Customer Reviews: Jean Shepherd Ticket to Ride (Classic Radio Humor)
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon September 21, 2011
I see that Paul is getting married for the third time, charm willing. If you are willing to hang on for a few lines, that observation is relevant. The obvious connection is to the title Ticket to Ride, as in She's got a. If you did not live in the New York Metropolitan Area, with that powerful WOR Amplitude Modulation radio station I caught it on the skip in Indiana, ironic as that is), you probably do not know any Shep, except as that sometimes fourth stooge. This is the Shep of a generation later. He is the heir to Mark Twain and George Ade, another hoosier. Most of the few who do know him, do so by his more famous movie, now a Christmas Classic, "A Christmas Story":


Shep does the narration and makes a cameo at the bottom of the department store escalator near the end. This is a worthy film version of his original story in this first collection of his stories:


See my first comment to restore the missing links...

But the greatness of Shep was in his live radio shoe, ninety minutes Monday through Friday and only sixty on Saturday night because he was doing three hours on stage at The Limelight in Greenwich Village. Nobody has ever done six thousand hours of unrehearsed radio or anything else. And, he had no guests. It was all monolog. His was devoted to the young audience, never speaking down in the least. "If you don't get it, kid, look it up." A hundred thousand grammar school kids alone took their new transistor radios under the pillow to sneak a listen each night. Ninety per cent of his vast audience (It HAS to be vast to keep a nightly radio show for over fifteen years that chews up 90 minutes of prime time on one of the biggest radio stations in the most important market in the US.) was between 12 and 24. He told the important stories of kiddom from junior high to the enlisted man's Army. He had no advertising to promote him. He was a cultural phenomenon. The only one whom I can think of that comes close is Saint Simeon, the pillar hermit, the guy who lived up there for forty years in constant public performance. But he was not funny and he cared little for kids. Oddly, it was Playboy magazine that published some of his short stories in the 60's. And Playboy was behind this trip of Shep's to the United Kingdom in 1964.

My bone to pick with this set is that they do not include all of his shows from this adventure. You get four CDs -- two in Edinburg, two in London. It is Shep on foot with his portable tape recorder, sending back the tapes to New York by air courier. You will hear him mention a side excursion to Glasgow. He did his annual Halloween show from there. It is sadly not included. The producer of this set probably thought it was off topic. This was supposed to be a lead into is Beatles interviews for Playboy. Stupid choice. But the other missing show is the much worse offense. It is the show of his reflections on the interviews themselves, before publication. You see how his reportage evolves.

You can go and find his Beatles interview for Playboy . It completes this already incomplete experience because you understand the general trajectory of his work to the final product. That issue sold more copies than any centerfold ever could fantasize about. You hear Shep talking about his analysis of the music scene and of the UK in general. He is not pulling any punches. It is fascinating to hear his minimally filtered or processed impressions of a dozen topics from fashion to mores to cars and social class and behavior. He has no fear of his thought process being heard impromptu.

This set in no way shows Shep at his best. These are work-aday shows. The mission is special, but they do not reveal his true genius. It is interesting to compare both the US and the UK as he sees them in 1964 with what we think today. How much the things have turned around again. How much of what he saw there had and has come to America. When he makes fun of the smut in London and contrasts it with their BBC children's shows, he anticipates the same story Eric Idle does for Monty Python at least a decade later. Fascinating.

Oh, the theme song after the race track trumpet call is Eduard Strauss' FREI BAHN POLKA
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