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March 10, 2012

Firesign Theater - cheerful mayhem and tickled minds.

When certain people become instrumental in shaping the formative years of your life by way of their message, their point of view or their example, their passing seems doubly poignant as it signifies an integral part of your development as a person is no longer able to be there. That sure-fire sign you can never go back.

I'll admit it's been a long time since I heard The Firesign Theater. By the 1970's I was on to other things, other messages and other examples. But hearing of the passing last week of Peter Bergman, the man who was the backbone of perhaps one of the most innovative and outrageous comedy groups in the U.S., brought me back to those nights when I was stuck to my radio like glue, joining this outrageous team of metaphysical clowns on their trip through hyper-reality.

The Firesign Theater were only part of the bigger picture. Radio Free Oz was "the big show" and was one of the more eclectic examples of broadcasting to come along in a very long time. Initially they were on KPFK, the Public radio station in Los Angeles. And then, for a short while, were on a top-40 AM station on Sunday nights. KRLA, which was one of the most popular Top-40 station at the time, played host to Bergman and Company.

Tonight I'm running a little under 2 hours of their final broadcast at KRLA. In typical Radio Free Oz fashion, the mix is heady, with an interview and poetry reading by Deep Image Poet Robert Kelly, and later featuring an interview with The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. In between all that is a Firesign skit "A Life In The Day" and lots of music.

I left just about everything as-is. Sadly, the show isn't complete and is missing the last hour (it's around, but it got separated from it's companion reel) and I did cut down on the music, but even that's an interesting point of departure since 1968 saw the beginning of Free-form radio on FM, and AM was dabbling in being free-form.

At any rate - as a tribute to Peter Bergman and the genius of The Firesign Theater, here is the last Radio Free Oz broadcast from KRLA on January 14, 1967.

I broke it up between two players - the top player features Poet Robert Kelly and the bottom player features A Life In The Day.

All in all, an interesting footprint in time and an appreciation to Peter Bergman for all he did and all those minds that were delightfully blown by his amazing presence.


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