That Was the Year That Wasby Tom Lehrer
Tom Lehrer's work always had a biting, satirical edge to it, but never was this more obvious than on this album, a collection of songs regarding events of the year 1965. Very little was sacred from Lehrer's sharp wit, from racism to the Catholic Church, and, while much of his subject matter has become outdated, his shrewd comic talents are beyond question. 1965 was obviously a good year for political satire: the threat of nuclear war was present and very real, the Catholic Church launched Vatican 2 in an effort to "modernize" the church, free speech was under threat, and the tide was beginning to turn against institutionalized racism (despite Malcolm X being assassinated that year). Lehrer's musicianship is good, but not brilliant, and his singing style is not exceptional, but the content of his songs is what makes him such a great comedian. Lyrically, he was superb. Where his contemporaries Flanders and Swann relied on clever wordplay, Lehrer's caustic wit was his strength. The nuclear threat was the major theme here, an example being the tale of nuclear proliferation, "Who's Next?," which, when mentioning Israel's need for nuclear weapons, states "The Lord's our shepherd, says the Psalm/But just in case -- we're going to get a bomb." "So Long Mom (A Song for World War 3)" came about because, as Lehrer says in his introduction, "if any songs are going to come out of World War 3, we'd better start writing them now." "Wernher von Braun" questions the United State's dubious moral decision to grant the Nazi scientist von Braun asylum if he worked for the U.S. Space Program, while "Send the Marines" highlights unwritten U.S. foreign policy, specifically on invading another country: "They've got to be protected/All their rights respected/Until somebody we like can be elected."Other themes explored are those of racism ("National Brotherhood Week"), freedom of speech ("Smut"), the growing number of protest songs ("Folk Song Army") ,and new teaching methods ("New Math"). More controversially, the Catholic Church's attempt at modernization is mercilessly lampooned in the "Vatican Rag." This is one of Tom Lehrer's finest works, and it is a pleasure to hear him actually sing these songs himself. While very much a product of the '60s, much of Lehrer's comedy is still relevant. This album gives a fascinating insight into the politics of the 1960s United States and also shows one of the finest comedic talents of that decade at his absolute best.
- Release Date:
- Reprise / Wea
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They don't make them like Tom Lehrer anymore, unfortunately. Nice, clean parody unlike anything modern.
I can't believe it has been 40 years since Tom Lehrer first presented this outrageously funny, satirical look at the world. Seems like only yesterday. Maybe that's because I can still remember the lyrics to every song on the album. Now THAT, my friend, is staying power! If you find even one song on this album that doesn't bring a smile to your face, seek professional help.
Back when I was terrified of going to college, Tom Lehrer taught me that academics can be fun. A Harvard math professor (who later moved to Stanford), he started performing his satiric songs for friends and grandually moved into larger venues and wider audiences: comedy clubs, cabarets, theatres, TV shows, and recordings. When performing cesased to be fun and became work -- whether because his talent was exhausted or real life became less comic -- he had the good sense to return to adademe, without apology. Though he grants interviews every time an album is re-issued or his songs appear in a theatrical anthology, he has resisted the temptation to return to the stage. Yes, yes, I know this was recorded a generation ago and some topical references are clearly outdated. But an amazing number of the songs retain their relevance (