Bill Hicks - Ultimate Bill Hicks ([PIAS] Comedy) 
Bill Hicks - Ultimate

Release Date: 9th November 2015

Well this is a first for Listen With Monger. This is the first article that isn't centred around music that has featured on this here blog but I've always considered Bill Hicks to be an honorary rock star so I'm you'll excuse this rare change to normal proceedings. This new box set contains four seminal stand up sets from the late 80s to early 90s ('One Night Stand', 'Sane Man', 'Relentless' and 'Revelations') as well as the wonderful documentary, 'It's Just A Ride', featuring interviews with the likes of Eddie Izzard, Jay Leno, David Lettermand and Richard Belzer. Hicks died at the tender age of 32 but in his short stint on this earth he made sure that burned  his particular torch as brightly and fervently as possible, leaving his mark not just on comedy but on social commentary, satire and the way in which a whole generation views the world - he would have eaten the Facebook and Twitter generations alive and burped them out before lighting a trademark cigarette and smiling wickedly.

One Night Stand (1989) is first up and this is where the rock'n'roll reputation was forged. Just look at the topics in this legendary set - sex, drugs, smoking, booze, music and, ahem, the evils of advertising. This show alone would have been enough for most but, within the same year, Hicks went and brought us Sane Man (1989). Sensing that the tide of support was with him, Hicks went for the kill and started to attack corporate, consumerist America from within the walls of the vault. The shackles are off from the word go as Hicks goes with a pre-show rant about the temptation of hijacking a plane just to get over the boredom of sitting on endless miles of runway tarmac (this was obviously pre 9/11). There are also some great examples of Bill's sexually charged side as he explores the difference between proper rock stars and the sanitised pop stars of the 80s (essentially Jimi Hendrix vs Rick Astley - there's only one winner in that battle).

Bill Hicks - Smokin'
Relentless (1992) was recorded at the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal and sees Hicks in unstoppable form spitting bile at religion, war, morality and pornography - the big topics and not ones that you take on if your main aim is to achieve popularity, fame and riches. Hicks had opinions, he had theories, he had thoughts and he really wanted the world to listen and then do something about it - he was only one man, after all.

On Revelations (1993) we see the last recorded special by Bill Hicks, less than a year before his untimely death, captured for posterity at the Dominion Theatre in London. Fully aware of his illness, Bill was in no mood to lose himself in melancholy or self pity but rather wanted to ensure that his last chance to convert some hearts and minds wasn't wasted.

It's Just A Ride (1994) wraps this collection up with a look at the life of Hicks and commentary from peers, friends, family and admirers alike. It's almost worth watching this first to get the background on this great man but I can see the logic of enjoying/appreciating the comedy and observation before finding out who influenced it.

Let's face it, this is a repackaging of something that already existed and there isn't anything new here - all the material is over 20 years old - so, on that basis, Hicks would have absolutely hated it. This is the epitome of cashing in, selling out and forgetting about the soul of the art in favour of the price tag and it would essentially be about half an hour's worth of bitter, bile filled diatribe for Bill to utterly revel in. That said, Bill isn't around anymore and it's important that new generations are exposed to his unique view on the world in its original form so I will let it pass. Just this once mind, don't go re-releasing it in 5 years now.

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