February 12, 2014

“Get It Together, Baby!”

trubee1aOn John Trubee and Next-Level Insolence

One of Ackerman’s most common sayings, always delivered in a ridiculous addled hippie voice.

The origin of this one is very clear—it came from a prank phone call by the legendary John Trubee that I played for Al in the mid-90′s.

Trubee’s calls are uneven, but at their best, they reach peaks of verbal improvisation, social confusion, and pure chaos that are hard to find elsewhere—usually mixing believable development of an absurd premise with sudden breaks in logic and/or civility. The calls seem to have been recorded in the late 70′s/early 80′s in New Jersey and California, and feature a shifting cast of characters, heavy use of synthesizer and processor electronics plugged directly into the phone, and meme-like modular repetition of material, phrases, and premises, which get explored in a broad permutational surrealism*—much like Ackerman’s work.

In the call in question, Trubee calls a young woman and asks “Mrs. R. J. Smith, did you know that polar bears from the South Pole are being found to have leukemia from atomic tests?” When the woman reacts with understandable confusion, Trubee ultimately confronts her with “Get it together, baby!”, a statement so out of context and insolent that it audibly fries the woman’s brain. Ackerman loved this an appropriated it for his own, using it frequently in conversation and also in a few artworks.


*Trubee’s prank calls are published on tapes and also to a small extent on the LPs of his longtime band, The Ugly Janitors of America.

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