Comedy Tonight: Washington is For the Birds

Tonight’s comedy album is Washington is For the Birds, a masterpiece of political humor dreamed up by writer George Atkins (Rocky and Bullwinkle and Madam’s Place) and California-based freelance music producer Hank Levine. The premise of this album was to take snippets of actual statements by famous ’60’s politicians like Lyndon Johnson, Barry Goldwater, Richard Nixon and Bobby Kennedy and add a music background and chorus to make them sound as though they are “singing.” Atkins and Levine thought of this idea previously for the album Sing Along with JFK back in 1961, however, this album goes even further than the first. For one thing, Washington takes phrases unrelated to each other and strings them together to fit musical patterns as heard in the marvelous opener “Lady,” which has LBJ singing “the water we drink, the food we eat are threatened by pollution. So Lady, let us be on our way,” backed by a lilting chorus and orchestra. Also, Atkins and Levine expand the satire a bit to include at least one track where the chorus calls forth a response from the soloists instead of vice versa (“It’s Pain to Train a Texan from the Plain”–inspired by My Fair Lady‘s “The Rain in Spain”) and the final track (“The Wedding”) changes tempo several times to keep things interesting and hilarious. This is truly one of the greatest unknown gems of ‘6os political comedy and would lead to sampling projects like The George W Bush Singers decades later.

The Humphrey-Johnson Tap Routine
Good Evening, Welcome Neighbors
Return to Proven Ways
The Immortal Words of LBJ
It’s Pain to Train a Texan from the Plain
Be Forthright, Bobby Kennedy
You Don’t Have Nixon to Kick Around Anymore
Lynda and Luci Lullaby
The Wedding

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2 Responses to Comedy Tonight: Washington is For the Birds

  1. Gary Morris says:

    I’m thrilled that you posted this and added some background info. I loved this album back in the day and listened to it again just today and found it as fresh as it was back then. One of the best (of the many good) things about “Washington Is for the Birds” is the hilarious interplay between the background singers and LBJ, Ladybird, etc. as the singers upbraid, degrade, and generally abuse the politicians throughout. Wonderful stuff and still fresh.

  2. Ken Sommer says:

    I used to listen to this album with friends in high school and college in the 60’s and hadn’t heard it in 40 years. The name suddenly came to me today and I was thrilled to find this on line. I’m sure it would seem very simple to young people today accustomed to very sophisticated political satire all over TV and the internet, but it was very creative and very funny at a time when political satire was not very common or available. Thanks for sharing this.

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