How Time Flys (1973)|
Review from Benway's House of Firesign
"How Time Flys" is probably the most unknown (among neophytes, anyway) title in the Firesign catalog. Curious, especially, as it was the first solo release from one of the four (Proctor & Bergman's "TV Or Not TV" followed shortly after). The plot is simple: Mark Time, having devoted many years of his life to a recently-completed mission, comes back to a very changed Earth, where there is no hero-worship to greet him. Everyone seems to be more interested in the acquisition of the "Memory Loops" from the mission than in Mark, himself, who must keep them from falling into the wrong hands.
While barely containing any "hard laughs," this release has a subtle charm all it's own. This is not to say it isn't amusing - it is very, in some parts. But, the record comes off as much more a piece of "radio theatre" than a "comedy album." This is, in part, to it's very straightforward and self-contained plot. For the time period it was released in, it's sense of story was far stronger than anything else the group or the others working solo were tackling (this was changed with the subsequent release of "The Giant Rat Of Sumatra"). Each Firesign doesn't play dozens of characters - Ossman plays one (Mark Time, though he does issue a few random voices here and there), the others play two each (Austin is Manny & William Gazachorn, Bergman is Mr. Motion & Progresso Sweetheart, and Proctor is Tweeny & Shortstop). The respect for the written word (many of the lines are positively prosaic) doesn't allow much room for improvisation - no riffs, ad libs, or bon-mots pepper this record's landscape.
The record says a lot about the "dispensible hero" (esp. astronauts) and much humor comes from Mark's disappointment at having no human being there to help him re-adjust to life back on the ground. Jim and Nellie Houseafire's (Jim being played by comic great Harry Shearer from "Saturday Night Live," "Spinal Tap," and "The Simpsons") "The Years In Your Ears" is simply an amazing, funny mini-analysis of the about 50 years crammed into about 5 minutes. I remember this record being nearly impeneratable when I was young - listening again recently raised my respect for it to some degree. The text of the piece contains so many great, evocative lines, it takes quite a while to sift through them all. "How Time Flys" demands your full attention, which may be why less patient listeners have little knowledge of it.
-- Phil Buchbinder