home recordings performances songs members history

The AIDS Show:
Artists Involved with Death and Survival
Produced by Theater Rhinoceros
First run: September 6 - 16, 1984

Music byKarl Brown and Matthew McQueen of Automatic Pilot

This page documents the participation of Automatic Pilot members Karl Brown and Matthew McQueen in The AIDS Show.

A little over a year after Automatic Pilot's final live performance as a band at Valencia Rose, while Tony, Matthew and Karl were recording the studio sessions that would later be known as Back from the Dead, Matt and Karl responded to the call from Theater Rhinoceros for artists to collaborate on a theatrical response to AIDS, with an Automatic Pilot song never before performed in public, largely because it was too nasty for even Automatic Pilot, if such a thing was possible.

Thus, Matt and Karl became part of a team of twenty writers and actors, directed by Leland Moss, who created what would be known as The AIDS Show. In addition to Rimmin' at the Baths (with updated lyrics to reflect new realities), we were asked for a new song. Safe Livin' in Dangerous Times was written to serve as an "anthem" for the show.

The show was originally scheduled to run in the 50-seat basement Studio for eight performances. Matthew sang lead on the two songs, backed by the cast, and acted in many of the dramatic pieces, and designed the poster. Karl served as musical director, accompanied on Fender Rhodes electric piano (along with a pre-recorded drum machine track), played original incidental music on a small Casio keyboard for some of the dramatic pieces (including Paul Attinello's Hospital), operated a metronome during party sequences interspersed through the show, and ran tape recordings of other sound effects and music.

After the initial September 1984 run, the show played in various venues in San Francisco and around the country until the following summer. For practical reasons, the song accompaniments, incidental music, and sound effects (including metronome) were recorded in a local studio and assembled into two reels of tape, one for each act. Vocal demos of the songs were recorded and mixed at the same sessions. Karl ran sound for a few months, then turned the task over to another technician.

The script, including song lyrics, was published in the anthology West Coast Plays; the song demos were played on KPFA's Fruit Punch radio show.

Complete mp3s of songs from The AIDS Show

poster for the show by Matthew McQueen

photo from the show by Mark Chester

Theater Rhinoceros produced another version of the show, Unfinished Business: The New AIDS Show on the Main Stage in Fall 1985. for which Matthew and Karl wrote new songs, and participated in other ways. More info...

The best information about The AIDS Show currently on the Web is a recent article by Misha Berson

Theater Rhinoceros website

home recordings performances songs members history