Professor Anonymous — Living In The World
Cool, calm, collected while excitement ’round me reigns.
Professor Anonymous (Bobby Hyde) stalked the clubs of Boston during the late ’70s and early ’80s bequeathing upon audiences his somewhat offbeat approach to rock ’n’ roll. What made his act different was his unique singing style. Difficult to describe, his voice sounded like it was forever warbling in and out of pitch while straining to reach notes that were way out of his range. This produced a weird kind of vibrato that was “wide enough to drive a truck through” as one of my music teachers used to say. Strange, though charismatic. It wasn’t long before his act attracted the attention of some notable local musicians. They cajoled “The Prof” into the late (great!) Perfect Crime Productions to record this album backed by an all star cast. And what a cast it was! Members included Andy Paley (produced Brian Wilson, NRBQ, Trodds), Steve Cataldo (Underground Cinema, St. Stephen, Rhythm Assholes, Nervous Eaters), Erik Lindgren (Arf Arf, Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, Trodds), Richie Bartlett (Profets, Front Page Review, Brother Fox and The Tar Baby, The Fools), Eric Martin (not the Neats member, but a friend of Bobby’s), Barry Marshall (Marshalls), Jonathan Paley (Nervous Eaters, Paley Brothers, Trodds, hand model) and of course the Profettes.
This crew produced an record that with any other singer would simply be thought of as a somewhat strange garage album. But Living In The World pushes the envelope a few steps beyond and twists it into something unique! Start with The Prof’s unorthodox singing style, mix in the songs about some offbeat topics and then sprinkle abundant sound effects, backwards tapes, and mysterious voices throughout the mix. What’s a rooster, screaming girl, doorbell, cow and diving plane doing in the same song anyhow? Underneath all the raging insanity, however, Living In The World is an album of very strong songs written mostly by Hyde with the occasional help of his sidemen.
This album sounds like no other record I’ve ever heard. And in a world where so many bands copy whatever is hot at the moment (yes, that has been going on for years, not just recently), it is more than refreshing to hear someone like the Prof who came up with something individual and substantive. Even if he really couldn’t sing that well, he didn’t let that get in the way of making this record. Instead, he used his “disability” to his advantage!
Shortly after it’s release on Quark (a subsidiary of Bomp!), this album attracted the attention of a young (and very green) band called the Trodds who managed to destroy a version of “What Would Mama Say“ at the Rat while opening up for the Rising Storm in 1981. So yeah, I’ve been digging this record for years! The shame of it all is that this record never really got good distribution (though it was also released in Europe on Line), and therefore, no one really knows about it. In many ways this is a lost classic that people will be searching for once “the word gets out.” And, although it still is a bit hard to figure how someone in law school had time for this sort of nonsense, I’m sure that Bobby Hyde esq. still gets a chuckle out of pulling this record out and giving it a spin.