Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The New Sensation for 68?

 
Today, we have a record from near the very end of Sandy Stanton's Film City empire. Label numbers for Film City's known releases barely extend another 100 numbers beyond this one's #4032 A/B.
 
And what an A-side! Over a bouncy Chamberlin track (very likely a Rodd Keith  production, based on its quality), Patty Stanton sings a ridiculous little song called "Beer Can Drag", the wonders of which I'll let you discover on your own, aside from calling your attention to the way Patty manages to pull three syllables out of the word "suppress" (which is such a musical, lyric-worthy word to begin with).
 
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As fun and contagious as that song and performance are, the song poet for the b-side, "Love Me Darling", saw greatness in the future of that song, rather than "Beer Can Drag", going so far as to inscribe the 45 sleeve with the following question and request:
 
 
 
One listen to "Love Me Darling", however, strongly indicates that such a thought was somewhere between wishful thinking and delusion, as "Love Me Darling", sung by Jim Wheeler, is a terrible song, with a melody that would be a challenge for anyone to remember or follow, let alone sing along with. The tune meanders here and there, and there's a stultifying instrumental break, and in a more general sense, the backing and the vocal are turgid.  
 
My first thought was that the writers of "Love Me Darling" should have heard the flip side and said "well, that's a much better song and performance - why didn't they work that hard on our song?" However, a peek at the label shows that the team that wrote "Love Me Darling", also wrote "Beer Can Drag". Not that either of these songs would have been a "new sensation" in 1968 or any other year, but still...the logical assumption is that they thought "Love Me Darling" was the better, and more commercial of the pairing. Uh, no.

 

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Mooned by Tin Pan Alley


If you've paid attention at all to the song-poems of the late '60's and early '70's, you'll know that one of the common themes that crops up over and over again is Astronauts. Today, I have for you perhaps the weirdest, most ridiculous of these entries, a song simply titled "Moon", and sung by the aggressively terrible singer Eleanor Shaw.

I know that many song-poem records were done, literally, as sight-reading jobs, but to do so, the labels really needed to get people who were competent (or better) at sight reading. And if Eleanor wasn't sight reading, she's even worse than I thought, given her performance about 25 seconds into this 92 second treat.

And what, exactly, is the song about? Clearly, there's a reference to Neil Armstrong, and some other moon-related thoughts, but I'm not really picking up on a story here, or even a coherent line of thought. Perhaps Ms. Shaw's vocals are just that distracting, that I can't concentrate closely enough on what she's saying.

Regardless, I think this one is an all time winner in the so-bad-it's-great school of song-poems, an area in which Tin Pan Alley, during this era, really went above and beyond.

Download: Eleanor Shaw: Moon
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The flip side, "Summer Night (Soirs D'ete), does not enchant me much at all. Indeed, it seems to go on forever and ever, although it's actually barely a minute longer than its astonishing flip side. The supper-club style backing band is shown up throughout by their lead guitar player, who seems to have 85% of all the talent involved in both sides of the record. And yet even the band is considerably better than their singer.

Download: Eleanor Shaw: Summer Night (Soirs D'ete)
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Friday, March 10, 2017

The Road of Destruction


Hi there!

I don't know what it was about the Sterling label - maybe it was something about the magazines they advertised in, as it seems to have been for Halmark, whose lyricists had the same tendencies - but they got more than their share of high-falutin', cosmically complex and faux-deep-though-laden lyrics at their doorstep. "The Human Breakdown of Absurdity" is the best example, but there are plenty of others.

Today's example is "The Road of Destruction", performed for us by Norm Burns in his usual, outstanding manner, accompanied sympathetically by the Five Stars. This certainly isn't on the same level as "Absurdity", but in this case, some standard-issue verses about bad things that happen are tied together with a chorus which seems to want to be in another, quite different song, one which seems to suggest there's a moral to his story (ethical and/or religious). However, that moral turns out to be nothing more than "don't drive fast", which, among other things, doesn't really track with the instruction not to "die on sea".

Download: Norm Burns and the Five Stars: The Road of Destruction
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On the flip side, we have the opposite - bland, standard issue lyrics, almost at a greeting card level, all about "Mama", and sung and played with a degree of sincerity that veers on self-parody.

Download: Norm Burns and the Five Stars: Mama
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Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Do It Yourself Song Poem

Hi, everyone,

First, I'd like to ask if anyone is having trouble getting the files. I am having no end of problems with Opendrive, but only at my home computer, which I suspect makes it a computer issue (although it is literally the only website with which I'm having problems, and on multiple browsers, which is weird). I just want a bit of feedback as to whether there are any issues at your respective ends. Thanks in advance!

~~
Today, something a bit different. This is a guest post from frequent commenter, and great friend of the blog (and online friend of mine) Timmy. Rather than offer up my comments, I'll just let him speak for himself.

I never really gave it much thought, but I have two songs that I wrote the lyrics only for, which are in all factuality SONG POEMS. Now, I didn't send these gems into a "song-poem" factory, like the folks did who you document, I went in a somewhat different direction.
Here is the story of these songs...

West Los Angeles, California; Early or mid 1970's - - - I wrote these two songs, lyrics only. With no intent to do anything further with them, stashed them in a folder & a few years later decided that I wanted to get them put to music. I called up an old ex-classmate of mine form school, Severo, because he was now becoming a somewhat well-known local musician on the scene in Hollywood and asked him if he would be willing to help put music to these songs of mine. He agreed. He would play the music but wasn't sure he would be the best choice for composing the music. Also, he said he couldn't sing good enough, as nor could I. So then, I posted a notice on a bulletin board at a "Orange Julius" stand in West Hollywood, where people would do such things, back then, to meet people for a variety of reasons. It was easy as pie. A few days later I was contacted by a guy named Hiroshi Kigori, who was willing to work cheap & compose for us. Then, I got another answer from a dude who said he would sing (cannot remember his name). Right about this time I had purchased a brand new Dokorder R_R tape deck, on which we taped what happened next.
We all got together one Saturday, in my little bachelor apt. in Culver City & got the job done. I was the recording engineer. Everybody gave it a few rehearsals. Hiroshi played keyboards. Severo overdubbed bass lines on top of his lead guitar. (Severo is none other than Severo Jornacion, the famed "Thrilla From Manilla" who later went on to join the great band The Smithereens in the late 90's, becoming their second bass player & still with them to this day).
 
I looked for the original hand written lyrics in my files, but cannot find them. However, I did find about a hundred other such songs I had long forgotten about. What to do, what to do...
Hope you enjoy ~
Timmy
 
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THANKS, TIMMY!!!!

Monday, February 20, 2017

He's In the Army Now

First up, here's one more song-poem ad from 1919, again from a Photoplay magazine, courtesy of Pete. "Reaper Block" was the name of a block within the Loop, in Chicago, built not long after the great fire. I'd never heard of that before seeing this ad. 

Many thanks, Pete!!


And now!: 


About ten days ago, I heard from a fellow named Justin, with whom I'd been in touch a year or two ago, regarding song-poems which are related in one way or another to the Vietnam War. He has a project regarding songs related to that war, with one of the sub-headings being Vietnam related song-poems. He was writing to give me an update on his blog, which is part of the project, and which you can find here, and to ask if I had discovered any further songs which would fit his project.

By absolute coincidence, the next Rodd Keith record I'd put aside (and this pile has been there for months), is, of all things, a Vietnam era song from a soldier to his girl. I did not plan this, it just worked out perfectly - I didn't even recall from the title that it was a soldier's song, as the relatively generic title, "Please Don't Forget Me", doesn't give that away at all. 

So please, everyone, and particularly Justin, enjoy Rodd Keith, under the pseudonym of "Dan Monday", with a rather weepy, but not unappealing song meant to be sung across the ocean. 

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On the flip side, we've got a backing track that Rodd used repeatedly, for country flavored numbers, usually ones which end up a bit more sappy than this one. "I'm Sorry I Ever Met You" is the title, and it doesn't do much for me one way or the other. 

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Bring It To Jerome!

To lead off, here is yet another 1919 Photoplay Magazine song-poem ad, courtesy of ace correspondent Pete. Thanks again!


Today's post is a little unusual and a lot of wonderful. It is unusual in that these are not records from my collection (therefore, there are no label scans), and are from a label I've never featured before, or even seen. It's wonderful in that these came to me from a family member of the man who owned that label, Jerome Records of Berwyn, IL, and who has seen fit to send me three records from the family collection so far, two of which feature well known song-poem singers, and which represent at least two different song-poem factories. So first, thanks VERY MUCH to Tracy, for sending along these treasures, and here's hoping there will be more to come.

First up is Rod Barton (who is also the only singer from the song-poem world who I've been lucky enough to speak to), with the fantastically titled "Rotating Momma". Often, when there is a fantastic title, the record doesn't live up to the expectations that such a title encourages, but in this case, they are fulfilled, with a rollicking, backwoods, bluesy number, complete with cash register sound effects and genuinely odd lyrics. And then there's the fantastic vocal from Mr. Barton, making the whole thing work another 100% better.

Download: Rod Barton - Rotating Momma
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Next up is someone named Nancy Sherman, whose name turns up here and there on (mostly) the tiny labels which took their recordings from the larger song-poem factories. I'm not sure what the underlying commonality is between the Jerome, Lane and (the particularly obscure) Novart labels, but her name shows up on all three, as well as the larger Air label. This particular track, which boogies along not wholly unlike "Rotating Momma", is titled "Loverman", and it's another nice slice of blues and rockabilly flavored oddness, with some nice guitar, and a slinky lead vocal.

Download: Nancy Sherman: Loverman
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Quite a bit less interesting to me is the third offering, mostly because it comes from the bland Lance Hill, and therefore, from the Globe song-poem factory, whose work I often find bland, as well, particularly in its later years. This one is called "If I Were You", and features a generic backing and standard issue sax bleating, plus a vocal which is downright uninspired, compared with the two other tracks from the label that I sampled above.

Download: Lance Hill - If I Were You
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Again, many thanks to Tracy!

Friday, February 03, 2017

Say It Like You Mean It

First up, here's yet another 1919 Song-Poem ad, from Photoplay Magazine. In this case, an actual, wildly successful songwriter has allowed his name to be connected to the scam. Why Don't YOU Write the Words to a Song!!! Thanks again to Pete!
 
 
And now, for something completely Cara!
 

Time is tight again this week, and so my pithy remarks will have to wait for another day. But there isn't really that much one must say about Cara Stewart - her lovely voice could sell just about anything. Here she is on a previously unknown label - Stark Records of Mt. Airy, N.C. (perhaps the pet project of song-poet Jerry Thomas) - singing "Be Sure That You Mean It"

Download: Cara Stewart with Lee Hudson Orchestra - Be Sure That You Mean It
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And, from the flipside, the equally enticing "My Darling":

Download: Cara Stewart with Lee Hudson Orchestra - My Darling
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Monday, January 23, 2017

An Amazing Find

Before we get to a truly spectacular, nearly undefinable find, here's another vintage song-poem ad, in this case from a 1919 edition of "Photoplay" magazine, courtesy of Pete. This one has a great sales pitch, and an even better drawing! Feel free to print this out and send it in - I wonder what would happen!?!?
 
 
And now!!!!!
 
 
The Halmark saga continues, in a direction I never would have guessed. In the last few years, I've come to realize that some of the endlessly repeated Halmark backing tracks began life as music beds for covers of 1960's hit songs, including "Gentle on My Mind". I've also come across a record purporting to present "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" as a Halmark original, and, most recently, found a record where Halmark actually made a good-faith effort to record a backing track that sounded like it fit in the '70's.
 
What I didn't expect this time, and what nothing I'd ever heard or seen about the label had indicated before, is that they accepted vanity projects. And that is the only possible explanation for the existence of the song "Love is Where You Are", identified only as having been written by "Mike" (no last name) of Lowden, Iowa. My guess is that's Mike singing it, too. And a more incompetent performance (of nearly four minutes) I've rarely heard, on a song-poem or anywhere else. This record truly blows my mind. I will say no more, but would love to hear the reactions of the rest of you, in the comments. My guess is that your mouth drops open and stays that way - I know mine did.
 
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The remainder of the EP contains the typical Halmark cheesiness, made even more unlistenable by a ridiculously trebly mix, one which hurts my ears at times. First up is a particularly bad lyrical construction called "Just a Tiny Bit of You", sung by the inevitable Jack Kim (although, as is true more often than not with this label, no one is identified as a performer on the label). This is set, by the way, to the backing track from Halmark's aforementioned version of "By the Time I Get to Phoenix".
 
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To my ears, the worst of the three "standard" Halmark tracks on this EP is the religiously themed "This is the Salvation Way" sung by Kim and his wife.
 
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But for sheer ridiculousness, you CANNOT beat "When I Write to You", a song-poem about writing poems which contains some of the worst, simplistic lyrics I can ever recall hearing. Seriously: "Writing a letter is lots of fun, when I'm writing". And then there's the big build up to the last line, in which Jack Kim gives his all to excitedly sing what are among the least effective final six words of any song I've ever heard.  
 
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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

An Inaugural Request

First, here is yet another, nearly 100 year old song-poem ad, in this case from a 1918 edition of Photoplay Magazine, courtesy of correspondent Pete. Thanks, Pete:


And speaking of Pete, he made a request nearly four months ago, which it has taken me forever to get to. However, with the horror that is about to be visited upon us around midday on Friday in Washington, D.C., it turns out that the delay has pushed my honoring of Pete's request to the perfect time. For today, we will remember that point at which multitudes of song-poets descended on the song-poem factories en masse and demanded to have music set to their songs praising a new president: Jimmy Carter.

Jimmy Carter's move to the White House (as was also true of the death of Elvis Presley several months later) came around one of the heights of the popularity of song-poem companies. The volume of product that the big labels pumped out in the mid- and late- 70's is astonishing, and most of it (to my ears, anyway) far crappier than the earlier material. But such was the volume of submissions, that Preview records was able to press an entire album of songs about Jimmy Carter.

And it is this album that Pete asked me about. The most famous song from the album is "Jimmy Carter Says Yes", which was on the first two song-poem compilations, and which is easy to find online. Pete asked me if I owned the album. I don't, but I do have two other tracks from this Gene Marshall spectacular, obtained in my early days of collecting via cassette tape trade. And so, today, here are two songs for one of the great Americans of our time, as we prepare for the assault by one of the far lesser Americans of this, or any time.

First up, the title song from the album, "President Jimmy Carter, We Salute You", written by James Wilson, Jr., and featuring some of the tortured syntax which is a hallmark of his compositions (although it is missing the made-up words that occur in many of Wilson's most interesting songs, such as "Liblanders Cahoot").

Download: Gene Marshall: President Jimmy Carter, We Salute You
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And here is the other song I have from that album, "What A Man, A Man's Man! Jimmy Carter", written by the absolutely wonderfully named Waskey Elwood Walls, Jr.

Download: Gene Marshall: What A Man, A Man's Man! Jimmy Carter
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See you next week. If there is a next week.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Love That Drumming

Howdy, Y'all,

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! To kick off the new year right, here's an amazing ad, again sent by correspondent Pete, dated 1918, from Photoplay magazine, and encouraging all songwriters to have a go at "writing the SONG HIT OF THE WAR". That's a spin I hadn't encountered before, and a fairly reprehensible one, if you ask me. Just astonishing.


And now....



Today, a record on Preview which is unusual for a couple of reasons. First, it has Gene Marshall on one side and Rodd Keith on the other. That's not unheard of, but it's far from typical. Second, Rodd is credited here as "Ken Roberts", a moniker that he appears to have used only on a handful of records, circa 1970-71. I believe this is the only "Ken Roberts" record that I own. Finally, my preference, by a wide margin, is for the Gene Marshall side, which would not typically be anybody's guess if you were to combine these two singers during Rodd's Preview years, much as I often just love Gene Marshall's performances.

And admittedly, the Gene Marshall song here, "Someday I'll Find a New True Love", is no great shakes as a song or a lyric, and the vocal is fine, but nothing special. But I dig the hell out of the band's performance, especially some truly special work by the drummer, whoever it was. This is not something that I am typically drawn to, but boy, do I love the drumming on this record, even if its just a series of nice - at times Ringo-esque - fills. See what you think!

Download: Gene Marshall: Someday I'll Find a New True Love
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From the flipside, here's Rodd, as Ken Roberts, with a song titled "Blueprints On My Heart" (although the sung lyric is "Blueprints To My Heart"). Either way, that's an interesting metaphor, and I'd appreciate someone doing something interesting with it, but this is dreary by every measure. Draggy, uninspired musically, and it seems to go on forever (even though it's barely three minutes long). Your mileage my, of course, vary.

Download: Ken Roberts (Rodd Keith): Blueprints On My Heart
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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Don't Drink and Drive

Howdy, 

Vintage song-poem ads will return next!

I will however, provide a link to something wonderful. Sammy Reed has posted downloadable and playable links to 23 tracks from earlier in this site's history, all of them dating to those posts where my own links were lost, due to the downfall of DivShare. You can visit that post here. Thanks, Sammy! I do hope to repopulate this site at some point, but something else always takes me away from that project


I have never featured the "Promo Records" label before today, and so am correcting that oversight today with a most appropriate ditty. I own perhaps 18 or so of this labels' records, and this is the first one which caught my ear enough to say "you have to share this right away".

Like the Halmark and Noval labels, Promo records did not name their performers, and indicated the budget nature of their work even further by simply typing the song titles and lyricist's names on a generic, un-numbered label. These were also not "records" as are typical shared here, but are more accurately described as Acetates, and one-sided ones at that. (Although I am sharing two songs here, they are not both sides of one record, but two separate records.)

About half of the Promo Records acetates I own were written by Mable Rowlett, and were purchased at the same time, in a bundle. "I Saw a Crash On the Highway" is clearly the outstanding number from the bunch. The phrasing of that title, and the lyrics of some of the verses of the song are all curiously indirect, given that the lyrics make it clear that the narrator of the song caused the crash, which involved fatalities, and that the cause was drinking and driving.

On this New Year's Eve, I hope everyone takes Mabel's lyrics to heart.

Download: No Artist Named: I Saw a Crash on the Highway
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For comparison sake, here is another Mabel Rowlett offering from the Promo Records label, a much more typical number, on a religious theme, titled "On This Mountain".

Download: No Artist Named: On This Mountain
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HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Do You Feel a Draft?

Hi, 

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season! To start this week's post, here is another gift to us from Pete, who tells me that this ad dates back all the way to a 1914 edition of Photoplay! Write in now - he even offers Free Criticism!!!



I know I featured Norm Burns fairly recently, but this record popped up on eBay recently, and I was more than a little intrigued by the title, and was very happy to come away from the auction as the winner. And so, I thought I'd share it all here with you, especially since the weather in much of my country has been so.... drafty recently.


You see, in the song "Ballad of the Green Machine", Ol' Norm, or, more specifically, his lyricist, Edward Carter, recently (in terms of the date of this record) faced the possibility of being drafted, and seems to have signed up willingly instead, if I follow the lyrics correctly, for a three year tour. And so, we get a longish (by song-poem standards - more than 3 1/2 minutes) trip through the soldiering experience.

While not as witty as Tom Lehrer's masterful tribute to the army - and if you haven't heard that, you really should - that's not really a fair comparison, as I'm not sure anyone's lived up to Lehrer on any subject he ever tackled. On it's own merits, this has a bit of dry wit to it, here and there, which I appreciate. And what's more, this is very likely also the only song-poem ever (and I'm willing to bet, one of the few songs of any type, ever) to make reference to Ptomaine Poisoning. I only wish it was a bit livelier - the tempo is really draggy.

Download: Norm Burns and the Five Stars: Ballad of the Green Machine
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The flip side, "Just Drifting Along", does just that, and has very little that I find to appreciate. Your mileage may vary. I do get a weird kick out of the fact that they extended the song by going into a key change in the last several seconds, only to slowly fade the song out, with no further vocal, perhaps to drag the length over two minutes (yet still nearly 30 seconds fewer than what is listed on the label).

Download: Norm Burns and the Five Stars: Just Drifting Along
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