Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers

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Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers
Studio album by The Firesign Theatre
Released 1970
Recorded April and May 1970
Genre Comedy
Length 46:28
Label Columbia
Producer The Firesign Theatre with Bill Driml
The Firesign Theatre chronology
How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All
(1969)
Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers
(1970)
Dear Friends - Syndicated Radio Program
(1970-1971)
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[1]
The New Rolling Stone Record Guide 5/5 stars[2]
Robert Christgau A+[3]
The Goldmine Comedy Record Price Guide 2.5/5 stars[4]

Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers is The Firesign Theatre's third comedy recording for Columbia Records, released in 1970. In 1983, The New Rolling Stone Record Guide called it "the greatest comedy album ever made".[2]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks by The Firesign Theatre

Side one[edit]

  1. "This Side" – 22:16

Side two[edit]

  1. "The Other Side" – 24:12 [5]

Detailed Track Information and Commentary[edit]

This was The Firesign Theatre's first album wherein a single narrative took up both sides of the album.

In Phil Austin's notes to the 1987 Mobile Fidelity re-release of this album he says "Dwarf is the story of the five ages of Man and in particular, the five ages of one George Leroy Tirebiter; a man named after a dog" [6]

The piece centers on the character of Tirebiter (played by David Ossman), a former child actor who spends his time watching himself on late-night television.

As his evening unfolds, the listener hears "excerpts" from fictional movies in Tirebiter's past. High School Madness stars 'Dave Casman' as Peorgie Tirebiter and 'Joe Bertman' as his sidekick, Mudhead—although an earlier portion of the recording intentionally blurs the distinction between fantasy and reality by identifying Tirebiter (not 'Casman') as having been the star of the "Peorgie and Mudhead" films, rather than a character in those films. High School Madness is a parody of the Aldrich Family radio show, the Archie comic book and of 1950s youth culture in general. Parallel Hell is a war film set in Korea, where the soldiers (including Tirebiter) debate the seemingly endless war. These are interspersed with commercials and other staples of late-night television (including a televangelist and a talk show) as Tirebiter randomly changes channels. The broadcasts contain many references to warfare and Cold War paranoia (product names such as Napalmolive), indicating that Tirebiter's world exists under martial law.

The catchphrase, "This is UTV, for you, the viewer!" is eerily prophetic of what in the following decade would become standard television viewing habits for Americans, after the rise of cable television. Television sets of the era generally had two tuning dials, VHF and UHF. The letter "U" was a position on some television sets' VHF dial between channels 13 and 2 which engaged the UHF channel tuner/dial, making the joke a triple entendre.

Another satirical comment from the album is the slogan of The Howl of the Wolf Movie: "Presenting honest stories of working people as told by rich Hollywood stars".[5] It has been said that the origin of the title was taken from a photograph in Bob Dylan's album "Blonde on Blonde", where Dylan is holding a small picture of a person and a pair of pliers. [7]

Personnel[edit]

  • Ambient's Noyes Choral – chorus
  • Annalee – voices, stylist
  • Phil Austin – guitar, keyboards, vocals, liner notes producer, engineer
  • Peter Bergman - vocals
  • Oona Elliott – vocals
  • Firesign Theatre – producer
  • John Fresno – bass, guitar, saxophone, vocals
  • Bob Grossman – artwork
  • James William Guercio – producer
  • Jerry Hochman – engineer
  • Little Bubbles – sax
  • William Malloch – creative consultant
  • Mindermast Mental Music Hall One-Man Sympathy Orchestra – orchestra
  • David Ossman – percussion, vocals
  • Elizabeth Plumb – photography
  • Procmer – director
  • Phil Proctor – flute, violin, vocals
  • John Rose – photography

Issues and reissues[edit]

This album was originally released simultaneously on LP, 8 Track, and Cassette.

  • LP - Columbia C-30102
  • 8 Track - Columbia 18C-30102
  • Cassette - Columbia CT-30102

It has been re-released on CD at least five times:

  • 1987 - Mobile Fidelity MFCD-880
  • 2001 - Acadia ACA8018
  • 2001 - Laugh.com LGH1072
  • 2001 (October) - Columbia CK-30102
  • 2001 (December) - Sony/Legacy - CK-85775

[8]

Continuity with other Firesign albums[edit]

George Tirebiter's failed pizza-to-go order is the other half of Nick Danger's conversation from How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All, and the album ends with George running outside to buy an ice cream cone from a passing ice cream truck, the chimes thereof opening the next album, I Think We're All Bozos on This Bus.

Origin of George Tirebiter's name[edit]

There was a real dog named George Tirebiter.[6]

In 1946, a mongrel whose owner had died wandered onto the campus of the University of Southern California and was adopted by the students as an unofficial mascot. The dog acquired a reputation for chasing cars, hence the name. The dog became so famous that at one point he was kidnapped by rival students from UCLA, who shaved their school's letters into his fur. He was run over and killed by a car in 1950.

In his notes to the Mobile Fidelity release, Austin says that the five ages of George Leroy Tirebiter are:

  • Tirebiter the Child, called Peorge or Peorgie
  • Tirebiter the College student, called George Tirebiter Camden N200-R
  • Tirebiter the Soldier, called Lt. Tirebiter
  • Tirebiter the Actor, called Dave Casman
  • Tirebiter the Old Man, called George Leroy Tirebiter

[9]

Reception[edit]

In 2006, Dwarf was added to the National Recording Registry, a list of sound recordings that "are culturally, historically, or aesthetically important, and/or inform or reflect life in the United States."

Cover art[edit]

The name "Firesign Theatre" was suggested by an astrologer-friend of the troupe who noted that all four members had been born under "fire signs." The cover art, by Robert Grossman, features caricatures of the members as their respective astrological animals: Austin as a ram (Aries), Proctor as a lion (Leo), and Bergman and Ossman as two Satyrs or Centaurs (Sagittarius). The Sagittarians are armed, respectively, with a bow and suction-cup arrow and a squirt gun, and the other members are seated on their backs. An eponymous pair of pliers sits on the ground beneath them. The original LP release came with a poster, featuring Polaroid snapshots of group members.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Allmusic review
  2. ^ a b Marsh, Dave, and Greil Marcus. "The Firesign Theatre." The New Rolling Stone Record Guide. Ed. Dave Marsh and John Swenson. New York: Random House, 1983. 175-176.
  3. ^ Robert Christgau review
  4. ^ Smith, Ronald L. The Goldmine Comedy Record Price Guide. Iola: Krause, 1996.
  5. ^ a b Firesign Theatre. Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers. Columbia Records, 1970.
  6. ^ a b Firesign Theatre. Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers. Mobile Fidelity, 1987.
  7. ^ Photo from the album
  8. ^ For information about the various releases and re-releases of this album, see the following:
    "FIREZINE: Linques!." Firesign Theatre FAQ. 20 Jan. 2006 <http://firezine.net/faq/>.
    Firesign Theatre. Firesign Theatre. 19 Jan. 2006 <http://www.firesigntheatre.com/>.
    At the Official Firesign Theatre Website, see specifically [1]
  9. ^ Firesign Theatre. Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers. Mobile Fidelity, 1987.
    This description of Tirebiter's "ages" are quoted directly from the notes to the Mobile Fidelity release.