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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Robert Anton Wilson had a talk show, and Camper van Beethoven did music for it

David Lowery plays with Cracker in 2006 (photo by Zopheus, released into the public domain.)

Although I know a fair amount about Robert Anton Wilson, I did not know that Robert Anton Wilson once filmed a pilot for his own talk show in southern California, nor that a pretty well known rock musician wrote a theme song for it.

I learned both of those things when I read writer Marc Laidlaw's interview with David Lowery, the founder of two bands, Camper van Beethoven and Cracker.

The interview was done on Dec. 15, 1989, and parts of it were used in a piece in Mondo 2000, the R.U. Sirius magazine. That places the interview when Lowery was in Camper van Beethoven, touring behind the Key Lime Pie album, a little before Cracker, which I often used to see in MTV videos.

Lowery explains that he went to visit a friend in Los Angeles, and discovered he was working on a show that featured one of his favorite writers: "And I go down there and it turns out these guys are doing this Robert Anton Wilson talk show, a pilot for a potential Robert Anton Wilson talk show which is— well, I’ll explain later why that’s great for me. So I sat there and watched the whole thing and it was great, I sort of talked to Robert Anton Wilson afterwards, having read all of his books I wanted to ask him some stuff ... " 

The producer of the show didn't known Lowery although the two often ate breakfast at the same place but eventually learned. "And I kept seeing him at this breakfast place, and then one day I went there and he goes, 'Hey, you know, I heard some of your music and I was wondering if you would do the theme song to the Robert Anton Wilson show, or submit some music for it,' and so I go, 'Oh yeah, sure, I’d be into that.' So I wrote the opening theme, which is the 'Opening Theme' of our new record, Key Lime Pie. But I guess nothing ever happened to that pilot or anything, it’s sort of never been used, but that’s where I wrote the opening theme, for the Robert Anton Wilson talk show."

So, if you like, you can listen to the theme song for the RAW talk show that never quite emerged into the world. Lowery is I understand a little sensitive about being ripped off on the Internet, so let me just say here that I bought a copy legally on Amazon digital music and listened to it while working on this blog post. It's an instrumental with kind of a Middle Eastern vibe; my wife asked me if I was listening to belly dancing music.

There's more good stuff in the interview. Camper van Beethoven put out an album called II & III in 1986; can you guess why? From the interview:

Lowery: I obviously read a lot of Robert Anton Wilson, you know, I’ve read all of his stuff, the Illuminatus trilogy and the related books.

Marc Laidlaw: Are there any clues to these things?

Lowery: Well yeah, our second record II & III ... We had a whole bunch of hotel rooms—we kept getting hotel room 23, cause at that time we’d all stay in one hotel room, we’d all sleep in the hotel room, and so we named our second record II & III, and that was sort of our reference to that.

I've left out a lot of good stuff, but I'm not sure how much I can quote without going beyond fair use. But go look at the interview.

Photo of Marc Laidlaw, from his official website. 

Isn't it neat to suddenly discover that a totally cool musician is a RAW fan? If the name "David Lowery" still isn't ringing any bells, check out this classic video of Cracker doing the song "Low."  Yes, that's Sandra Bernhard in the video.

Hat tip, 'Hyphy Sanders' @t3dy on Twitter.