Today, I am extremely happy to offer up the online debut of a song-poem which really should have been widely known before today. I hope you enjoy this record as much as I do.
I don't normally post the same label or artist the same week (or even the same month), and didn't expect to be doing so this week. And even last Sunday, when I learned I had a lead on a copy of one of my all time favorite song-poems, I still didn't think I'd be sharing it, because I was sure it was already in common circulation.
But a few days of research has convinced me that this record - one of my top ten favorite song-poems - has NEVER been shared online. I will therefore say that I don't know of a better song-poem that has not yet been heard by the general collecting song-poem public. And I must rush to rectify this situation.
Most song-poem collectors - whether seekers of records or of MP3's and CD's, will know the flip side to this Noval release, which is "The 23rd Channel", and which is fabulous in its own right. It appeared on the third volume of the "MSR Madness" CD series, and was remade by Gene Merlino (Gene Marshall) for the film "Off the Charts".
But here's what I don't understand - with all of the well-deserved attention given to this song, no one has ever shared its flip side, which is even better. . I would even name it as one of the strangest records I've ever heard, and yet one which encapsulates the song-poem experience in many ways - the odd lyrics, the off-the-cuff performance, the poor match of lyrics to music, the mystery of it all, and on and on....
I first heard this song on a tape, supplied to me by Phil Milstein (thank you, Phil!), well over a decade ago, and it moved to the top of my heap immediately.
It's called "Rock, Rocking All the Time", and I hardly know where to begin in describing it. Perhaps with the lyrics, which beg us to not "blame" the singer for wanting to rock all the time, but then allows that this desire to rock all the time is how "everybody feels" (so why would we blame him?). "Oh La La, Oh, La, La, There They Go", is pretty good, too.
Or there is the fact that the tune is set to a beat that is far from "rocking", being more suited to one of the slower numbers from the Swing Era. And of course, one of the instruments driving the piece is that most rocking of instruments, the Vibraphone.
The vocalist really can't sing, which is not always a problem in real rock and roll, but his minimal ability is more in the area of "bad lounge singing", so even that doesn't fit. The whole thing adds up to a truly amazing performance, and it's capped off (hilariously, and incredulously, if you ask me), with a musical coda in which the band finally decides that they really are at a swing session, and go to town, with a big two bar solo for the vibraphone.
It is impossible for me to overstate how much I love this record. I even love the fact that you can hear the end of the count-off at the start. If there were an Abbey Road of song-poems, this would be on it. I hope you find as much to love in this deeply peculiar record:
For completeness sake, and for those who may not have it, here is the almost-as-deeply-magical flip side, "The 23rd Channel", heard here off of my new copy, not from the CD. You can also hear the end of a count-off on this side, and that's not heard on the CD release.
This has to be in the running for the best Double A-sided song-poem release ever. I can only think of a couple of competitors, both of which featured songs by Edith Hopkins, who was not really your typical song-poet. So maybe I consider this the Hey Jude/Revolution of Song-Poem singles.