Last June I discussed the print version of Marshall McLuhan’s The Medium Is The Massage. However, along with the print publication of it in 1967, there was also a “long-playing record” of the same name released by CBS.
L > R: Jerome Agel, Quentin Fiore, McLuhan, and John Simon of CBS.
The whole thing is presented as an audio collage focused around McLuhan’s own voice reading parts of the book. There are other “character” voices—’the old man’, ‘the Hippie chick’, ‘the Irishman’, ‘Mom’, ‘the little girl’, etc.—who utter McLuhanisms, snatches from Pop culture, and excerpts from Finnegans Wake and The Iliad. Weaving amongst these is a very 1960s selection of jazz, classical, and psychedelic pop musics. This is all topped off with incursions from the recording engineer, backwards tape effects, sped-up and slowed-down voices, ambient recordings, and a whole jungle of other Foley and sound FX. Crazy, man!
Perhaps the worst part of it are the character voices: some of them really are quite bad. Why is that when producers want ‘an old man’ they don’t just get a real old man; it’s not like they’re in short supply. But, no: rather than use an old man to read these parts, we’ll get someone to imitate an old man! Sheesh. Why bother? As my old man used to say: “If you’re going to do a job, do it properly.”
So there we have it. I’m not sure what these recordings add to the McLuhan ouvre, other than to highlight this one point: McLuhan works very well as speech. His public speaking was an important facet of his professional life, and his capacity for talk was legendary. Most of his books were dictated. He’s a very oral person.
Anyway, judge for yourself: