The New First Family, 1968 (Verve V-15054) (1966) and I Am the President – David Frye (Electra EKS-750006) (1969)

Topical comedy is the only thing in the world of aural excitement to date faster than a drum sound, so these mild satires on 1960s celebrity/political culture and the Nixon White House respectively exist less as funny stuff than historical documents. While the main players sound uncannily accurate, who apart from (American) adults who lived through the decade remember David Susskind, Georgie Jessel, Dean Rusk, Everett Dirksen, Joey Bishop, et. al, let alone appreciates obscure allusions now lost in the fug of that turbulent time.

Now I happen to know a little something of these people and events, but only vicariously through the voracious reading in the decades immediately following of 1960s Mad magazines. As it happens, Mad caricaturist Mort Drucker (wotta name!) supplied the cover art for the The New First Family, 1968 Lp.  New Yorker cartoonist Edward Sorel illustrated the I Am The President sleeve. Most of the characters for both records were voiced by David Frye who did several other political comedy (mainly Nixon) records and who, co-incidentally, died just a month a half ago.

So now we won’t have him to kick around anymore, either.

One of the New First Family producers, Bob Booker, was also responsible for Vaughn Meader’s gentle and enormously successful (7.5 million sales in one year!) Jack Kennedy send-up, The First Family (1962).  The album was, due to infamous events in Dallas shortly afterwards, a short-lived phenomenon. It did lead, however, to Lenny Bruce’s gloriously bad taste, gig-opening riposte on the night of November 22, 1963:  walking on stage, shaking his head, he murmured, “….poor Vaughn Meader.”

These images were on the inner sleeve of President and show off Elektra’s new-found, Doors-funded wealth in four-colour glory.

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Published in: on March 2, 2011 at 7:33 pm  Comments (8)  

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  1. Seeing these albums reminds me of a debate that arises from time to time with a friend of mine on the staying power of the famous. His belief is that in a hundred years time only the “King” and the Beatles will still be known to fans or students of popular music – the rest will have faded away into the mists of time (my contention is that the Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.” will still be as popular then as it appears to be now ha ha).

    Anyway, it’s interesting looking at the covers of these albums to see (as a middle-aged Brit) how many faces I am familiar with over four decades later. From the “New First Family” album I can definitely spot Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and “the Duke”, and think I also recognise Kirk Douglas and Brando (and very possibly Cary Grant although that may be someone else), but after that I’m struggling. On the David Frye LP the only face I can ID is Nixon, but that’s perhaps unsurprisingly as apart from presidents (or equivalent leaders elsewhere) very few politicians achieve fame beyond their own back yard.

    If he’s got photoshop or similar, perhaps as an (ex-pat) American of (I’m guessing) similar vintage Princeasbo can enlighten us with schematics for these LP’s, ID’ing all the faces using numbers like they do with the “Sgt Pepper” album? However even then I’d be surprised if anyone from your average sink estate (or US projects) born in the last 30 years would recognise any of these guys, which is a sign of the times…

    Without recourse to Wikipedia I do also recognise a couple of names listed: I think Dean Rusk was a presidential aide, and Joey Bishop was the “Brad Dexter” of the Rat Pack i.e. the one that no-one remembers!

  2. From top middle in a Vertigo label-style vortex back to the middle: George Hamilton, Cary Grant, Boris Karloff, Mia Farrow, Frank Sinatra, John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Groucho Marx, Liz Taylor, Dick Burton, Jack Benny, Ed Sullivan, Dean Martin, Louis Armstrong, Marlon Brando, unidentified blonde female-possibly Tuesday Weld, Gregory Peck, unidentified blonde female-possibly Brigitte Bardot, (politicians in black & white) Lyndon Johnson, Dick Nixon, Barry Goldwater, Bobby Kennedy, Hubert Humphrey, Sammy Davis Jr and Joey Bishop. Howzat!

    • Only correction is that Robert Stack should be the first identified caricature. Concept for the drawing is taken from the “The Untouchables” TV show. Look at the gun sticking out of his trench coat.

      • I was all set to dispute your correction, but you’re absolutely right–well spotted!

  3. On the Nixon record in the left claw are Lyndon Johnson, Spiro Agnew and Tricky Dick, and in the right William F Buckley, Hubert Humphrey and Nelson Rockefeller.

    PS: I was born the year before the New First Family record came out.

  4. good work asbo – i thought brando was the guy giving liz taylor one ha ha!

    re: ed sullivan – us limeys only ever see the odd clip of him introducing the likes of the beatles and the dave clark 5 on his show. whenever i see him in action my initial reaction is to burst out laughing at what appears to be a senile bumbling fool who seems not only a bit simple but also a complete anachronism to boot. but then i remember the tales of how much influence a clown like that had on popular music in the states (not allowing the stones on his show for example), and suddenly it all gets a bit sinister…

    i can’t recall a british equivalent arbiter of taste – keith fordyce was obviously too old and square for “ready steady go” but at least he never had any clout (he was much better suited as the avuncular regional news presenter i saw in the 70’s)… although apparently eamonn andrews did much the same thing in keeping the “undesirables” and “riff-raff” out of the irish music scene…

  5. Don’t forget, those were much different times and this sort of debate/controversy still goes on in different contexts, think of Christina Aguilera’s controversial “sexy” performance on X Factor. Also, it’s important to note that Ed’s was a Saturday night, popular variety show–jugglers, comedy acts, dancers, pet acts, etc. as well as singers–and it’s largely because of Elvis and the Fabs that history (especially international history) has misrepresented him as music entrepreneur.

    The Stones were on his show, they just had to sing “let’s spend some time together”.

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