Martin Mull Ralph J. Gleason - Essay

Ralph J. Gleason

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Despite his youth, Martin Mull manages in his first] two albums to carefully and inexorably carve up almost every stereotype in popular music from Fletcher Henderson through the theme for A Man and a Woman, bossa nova, hotel cocktail groups, John Coltrane, Merle Haggard, late-night dance band broadcasts, motel cocktail lounge combos, drunken songwriters, Randy Newman, Roger Miller and anybody else I may have overlooked here at this point in time.

The satire works on several levels simultaneously. On the one hand there's a line like, "The bag I'm in is just a package from a package store," with its oblique and subtle reference to Freddy Neil and the rest of the lyric with its puns and allusions. On the other, there's the freaky lyrics of love songs that have a twist to them either about midgets, dogs or what-have-you….

There's the sound of Merle Haggard as well as the lyric content, and there are the puns which look horrible in print but are hysterical when he utters them….

Like every comic I have ever heard, on or off the record so to speak, MM is inconsistent. Being funny is the most serious kind of occupation there is and one of the hardest. It's remarkable when anybody is funny at all these days and more remarkable when, as MM, the comic can be funny a good part of the time….

Lyrically, he has the capability of using words in phrases and encompassing puns and allusions at the level of Roger Miller, whom I consider a superb songwriter….

The mind that is displayed in these songs and this music is so wildly comic and so superbly gifted in a technical, musical sense that in my heart I know he's right….

Ralph J. Gleason, "Perspectives: Martin Mull & Monty Python Make Me Laugh," in Rolling Stone (by Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. © 1973; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Issue 144, September 27, 1973, p. 9.∗