Friggin’ Here Comes to the Internet Archive

WITR 897 Logo

I’m delighted to announce the completion of an historic archival project at Innerspace Labs! 

When I was a young man growing up in Rochester, NY, I routinely spent my weekends tuning in to the city’s comedy/novelty radio programme titled, Friggin’ Here. The show was broadcast on The Rochester Institute of Technology’s radio station, WITR 89.7FM in the 1990s. Friggin’ Here filled the comedy void of not having The Dr Demento Show in Rochester and featured many local and regional comedy artists who went on to national acclaim on Dr Demento’s show. And during the time these episodes were airing, co-host Devo Spice made it to #1 on The Dr Demento Show with his hit, “South Park Junkie,” recorded with his band, Sudden Death, and landed Dr. Demento’s Funny #1 of the Year three times in the years that followed. This was definitely a piece of history that deserved to be archived.

I taped 27 of the shows in my basement studio in the mid-90s, and recently considered the possibility of digitizing and making those recordings available online for fans around the world to revisit and enjoy. Tragically, despite my painstaking efforts at organization, I was unable to locate those old cassettes. Undeterred, I reached out to the members of an online community celebrating comedy music and inquired as to whether or not anyone else had recordings of the local programme from my youth.

As fate would have it, Devo Spice and a few of the show’s guest artists were members of that community, and the administrators tagged them in response. Astonishingly, I received a reply that Devo Spice had personally taped nearly all of their shows during his participation with the programme. Not only that, but he had wisely positioned the deck in the station’s studio with the signal going to the tape deck before it went out over the air, so the sound is as good as it can be! Best of all, just two years ago he had sent those very tapes to a friend named Dr Don who performed the laborious task of digitizing over 97 hours worth of analog audio content. Unfortunately however, the co-host had stored the resulting digital audio on a since-failed PC, and retrieving them was an undertaking.

There were a few weeks of baited breath, but at last he responded confirming that the tracks were safely recovered and he transferred the files to me. Examining the library, I found his tapes were vastly superior to my own home-taped cassettes. I ran the files through a spectral waveform analyzer and verified that they had been ripped using the Hydrogenaudio “Insane” preset of -b 320 – a constant bitrate of 320kbps, which is the highest possible audio compression standard for MP3 and is demonstrably indistinguishable from lossless audio. Evidently, Dr Don took every measure to ensure the very best quality for his digitization process. There is audible aging to the cassettes, themselves but every effort has been made to preserve them as best as possible. And in addition to the superior pre-broadcast sound, where I had omitted selections, (whether they be duplicate songs or just tracks I didn’t particularly fancy), the co-host’s archive was nearly complete with all shows unabridged from his years with the programme.

I immediately went to work analyzing the audio data, tagging, and uniformly-formatting the library. Once they were prepped for a satisfactorily archival standard, I embarked on the task of uploading each broadcast to The Internet Archive and attaching each programme’s track list and relevant metadata. After the entire library was uploaded, I drafted a summary and submitted a request to The Internet Archive to format the set as an official Collection. With that request now fulfilled, the archive is readily-accessible for listeners around the world to enjoy. It’s a small but important way for me to give back to the artists who filled my teenage years with laughter.

For those curious about the origin of the show’s title, Devo Spice provided the details on his official website’s biography at Devospice.com:

In 1997 Tom’s friend from college Tim Winkler (known affectionately as TWINK) managed to get a slot on RIT’s radio station WITR and devoted his entire show to comedy music. He had a two-hour slot, originally on late Thursday/early Friday from 1-3am, that he kept getting erased from. Finally one day he wrote “TWINK! FRIGGIN’ HERE!” on the white board, and that’s how the show got its name. At some point he invited Devo to co-host the show with him, mostly because he wanted access to Devo’s music collection. While Tom was never officially a member of the radio station (he had tried freshman year and had gotten the runaround) he co-hosted this show with TWINK until he left Rochester in late 1999. 

Check out the completed archive collection here!

https://archive.org/details/friggin-here?tab=about

50 Skidillion Watts of Slightly Dated New York Weirdo Hipster Novelty Humor

Bongos Bass & Bob - Never Mind the Sex Pistols 05-09-2020 sm

I have a decent collection of novelty records, from the first “break-in” 7-inch, Buchanan and Goodman’s “Flying Saucer Pts I & II,” to a fish-head-shaped picture disc of Barnes & Barnes classic, “Fish Heads,” to the full-scale replica of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s accordion housing vinyl remasters of his entire 40-year career in the industry. (I even had the good fortune of getting Dr. Demento, himself to sign my 1953 debut 10″ of Songs By Tom Lehrer!) So when I discovered that the hilarious Bongos, Bass, and Bob had put out a record featuring many of my favorite Demented hits, I tracked down a copy right away.

The band recorded one album with Penn Gillette and produced by Kramer in 1988 titled, Never Mind The Sex Pistols, Here’s Bongos, Bass, and Bob (What Were They Thinking???) on Jillette’s label, 50 Skidillion Watts, (written out as 50,000,000,000000,000,000,000 Watts Records), Catalog # 50,000,000,000,000,000,000,003.

The album includes favorites like:

  • Oral Hygiene
  • Walkin’ in the Park
  • What’s Your Name, Babe?
  • Clothes of the Dead
  • and Thorazine Shuffle (a cover of the single by Modern Entertainment)

The album is a comedic mishmash of genres, including folk, world music, country, jazz, rock, doo-wop, punk, and calypso, as well as lo-fi, noise, and avant-garde musical styles. 

The trio is a self-proclaimed “speed Mariachi” band composed of Penn Jillette on bass, Dean Seal on bongos, and Rob Elk on guitar. Several tracks were featured on The Dr. Demento Show, and an alternate sans-Jillette take of “Oral Hygiene” recorded under the name “Mr. Elk and Mr. Seal” was featured on WITR’s Friggin Here radio show in the 90s. It also appeared as track #2 on Dr. Demento’s Basement Tapes Volume 01.

I’d spent those halcyon summers painstakingly taping 27 weeks worth of broadcasts of Friggin Here and entering the complete set lists into a word processor to print on my dot matrix printer, (this was 1995 after all), so it was a real treat to claim the songs I so fondly remembered on wax.

It’s offbeat, humorous, and original stuff.

From Allmusic:

The bongos come courtesy of Dean J. Seal, the bass is via Penn Jillette (of Penn & Teller fame), and the Bob is derived from guitarist Rob “Running” Elk on this funny, eclectic record overseen by producer Kramer. There are 16 songs on Never Mind the Sex Pistols, Here’s Bongos, Bass, Bob! (What on Earth Were They Thinking?), and about as many musical styles, including punk, calypso and doo-wop; the acute and amusing lyrics target oral hygiene, Thorazine, girls with guns and thrift shopping (“Clothes of the Dead”). Much more musically competent than expected, this is a superior musical-comedy record, and one that holds up to repeated listenings.

And Wikipedia notes:

Kramer is a musician, composer, record producer, and founder of the New York City record label Shimmy-Disc. 

Kramer played on tour with Butthole Surfers, Ween, Half Japanese, The Fugs, and John Zorn and other improvising musicians of New York’s so-called “downtown scene” of the 1980s.

Kramer produced Galaxie 500’s entire oeuvre, and discovered and produced Duluth slowcore band, Low. He also produced for White Zombie, GWAR, King Missile, Daniel Johnston, and Urge Overkill.

Rutlesriki.fandom.com adds that the group also recorded a cover version of The Rutles’ “Number One” for the tribute album, Rutles Highway Revisited, released in 1993.

Of “Thorazine Shuffle,” G Zahora writes:

“Thorazine Shuffle” is a Modern Entertainment piece, but BB&B’s rendition is particularly brilliant; the bass and bongo arrangement is ultra-spartan jazz-via-Velvet Underground, the vocals quiet and businesslike (except for the freakout choruses, where Penn goes a bit nuts himself). 

Zahora closes their review noting:

It’s not for everyone, but if you dig slightly dated New York weirdo hipster novelty humor, are a rabid Penn and Teller fan or just a colored vinyl lover, Never Mind the Sex Pistols…Here’s Bongos, Bass and Bob is worth tracking down.

There’s an incredibly exhaustive write-up on the record archived on Popsike here for anyone interested, which includes transcripts of articles on the album from Playboy in 1996 and the rest of G Zahora’s album notes. 

Related projects of note include John S. Hall & Kramer (Hall is the vocalist from King Missile)’s Real Men LP and Captain Howdy (Penn Jillette w Kramer) who produced “The Best Song Ever Written” b/w “Dino’s Head” which I own on 45. But Bongos, Bass, and Bob remain a stand-out favorite from the best of the Dr. Demento era.

There is a playlist of a vinyl-rip of the album on YouTube, though a few tracks are cut in the wrong places, (track 2, “Clothes of the Dead” for example is mistakenly cut short at a moment of silence before the final chorus which resumes at the beginning of video #3). Still, it provides a taste of the comedic madness and irreverence of this record. 

The Hunt Begins

Before I even touched down on Buffalo soil, I began scouring the web for used record shops in the Buffalo area.  The two most promising results were Spiral Scratch (like the Buzzcocks’ EP) on Bryant Street and Record Baron on Delaware Ave.

I’ve since visited both shops and was very happy with what I found.  Spiral Scratch had a copy of Dr. Demento’s Mementos, which features a number of tunes I learned to love from the Friggin’ Here Radio Show on WITR.  “My Wife Left Town With a Banana,” “Space Invaders,” and “My Name is Not Merv Griffin” are just a few of the memorable songs from this record.

Dr Demento's Mementos

Dr Demento's Mementos

Record Baron is nearly the same size as Spiral Scratch, but is absolutely packed wall to wall with LPs.  Every disc is in VG+ to NM condition, and the owner does not waste his time with junk LPs.  He had nearly a dozen Captain Befheart albums, a pile of Parliament Funkadelic, and much more.

I asked about one album in particular from ’72 that I’d been stalking copies of online.  The owner walked over to  a shelf and pulled out a pristine copy for me!

Gentle Giant – Octopus (with die-cut jar cover)

Gentle Giant’s combination of progressive rock and madrigal song was something my father introduced me to 20 years ago.  Below is a clip from the Giant on the Box DVD (recommended for any fans of the band.)

Published in: on December 20, 2010 at 10:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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