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Darn those good old days. When AM radio was dominant, I didn’t have a TV in my bedroom. I got to listen to XERB and Wolfman Jack at night as well as replays of 1930s-50s radio dramas by Orson Welles along with locally produced content like Coyle and Sharpe. (Damn I’m old) Wolfman Jack’s cameo in American Graffiti was that identifiable homage to listening to him when the evening atmosphere allowed it, doubtless George Lucas thought about that when growing up in California’s Central Valley.
Coyle and Sharpe were a United States comedy duo that appeared on the radio during the early 1960s. Composed of Jim Coyle (1932–1993) and Malcolm Sharpe (1936-2020), the duo's typical format was to satirize the “vox populi” interview, with off-the-wall questions posed to passers-by in a generally deadpan style as though it were a serious interview.
Perhaps 40 years ahead of their time, Coyle and Sharpe defined what is now commonplace on radio and TV with shows such as Howard Stern, Da Ali G. Show, Cash Cab, and more. Coyle and Sharpe met in a boarding house in San Francisco in 1959. Coyle was a benign con man who had talked his way into 119 jobs by the age of 25. Sharpe had just graduated college and had drifted out to the West Coast to check out the Beatnik scene. The pair found they had a mutually sick sense of humor. To avoid real jobs, Coyle and Sharpe thought they could make a living pulling pranks or “Terrorizations,” as they then called them. In 1964, they were hired by KGO in San Francisco to do a nightly radio show called “Coyle and Sharpe On The Loose.” Most of the audio on this release was recorded during this period. In 1964, they recorded two albums for Warner Bros., The Absurd Impostors and The Insane Minds of Coyle and Sharpe. They did a hidden camera television pilot, “The Impostors,” contained on this release. In 1967, Coyle left California to pursue a career in tunneling. He died in 1993 while burrowing under the City of Barcelona. Sharpe continued to work in media where he did hundreds of man-on-the-street interviews for radio and television. In the year 2000, The Whitney Museum hosted a centennial exhibit, The American Century. Coyle and Sharpe were featured in the Soundworks Exhibit.
(1995) And in San Francisco, hipsters and anarchists are bubbling to the surface once again. Howard K. Smith brings a CBS News crew to North Beach as part of a radio program called The Hidden Revolution to get to the bottom of this crazy beat thing. Kenneth Rexroth and City Lights publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti are helping promote poetry readings in North Beach clubs and coffeehouses like the Cellar and the Blackhawk. Berkeley-based Fantasy Records, flush with cash from high-charting jazz albums, signs deals with spoken-word iconoclasts like Lenny Bruce, Gregory Corso and Allen Ginsberg.
But Fantasy Records co-owners Sol and Max Weiss have an abrupt change of heart over another hip project, an anarchistic album idea by two young men in suits named Jim Coyle and Mal Sharpe, who are obsessed with the art of ambush. Prefiguring ’90s phone-pranksters such as the Jerky Boys and video vŽritŽ like America’s Funniest Home Videos, Coyle and Sharpe have conducted wildly improvised man-on-the-street interviews with unsuspecting San Franciscans and submitted the tapes to Fantasy. Packing a tape recorder hidden in a briefcase, the duo double-teams credulous citizens with straight-faced yet oddball questions like, “Are you essentially opposed to taking an animal and trying to evoke music from it?”
But the material is just too weird for Fantasy Records. Max Weiss heaves the precious tapes down a flight of stairs at Coyle and Sharpe and screams:
“Get out of here, you communists!”
Then there’s The Prisoner of the 1960s, which always looks strange because I watched it on a black/white TV.
More troubling is the fixed cultural distance between the 1960s and the 1990s, as though the connections among technologies got lost, and David Lynch now espouses Trumpian sentiments. What was more interesting was the meta-textual possibility that Agent Cooper in Twin Peaks was not only D.B. Cooper, but the alien from The Hidden.
OTOH, back in an alternate facts reality consisting of Low Information Voters, we are instead 40 years behind the times.
And some folks have had too much time on their hands; this project resembles the one trying to cook all of Julia Child’s recipes.
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