Burning on through the Seventies (1974-1978)
"I used to mark my really severe drug use by the years I couldn't remember who won the World Series. There were three or four years in there, mid to late seventies."
"What I am certain of is that the second half of the seventies was a period of uncertainty. A time of tentativeness, of groping around for what came next -- and coming up mostly empty-handed."
"One thing happened in that period which would be a major positive force in my life, although I didn't realize it until later. HBO came into the picture."
- George Carlin, Last Words
- Goofy Shit [3:59]
- Toledo Window Box [4:56]
- Nursery Rhymes [4:15]
- Some Werds [7:57]
- Water Sez [1:05]
- The Metric System [2:09]
- God [6:43]
- Gay Lib [2:06]
- Snot, the Original Rubber Cement [2:54]
- Urinals Are 50 Percent Universal [2:27]
- A Few More Farts [5:55]
Toledo Window Box (1974)
Little David #3003. Produced by Marty Kay & Jack Lewis in association with George Carlin.
Recorded July 20, 1974 at Paramount Theater, Oakland CA.
Released November 1974.
As Carlin explains in the album's title track, "Toledo Window Box" refers to a type of marijuana which somebody tried to sell him. While Carlin did talk about drugs on past albums, he talks much more candidly and casual about it here. It's not only in the title track, but "Nursery Rhymes" and "The Metric System". The liner notes include the reminder, "REMEMBER TO PLANT NEAR THE MARCH EQUINOX". The plant shirt by the way was painted by Drew Struzan, who also did the posters for the Star Wars and Indiana Jones trilogies.
Another notable track on here is "God". Carlin ended up doing this routine the following year when he hosted the debut episode of "Saturday Night Live", even though they told him not to. It's a far cry from the ruthlessness of his classic 1999 diatribe "There is No God" from You Are All Diseased, but it's still notable that these ideas were on his mind at the time.
- New News [4:21]
- Teenage Masturbation [4:53]
- Mental Hot Foots [2:54]
- High on the Plane [4:29]
- Bodily Functions [5:44]
- Wurds [1:01]
- For Names' Sake [6:58]
- Baseball-Football [2:03]
- Good Sports [2:30]
- Flesh Colored Band-Aids [2:48]
- Religious Lift [3:31]
- Radio Dial [1:52]
- Y'Ever [2:29]
- Unrelated Things [2:21]
An Evening with Wally Londo Featuring Bill Slaszo (1975)
Little David #1008. Produced by Marty Kay & Jack Lewis in association with George Carlin.
Recorded March 18, 1975 at UNLV, Las Vegas. Released October, 1975.
Starting a little bit with this album and then into the next one ("On the Road"), it seems that the drugs were taking their toll. At least to my ears. Carlin was also no longer the huge "new" comic, and the country's zeitgeist saw the waning of counter-culture, the rise of crime, the beginnings of the disco era, etc. The liner notes to the box set and Carlin's biography go into further details.
That's not to say it's a bad album. It's still great. Probably the most famous is the "Baseball-Football" routine. Also here is "Religious Lift", which continues where "God" left off on the last album; Carlin did a mix of these two routines when he hosted Saturday Night Live. I almost quoted "Religious Lift" for my high school year book quote, but unfortunately couldn't seem to get something short enough that captured the sentiment.
About "An Evening With...", Carlin said "I had finished the autobiographical period, and I'd finished establishing myself as separate from the mainstream, so now the comedian was starting to show up." 6 of the tracks were deemed suitable for airplay, and a 7-minute long promo record of excerpts was sent to radio stations, plus a testimonial from George's mother: "This record is not dirty and contains no filthiness of any kind. It can be played on any radio station at any time of the day without fear of losing your morals, your license or your listeners."
This album got a Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Album in 1976, but lost to Richard Pryor's ...Is It Something I Said?. Carlin was however voted Billboard's "Comedy Artist of the Year" in the spring of 1975.
- On the Road [4:46]
- Death and Dying [13:48]
- Headlines [4:23]
- Kids Are Too Small [3:11]
- Rules, Rules, Rules! [2:32]
- Parents' Clichés and Children's Secret Answers [3:19]
- Words We Leave Behind [1:55]
- How's Your Dog? [5:06]
- Supermarkets [7:03]
On The Road (1977)
Little David #1075. Produced by Marty Kay & Jack Lewis in association with George Carlin.
Recorded October 3, 1976 at Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles. Released April 1977.
I originally bought this on cassette and then later CD, but a friend of mine has the vinyl and it was then that I realized that the vinyl had come with a transcription booklet of the whole album. Some of these routines would show up later on "Carlin at Carnegie". Carlin does another news routine in "Headlines", and there are several related tracks about the double standards regarding children (from both child and adult perspectives). The two long tracks, "Death and Dying" and "Supermarkets", are probably my favorites here.
This album got a Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Album in 1978, but lost to the Let's Get Small album by Steve Martin, whose stand-up act was overwhelmingly popular at the time.
- Intro & Warning [1:40]
- Program Open [0:36]
- Personal Memories [2:22]
- Taking The Stage [10:27]
- Shopping [7:52]
- Walking [3:59]
- Dogs & Cats [9:27]
- Old Folks & Kids [8:00]
- Food [3:30]
- The News [3:20]
- Brand Names [2:44]
- Perversion of Language [7:07]
- Forbidden Words [23:24]
- Closing Credits [1:47]
On Location: George Carlin at USC (1977)
Also called "An Evening with George Carlin at USC"
Recorded summer 1977 at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.
This was George Carlin's very first HBO show. I think it's worth keeping in mind that this was still 1977, so it would still be several more years before cable television would become a standard, household thing. So these were still the years when most people truly never heard any of the infamous seven words on their television. In fact, FCC got word of the special and a legal hearing was called. Fortunately a federal court of appeals ruling ruled in favor of Carlin, under the first amendment.
The special opens with Newsweek columnist Shana Alexander, explaining to viewers that:
Tonight you will see a performance usually seen only if you can get to the night clubs, college campuses, and theaters where George Carlin is a constant sell-out. A portion of Mister Carlin's performance needs special introduction, at least for television. His target is language: how we use it and abuse it. Some would simply say that tonight's language is very strong. Others would say it goes beyond this and would find it vulgar. Aristophanes, Chaucer and Shakespeare were vulgar too at times.
Anyway the segment IS controversial. It provoked a legal proceeding at the Federal Communications Commission. In March of this year I am happy to say, a federal court of appeals ruled in favor of Mr. Carlin's right to freedom of speech. Home Box Office intends to provide top programming to subscribers of widely different tastes. One proof of that has been their commitment to bring you the best in contemporary comedy. In the United States in 1977, that includes George Carlin, one of this generation's philosophers of comedy, defining, reflecting and refining the way we see our own time.
Home Box Office is proud to present this very important performer, but we respect your decision about whether you want to see the program. It contains language you hear every day on the street, though rarely on TV. For those of you who already know George Carlin, you're in for a special evening. For those of you who want to know George Carlin, I'm glad to be here to introduce you. And now, George Carlin, On Location.
The special then continues with Carlin talking about his influences, how he's been forced to change performances, and being on The Ed Sullivan Show ("Personal Memories"). Finally the performance begins. Just before the "Forbidden Words" routine, the video pauses and a message appears on the screen, reading, "The final segment of Mr. Carlin's Performance contains especially controversial language, please consider whether you wish to continue viewing."
- Open [0:42]
- Beginnings [2:24]
- Live in Phoenix [3:44]
- I Wonder [7:34]
- What Time is It? [11:27]
- The Long Newscast [10:59]
- Al Sleet [2:44]
- Death is Imminent [13:36]
- Dirty Words [25:40]
- Mrs. Carlin [0:38]
- Program Credits [1:45]
George Carlin: Again! (1978)
Also called "On Location: George Carlin at Phoenix"
Filmed in 1978 at The Celebrity Theater in Phoenix, Arizona.
First broadcasted on HBO on July 23, 1978.
This is simply an excellent performance. Carlin is confident, dead-on, and does a great mix of old and new routines. A particularly notable track is "What Time is It?", which doesn't show up on any of his albums. He also reprises Al Sleet for one final time. "Death is Imminent" is pretty much the same routine as "Death and Dying" from the On the Road album, but in this performance I think it's much better executed. I hadn't seen this nor the first HBO special until they were finally released on DVD in the George Carlin Collection DVD box set.
- Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television [6:55]
- Recorded at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, CA, in May, 1972
Sex In Commercials [5:06]
- Recorded at the Cellar Door, Washington, D.C., in June 1971
Bodily Functions [5:39]
- Recorded at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Nevada, in March, 1975
Cute Little Farts [5:10]
- Recorded at the Circle Star Theatre, San Carlos, CA, in March, 1973
The Confessional [4:58] Teenage Masturbation [4:49] Urinals Are 50 Percent Universal [2:22]
- Recorded at The Palace Theatre, Oakland, CA, in July, 1974
Filthy Words [11:32] Indecent Exposure: Some of the Best of George Carlin (1978)
Compilation album, released December 1, 1978
Produced by Monte Kay and Jack Lewis in association with George Carlin
All material written by George Carlin. Published by: Dead Sea Music, Inc. BMI
Cover photography: Dorothy Tanous. Cover design: Bob Defrin.
Little David Records LD-1076 / Distributed by Atlantic
This was a compilation album released in 1978, with tracks from Carlin's 1970s catalog with the Little David label. As I understand it, the more "blue" humor tracks of Carlin were specifically chosen. My uncle had this on vinyl. It was also released on cassette tape, but to the best of my knowledge was never released on CD. I remember a childhood friend of mine, Dana, who got me into George Carlin, tried to buy the tape back in the 80s, but his mother took one look at the title and cover and said no. Another friend of mine, Tony, who really was the "Class Clown" of my childhood, gave me his vinyl copy of this in 2016 when he moved.
The back of the album includes the following quotation, attributed to George Carlin: "Recognizing my responsibility to protect those who might be too young to hear this material, I recommend this album only to the extremely old."
The tracks are taken from the albums FM & AM (track #1), Class Clown (#4), Occupation: Foole (#3,#7), Toledo Window Box (#6), and An Evening with Wally Londo Featuring Bill Slaszo (#2,#5). There are notably no tracks from On The Road.
A seven-disc set of the following titles:
- DISC ONE: FM & AM
- DISC TWO: Class Clown
- DISC THREE: Occupation: Foole
- DISC FOUR: Toledo Window Box
- DISC FIVE: An Evening with Wally Londo, Featuring Bill Slaszo
- DISC SIX: On The Road
- DISC SEVEN: Free Complimentary Extra Bonus Disc Not For Sale Anywhere!
The Little David Years (1971-1977) (Box Set)
Box set. Released October 19, 1999
This CD box set consists of all six of George Carlin's 1970s albums (minus compilations), which is why I've placed it here with the 1970s releases instead in the 1990s releases. These albums were also all the ones he released on the Little David label, hence the title. The front cover of the box is a lenticular print, so that viewing it at different angles in the light shows George making different faces.
Also included is a bonus disc of previously unreleased material. The bonus disc contains the following tracks. There's no indication of where the tracks were taken from (aside from the Coney Island recordings), but I've included by best guess for their date origins, and some short comments about them:
- George's Disc Jockey Theme and Show Opening [0:59]
- From Carlin's days as a disc jockey, before he became a comedian.
- Tattoos [3:12]
- This sounds like it was taken from the Playin' With Your Head era. He wrote a revamped version in Brain Droppings.
- Hitchhiking (Short version) [0:55]
- Given the tone of this, I'm guessing it's from the late 70s.
- Clerks, Hankies & Emma [5:16]
- Another one from the mid 80s, I'm guessing based on the style.
- Elmo's Song - Johnny Badcheck [1:12]
- George sings and...it sure sounds like he's on something.
- Monopoly [4:03]
- Probably taken right from the first HBO special. Carlin did a written version later in one of his books.
- New Sports [4:16]
- No doubt a continuation of the "Sports" routine from Playin' With Your Head.
- Hitchhiking (Long version) [1:48]
- Some of the same jokes as the other "Hitchhiking" track but in a much quicker style. I'm going to guess that this was from around the time of What Am I Doing In New Jersey?, given the style and the topic of driving.
- Guacamole [0:44]
- Sounds like mid to late 70s to me. One of several routines over the years on the funny-sounding food. This particular version is an interesting example of how he'd have a bit that had more free association to it, whereas later (on "A Place for My Stuff" and "Carlin on Campus") he would get a more definitive structure down for the best impact.
- Nuts in Cake and Toenail Clippings [1:41]
- Not sure when this was recorded. I'm guessing early to mid 80s. But he'd end up using some lines from this on Complaints & Grievances.
- 400,000 American Musical Favorites [6:26]
- This is a different recording of a routine Carlin did on the Carol Burnett show.
- Peas [5:56]
- I like this routine, but I remember Cheech & Chong giving him shit for it, as an example of his comedy having gone downhill at the time (late 1970s).
- Losing Your Place [6:18]
- This sounds like a routine that might have been from the "Lost"/"Missing" routines from Playin' With Your Head.
- I'm Musical [7:00]
- This sounds like it's from the mid to late 80s. He ended up reusing some of these lines years later on You Are All Diseased when he talked about song titles. Still, I love this track. I'm sure being a musician has a lot to do with it.
- Lost and Found [3:19]
- Another routine probably cut from the Lost/Missing routines from Playin' With Your Head.
- Public Affairs [4:18]
- A mix of related tracks from over the years.
- Snapper Lawn Mowers [2:34]
- A longer version of the Snapper rant he did on You Are All Diseased.
- How to Handle a Heckler [1:05]
- This is unbelievably shocking, brilliant, and hilarious all at the same time. I heard him use the opening line of this on a heckler when I saw George live once, and almost fell out of my chair laughing.
- Closing [1:47]
- This was done after George came out of the hospital to do a show.
- The Coney Island Recordings [8:40]
- Childhood comedy recordings of George, recorded at a record booth at Coney Island.
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