Saturday, July 31, 2021

Soap Opera Relationships, On Sterling Records


This is an intensely busy moment in my work life, but I really want to get a post up this weekend, so I am doing so, but will be uncharacteristically brief. I meant to offer some thanks and links to a few people, but I want to do that right, and I will wait until next time to do so

I have, however, taken the time to repopulate the links on another month's worth of posts, in this case, all the way back to October of 2009. During that month, I posted a song-poem on the Canary label, a nice Rodd Keith confection, a World's Fair related disc from Sammy Marshall, and a personal favorite on the Allstar label. Be sure to read the comments - there was some interesting information about the Canary label (including contact from a relative of the man behind the label), and for the Allstar release, the actual singer of the song posted a response!

Today, we have Sterling Records' favorite pair of 1960's and early 1970's singers, Shelley Stuart and Norm Burns, one on each side of the 45, helped out by house band "The Five Stars", giving us two songs from the same song-poet, Faye Bottoms. Ms. Bottoms seems to have had a flair for portraying the soap opera type of relationship, as the protagonists heard on each side of this record are dealing with the sturm und drang of a difficult relationship. 

Shelley Stuart goes first, with a song whose title tells you exactly how difficult the relationship is going, "I Am Locked Up in a Prison of Love"

Download: Shelley Stuart and The Five Stars - I Am Locked Up in a Prison of Love


Over on the flip side, we have everyone's favorite singer, Norm Burns, who, in this case, is portraying a man who has entered into a relationship with a married woman, and now finds himself in love. Here's "Now It's Too Late Darlin'"

Download: Norm Burns and the Five Stars - Now It's Too Late Darlin'



Thursday, July 22, 2021

A Full Song-Poem Album. On Halmark. Yes, it's a HALMARK ALBUM!


Before I get to the site updates and today's amazing offering, I want to let everyone know that I've again been offered the chance to take part in a podcast, about yet another item from my large collection of recordings. 

In this case, it's about the history of, and my history with, an album called "Musical Memories of Camp Bryn Afon", a record made in tiny quantities in 1965, one copy of which I've owned since 1985. It is a deeply obscure choice for this honor, but it is my second favorite album ever. 

The podcast is part of the series "Ephemeral", and is the fourth to feature aspects of my collection. This episode can be found here:


I have, as usual, updated yet another month of posts, in this case, October of 2009, a month in which I shared a fantastic and ridiculous Tin Pan Alley bopper, a different Tin Pan Alley record featuring two revealing sets of lyrics, a nice set of tunes from Rodd Keith and a rather insane dance tune from the pen of Norridge Mayhams. 

Finally, that month I also created a fun little mash-up, of two recording acts unlikely to have actually worked together, and I shared that in a post to be found here.  


The big news this week is that, after a long delay, I am honoring a request from a reader, and posting something that I would guess is exceptionally rare: An album on the Halmark label. 

Released in what I believe was the early years of the label - 1969 - it's called "Mercy Drops", and is made up entirely of songs with Christian lyrics, with all twelve songs written by someone named Joe Carmen.

And the Halmark people were already up to their standard tricks, not bothering to hide the fact that they used the same tracks over and over again. One track is featured on a song on each side, and most ridiculously, another track is featured on two songs on the same side (side two). Perhaps they thought the song-poet. 

More likely, they didn't care. 

Whatever the explanation, I think it speaks a high level of contempt on the part of Halmark towards their customers, one that I've thought was clear for a long, long time. 

A few other oddities here. First, the logo on the record is entirely different from the style they used, and frequently modified, on their 45's, and what's more, it looks enough (to me) like the logo of the real (and enormous) Hallmark Cards company that there could have been a lawsuit, had more than perhaps 20 people ever seen this record. 

And second, two singers are credited: Bob Storm and Marshall Young. The songs credited to Bob Storm do not sound like the Bob Storm who is credited on some of the Halmark singles. But Marshall Young - on some tracks he does sound like, and quite clearly IS, the same singer so often identified as Bob Storm on those later records. But I perceive at least three singers here, labeled as these two men. It makes me wonder if "Bob Storm" doesn't exist the way that another label stalwart, "Jack Kim" clearly does or did exist, as we know his real name, Jack Kimmel. Maybe "Bob Storm" was a catchall for more than one singer, and not even clearly delineated as the unctuous over-emoter we all know and love until later. 

Halmark is just one mystery after another. 

Here's what the front cover looks like: 

And here's the label on side one. 

The tracks and credited singers on side one are: 

Mercy Drops - Bob Storm
God's Great Love - Bob Storm
Jesus At Calvary - Bob Storm
Fill My Heart, Dear Lord - Marshall Young
Our Father's Great Love - Marshall Young
How True Are You to Jesus - Marshall Young


The tracks and credited singers on side two are: 

When Jesus Came To Our World - Marshall Young
Christ is the Worlds (sic) True Light - Marshall Young
There Are Changes in the Heart - Marshall Young
Where is God - Marshall Young
The Last Word in Jesus is Us - Bob Storm
Jesus Did All Things Well - Marshall Young


Here is the back cover: 

In case you can't make it out, the address of Halmark is listed as being in the small town of Lapel, Indiana (not far, I'm guessing, from Cuff Link, Indiana and Button Down Shirt, Ohio, but quite a ways north of Inseam, Kentucky), and was pressed by a company in Richmond Indiana, both far away from Halmark's actual headquarters in Massachusetts.

Here is the label for side two: 

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Rockin' With Sammy


Today, I have yet another update of a month's worth of posts to share with you. I've gotten all the way back to November of 2009, a month when a shared a whopping 16 tracks across five posts. 

These include a simply fantastic rocker on the Vellez label, a set of six fairly eccentric songs from Tin Pan Alley, the amazing "Let's Lay It On the Line" and three other tracks from a Halmark EP, an early - and wonderful - Norridge Mayhams release, and a very late Rodd Keith item. Enjoy!

And now!: 

My hope, when obtaining a previously unknown Sammy Marshall (or, in this case, Sonny Marshall) record, is that at least one of the songs will be one of of Sammy's patented rock and roll numbers. Happily, in today's case, we have an EP on Air featuring three upbeat numbers of such a distinction, two of them very likely unheard until today, at least by anyone reading these words. 

All four of these tracks were written by the same gentleman (wonder how much that cost him), who seems to have been prone to a certain repetitiveness in his lyrics. The record starts with the only ballad contained therein, "Bridge of Make Believe". The narrator of the song is quite unhappy, it would seem, as he is not crossing the bridge into "Make Believe", but rather, has left it, via the bridge, into the harsh world of reality. 

Download: Sonny Marshall - Bridge of Make Believe


Now we cross the bridge of early '60's rock and roll, and encounter "My Little Dove". This is, to my ears, quite a bit less convincing than most of Sammy's efforts in the genre. Everyone seems stiff, like they are holding back a bit, and the drumming is poor enough that I could imagine it being the drummer's first day behind the kit. 

Download: Sonny Marshall - My Little Dove


Side two features to sound-alike tracks, pressed in far lower quality, but performed in much more authentic style. A Duane Eddy style guitarist leads us into a chugging rhythm for "My Second Home", and if one didn't know better, one could easily mistake this for a 1962 attempt at pop radio airplay. 

Download: Sonny Marshall - My Second Home


Finally, we have a song that readers of this site have heard before (which explains a comment I made, above). This exact same rendition of "A Little Bird" - sounding exactly like "My Second Home" - appeared on an EP from the Cardinal label, which I featured in a post nearly three years ago. On that disc, "A Little Bird" was the clear winner; here, I'd award that prize to both the songs on this second side. 

But the real question is: why is the song credited to a different song-poet on the Cardinal release and on this Air release? Weird. 

Download: Sonny Marshall - A Little Bird (Air Records)


Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Song-Poem Weather Forecast

Howdy, Good Buddies!

First, I want to do something I should do more often, and thank everyone for reading/listening, and particularly thank everyone who comments. I've received a bushel of comments in the last few months, to both the new posts, and (surprisingly) even more to the old, fixed posts that I link to in each new post. 

Thank you!!!

And we're in the home stretch of old posts! Today, I have corrected those posts for the end of the first year of this near-weekly song-poem feature, that being December of 2009. 

During that month, I featured a Christmassy post featuring Sammy Marshall (as "Bob Rule") AND Frank Perry, a nice Norm Burns entry, a brief post of Gene Marshall promoting a larger post at WFMU, and, on the next to last day of that year, a big Thank You post, featuring some of my favorite song poems that I didn't personally own physically (including a Norm Burns number which is perhaps my all time favorite song-poem), and cover versions I was involved in, of each of those four song-poems, three of them performed live and one a studio remake. Some of the files shared in that post, as well as the Gene Marshall one, are a bit redundant now, having subsequently been shared elsewhere, but I thought I'd rebuild that post anyway. 

And now, with extreme weather in the news from seemingly nearly everywhere in the United States, here's a bit of extreme weather none of the states are currently dealing with: 

I am always - ALWAYS - in the mood to share some Phil Celia. And what a ridiculous record he made for us to hear today. The song-poet in question had one simple concern on his or her mind - an approaching blizzard. The writer of "There's a Blizzard in Kansas", despite clearly being worked up about this weather situation, didn't actually have a lot to say about it, submitting a set of only eight lines, and the last two of them were simply a repeat of the first two. 

The good people at Tin Pan Alley had a fix for this, though. They set it to a march beat. They realized that it was approximately 1964, and therefore hired someone to play a trombone solo, which were all the rage in 1964. They didn't worry about it when said trombone player flubbed a note, and filled in the break with both the trombone and bit of piano. Then they had Phil sing the exact same two brief verses before and after the instrumental break. 

VoilĂ . Song-Poem Masterpiece. 

Download: Phil Celia - There's a Blizzard in Kansas


The flip side, "Dollar to a Dime", finds Phil in supper-club mode, with a song about how sure he is that he will kiss the person he's singing to. Heard with 2021 ears, I picture the object of his affection having quite a "Me Too" moment in reaction to the ham-fisted tone - specifically, his assuredness about the rightness of his intentions and about how much the lucky lady will appreciate it, and him. 

Download: Phil Celia - Dollar to a Dime



Thursday, June 24, 2021

More Song-Poem Thievery


Before getting to today's ridiculous song-poem release, I'm happy to reveal that I have now completed the upgrade of yet another year of old posts, in that for today, I have "fixed" the posts for January of 2010. This means we have just twelve months of posts to fix in order to have all of the posts (that is, all those since I made this a primarily song-poem blog) corrected!

Specifically, for January of 2010, these include a terrible Real Pros record, a typical early Rodd Keith Preview label release, a dance record titled "Chicken Neck Boogie", and a wonderfully idiosyncratic Tin Pan Alley record, featuring one song about Shoes and another about Tin Cans

And NOW, it's time for more plagiarism!!!

One of the things that consistently amazes and fascinates me, while collecting and listening to song-poems, falls under the broad category of "people who submitted, as their own work, something someone else already wrote". 

In the past, I have shared records "written by" someone who submitted the lyrics to the hit song "Watching Scotty Grow", changing a few things here and there, including than the name of the child, and two someones who, in one case, submitted amended lyrics to the 1949 song "Nobody's Child" (a post not yet "fixed") and in the other, submitted the lyrics to "Ruby (Don't Take Your Love to Town)" with barely a word changed. I even have a Halmark release - which I haven't shared - in which some jamoke submitted the words to The Lord's Prayer, verbatim, and claimed a writer's credit. 

Today's example seems of a piece with those, even if its construction is a little different. The song involved may have faded from public memory in the last 50 years, but I'm guessing that in 1965 or so - the era when this record was made - the vast majority of Americans knew the 1897 song "Asleep in the Deep", and at the very least could hum along to parts of it. 

The author of today's masterwork - "Beware Take Care" - simply rewrote the seafaring ballad along a religious line, making fear and caution in the face of God the subject, instead of fear and caution in the face of the roiling sea. Some lines from the original are quoted verbatim, others are changed slightly to fit the new topic, and a few are re-written completely.  

But then the "lyricist" made the theft obvious, by - I'm assuming - asking Film City to set the lyrics to the tune of "Asleep in the Deep", leaving out only the two (title) lines at the end of the chorus. The result - made all the more disconcerting by Rodd Keiths ultra-lugubrious performance - is utterly weird, off kilter and, to my ears, irresistible. 

You can read the original lyrics here, and follow along with the new ones as you listen.

I am utterly unable to comprehend the motivation here - if the song-poet proudly put on this record and said to friends and family "I wrote that", the response would almost certainly have been embarrassed silence, or maybe a blunt, "um, no... you didn't" from someone with less tact.  

Download: Rod Rogers and the Film City Orchestra and Chorus - Beware Take Care


The flip side, "Chehalis Valley", is a pleasant midtempo shuffle, written in tribute to an area in Washington State, including glowing words about the physical beauty of the area, the niceness of the people therein, and the wonderful activities one can partake in. Rodd created a very nice music bed for this one. 

Download: Rod Rogers and the Film City Orchestra and Chorus - Chehalis Valley



Friday, June 11, 2021

...And No Women Around to Sing It

Greetings, Song-Poemaniacs!

First, I want to thank everyone for a larger than usual batch of comments, all of them highly appreciated and warmly enjoyed. 

And second, I have, as usual, updated another month's worth of old, worn out, broken down posts. In this case, February of 2010. 

During that month, I offered up a pre-Valentine's day horror from Halmark, some Yankee Doodling from Rodd Keith, a very early Cinema release, which is one of the worst records I've ever heard, and a ridiculous record written by William Howard Arpaia (but I repeat myself). The comments on that last record turned into a brief, but interesting conversation with a few people who knew Mr. Arpaia, and who contrasted my comments with their memories of the man. 

Also that month, I offered up two non-song-poem posts, one featuring a ridiculously awful cover of a Rod Stewart song, and the other a then-update to my expanding collection of records by the wonderful Merigail Moreland. While that post was already redundant in 2010 (the songs posted there had already been on the WFMU site for two years at the time), I thought I'd update it anyway. Both "Oo-Lee, Papa" and "Reputation (1953 version) are well ensconced in the list of my top 40 favorite tracks ever recorded. 

By the way, if anyone is still interested in Merigail, I have obtained a later 45 she made, in the early 1960's, one which appears to be even more obscure than her 1960 releases, and will post it if there is interest. 

So today, I have something of a mystery, or at the very least, more evidence that low budgets and expediency usually came first in the song-poem game. There is so much to explore here - where to start? 

For someone named Rush Isaacs submitted her song-poem lyrics, all about a returning (presumably Vietnam) soldier, in what was almost certainly a first-person style from the point of view of his wife. Certainly, that would seem to be the case from the title, "My Man, I Love Him So". 

For one thing, that's not really a title that gets at the heart of her story - that title phrase never appears in the lyrics - but never mind. More importantly, I'd put money on it, that the writer was telling her own, heartfelt story, and something decent probably could have been done with the very simple, but heartfelt, direct and affecting lyrics. 

But Tin Pan Alley, at the time, only seems to have had one singer, the mighty Mike Thomas, who, as you might gather, was not, technically speaking, a woman. So okay, they made it a third person lyric instead, about a woman reacting to the changes in her returning military man. 

But they kept the original title. The title that's not even in the lyrics, and would have been changed to "Her Man, She Loves Him So", if it had been. 

The questions that occur to me: 

Why didn't they change the title to something more in line with the lyrics, or at least change it to what I just wrote. 

Why didn't they hire a woman to sing this one, or (HORRORS) tell the writer they weren't equipped at the moment to provide a female vocalist. 

Why didn't they label the record with the name of a female singer? Mike Thomas often SOUNDED like a woman anyway, and it's not like the song-poet bought so many Tin Pan Alley records that she would have said, "Wait a minute, I know that voice.... THAT'S MIKE THOMAS!!!"

See if you don't share my questions, as you enjoy the 105 seconds of "My Man, I Love Him So". 

Download: Mike Thomas - My Man, I Love Him So


The flip side, "Ohio's the One", presents a completely different paradox. For here we have some trite lyrics about going home, paired with a sort of oompah beat behind Mike Thomas, who sings it in a gee-shucks country bumpkin style. Then we get to the solo, and while it's far from great, it does seem like the guitarist suddenly thinks he's fronting a blues band, and he at least tries some interesting stuff. I wouldn't call it good, but it is disorienting in a sort of intoxicating way, then we oompah and bumpkin our way back out the last verse door. 

Download: Mike Thomas - Ohio's the One



Sunday, May 30, 2021

One of Rodd Keith's Earliest Song-Poem Records

Well, Howdy-Doo!

We are rapidly approaching the point at which all of the song-poem entries on this site will have been "fixed" - I have now corrected March of 2010, meaning that there are only 14 months of entries left to correct, since I began the "Song-Poem of the Week" project, some 12 and a half years ago. There are a handful of earlier posts I will also correct in do time, but the main project here has been to reconnect all of the song-poem postings with their original files. 

Specifically, today,.in fixing March of 2010, I have resurrected these posts: an Irish specialty offered up by a Tin Pan Alley singer who always went by "Lance", Dick Kent singing about "Ole Dirty Face" on a Cinema release, a vanity project involving Sandy Stanton's Film City label, by the one and only Stich Stampfel, and a record from the Globe company on a tiny label - a record where my original text had some major errors, which I have now corrected. 

And now, here's something special for today: 

So far as I know, Sandy Stanton's hiring of Rodd Keith for work at his Film City label, marked Rodd's entry into the song-poem world. And I think that fact makes this record (along with a few others I've shared) quite notable. According to its label number, and a variety of information available at the Film City page (and related pages) at the AS/PMA website, this record is probably one of Rodd's first dozen and a half song-poems under his own pseudonym. He is likely on at least another dozen as the Chamberlin player, as well. See the notes after the second side of this record for more information on really early Rod Rogers on Film City tracks. 

What's clear from today's tracks (and the ones linked below) is that Rodd Keith arrived at Film City with his talents fully developed, and that it took him virtually no time to get up to speed with the Chamberlin. Today's lead track, a mid-tempo thing called "Hide and Seek", has a lovely backing track, complete with strings, choral-ish and sax-ish flavoring, and best of all, some fake, picked lead guitar, playing an intricate melody throughout and in a lead solo section. Top it all off with a sweet, effective harmonized vocal, and you have a nice little one man band song-poem record.  

Download: Rod Rogers with the Swinging Strings - Hide and Seek


The flip side, "September Wind" has many of the same features, although admittedly in the service of a style of song which doesn't do much for me. But even in a record which I find less than scintillating, I still admire the work that went into it. What you're hearing here would be easy to do today in a matter of minutes, using Midi, and sound more accurate, but given what he was using, and that it was brand new to him, I think this is a rather amazing, and the flip side much more so. 

Download: Rod Rogers with the Swinging Strings - September Wind


As promised, here is some more information about Rodd Keith's earliest days at Film City and in the song-poem world: 

I featured the record immediately before this one (in terms of label number) almost ten years ago, here, and an even earlier one in 2013, which can be heard here. I shared a truly horrific vanity record from the label, which likely features Rodd on Chamberlin, back at WFMU, which is an even earlier release, and which can be found here. And the lowest numbered Film City disc in my collection, number 1012, is a wonderfully atmospheric record which also clearly reflects the magic of Rodd on Chamberlin. I posted it in 2013, and it can be heard here

Monday, May 24, 2021

Poodles and Moons and Sammy, Oh My!

Sorry about that title. I just finished reading a wonderful, fairly legendary book from the '70's, about the making of the Wizard of Oz. I inherited it from my mother, and finally got around to reading it, after seeing it on her bookshelf, then mine, for 40 years. 

I also meant to include, in last weeks post about the plagiaristic song-poems, that the three 45's that I excerpted, sold for a combined total of almost $200.00, which strikes me as excessive. But your mileage may vary. 

I have also, as usual, updated yet another month of previous posts, in this case, April of 2010. Discs which had their contents posted that month include a record from early in Rodd Keith's tenure at MSR, a record written by my favorite song-poet, Edith Hopkins - a fantastic teen-idol type tune decrying empty churches - as well as two, count 'em, two, records by Ellen Wayne on Tin Pan Alley, one is quite decent, and is titled "Devil Fly", and the other is an amazing song-poem record for the ages, titled "Don't Touch Me There!"

And, keeping with the Wizard of Oz theme, at least in that the movie features a dog in a key role, and so does today's feature.....

Today's feature, from Sammy Marshall, under the name "Ben Tate", which was his moniker at the fabulous Ronnie label, contains two demonstrations of the "writers who were not nearly as clever as they thought they were" school of song-poemetry. Both records, particularly the first one, contain some lyrical howlers. 

The first is "My Poodle", and it is a veritable plethora of tortured rhymes and forced cleverness. Right away, we havelines designed to end with "curly" and "surly" and then some. My favorite stupid lyrical moment comes at 0:55, and I will not give it away here. 


The author of the flip side, "A Half Moon", fails (to my ears, anyway) for a different reason, that being that he starts with what surely seemed like a clever idea, but which doesn't stand up to any level of attention. It contains the following rhyme: 

"A half moon is mysterious / as you gaze upon it at night
It can  make you delirious / about the half that's out of sight"

My problem is: does anyone actually think a half moon is mysterious? Since the rest of the song is a simile, comparing this moon analogy to the way everyone has a half of us which is mysterious to our loved one, it seems like the initial concept should at least have some truth to it. 

What the writer says about we humans (apart from the moon comparison) is pretty accurate. I just wish there was a better analogy behind it. 

But maybe I think too much. 

Monday, May 17, 2021

Roger Smith's Lament, PLUS Some Truly Astonishing Plagiarism

To quote a favorite Mike Thomas single of mine: It's Spring! It's Spring! It's Spring! (I'll eventually fix the post featuring that song - the second one ever in the "song poem of the week" project - when I get to January of 2009)

And today, I have updated another month's worth of old post, this case, those posted EXACTLY eleven years this month, in May of 2010. That month, I posted an EP on Ronnie featuring a quintessential song-poem title, "You Insulted Me", a bit of supper club Rodd Keith, a ridiculous single from the ridiculous Gary Roberts, what appears to be a song-poem acetate, complete with sheet music, and a Halmark record featuring, in what may be a unique recording, Bob Storm in a duet performance.


Before I even get to today's feature, I want to call your attention to, and let you hear some of, a few remarkably contemptuous releases from the very end of the road for Tin Pan Alley records. 

Seven 45's by "The Melodiers" went up for auction on eBay about ten days ago. Lengthy sound clips were shared for each side of each record, although no complete side was included. The Melodiers are a band whose work on Tin Pan Alley I've actually enjoyed to varying degrees, including one release that, despite being about a ridiculous topic, I simply love. 

And four of the seven singles sound pretty much like the Melodiers records I already own or have heard. 

But five of the six tunes on the other three 45's were inexcusable, examples of rank plagiarism several steps beyond anything I'd ever heard on a song-poem - blatant, effort-free rip offs of giant hit records of the past, showing more contempt for the song-poets, and the music industry in general, than I've ever perceived, even in the most redundant Halmark records or tossed-off late MSR record. 

To illustrate this, I thought it was essential to make a copy of the available segments of all five of these sides (and there was a sixth which was almost as obnoxious, which I didn't include), and share them with you as a medley. 

The songs are heard in the following order:

What You Were (Tin Pan Alley 1135)
Ruth Ellen My Darling 
Any Way Out (Above two on Tin Pan Alley 1129)
In Between
He Goes Through Life Every Day (Above two on Pageant 1060 - apparently a spin-off label)

Here's the medley:



I'll just give you a head's up here. If I come into position of a new-to-me record by Roger Smith, it will show up here within a few days. 

A few days ago, I came to own a new-to-me Roger Smith record, and I'm sharing it here. Surprise, surprise!

This is not Roger Smith in over-the-top, about to go out of control rock and roll. No, this is maudlin Roger Smith ("Acc. by String Band", by the way), offering a lament for love lost to death. But he's just as over the top, offering up about as weepy a performance as you'll ever hear on a song-poem. Please enjoy "(In a Grave) Just Over the Hill", and try not to cry. 

Download: Roger Smith Acc By String Band - (In a Grave) Just Over the Hill


That's actually a well enough written song, and played well enough, that I questioned if it was a song-poem, particularly as it's not on a label I've ever seen or heard of before. On the other hand, every other Roger Smith record I've ever seen or heard has quite clearly been a song-poem. And if that's not enough, we have the flip side, which is clearly, oh so clearly, the word of an amateur. An untalented amateur. 

Among my favorite clunky lines in "Why Act So Strange?", are "although our love isn't new/it isn't old" and "you loved me awhile/and you always wore a smile".

Download: Roger Smith Acc By String Band - Why Act So Strange?


Sunday, May 09, 2021

Dear Mother

Happy Mother's Day to all of you Mothers and everyone who has ever even spoke to a Mother!

Today, I have again updated a month from this site's past history, in this case, June of 2010. 

Posts corrected from that month include a record paying tribute both to John F. Kennedy and to Kennedy's focus on Physical Fitness, a Brosh label release capturing two songs each from the Globe and the Halmark song-poem factories, a release on the tiny Arco label, with two singles, primarily featuring Joe Noto and Phyllis Ruby (including an all time favorite song-poem of mine, "My Lover",  and an insane - one might say "bananas" - Gene Marshall record about... Bananas

I also wrote a short post linking everyone to a large post I'd done at WFMU that month, all about the Fable Label

Oh, and that was the month I turned 50 years old. I observed that occasion by posting a lot of my old material. Quite a bit of that posting has been duplicated since then by my having put two entire albums online (in fact, it was this posting that led to me having the opportunity to post my "Many Moods" album online), but I thought I'd fix the post anyway - some of the material there is unavailable anywhere else. . 


And now: 

I wanted to make sure to do something for Mother's Day, so I went through my singles, and whattaya know, the first four potential "Mother" songs were all on Halmark 45's. Two of them stuck out as particularly worth sharing, and I put the other one aside for next year. 

"Dear Mother" is a pretty typical "my mother is a saint" song-poem, but I found it interesting primarily because it features a backing track that I don't recall hearing on a Halmark label (although I may very well be corrected), and it's a bit different than than a lot of the tracks they recycled so much.  Also, that's certainly not Bob Storm singing, and I don't think that's Jack Kim either, so I don't know who it might be. 

I hope the song-poet's mother enjoyed it. 

Download: Halmark Productions - Dear Mother


Up next is "The Possessor", and it's another one of those "yes, we get it, you're Christian" lyrics sort of lyrics, albeit one with a few more esoteric lyrics than usual. It's set to one of my favorite, completely over-the-top Halmark backing track, one which was behind a track on the first song poem record I (unknowingly) ever heard. 

Download: Halmark Productions - The Possessor



Side two kicks off with another backing track which was on the first song-poem record I ever heard. And if Mom got a happy tribute on the other side, Dad gets a sad story here. The song is called "Daddy's Gone For Good", and one thing that will be hammered into your brain by the time you're done listening to it is that, well.... Daddy's Gone For Good.  

I do like the fact that this particularly song-poet seems to think that heaven is literally in the sky - like somewhere hidden in the Milky Way. I suppose that's not a rare belief, but you don't often hear it phrased that way in song. 

Download: Halmark Productions - Daddy's Gone For Good


The final track has the unwieldy (to my ears) title of "Unhappy Ends", and that's not a title that is obvious from the often even more unwieldy lyrics. He's really hoping for a reunification, but that title doesn't really indicate he thinks it's going to happen. The sudden fade out heard here is how the record ends. 

Download: Halmark Productions - Unhappy Ends


Monday, April 26, 2021

All Tore Up

Howdy Doo, 

First off, let me just say that I appreciate all of the comments, and I am particularly thankful for Timmy and Bryan, both of whom provided about a half-dozen comments to posts new and old in the last few weeks. 

Plus, I am very indebted to another frequent poster and all around good guy, Sammy Reed, who pointed out that, in my zeal to get all of the old posts fixed, I completely skipped October of 2010. No month would be good to skip, but October of 2010 was the worst one to skip of all. For that was the month that I received my very own copy of "What's She Got (That I Ain't Got" by Betty Jayne, and duly posted it. "What's She Got", in retrospect, is very likely not a song poem, or even a vanity record, but probably was an attempt at a legitimate hit. But it involved people, particularly the songwriter, who did use the song-poem companies quite a bit, and it's one of my half dozen favorite singles - by anyone - of all time. Even the flip side in great. Both sides would land in my top 300 - But "What's She Got" would be in my top 20 tracks of all time, if not higher. It is incomparable. It's a record I could listen to - and write about - all day. But I won't. You can find that post here

Thanks, Sammy. Y'all should check out his site, and and particularly his posting - in response to one of my own - of a George Liberace Songsmiths record. That can be found here

The rest of October, 2010, wasn't bad either. It featured a truly outstandingly ridiculous Tin Pan Alley release, three mind-numbing tracks from a song-poem album on the Brea label, and a rare vocal offering from Fable/Film City head honcho Sandy Stanton

That's all in the past, though. Let's spin on up to the present, and see what's tops: 

I always enjoy having a Cara Stewart 45 to share. As I've said many times, they tend to exist in just a couple of settings, but what lovely and charming settings they are, and Cara's vocals run rings around any other distaff song-poem singers, and most of the legit ones, too. 

The first song here is absolutely standard issue for Cara, which makes it utterly listenable, if interchangeable, with several others. It's called "I Ture Up Your Letters". 


Having mentioned that Cara pretty much always sounds the same, I will now ask if anyone hears, in the opening minute of "Just Keep My Love", not the sultry, knowing Cara we've all come to know and perhaps love, but a coy, almost coquettish vocal. To me, at least, she sounds a bit different here. Somewhere along the line, around the minute mark perhaps, her more typical delivery returns. 

That's what I hear, anyway. 


Saturday, April 17, 2021

Turn Me On, Shy Man

 Happy Saturday, everyone, 

Today, I have yet again repaired another month's worth of earlier posts, this time, July of 2010. That month I offered up a couple of truly awful patriotic numbers for the Fourth of July, a Film-Tone EP featuring two tracks worth hearing (a real rarity for that label), a fairly awful Norm Burns attempt at performing soul music, and a Halmark tribute to everyone's favorite megalomaniac, Arthur Godfrey. 


Today, I have something fairly fascinating and at the same time truly awful on one side of the record, while the flip side contains something I find engaging and surprisingly well written. But let's start with the car-crash side first. 

The label is Tin Pan Alley, and the performer is the ubiquitous Mike Thomas. The "song", if you can call it that, is named "Turn Me On, I Love You". And when I purchased this record, some years ago, it came along with a "lead sheet" for the song-writer. Perhaps this was standard practice, but I've only seen a couple of these, and never before or since from Tin Pan Alley. 

But here's the thing: The lead sheet doesn't match the song. And I indicates a level of contempt for their customers that I hadn't necessarily seen from Tin Pan Alley before. Even if they assumed that the song-poet couldn't read music anyway, why not still just send an accurate lead sheet - it would have been no more difficult to create than it was to create the fiction you will see below. What's more, the lengthy section notated as "recite" (yes, most of this record is a recitation) indicates that the song-poet wrote additional lyrics that Tin Pan Alley chose not to include in the record they made for him. 

Here's the lead sheet: 

Now granted, there was little good that TPA would have been able to do with this material, but the chords AND the melody do not match the record. Why not? 

And on to that record - man, does this suck. I plant most of that on the song-poet - this is among the worst set of lyrics I've ever read or heard. He goes straight from not knowing her name to requesting that she turn him on and that he loves her. And then there's this section, which is somehow hackneyed, redundant, grammatically incorrect, and non-sequitur, in the course of a few words: 

With the dark clouds overhead, lightning from above, thunder in my heart, dark clouds overhead.

That's why I ask you to turn me on I love you

As I alluded to, the only thing that's a "song" here is the extremely basic chorus. The rest is talkity-talk over riffing. 

Anyway, I hope you enjoy "Turn Me On, I Love You" as deeply and as fully as I do. 

Download: Mike Thomas - Turn Me On, I Love You



The flip side of this record could not have been a bigger surprise to me. It's called "Shy", and I genuinely found myself being drawn into the lyrics. The music is the standard issue Tin Pan Alley minimalism of the day. But the lyrics are a damn good exploration of what it feels like to want to talk to someone who you find appealing, but being too shy to express yourself. There are some great turns of phrase, describing both the internal feeling as well as the actions of the two people being described. 

Mike Thomas, whose vocals can often feel sort of tossed off, actually strikes a really good and effective tone in singing these words. This is one of those records where I feel that the material could have actually been turned into something saleable. Again, see what you think. 

Download: Mike Thomas - Shy