Top 10 Countdown – Mental Musical Masterpieces # 9 Wild Man Fischer

NUMBER  9…..Number 9…..Number 9……

Wild Man Fischer – An Evening with Wild Man Fischer (1968)

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Wild Man Fischer - An Evening With Wild Man Fischer

Larry “Wild Man” Fischer was a regular sighting on the streets of Hollywood in the 60’s and beyond; the type of guy you would go to great effort to avoid or ignore despite the fact Larry would sell you one of his songs for a dime.  Fischer was a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic with bi-polar disorder. He was institutionalized at the age of 16 for attacking his mother with a knife. He claims he escaped and remained at large simply because nobody bothered to look for him.  What may have repelled others attracted Frank Zappa.  Maestro Zappa met Fischer and saw something different. He saw an artist.  Zappa befriended Fischer and signed him to a record deal with his boutique label “Bizarre Records”.

Fischer’s masterpiece is “An Evening With Wild Man Fischer” Produced by Frank Zappa,“Evening…..” is a sprawling mess of a double LP album. Songs like “Merry Go Round” are maddeningly repetitive and catchy. Much of the album consists of Fischer engaging in banal chatter with loiterers on the streets of Hollywood.  These lo-fi man-on-the-street field recordings are backed by Zappa’s studio overdubs’ which sound like mechanized ticking sounds of a mind gone mad.  Elsewhere Fischer performs his original songs a cappella with varying degrees of  cogency. Other songs approach conventional rock song craft. To paraphrase Zappa himself, “Wild Man Fischer had something to say, whether you wanted to hear it or not”.

Fischer’s corrosive ramblings were equal parts harrowing and hilarious.  It’s easy to write off  Fischer as a nutter on first listen. However, a careful study of his music reveals the seedling of an artist struggling to break through the concrete of mental illness. Aside from Fischer’s violent teen episode, he seems to have managed his madness into a benign lunacy in his adult years. And, we’ll never know how much Zappa’s patronage or the healing powers of music helped Fischer during his bittersweet struggle through life (he died in 2011 at age 66).  The following tune “Jennifer Jones” is probably Fischer’s most revealing song.  WARNING…Not for faint hearts or delicate sensibilities……

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