(In which we mine for some gold.)

Posted by Job O Brother, February 11, 2013 02:04pm | Post a Comment

Don't try this at (my) home.

I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in days; what sleep I have gotten is mostly thanks to the fine folks who make Motrin PM. (In the interest of full disclosure you should know that while McNeil Consumer Healthcare – makers of the aforementioned drug – are not a sponsor of the Amoeblog, they do give us free donuts on Mondays and occasionally wash our cars for an extra buck or two.)

While my Mom was kind enough to pass down to me a knack for cooking and robust health, I also inherited her tenuous sleeping habits. We deal with it similarly, too: we listen to the radio to keep our minds from, as she puts it:

“Going, going, going… just making plans and playing with ideas.”

Or, as I put it:

“Obliterating my peace of mind with the chaos and fury of post-traumatic stress fantasies catalyzed by a cruel and crippling world.”

It’s semantics, really.

Mom likes to treat this with AM radio, a favorite program being Coast to Coast. While this particular broadcast seems to promote a nightmarish reality of government conspiracy, alien invasion, body snatching and morally questionable fringe-sciences, she finds it delightful. That she does speaks to her unwavering trust in our fellow man and her willingness to believe everyone deserves to prove their innate goodness – even if, I suppose, it’s lizard-men from another planet who are covertly running our government.

Our forces in Yemen?

I, on the other hand, choose to fill my ear-holes with shows from the Golden Age of Radio. They’re just sparkly enough to distract me from worrying about how I got on Earth to begin with and just what the hell I can do about it, but not so gripping that they keep me awake long enough to see what happens.

I got into old time radio while working at Amoeba Music, specifically while I was in charge of the Spoken Word section, where we file said shows. Very often series will come in multiple CD sets, and are always – yes, always – inexpensive.

If you have trouble sleeping, or have run out of stand-up comedy, or are getting sick of the same podcasts interviewing the same stand-up comedians whose albums you have run out of, I recommend delving into our rich heritage of radio. While there are, as today, many shows that are forgettable, there are also, as today, some that elevate the art-form and remain timelessly rad.

Over the course of my next posts, I’ll be showcasing some of my favorites, starting today with The Adventures of the Abbotts.

On and off the radio from 1945 to 1955 and featuring a rotating roster of actors, The Adventures of the Abbotts (originally titled Abbott Mysteries) follows a husband and wife team living in San Francisco and solving crimes – so, you know, totally relatable to everyday life.

The series is based on novels by Frances Crane, an outspoken liberal and proto-feminist who was once booted out of Nazi Germany for her bad attitude towards their... badder attitudes.

What I love about this program is how it manages to keep its balance between comedy and film noir-style suspense. Because no radio show could maintain a large cast for any one episode, most mystery/detective genre plots fail to keep you guessing “whodunit”; assuming it’s not going to be any of the lead characters, you usually have a paltry two or three persons to pin the crime on. Because I’m a sucker for this most American genre I’m forgiving on this point, but what The Abbotts has going for it is a sparkling wit that keeps things fun, even if you know halfway-in whom killed whom.

Don't touch that dial! More recommendations to come. In the meantime, next time you're in Amoeba Music, check out the Spoken Word section for gems such as this.

Relevant Tags

Insomnia (2), Spoken Word (14), Detective (1), Mystery (2), Comedy (63), Sleep (6), Radio (21), Old Time Radio (27), Golden Age Of Radio (11), Coast To Coast (1), Aliens (12), Conspiracy Theories (2), Film Noir (54), Adventures Of The Abbotts (1), Abbott Mysteries (1), Frances Crane (1), Nazis (11), Nazi Germany (1)