Remains of Tom Lehrer - Tom Lehrer

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Remains of Tom Lehrer - Tom Lehrer

3 CD(s) - Comedy - Label: Rhino - Distributor: F-Minor, WEA; F-Minor - Released: 24/07/2000 - 81227983123

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Review of "Remains of Tom Lehrer - Tom Lehrer"

published 31/05/2008 | jesi
Member since : 17/10/2002
Reviews : 150
Members who trust : 369
About me :
+++ Sorry if I am a bit silent at the moment - my mother-in-law died 16th March 2016 and my own mom died 1 May 2016 so I am busy mourning. +++ I'm dyslexic, dyspraxic (but erudite and eclectic) and physically challenged.~ ♥ ~ Jes ~ ♥
Pro Some songs will even disgust your kids! The Complete Tom Lehrer, Uncensored!
Cons Many references are Implicit rather than Explicit; you have to think 'beyond the box'!
very helpful
Quality and consistency of tracks
Cover / Inlay Design and Content
Value for Money

"Gruesome . . . But Wonderful . . . And Still Apt!"

The Box Set Contains 3 CDs, and an 80 page illustrated hardback book

The Box Set Contains 3 CDs, and an 80 page illustrated hardback book


~~ 'PG' rated Review of '15' rated CD Set ~~

"I hold your hand in mine, dear, l press it to my lips . . ." is a 'love song' with a difference:
". . . for now each time I kiss it, I get bloodstains on my tie!"

What about the morality of the "Irish ballad" about the maid who didn't have her family long . . . because "not only did she do them wrong ~ she did every one of them in." Tom Lehrer then describes in depth, verse by verse, in very precise erudite english (whith an lrish accent) how, in a fit of pique, she drowned her father in the creek; fed her mother a Cyanide soup; set her sister's hair on fire (and danced around the funeral pyre playing a violin) . . . etcetera.

She doesn't deny her 'little pranks' when the police arrive, because to do so she would have had to lie ~ "and lying she knew was a sin, a sin; and lying she knew was a sin . . ."

Or the song "Who's Next?" in which sections are sung in the style of the folk music of different countries as he sings of the proliferation of nuclear weaponry from country to country. Other topics lampooned are the Boy Scouts (in Be Prepared), Venereal Disease (I got it from Agnes ~ although IT is never specified ), Football 'Chants' (Fight Fiercely Harvard), School Anthems (Bright College Days), Celebrity Politicians, the Army, the Marines . . . ok, then . . . pick any topic . . . there's a good chance it's mentioned, at least in passing, somewhere on his albums.

Mainly, Tom Lehrer wrote his own music and lyrics (in contrast with other comedic artists who parodied songs, merely changing the lyrics) and delivered them seriously, with impeccable timing ~ even when you know (or think you know) what is coming ~ you listen on to hear what dreadfulness will come next . . .

Even the songs you know are dreadful you find yourself singing at odd moments ~ the tunes are so catchy ~ and the irony and irreverence are so compelling. No wonder The Electric Company (an educational American children's television series) commissioned Tom Lehrer to write and sing songs to teach children facts about the alphabet/grammar to improve their reading skills!

[Yes, even those songs which were never broadcast on air, or previously issued, have been included in this boxed set as the 'definitive' example of the songs for which Tom Lehrer wished to be remembered.]

It is difficult to remember NOW a time when I had never heard of Tom Lehrer, before I had been introduced to the 'devastatingly irreverent' song parodies he had started writing (and singing at parties) in 1943 as a 15 year old (precocious) student of mathematics at Harvard. I was two when he recorded his first record and produced it himself in 1953, but I remained ignorant of his satire until my High School days.

~~ It Was a Traumatic Time of my Life ~~

Before we moved to Rochester, New York, I had always attended a small Christian Day School (or Academy) wherever we happened to live. As my father was a physicist, and in the US Naval Reserves, we had been 'on the move' every few years, and my school immediately before the move had 120 pupils from grades 7 to 12 (my own class year had 14 pupils). Suddenly, at the beginning of my 10th grade, I was plummeted into a high school with over 2000 pupils in grades 9 to12; my class year had over 300 pupils in about 14 different 'home-rooms' and there was absolutely No Way I was going to be able to get to know everyone! It took me about a year to realise this, but when the penny dropped, I already had a reputation for friendliness, unconformity, intelligence, and a slight aloofness (as you can only stretch yourself so far before something gives).

Near the end of 11th grade, I sat on the window ledge of the third floor classroom before the first lesson after lunch. "Oh, goody, she's going to jump!" said Paul Baker as he came into the classroom, and my legs swung out the window almost instinctively while another lad, close to the window, grabbed me around the waist and pulled me back towards the room. To this day, I really don't know why I reacted the way I had, but the resultant series of visits to a psychiatrist and subsequently to the school psychologist every week the following year (to be allowed to continue my high school courses) were in some ways even more confusing.
~~ Something to Stimulate the Imagination and Amuse ~~

I regularly babysat for a family whose dad was a school counsellor at another Rochester high school. His wife had taught me to use her sewing machine, and their house became a bit of a refuge for me as it was only two doors down from my own home.

Here it was that I first heard the satirical lyrics that so enthralled me. This was humour with a difference. Nothing was safe from his delicately barbed wit. Whether he was singing a list of the periodic table of elements (to a familiar tune from a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta) or singing about the greatest mathematician who ever lived: Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky; or even about the hunter who shot "two game wardens, seven hunters, and a pure-bred Guernsey cow" his tunes and styles were appropriate, and his lyrics free from the swearing or heavy sexual innuendo which seems so prevalent these days in comedic songs.

His original mono album Songs By Tom Lehrer (1953) and his second, More Of Tom Lehrer (1959) were studio recordings of Tom and his piano; in late 1959 these songs were re-recorded in concert and appeared on An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer and Tom Lehrer Revisited with commentary by Tom Lehrer during the performance. New songs were written specifically for and sent to the satirical program "That Was The Week That Was" in 1964. These became the final 'live' album '''That Was The Year That Was"' (1965) recorded at a San Francisco nightclub.

I have delighted in every incidence when one of these songs features incidentally on a radio program in the intervening years. Generally the songs played have been particularly pertinent to a subject featured in the programme, and occasionally only the least offensive excerpts have been chosen.


This is a boxed set containing 3 CDs and one 80 page hardback book. The box is pictured above by Ciao!
It was co-produced by Tom Lehrer and Dr Demento [aka Barret (Barry) Hansen] from Rhino Records in association with Warner Bros. and released 23 May 2000.

The 80-page hardback book cover has a 1967 picture of Tom Lehrer playing a piano on the edge of the Grand Canyon, as Tom explains: "From an industrial film, made to be shown to Dodge car dealers, for which I wrote and performed some songs. This shot was taken from the edge of the Grand Canyon and is genuine, i.e., not a superimposition. (Note the seat belt. I was taking no chances.)

The book is a brilliant souvenir biography/discography including '''Too Many Facts About Tom Lehrer''' by Dr Demento; '''Q & A With Tom Lehrer''' from the Rhino Records Internet Chat Room, June 17, 1997; '''Notes on the Recordings''' by Tom Lehrer; '''Song Lyrics''' (46 songs); '''Track List''' for the collection, and various pertinent illustrations scattered throughout, including two x two-page spreads of illustrated lyrics drawn for MAD magazine by George Woodbridge (April 1957: The Wild West is Where I Want To Be; and October 1957: The Hunting Song).

~~ The Three CDs ~~

This collection includes all the songs previously released (in both studio and live concert versions) on albums; it also includes six previously unreleased songs, four songs arranged for orchestral accompaniment recorded with Tom Lehrer singing in 1960, four 'educational' children's songs recorded 1971-72, and "I Got It From Agnes" (recorded in 1997 for the re-issue CD album '''Songs & More Songs By Tom Lehrer''' by Rhino Records).

The Ciao Product Information is not correct ~ it lists 73 tracks on disc 1 and 74 on disc 3; however, all the songs listed ARE in the collection . . . just not exactly as expressed . . . I shall endeavour to identify the listed tracks below, as I come to them.

~~~ Studio Recordings With Piano ~~~
DISC 1 of The Remains Of Tom Lehrer.
Illustration: From British Vogue July 1959. The caption read: "You're not eating," said Tom Lehrer to the pigeons in this dramatic realization of his sprightly horror-song about poisoning the pigeons in the park. Tom Lehrer gives a last recital at the Festival Hall on June 25.
  • '''Songs By Tom Lehrer''' (1953) Self-recorded 12 songs (listed as 1-12 on disc 1).
  • '''More of Tom Lehrer''' (1959) 11 songs (listed as tracks 13- 23 on disc 1)
  • Recent Recordings: I got it from Agnes (1997) and That's Mathematics (1993) previously unreleased (listed as 24-25 on disc 1)

~~~ Live Performances ~~~
DISC 2 of The Remains Of Tom Lehrer.
Illustration: At a performance in Copenhagen (1967). Tom Lehrer sings and smiles at his audience while playing the piano.
  • '''Tom Lehrer Revisited''' (1960) 13 tracks (listed as 26-38 on disc 3)
  • '''An Evening Wasted With Tom Lehrer''' (1959) 11 songs (listed as 39-49 on disc 3)
~~~ More Live Performances + Studio Recordings With Orchestra ~~~
DISC 3 of The Remains Of Tom Lehrer.
Illustration: Rehearsal for a television show in Köln, West Germany (1966). Large letters made of newsprint spell out 'TOM LEHRER' behind Tom Lehrer sitting on a chair at a Baby Grand Piano.
  • '''That Was The Year That Was''' (1965) 14 tracks (listed as 50-63 on disc 3)
  • '''The Richard Hayman Sessions''' (1960) 4 songs (listed as 64-67 on disc 3)
  • '''The Joe Raposo Sessions''' (for The Electric Company ) (1971-72) 4 songs (listed as 68-71 on disc 3)
  • '''The Rob Fisher Sessions''' (New Recordings, 1999) 3 songs (listed as 72-74 on disc 3)

The last five songs here "O-U (The Hound Song)", "S-N (Snore, Sniff, and Sneeze)" and "N Apostrophe T" for children; "Selling Out" and "(I'm Spending) Hanukkah In Santa Monica" were previously un-issued recordings.

~~~ Why Do I Enjoy These Songs So Much That I Bought This Box Set? ~~~

I have already mentioned that I like the fact that these songs are without swearing; that the 'raunchy' references are more implied than explicit. I also like his precision in both diction and grammar so that his clarity of thought and song is impeccable. Despite many of the songs being written in a different political era, in response to current events, some of the underlying principles have not changed. It is amazing that despite the lack of media support there has always been a steady demand for his records ~ particularly when you realise he stopped performing almost 40 years ago, and has been teaching mathematics in various forms during his non-performing years (even into his 70s!).

When asked in 1997 why he thought his songs had endured for so long, Tom Lehrer replied, "One possible reason might be that there is a vestigial desire for literacy in certain quarters, and I pride myself on being literate to the point of pretentiousness. I still say "whom" a lot. And why say "since" when you can say "inasmuch as"? . . . It's true that my records - CDs and LPs combined - have sold over 2 million copies altogether, but it took 45 years to achieve that"

I already owned '''Tom Lehrer In Concert''' which CD was issued by the Decca Record Co. Ltd., London, England in 1994, which included '''An Evening Wasted''' and '''Revisited" (but without the Introduction to the latter). Several of my favourite songs were actually on That Was The Year That Was ~~ "Pollution", which is a warning to a visitor to an 'American City' ~ ". . . just don't drink the water, and don't breathe the air . . ." ~~ "Who's Next?" ~ about nuclear proliferation; however, I didn't see the point in buying the CD just for two songs.

When I realised that ALL the songs were in the box set, in both studio and live versions, along with the previously unreleased songs, children's songs, and orchestral versions, with a souvenir book, I immediately decided that if the price was right it was worth buying the set! (at under £20 on eBay it was a bargain)

There are times when all you want to hear is certain songs without the interruption of the intros, applause and laughter. The Studio Versions are just right for this. You can also hear the lyrics more clearly.

Certain songs are really geared up to audience participation, and don't really make the same sense sung in isolation. I like the idea of having a choice as to which version I choose to play.

I read a review on Amazon of this Box Set which stated that his satire was 'humour' rather than 'humor' ~ in other words, that it was 'typical of British' rather than 'American' humour. I disagree. For his records to sell so many copies DESPITE a lack of airtime, and for SO LONG after he ceased to perform implies an appreciation beyond such an infantile statement. Compare with Adam Sandler? It is the difference between Audio and Visual, for a start . . . and when the movie stars are forgotten, the satire will still enthral! And I don't find Adam Sandler funny anyway!

I'll let Tom Lehrer have another word in here. He was asked about irreverence and the current state of satire. His reply?

"Alas, irreverence has been subsumed by mere grossness, at least in the so-called mass media. What we have now - to quote myself at my most pretentious - is a nimiety of scurrility with a concomitant exiguity of taste. For example: the freedom (hooray!) to say almost anything you want on television about society's problems has been co-opted (alas!) by the freedom to talk instead about flatulence, orgasms, genitalia, masturbation, etc., etc., and to replace real comment with pop-culture references and so-called "adult" language. Irreverence is easy - what's hard is wit."

I agree.

Tom Lehrer is the most brilliant song satirist ever recorded. So said Dr Demento in the notes to this Box Set.

And so also say I !

© jesi 2008 ~ ! ♥♥ !

ps. How can justify charging £40.98 for an album/box set which retails at $49.98 USD (about £25) and is being sold for less than that RRP on its sister site

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Comments on this review

  • lillamarta published 11/11/2008
    A very interesting and personal review. I've never heard of this artist before, thanks, x
  • py106 published 29/09/2008
    I come back here to rate it E. It is a super review. Anan
  • Expired-Account published 15/09/2008
    Not one for me but a good review
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3 CD(s) - Comedy - Label: Rhino - Distributor: F-Minor, WEA; F-Minor - Released: 24/07/2000 - 81227983123

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EAN: 81227983123


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