In 1997, when Rykodisc gave wide commercial release to the work of the deceased comic visionary/cosmic truth-seeker Bill Hicks, two of those releases heavily featured his guitar playing as well as his comedy. This was in accordance with Hicks’ expressed wishes, and the albums were in fact completed and mixed before Hicks’ passing. Those two albums, Rant in E Minor and Arizona Bay, included some of the most brutal material Hicks ever performed. They were completed after he was diagnosed with the cancer that claimed his life at the age of 32, and they are accordingly unsparing in their vitriol. And it was in vitriol that Hicks singularly excelled.
Just one problem, though: Hicks’ guitar playing was, at best, middling amateur psych noodling. It’s not a problem on Rant, where the guitar work mostly drifts dreamily in and out of the stand-up material like trippy segues, and if you don’t know Hicks, the body of work collected on that CD is an excellent place to start. But on Arizona Bay? The music was a terrible, Dunning-Krugerish miscalculation that just flat out WRECKED the album. Lengthy passages of comedy were entirely buried under too-loud guitar wank, rendering some of Hicks’ best stand-up work completely inaudible.
The album, insofar as it could be heard, was dark. The title refers to a hypothetical body of water that will be left behind someday after the San Andreas Fault submerges California and Baja. Not that Arizona’s such a fucking prize, but there are plenty of people who can relate to really, really hating L.A.:
That’s right, when L.A. falls in the fucking ocean and is flushed away, all it will leave is Arizona Bay.
In recent months, the record label/streaming platform/production company Comedy Dynamics (a worthy channel to add if you have a Roku device, seriously) have been working to make the complete recorded works of Bill Hicks available to the public (we told you all about it back in April), and the latest drop in that bucket is the forthcoming digital reissue of Arizona Bay, with loads of additional tracks and, most crucially, no music. Last week, the AV Club released one of the additional tracks, “No Smoking On Airplanes (But They Allow Children).”
And Comedy Dynamics have been kind enough to allow DM to bring you a never before heard version of one of Hicks’ most oft-quoted bits, “Marketing and Advertising.” This is his infamous call for everyone in the publicity industry to commit suicide. Like I said, the album is really, really dark. (I feel I should note here the irony that I might not have heard much of Hicks’ work as early as I did if not for the efforts of Ryko’s marketing department.)