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

Play:

~~

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

Play:



Saturday, April 03, 2021

A Fascinating Piece of Song-Poem History

Well, the delay - and the near weeklong illness I encountered that led to it (happily, not that thing that's going around) - is over, and I have something truly unusual today. But first, another list of updates, in this case to the posts of August, 2010.

That month, I offered a Bob Storm special on Halmark (with some very funny text, if I do say so myself), a favorite Rodd Keith production featuring Suzie Smith, some typical Sammy Marshall, and a truly catchy number from Norm Burns. 

~~

And now, here's an obscure disc that has all sorts of song-poem history behind it: 


I was very excited to get this record a couple of weeks ago. I've always found records on the George Liberace Songsmith's label to be deeply odd, out of time and as different from the general song-poem world as are Noval, Halmark and Star-Crest. And when I saw the artist name, I was sold on getting this disc. For as many of you likely know, Gene Merlino is the real name of the song-poem stalwart who goes by Gene Marshall, among several other names. 

As far as I can tell, this is the only known case of Merlino being billed on a song-poem under his real name (although he used it throughout his career on hundreds of legitimate releases). And although Liberace's company eventually went into partnership with MSR, Gene barely ever worked for that company (one known release), so this likely predates their mid '60's partnership (and therefore, it also would predate his work for Preview). This record - a one sided acetate - likely was made before the persona of "Gene Marshall" (or any of the others), ever existed. 

More proof of that is the style in which Gene sings the song. This is not the relaxed, one take pro of his 1970's and 1980's song-poem releases. This is a mannered, altogether more serious (and more pompous) sounding Gene, who I barely even recognize as Gene at first - it becomes clear it's him quickly, but there is an overly staid tone to this that he thankfully lost at some later point. 

I wanted to mention here that, nearly 11 years ago, I posted a George Liberace Songsmith's album to the WFMU blog, and my pal Stu commented that the song "Rockin' and Rolling" sounded like it could be sung by "a slightly more mannered Gene Merlino" - a less extreme version of how I'm describing this record. Listening to it again, I am certain that he was right, and that the Gene Merlino, who stylized his vocals in this certain way, at the time of the recording of this acetate, is the same singer on "Rockin' and Rolling". 

After all that build-up, I should acknowledge that the song  - "I Shall Remember" - is no great shakes. Getting it's presentation pushed back several days did line it up nicely with Holy Week, which dovetails with the song's subject matter. It's a typical George Liberace arrangement, organ, guitar and violin combo with vocal. But it's another little piece of the song-poem story which hadn't been shared before today. 

Download: Gene Merlino - I Shall Remember

Play:

Sunday, March 21, 2021

MISTER TUTOR MAN!!!

I have a really remarkable release from the folks at Halmark today, but first, let's get updated as to my latest corrections to the earlier posts. In this case, I have corrected four posts from September, 2010 - one post from that month was already corrected some time ago. 

The corrected posts include an EP from Gus Kondas' vanity label, featuring three Film City productions (two by Rodd Keith) and one from Globe. Others just fixed today include a Gene Marshall record about Watergate, an oddity from the Lee Hudson song-poem factory, and yet another ridiculously great offering from the Phil Celia era at Tin Pan Alley. As mentioned, a fifth post that month, featuring a marvelous Meloclass release, which may or may not have been a song-poem, was already corrected some time ago. 

And now....

Weeding one's way through Halmark releases can be pretty much the dictionary defamation of a SLOG, and many a promising title turns out to be another turgid setting of vapid lyricism, set to a depressingly familiar backing track. Still, when I saw the auction last month for something called "Mr. Tutor Man" on a Halmark 45, I dedicated myself to earning that purchase. And that purchase was for the princely sum of One Dollar (plus shipping). 

And I'm here to tell you that, in a rare occurrence, this fantastically named Halmark track is, well, fantastic - (as is, I feel compelled to add, the song-poet's name: Ida G. Yaggi). The song is just about as peculiar as they come, too. And as a bonus, it's set to a backing track that I don't recall hearing before - although I may end up corrected on that. 

But truly, this thing is a wonder - compilation worthy, I'd say. I've now listened about five times now, and I simply have no idea what the song-poet is going on about. But first, let's enjoy the late '60's, Las Vegas-y opening blast of horns and chorus. The first verse is all about music, which made me think the writer meant "Mister Tooter Man" (as in a brass instrument), but then the verse ends with those classic lyrics "Teach Baby to Pattycake". 

The left turn turns out to be the focus of the rest of the song, as the vocalist - who I ALSO don't recognize as a Halmark regular - signs dramatically and with significant emotion about baking pattycakes for the last 100 seconds or so. 

All in all, a most enjoyable car crash of a song-poem. 

Download: Halmark Productions - Mister Tutor Man

Play: 

The rest of the EP, unfortunately, contains resolutely typical and borderline unlistenable Halmark product, featuring Mary Kim on the next two songs, and her husband Jack on the last track. 

First up is an exploration about whether the singer/writer is truly experiencing love, in the song "Is It Real": 

Download: Halmark Productions - Is It Real?
Play: 

Next up is a masterpiece of taking a few short lines of text - in this case, yet again, about discovering and being saved by Jesus, and stretching them into nearly three minutes, a la "My Daddy, He Died in 1969". In this case, the title is "I Trust in the Savior": 

Download: Halmark Productions - I Trust in the Savior
Play: 

And finally, we have a song-poet who apparently was bidding farewell to a close friend, and wanted to make sure the friend knew he wouldn't be forgotten, and to further make sure that he himself (the writer) wouldn't be forgotten. And he even throws in a little advice, along with several lines of text which would never, ever, be able to be fit well into a melody or song. Here's "Friendship is a Lasting Thing": 

Download: Halmark Productions - Friendship is a Lasting Thing
Play: 



Thursday, March 11, 2021

Lew Tobin Goes to the Cape

 Greetings, Citizens of Earth!

I have a very interesting guest submission as a feature today, but first, let's get caught up on the old posts I've corrected. This time around, it's November of 2010, and during that month, I offered up a Gene Marshall record appropriate for Veterans' Day, a Halmark record very appropriate (or at least, to the degree that any Halmark record is appropriate for anything) for Thanksgiving, a countrified Rodd Keith entry, and a bizarre Sammy Marshall release, meant to commemorate the Kansas Centennial of 1961, with a song about, yes, serial killers

~~

And now, for something unexpected: 

Several years ago, Andrew Bohan reached out to me in e-mail. I don't exactly recall what it was that I posted, or where, that led him to seek contact, but before long, he was sending me a lot of his favorite obscure '50's and '60's releases, including girl group and doo-wop sort of things. And what's more, he made an active effort to figure out just which of his holdings would resonate with me, which only one other person - my closest friend - had ever really tried, or been able, to do. Over the subsequent months of contact, he sent me more than a half-dozen records which have since become all-time favorites of mine - seriously, top 1000 recordings of all time sort of stuff. 

These have included "Lost Love" by the Koo Kittens, "Kissing School" by Tannie Taylor, and, particularly, Bald Headed Papa by the Gingersnaps and "Love in Return" by the Nightingales. Not long after our first contact, he started posting like crazy to YouTube, and I'm taking this opportunity to give back and drive a bit of traffic to his site, because not only did he share all of the above - and a lot more - with me, he just sent me a song-poem which seems like to have something of an offbeat backstory (although... who knows...). 


The record involves the Sterling label and its head honcho, Lew Tobin. Unlike many of his competitors, Tobin appears to have done very little sharing of his talent and output with other labels, be they vanity labels or something else. But here's one of the rare ones, a record which came out on both Sterling and on what may be the only release from Cape Records, featuring a singer who does not appear on any other documented song-poem release, Jerry Dixon. 

What's more, while the B side, which I'm sharing first, sounds fairly similar to what Tobin was putting out at the time (although it should also be noted that this is the earliest recorded documented on Sterling at AS/PMA), the flip side sounds nothing (to me, at least) like anything else. Tobin ever released.

Andrew has posted the A-side to youtube, as it is in line with his tastes and interests, but he knew that the B-side would float my boat, and he not only sent it to me, he also gave me the okay to share it on this site. I am aware that this record is out there on the internet (something I usually avoid duplicating), but as it would not easily turn up in a search for song-poems - given the lack of a common label or performer - I'm still sharing it here. 

It's a chugging little number with simple backing and simple lyrics. Jerry Dixon sings the fairly downcast lyrics in a cheery and bouncy manner. It quickly wormed its way into my brain. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Play:  

~~

And now the A-side. Again, this sounds quite unlike Tobin's style - no crisp production, no tinny guitar, nothing. This is almost a doo-wop style ballad, with piano triplets, a somewhat thick production haze and soulful female backing vocalists. I'm fascinated by this record, and would love to know it's provenance. I'm sure there's a bit of a story there. 

As Andrew has posted this one, I'm not doing a "play" line here, and if you want to simply hear it, you can go to his YouTube site here. But you can still download it: 



Many, many thanks for Andrew - you've brought me joy in music many times over. 


Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Rod Rogers: Jazz Singer

 Greetings - Happy March!

I have - yet again - updated another month's worth of posts. This time, as it was December of 2010, there were some Christmas releases mixed in. In addition to a rare Delicks label Christmas release (complete with comment at the bottom from the author of the song-poems), and holiday offerings from Mike Thomas and Sammy Marshall, there were also two stellar offerings, one an interesting number from Rodd Keith and the other an incomprehensible number from the Melodiers on Tin Pan Alley

And speaking of Rodd Keith: 


I have two 45's on the label which is named "Dave Owens' Circle 'D'" ("If it's Circle 'D', It's Good"), and previously shared the other of these discs (a Rodd Keith/Sammy Marshall hybrid) four years ago here

Today I have the other one. And there's a question here for you, my reading and listening audience. Because these tracks aren't really very good - with the exception of one very cool section. But I have a feeling that there are those out there who would prefer that ALL Rodd Keith tracks see release and/or sharing at some point. I don't believe this is true for any other person in the song-poem world. So my question is this - are there those of you who want to hear everything I own by Rodd, even if it's poor to middling, as these tracks are? Or should I self edit more? 

Regardless, I think I would have shared this one - "Tears of Happiness" - anyway, because of how much I enjoy a solo section near the end. First, let's note that someone helpfully wrote "Jazz Singer" in large letters around much of the label. I've listened to this track several times, and honestly, that's not what I hear. Not even in the same ballpark. Not even in the same sport. This is Rodd at 3/4s of his most unctuous, and the song seems to go on forever. But then, the magic of the Chamberlin hits at 1:58, and for 23 seconds, I'm in heaven. 

Play:  

From the same musical world - and beat to hell for the first minute or so (and I will soon try again to fix that skip...) - is "I Couldn't Live Without You", but this one doesn't even have the benefit of a very  interesting Chamberlin arrangement. Also, is there a link between his inability to live without her and his not having a dime? I must know!

Time to EMOTE, Rod!: 




Sunday, February 21, 2021

Gettin' Down and Dirty With.... The MSR Band?

 With today's post, I have completed the corrections to another month, and with that month, January of 2011, another year of the broken post project is finished. I now have only to get to 2010 and 2009 to complete the vast majority of posts at this blog, and virtually all of the song-poem posts, which began in earnest in January of 2009. 

Today's corrected posts (one of which contains references to a then-current project of also correcting old, broken links) include a whopping twelve tracks, including a two record posting of Bobbi Blake on MSR, a very late record from Norm Burns on Sterling, an EP featuring the great Rod Barton along with Sammy Marshall, and one of the best 45's ever released by Halmark, with some truly ridiculous lyrics, sung ridiculously by the inimitable Bob Storm. Even if you ignore the other links, I strongly suggest you give that Bob Storm number a try. 

Now that that's taken care of, we have this: 


I do not often share MSR releases here - I honestly don't understand how their product became the shorthand name for "song-poem" amongst so many aficionados (i.e. "MSR Madness). I think that generally - and absolutely, after Rodd Keith's death - the backing bands feature what were apparently top of the line studio musicians playing like hacks, with no attempt to hide their disinterest in the material. This doesn't come out as car-crash fascinating or "bad" funny, but simply tedious. 

I did, however, get a kick out of "To Prove It To You", by Bill Joy. Bill Joy is the singer on the very first record I ever heard that was identified beforehand as a song-poem (I owned two others, which I one at a record booth at a school fair, all the way back in 1975). That song was "How Long Are You Staying?", and it remains the high point for a singer who otherwise doesn't interest me at all - not at all good, but not entertainingly bad, either. 

But I knew this was something special as soon as the song started. For rather than being Bill Joy's typical soulless disco, this is a "bump-and-grind" record, something I thought would have been far beyond the ability of Mr. Joy, or the interest of the MSR band. Right on both counts. This is a entertainingly awful stuff. Whatever the opposite is of "giving it their all".... well, that's what the band is doing - they effectively give the impression of not only never having seen a stripper, but not having any idea of what a stripper might be. And Bill Joy.... well, he wasn't capable of doing anything well, musically, so  he's right at home. The lyrics are nicely, and appropriately vapid to match the music and singing. 

Enjoy!

Play:  

On the flip side is the aforementioned Bobbi Blake, a much, much better singer, trapped here in a deadly dull - and therefore much worse - flipside song, titled "It's All Over". 

As with the A-side, and as with most MSR product of this era, this record is poorly recorded and pressed, leading to terrible sound quality, and the song is innocuous and bland, they seemingly made no attempt to fit the words to a memorable, or at times, even singable melody. 

I honestly wish Bobbi Blake had worked with a different crew and company. 

Play:  






Monday, February 15, 2021

Sammy Rocks Again!

Happy Snow-Covered Presidents' Day!

I have, as usual, updated another month's worth of posts, in today's case, those from TEN YEARS AGO, February of 2011. Time flies. You can't, they go too quickly. 

Anyway, those posts I have corrected today include a dreamy Cara Stewart number, a nice, really heartfelt offering from Gene Marshall, a goofy late era Tin Pan Alley record, and another Vietnam-related number from Rodd Keith, a sequel of sorts to "The Ballad of the Green Berets". 

And now, for your dining and dancing pleasure.....


I don't have a lot of time to write today, but I will say that I didn't have a lot of hope for the Sammy Marshall record, "Just Like a Jet Plane", on the tiny Brosh label (which released both song-poem and non-song-poem material). Neither title on this 45 suggested that it would be anything special. But I was delighted to find that the record was actually one of Sammy's fairly rare and always entertaining early '60's style rockers, bouncy and fun from start to finish. 

I hope you think so, too! 

Play:  

The flip side, "Yellow Gold" is bouncy in its own way, a loping ballad of the 49ers. I'm not sure any of those folks "garnered fame". It's a bit too slick for my tastes, in the direction that the Globe factory would move ever further towards in the years after this release, but still has some appeal. 

All in all, a fun pair of songs from Sammy's early days. 






Sunday, February 07, 2021

Okay, Then, Which Eyes Would You Like Me to Use?

It's February!!!

When I woke up this morning, it was five below zero. If it's anything like that where you are, it's a good day to stay inside and listen to some song-poems. After all, I'm sure nothing else is happening today. 

As (almost) always, I have fixed yet another month's worth of old posts, in this case, those from March, 2011. In that month, I presented a mover and groover from Sammy Marshall, a touching Vietnam related ode from Rodd Keith, a ridiculous very early Cinema label release from The Real Pros, and an offering from a personal favorite Norridge Mayhams as Norris the Troubadour.

~~


Ellen Wayne's name turns up on barely a dozen Tin Pan Alley releases, all from roughly 1962 to 1964, but every one of them that I've heard contains at least one keeper, and in many cases, something really special on at least one side (that link will take you to all of my Ellen Wayne postings, including this one). While today's 45 doesn't contain anything nearly as wonderful as "Don't Touch Me There" (not yet repaired), "Moaning and Groaning Blues" or "Go Not Yet, Oh Go Not Yet", it does feature one cute early '60's style pop song on each of its sides. 

First up, "Don't Look At Me With Those Eyes, Darlin'", a mouthful of a title, and a song with a curious opening and closing. AS/PMA would have it that this release dates solidly in 1963, and yet the opening/closing musical quote is clearly meant to put the listener (and perhaps the lyricist) in the mind of the early 1964 Al Hirt hit instrumental record "Java". There was a minor hit version of "Java" in 1963, by Floyd Cramer, so perhaps this is what this arrangement was based on, or maybe AS/PMA is wrong, and this was recorded just as Al Hirt's record was hitting it big. But there's no way that opening piano figure is a coincidence - it doesn't even really match the song in any way - it can only have been included as a musical message to the lyricist: "Hey, it even SOUNDS like a hit record". 

The song itself actually seems structured closer to "When the Saints Go Marching In" of all things. It's peppy and bouncy, with a minimalist backing, and is over in a brisk 118 seconds, even with the presence of a piano solo. 

Download: Ellen Wayne - Don't Look at Me With Those Eyes, Darlin'

Play:  

So let's flip the platter over. And here we find "Oh, Dear Daddy", and it's a supper-clubby jazzy sort of number with a story to tell, and Ellen tells it with a swing feel in her voice. The one thing I love about this side (which is one second longer than the flip) is everything that the pianist does during the last 10 seconds of the record, which I will not to describe here, aside from suggesting that you listen carefully in the last moment for the final, low bass note, which is out of tune. 

Download: Ellen Wayne - Oh, Dear Daddy!

Play:




Sunday, January 31, 2021

Wolf Finck's Noval Dream

Howdy, 

I have a bunch of things to start off with. First, I'd like to point out that for the second time in three posts, there was a nice little conversation in the comments about one of  my posts, in this case, the one from last week. It started with my two most frequent commenters, my "analog" world pal Stu and my online pal JW (Michael) stating their beliefs that "Bill Clifford", who was featured in that post, was, as I guessed might be the case, Rodd Keith, and this moved into a discussion of the possible reasons for his various names. You can read those comments at the end of that post. I have added Rodd's name to the post labels. 

Second, am continuing to list the duplicates from my song-poem collection, which I mentioned last week, as well. Those sales can be found mixed in with all my other items, here

Third, I thought since I've mentioned having put my song-poems into order a few times, I thought I'd show you what that "order" looks like. Here's a photo:


Each of the full boxes holds somewhere in excess of 200 45's, I think. And I have another box or more of 45's sitting on a shelf by my computer, which are the ones I feel are more likely to be shared here. 

Here's what's in the piles/boxes from left to right: 

My s-p albums
Small labels part one
Small labels part two
Favorite Labels - Film City, Fable, Sterling, Mayhams related
Tin Pan Alley
Preview
MSR (with 78's and 10 inch albums mixed in the side)

Finally, I have yet again updated another month's worth of old posts, in this case, April of 2011. That 
month, I shared both sides of a whopping six song poems, in five posts. These included a typically blah Halmark offering, a song for spring on the tiny Vellez label, yet another great late 1950's offering on Tin Pan Alley, a nice one from Cara Stewart (under an assumed name of her own), and a twin spin featuring some religious material from both Gene Marshall and Norm Burns

And speaking of blah offerings from uncredited performers....


I'm actually being a tiny (very tiny) bit unfair here. Because while "Blah Offerings" would have been a more accurate label name for Noval Records, on today's record, they actually offered something just a little exotic. For the lyrics to "Only a Dream", by Wolf Finck - who goes on the list of wonderfully named song-poets - the Noval house combo tried a slightly south-of-the-border groove. And while the results are fairly laughable, at least they tried - I don't, for example, remember a lot of Noval releases with much percussion, let alone the multiple percussionists heard here. 

Download: No Artist Named (Noval Productions) - Only a Dream

Play:  

Much more typical of Noval's work is the flip side "Trust Jesus Day By Day". Typical touches: no beat; the piano doing little more than playing the exact same melody that the singer is singing; homely and technique-free singing; and what should be the saving grace, the vibraphone. This is one of my favorite instruments ever, but even its presence doesn't save anything here, save for that lovely opening few seconds. 

Download: No Artist Named (Noval Productions) - Trust in Jesus Day By Day

Play:  




 

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Howden Records, Part Two

 Howdy, Everyone!

Before I say anything else, let me share with you that, once I straightened up and arranged nearly all of my song-poems, I found that I had duplicates of more than a dozen 45's. And as a result, I am listing those duplicates on eBay, roughly one per day, on weekdays. So far, two are listed and have bids, and I have enough to continue listing them through at least the end of next week. 

My eBay page, which is dominated by my old copies of Billboard Magazine, which I've been selling off for years, is here, and like I said, buried among all the other detritus of my collecting life (and that of other family members) will be a number of song poems. 

And again, those sales are at this location.

Of more interest to most of you, I'm sure, is the set of posts that I've updated and made "Live" again today. This week's corrections were to May of 2011. During that month, I shared a very early (and sort of unusually labeled) Norman Burns entry for Mother's Day, a Judy Layne 45 on Preview (with a clear assist from Rodd Keith), a typically (and entertainingly) inept entry from "Lance" on Tin Pan Alley, and an EP on the Columbine label

And now!!!

About two and a half years ago, I shared a record on the Howden Records label, and shared that I had acquired four records on that label. As I explained in more detail in that previous post, discerning if Howden was a song-poem label took a bit of research. Briefly the song quality and performance quality was higher than on most labels, but there was some overlap between the songwriter for all of the Howden releases, as well as one of the performers, with those on other song-poem labels. In reality, I'm guessing that this label was a hybrid of song-poem companies and vanity recordings, and that Howard Dennington, the author of all songs on the label, wrote both the music and the lyrics for his songs, then paid for song-poem companies to realize his songwriting dreams.

Today, I have the second of that Howden records I bought. 

Today's share contains one release which sounds too professional to be a song-poem, as was true on some of the other sides, but also contains a track which has the obvious hallmarks of a very familiar song-poem factory. And I will say in advance that both sides of this record are beat to hell, so the sound quality is somewhat lacking - I've done some significant "cleaning up" of each side. 

Let's start with the track that sounds like a "legit" release to me: 


And this side features the same singer heard on both sides of the first Howden record I shared, Ella Howard. And again, "I Hear a Melody" sounds to me fully like something a real label would have really released, aimed at the actual sales and radio airplay market. It's competently made, features a cohesive and coherent melody and lyric, and I find pretty darn catchy, in both melody and arrangement. This is a pretty good record, with nothing of the "a little bit off" that one often finds in the "pretty good" song-poem releases. I'm not saying this would have been a hit, had it been intended for the legit market, just that it has the sheen of something targeted to that market.

Download: Ella Howard - I Hear a Melody

Play:  

It is on the flip side of this record that any doubt of this label being related to the song-poem, whether they are also vanity records or not. This song features a singer credited as "Bill Clifford", who does not show up on any other known song-poem product. However, I believe what we're hearing are the unmistakable sound of the Chamberlin, and the style of the Film City label that was the most identified with that remarkable instrument. 

What's more, "Bill Clifford" sounds tantalizingly like Rodd Keith at his most unctuous, at least at a few points. And the Chamberlin track could certainly be Rodd. But I don't actually think it's him singing, as there are more moments that don't sound like him at all, but I do find myself wondering who this is. m I overthinking this? Any thoughts? 

Download: Bill Clifford - Everyone But You

Play:  




Monday, January 18, 2021

Les Longman, Song-Poet Extrodinaire!

Greetings, and welcome to "Only 43 More Hours With This Idiot In Charge".

First, I want to thank Rock Smith for submitting a great question with regard to Rodd Keith. It has been answered by people who gave more complete answers than I would have, so I'll just direct you to that discussion, which can be found at the bottom of this post.   

And second, I have returned to correcting the old posts, in this case those from June of 2011. In that month, I supplied a song for flag day, sung by Gary Roberts (so you know there's no breeze in that flag), a fantastic Rodd Keith production just in time for Father's Day, a very early and very non-formulaic Sammy Marshall offering, and a creepy number from The Real Pros. 

Give that my younger daughter graduated from high school that month, I also shared a post in honor of her that month, and included a very funny story-with-harp-backing that she had "performed" at a party at our house a few years earlier, and I have fixed that link, too. 

And now!!!!


I had a hard time deciding which side of this EP to start with, as I find there to be interesting material on both sides. It's on the Air label, a label which specialized in releasing (or perhaps much of the time, re-releasing) the work of other song-poem factories, particularly (but probably not limited to) Globe, Film City and Lee Hudson. 

The "Air" logo and design on this release is quite different from those on most of their 45's, but the address gives it away as the same label. I think I've only seen this design once before. Oddly, within a few label numbers on either side of this release, they used a radically different - and much more familiar - design. 

Back to the songs - I believe I sense the presence of two different song-poem companies here, as the songs on one side of the record sound nothing like those on the other. What's more, it features two singers who only ever show up on the Air label, including one, Jimmy Thompson, who only shows up on this EP. In the case of both singers, they only ever appeared on air singing the songs of today's song-poet. 

And I'd like to hear more from that song-poet, Les Longman, based on the material here. And luckily enough, it turns out he wrote at least 30-40 song-poems that are documented at AS/PMA, including several more Air EP's and singles, none of which I've ever heard, outside of this EP. He also wrote the only known songs to be released on two tiny labels, "Shatter" and "Zap". There's a great picture of him, looking to me like a cross between Frank Zappa and Adolf Hitler, on the AS/PMA "Air Records" page

Anyway, let's start with the side I pictured above, the side featuring frequent Longman-tune-crooner Roy Brown (and for those of you of a certain age, from Chicagoland, no, I'm sure it's not that Roy Brown).

Both of the songs on this side are quite short. The first one is "Just a Break", which to me sounds vaguely like any number of dance records from about 1965. The best part of it, I think, is the instrumental intro, but the who thing has got a solid, driving sound, and a simple, effective lyric, as far as it goes, although it stumbles to a start just as it seems to be building up to something, with far too many "Hey's" from Mr. Brown. 

Download: Roy Brown - Just a Break

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You'll be forgiven upon hearing the start of "Late in May", if you think Sonny James is about to start singing "Young Love", and the whole song has more than a passing resemblance to any number of late '50's country-pop records, but the theft works for me - I particularly like this song's backing track (minus the girls), but Roy Brown's vocal fits it well, too, and the lyrics, while simple, show more talent than those of your average song-poet. 

Download: Roy Brown - Late in May

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Now let's get to the Jimmy Thompson tracks. As I said, these seem to come from a very different production house. In fact, these come the closest - of anything I've ever heard - of sounding like something that would have come out the deeply weird production stable of another person whose rare recordings I collect, a man named Larry Taylor. You can hear his unique stylings here and here, and see if you agree.

But I should share the songs in order for you to do that. My favorite song on the EP, and by far the most creative one, lyrically, leads of the Jimmy Thompson side, and it's called "Channel, Channel". This is marred by some terrible sound transfer issues - the beginning sounds like the tape was damaged - although it gets better. I enjoy the tinny piano, the shuffling drums, the indelible melody, and as mentioned, the clever, unusual lyrics. 

Download: Jimmy Thompson - Channel, Channel

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Finally, the only song on the EP to bust the two minute mark, and the one that really sounds like Larry Taylor, "We've Got Problems". In this number, the protagonist thinks his relationship is great, but quickly finds out that's not the case. This is the draggiest of the four numbers, and is probably the weakest one, as a song, I suppose, but the tic-tac piano sound really makes it sound different, in a way that appeals to me. 

Download: Jimmy Thompson - We've Got Problems 

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Sunday, January 10, 2021

Let It All Happen To You!

Happy New Year! It's certainly been an eventful one so far. 

Today, I have returned to my fixing of previous posts, and we're now all the way back to July of 2011. In those days, I occasionally posted FIVE times in a month (those were the days), and July was one of those times. So today, I have brought back to life posts featuring: a fairly bizarre lyric sung by Mike Thomas on Tin Pan Alley (that one is an all time favorite of mine), a posting featuring Dwight Duvall and Cara Stewart on the tiny Brosh label, some primo Bob Storm on Halmark.. err, Hallmark, a short and sweet number by Gene Marshall, and an absolutely wonderful entry by Rod (Keith) Rogers on Film City. 

And speaking of Rodd Keith...


While I watched the playoffs yesterday, I did some straightening up of my 45's, and specifically updated my song-poem collection. The last time I organized my (then) holdings was probably eight years ago, and everything I've accumulated since then has just been tossed into a box at random. So now they're arranged by label and label number, and I came across several promising titles that I'm sure I haven't shared here yet. 

One thing I decided to do - since this is a sub-genre that is so highly prized - is to eventually share any and all of my early Rodd-Keith-on-Preview 45's which have neither been anthologized, are on youtube (or whatever) or have previously been shared here. This numbers only a handful, as it turns out, and I'll start this project today, with a country flavored 45, which likely dates from late 1967 or early 1968. 

By far the better side, to these ears, is the bouncy "Let It All Happen to You", a sprightly and brief 6/8 time exhortation to living in the moment and being open to whatever happens, with more than a passing reflection of the language of the flower children. I could really do without the chirpy backup singers, but otherwise, this is a cute, if very slight, offering. 

Download: Rodd Keith - Let It All Happen to You

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We slow down to more of a walking tempo for "Say Goodbye and Go", a heartfelt if not particularly inspired lyric, which seems likely to reflect the writer's reality, as do so many of these breakup, heartache-ridden we hear on song-poem records. The backing is by-the-numbers, but Rodd injects his typically effective emotional vocal, complete with a little sadness breaking up sound on the final word of the record. 

Download: Rodd Keith - Say Goodbye and Go

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