Song of the Day 9/15: The Englishman-German-Jew Blues

Filed in Arts and Entertainment by on September 15, 2018

Saturday is the only night of the week I like the true blues, the sad, soulful kind sung in pain. But Saturday is also the night I’m most in the mood for some laughs. If I can’t make up my mind, I can always play “The Englishman-German-Jew Blues,” a slow jam pairing comedian Albert Brooks with blues legend Albert King.

The track is one of the highlights of Brooks’ album “A Star Is Bought,” which came out on vinyl in 1975 but wasn’t reissued in any format until last year. Brooks, now best known for his wry, offbeat films, was then a young comedian best known for his wry, offbeat appearances on the “Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson.

The album’s conceit was that each of its tracks could be played on a different category of radio station — a country track, a talk-show segment, even a classical piece (Ravel’s “Bolero” with Brooks’ “newly discovered” naughty lyrics). For what was then called “FM rock,” Brooks figured a long jam track featuring a big name would entice hip DJs. (You can see the cover, which included an actual 8×10 glossy of Brooks, at the link.)

Brooks can’t jam on an instrument, but King certainly can, so Brooks interjects lines of his ethnic joke between King’s moaning vocals. (One ad-lib elicits an abrupt laugh from the Velvet Bulldozer.) Brooks’ neurotic awkwardness is an early example of the cringe comedy he honed in movies; Brooks fans consider it one of the highlights of his recording career. King’s contribution is easy to overlook, but the bluesman flashes some comedy chops along with some stinging licks.

As a bonus, here’s the album’s country number, “A Phone Call to Americans,” spoofing the flurry of spoken-word patriotic records that broke out in the buildup to the Bicentennial. It holds up, sad to say, as a parody of Trumpian-Tea Party thinking.

I promise tomorrow I’ll get out of the ’70s.

About the Author ()

Who wants to know?

Comments (1)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. “There once was a man named Ruth.”