Interview With Tony Thaxton of the Bizarre Albums Podcast

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, March 24, 2020 06:55pm | Post a Comment


Tony Thaxton by Brian Keith Diaz
Tony Thaxton by Brian Keith Diaz

By Audra Wolfmann

If you're at all like me (and I have a strong suspicion that you, dear record collector, might be), then you enjoy a deep dive into the dark corners of music history AND you also love a good Novelty album. You grew up cherishing your Dr. Demento collections and World Wrestling Federation LP, but you also burned with questions about that Leonard Nimoy album your parents had next to the hi-fi in the living room. Well, there's a place for us and, of course, it's on the internet in the form of a podcast called Bizarre Albums. Hosted by drummer Tony Thaxton of Motion City Soundtrack, Bizarre Albums serves as a sort of VH1's Behind the Music for the novelties, oddities, and the just plain strange in the wide world of weird records. Since nothing could be farther up Amoeba's alley than celebrating the unexpected vinyl find, we tracked down Tony and asked him about his show and his own record collection.

Amoeba: What makes an album “Bizarre” by your standards?

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Just Farr A Laugh...earles and jensen present...the greatest prank phone calls ever...

Posted by Brad Schelden, August 14, 2008 12:44pm | Post a Comment
This is another sad week for new releases, but it does come in waves. You just have to wait a couple more weeks for some great new albums. I really wish that just one label had decided to put out something good this week. It would have been really easy to get your album to the top this week. It would have also been really easy to get me to talk about your album this week. I just can't bring myself to talk about Daddy Yankee or David Sanborn. The number one selling album of the week will probably by the Jonas Brothers, who I am tempted to talk about. I guess they are sort of the "new" New Kids on the Block, so it is fitting that this week also sees the release of a greatest hits of the New Kids. They seem to be a bit more hip than the New Kids but I guess that it just because they are more up with the times. They wear tight fitting suits and drive the kids crazy. It will be interesting to see where these kids go in the next couple of years. It is weird to have to grow up in the public eye. One out of these 3 "brothers" is bound to have some trouble with the law, or at least some explicit photos show up in thejust-farr-a-laugh tabloids. The music offers absolutely nothing new or interesting, but I guess it serves its purpose. The tweens've got to listen to something. I guess there parents would rather them listen to the Jonas Brothers than Judas Priest, but I personally think that the Jonas Brothers might be more damaging.

I've got to go back a couple of months to find an album to talk about. I don't usually find myself listening to comedy albums. I especially tend to avoid "crank call" albums...but maybe I have been missing out. I put on a sampler album advance of this new album by Earles & Jensen a couple months back, but I really was not expecting very much. I listened to it on a Monday morning with my coworker. It was really early in the morning and I was barely awake, but we both could not stop laughing for the entire length of the album. I wanted to listen to it again. I couldn't wait for more Earles & Jensen. Luckily this was just a sampler and there would be a 2 CD version out soon. The album is actually a reissue of stuff that was out before. I had never head of them before, so I am happy this came out to a wider audience. This double CD Earles & Jensen present...Just Farr a Laugh: The Greatest Prank Phone Calls Ever Vol. 1 & 2 was released by Matador Records. The folks that brought you Belle & Sebastian and Cat Power have managed to put out the funniest comedy album ever! I seriously love this album and love introducing people to it. It is sometimes hard to convince people to actually pick up this album and give it a chance, but it is worth your time. You will never laugh more than this.

The art of the crank call has been around for a while, but Earles and Jensen have perfected it. The set up is the same. Earles and Jensen create many different characters and voices. They call up various retail establishments and businesses and pretend to be these various people. Most of the calls start fairly normal and the receivers of the calls never seem to figure it out. The calls are full of ridiculous pop culture references, half of which seem to go right over the heads of these people, which only makes it more funny. It is hard to believe these people don't know they are getting a prank call, but even harder to believe that these people stay on the phone for so long without hanging up. I wonder how many calls didn't work out so well, but somehow they do manage to get a big selection of perfect prank calls.

After working at the information counter at Amoeba and answering the phones I have had my share of prank calls. Surprisingly, I seemed to get more of these calls at the San Francisco store, but maybe that is just because I worked more often on the phones at the store. You start to recognize the voices, but sometimes you just don't know for sure which calls are pranks and which are real. I would start thinking that more than half the calls were prank calls, but I knew that most of them were not so I just had to treat them all like real people. You do get some weird people calling record stores so it is extremely hard to tell which calls are real. So I guess what I am saying is that I have probably believed some prank calls were real. I just hope that I was not recorded. I often go along with the calls as far as I can. I figure some people are a bit crazy and just need some interaction. It might be a crank call, or it might just be someone who needs some sort of phone interaction therapy. They just need somebody to talk to.

I have a couple favorite tracks on the album, but as I listen to it again, I realize that I like almost every single track. It just gets better and better. My favorite call is probably "Barbara: A Realistic Portrait." A blues musician woman calls a man hoping to join his band. She is so sincere that it is hard to believe it is not real. Her husband makes the next call to explain the previous call. They also go on to imitate various celebrities. But they dig a bit deeper than you would expect. There is a great call from Tim Butler, the brother of Richard Butler, the singer of the Psychedelic Furs. There is a call from Morris Day. They also love to impersonate personal assistants, because who is really gonna know if they are actually that person: a call from RuPaul's assistant, a call from Gallagher's assistant-- even the assistant of the great Christopher Cross. There's also a great call from the late great Isaac Hayes complaining that somebody made fun of him at a grocery store. Another one of my favorites is when the assistant of Ed Asner calls a restaurant to have a photo of another celebrity removed. I don't really even know how to review a comedy album. This album goes beyond comedy. I will warn you that if you listen to it on your headphones people might think you are crazy -- you will be laughing a lot -- so I recommend listening to it with a friend, or maybe in the privacy of your own home. I am going to listen to the whole album again right now. I love it. And it always feels good to laugh. I think it is supposed to make you live longer or something. You will have the CD memorized soon because you will want to listen to it so much. The CD also includes a great booklet with some interesting drawings and descriptions of all the calls. So instead of trying to find some exciting new release that does not exist this week, go buy some Earles & Jensen. You will love it!