2007   OCTOBER 6   #279

The Credibility Gap - Something for Mary

The Credibility Gap - Something for Mary [Wha Happen, Girl? / Freedom Is a Four-Letter Word / Good Mornin', Joseph / Intermezzo / Outermezzo: Wise Up, People / Nazareth Nocturne] (4:37)

The Credibility Gap were the unsung heroes among 70s comedy troupes. Starting as a group of newsmen doing humorous commentary for the Los Angeles AM rock radio station KRLA in the late 1960s, as the more news-oriented members departed they were replaced by comedians. By 1971 the classic lineup of Richard Beebe, David L. Lander, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer had coalesced. Between broadcasts that year they recorded the album "Woodschtick and More" for Capitol Records. Drawing on the coincidence of Woodstock's having taken place in the Catskills, the album reimagines the rock festival as a Borsch Belt tummlers' convention. It was all a little too "inside" showbiz for the folks at 'Rolling Stone' whose negative review served as the album's kiss of death. Though the album is admittedly somewhat uneven, it includes some very funny bits.

The Gap's days at Capitol were numbered, but they had already attracted the attention of an A&R man at Warner Bros. He included a Grammy Awards parody the Gap had done for their radio show on a flexi disc included in the Warner Bros. house organ, 'Circular,' along with an admonition for readers to buy the 'Woodschtick' album.

The Gap returned the favor in 1973 when they recorded today's featured MP3. Said Harry Shearer in the liner notes of the 1979 reissue of their only Warner Bros. album, 'A Great Gift Idea':

"They had hired us to do an odd little recording for one of their conventions. The idea was, they were going to release four new albums and the fifth was going to be a ringer, and this was to be excerpts from it. So we wrote a take-off on rock operas, 'Something for Mary.' It dealt with the birth of Jesus from the point of view of Joseph, the odd man out. We recorded it in an hour. It was a joke."

And a funny joke it was. McKean sings the lead role in a gruff, David Clayton-St. Hubbins voice, and musical quotes abound-from "Sleigh Ride" to "Go to the Mirror Boy" to "Let It Be" to the Three Stooges.

Warner Bros. finally released the Gap's album in January 1974, just in time to be a month late for the Christmas shopping season. Shearer continues the sad tale:

"The biggest problem, though, was that the record came out after our contract had expired, due to a legal malfunction. That record had a doom of its own."

Which is a shame because 'Gift' is surely one of the best comedy albums of the 70s, deserving a place of honor among contemporary releases like National Lampoon's 'Radio Dinner,' the Firesign Theatre's numerous LPs for Columbia, and Richard Pryor's breakthrough stand-up albums.

In 1975 Beebe returned to radio where he worked on 'Earth News' and other projects until his death from lung cancer in 1998. The remaining trio held on for another year before calling it quits. McKean and Lander achieved instant fame when they were asked to bring their "dumb guy" characters Lenny and Squiggy to Garry Marshall's 'Happy Days' spinoff 'Laverne and Shirley.' Shearer worked on record albums and films with Albert Brooks before becoming a regular on 'Saturday Night Live' for the 1979-1980 season-the last with the original cast. In 1982 McKean and Shearer teamed up with 'National Lampoon Radio Hour' alumnus Christopher Guest to film the rock pseudodocumentary "This Is Spinal Tap." And the rest, as the cliché goes, is history.

Though Warner Bros. licensed 'A Great Gift Idea' to independent label Sierra Briar for a 1979 vinyl reissue, they never got around to releasing it on CD. Fortunately in 2005 Rhino released it as a download-only album, still available from iTunes and the like.

- Contributed by: Perry Amberson

Images: Front, Back, Label, Photo

Media: Promo-Only 45
Label: Warner Bros.
Catalog: PRO 517
Date: 1973