Sustainable Pace

November 17th, 2019

Tom Lehrer - The Remains Of Tom Lehrer (1953-1965)

I first learned about Tom Lehrer when I researched the hilarious Georg Kreisler song Tauben vergiften im Park, and found that Kreisler was most likely inspired by the American Tom Lehrer, who had a strikingly similar song Poisoning Pigeons in the Park. So I bought the anthology "The Remains of Tom Lehrer" in the early 2000s, which contains his most popular recordings from the 1950s and 60s.

I was surprised to learn that Lehrer was teaching maths at university level, and was only a part-time musician. But it explains his approach to music. For example, his song The Elements to the music by Gilbert and Sullivan is simply a list of all the elements in the periodic table! Because his proficient but by all means unoriginal piano play is simply a scenery for his witty and sarcastic lyrics, his live recordings work best for me, as he always has funny introductions and interjections, and the audience reactions make the songs come alive.

From all of his records I think I like "That Was The Year That Was" (recorded in 1965) best. A lot of those songs deal with politics, human rights, political correctness or the Cold War, which is on the one hand historically interesting, and on the other hand timeless and absolutely relevant today.