Reissue Theory: Chevy Chase
Welcome to another installment of Reissue Theory, where we reflect on well-known albums of the past and the reissues they could someday see. This time around, we shine a light on a few unorthodox musical moments from a comedy legend.
“I’m Chevy Chase, and you’re not.” For the past couple of years, no one would dare be envious of the man once considered one of the greatest comedians of the 1970s and 1980s. Today, however, The Second Disc not only defends him from his detractors but makes a case for his deserved rediscovery through recorded music and sound.
The actor, now enjoying a mini-renaissance as the lovably dim Pierce Hawthorne on NBC’s Community, isn’t honestly that odd a topic of discussion for a music-oriented blog. Though he’s known primarily as a comedian, Chase has had some intriguing run-ins in the music world. Paul Simon fans may remember his humorous turn in the video for hit single “You Can Call Me Al” while trivia buffs may know of his stint as the drummer in a rock band called The Leather Canary circa 1967. (Chase later left the band, and its core members, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, soon renamed the band Steely Dan.) Those with a particular penchant for obscurities may know he lent his drumming skills to a psychedelic band called Chamaeleon Church on one mercifully-forgotten album on the MGM label in 1967.
Of course, we know Chase as one of the first breakout stars of NBC’s Saturday Night Live. Alongside such legends as Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Jane Curtin and Garrett Morris, Chase was one of the founding “Not Ready for Prime Time Players” who defined an entire generation of comedy. Chase’s turns as the first-ever unflappable Weekend Update anchor and the accident-prone Gerald Ford set multiple precedents for SNL‘s brand of comedy, and he was one of the first to branch out into film, with comedy classics like Caddyshack and National Lampoon’s Vacation under his belt. Even with a latter-day run of clunkers like his ’90s talk show and any movie he’s released after 1990, his influence is hard to deny.
With that in mind, let’s just focus on funny, especially Chase’s humor as was captured on vinyl. Check out two Chase-oriented titles that deserve a rediscovery after the jump.
One of the first keepsakes of the SNL experience was an album released by Arista in 1976. Unlike some comedy records, this record was simply audio highlights of the show, already into its second season. Chase particularly shines in his “Weekend Update” tracks, as well as the opening appearance as Gerald Ford (admittedly, it loses a little in translation without the images of Chase nonsensically tripping over everything in view) and the infamous “Word Association” sketch with guest Richard Pryor. Arista released it on CD in 1991, but a reissue wouldn’t be turned away. (Perhaps pair it with a DVD of 2005 documentary Live from New York: The First Five Years of Saturday Night Live, partially adapted from Tom Shales’ captivating book of the same name.)
Various Artists, NBC’s Saturday Night Live (Arista AL-4107, 1976)
- Gerald Ford
- Bedtime Story
- Gun Control
- Dueling Brandos
- Anna Freud
- Bees on Parade
- Weekend Update
- Weekend Update #2
- Emily Litella
- News for the Hard of Hearing
- Jimmy Carter
- Chevy’s Girls
- Word Association
If you’re going to talk about Chevy Chase on record, how could one possibly miss his bizarre self-titled comedy album, released in 1980? (The same year Caddyshack was released – oil and water, these two!) It’s a bizarre mix of parody and actual singing, in which Chase parodies Barry White (BW collaborator Tom Scott co-produced the album!) and covers The Beatles, Randy Newman and Bob Marley, among others. You have to wonder how sincere Chase was trying to be with this one, or if it was just the ego talking. (Chase, oddly enough, did make an effort to promote this record, by singing “Sixteen Tons” on a 1980 episode of – what else? – Saturday Night Live.)
Predictably, Chase’s album has never seen a CD release, and LP prices on Amazon run about $30 to $60 as of this writing. As a solid supporting player on a new sitcom, perhaps a CD release would remind us, if nothing else, that Chevy Chase is still Chevy Chase…and you’re not.
Chevy Chase, Chevy Chase (Arista AL-9519, 1980)
- Nat’l Anthem
- Short People
- Never, Never Gonna Sing for You
- I Shot the Sherriff
- Let It Be
- Love to Have My Baby
- Sixteen Tons
- Wild Thing
- Rapper’s Plight