Bittersweet Musical Comedy

Today we present a pro­gramme of musi­cal com­e­dy and more, but with a cer­tain sad­ness.

The death occurred yes­ter­day of Peter Bergman, in San­ta Mon­i­ca, CA. He was 72, and suf­fered from leukaemia.

Bergman was one quar­ter of the remark­able Fire­sign The­atre, whose albums and per­for­mances have amused and delight­ed wide audi­ences since the late 1960s.

Gar­ry Mar­go­lis recalls that The Fire­sign The­atre came togeth­er in around 1967 at the Los Ange­les radio sta­tion KPFK, part of the Paci­fi­ca group of sta­tions renowned for their inno­v­a­tive pro­gram­ming and sup­port of free speech. Bergman was was the host of a mid­night free-form pro­gramme called Radio Free Oz. His cohorts includ­ed KPFK’s pro­gram direc­tor David Oss­man, Phil Proc­tor — Phil and Peter were class­mates at Yale — and Phil Austin, who was also con­nect­ed with the sta­tion. Their astro­log­i­cal signs were all fire signs, hence the name. The Fire­sign The­atre’s stream-of-con­scious­ness style was, espe­cial­ly ini­tial­ly, very much influ­enced by the UK’s Goon Show. The first per­for­mance of the Fire­sign The­atre was at UCLA dur­ing an Exper­i­men­tal Arts Fes­ti­val in 1967: they per­formed Wait­ing for the Elec­tri­cian or Some­one Like Him Any­how, a work that bore lit­tle or no resem­blance to the ver­sion released on their first album for Colum­bia a year lat­er.

Today, we hon­our Peter Bergman’s mem­o­ry with a pro­gramme of musi­cal com­e­dy — from Borge to Weird Al, from Satie to Flan­ders & Swan, and a great deal more. In addi­tion, every half-hour, we’ll fea­ture some of the best sketch­es from the Fire­sign The­atre, includ­ing mate­r­i­al from their first album, Wait­ing For The Elec­tri­cian Or Some­one Like Him. Many of these pieces are in the form of radio and broad­cast­ing par­o­dies, so they’ll no doubt fit rather well. The items are deeply root­ed in Unit­ed States cul­ture and include many top­i­cal ref­er­ences of the time they were cre­at­ed. We do hope you enjoy this trib­ute, and remem­ber a great and very fun­ny man.

Then join us lat­er for the ZBS Radio Hour where we fea­ture two new adven­tures includ­ing some­thing rather unusu­al from Ire­land.

Today’s pro­gramme is pre­sent­ed by Elrik Mer­lin. To lis­ten, click here to start your play­er, if your brows­er is con­fig­ured to do so. In the Unit­ed States, please use

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