wouldn't be terribly funny or inspired, but the audience would all applaud it as a feat of skill anyway. 

And I wondered if there were earlier examples of that kind of thing than The Elements.

Gilbert and Sullivan did it (and I wouldn't be surprised if they influenced Lehrer). Don't know who there was before that.

Barry Admin

Quote from: dissolute ocelot on May 27, 2024, 04:07:26 PMGilbert and Sullivan did it. Don't know who there was before that.

Good shout, another of Lehrer's influences (who I'm rather more familiar with) is Danny Kaye. I always frigging loved this as a kid and still think it's wonderful:


I suppose it does mostly originate with musichall patter and the like.

Barry Admin

The reference to Aristophanes in that Gilbert and Sullivan song prompted me to dig out the lyrics so I could better follow them, and I found this great lyrics sheet which has wiki links to all the references in it!

To get back on topic, here's a particularly good interview where Lehrer talks about his influences:


Tiggles

That link-packed lyrics sheet is incredible!

Barry Admin

Quote from: Tiggles on May 27, 2024, 06:58:22 PMThat link-packed lyrics sheet is incredible!

I'm glad you enjoyed it too - this put a smile on my face: "A mamelon (from French 'nipple') is a French name for a breast shaped hillock."

More Tom!


QuoteHanukkah In Santa Monica-0:05
Hanukkah In Santa Monica (short version)- 1:13
The Love Song of the Physical Anthropologist- 2:16
The Love Song of the Physical Anthropologist Take 2- 3:34
The Love Song of the Physical Anthropologist Take 3- 4:53
The Love Song of the Physical Anthropologist Take 4- 5:23
I Got It From Agnes-  6:46
I Got It From Agnes Take 2- 8:42
Trees- (not an original TL song but a Joyce Kilmer poem)- 10:30
That's Mathematics Take 4- 11:55
Pieces for That's Mathematics- 13:48
That's Mathematics- 14:58

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