Stung to the heart by a cruel comment casting horribly accurate aspersions on my musical taste I feel moved to burden you with some of the “real stuff”.
You may have heard the furore about the song “Friday” and how it has ( wrongly) been called “the worst song in the world” and how it’s performer was moved to tears by the unkind comments made about it. The video ( available on Youtube) was a “vanity” project, her parents paid $2000 for it to me made ( not a bad price, I think, it’s quite well done really). Of course it’s nothing new. Book “publishers” have been running vanity printing for years and the record industry, too, has some form.
From , roughly, the 1940s through to the 1980s there flourished an industry that produced what have come to be known by the fans as “Song-poems”.
Basically, an ad would be placed saying that a recording company “needed” song lyrics and poems and that there were artists waiting to record them. People would send in material and receive a letter back informing them that ( surprise !) their words were just what was needed and for only $200 or so they would be on the way to wealth and fame.
Those that bit would send the money and, in return, receive some records and the promise that any future royalties would be forwarded and that the song would be in the shops soon ( it was, on a cheaply produced album with loads of others).
It was, of course a racket ( in more ways than one) but, in a way, a victimless one. The punter did get a record, reasonably recorded and not unprofessional and their dreams were not completely dashed.
Most of the songs were, frankly, rubbish, of course, typical “moon-spoon-June” or “Lover-glover-Golden Plover” stuff but, now and again there was a pearl in the dunghill and it is these that we turn to today. Those elusive gems that attract we aficianados of the genre so much and which have been painstakingly hunted down by fellow enthusiast.
There were “stars” in this shadow world of sound, Rod Keith, Gene Marshall, Bobbi Blake, names you have , probably, never heard of but who, in another time, another place could have been as big as the Beatles or Freddie and the Dreamers. Here then is some of the work of these unsung genii of the lost world of the song-poem
First up.Gene Marshall with “We are the men counting sheep”. An odd little number. Somewhat sonambulistic in character.
We follow with Bobbi Blake’s finest moment “I like yellow things” in which she sings of all things yellow thanks to song author Tiel Faulkner.
Next comes one of my real favourites. Dick Kent with “Christopher Columbus ( and his compass)”. I’ve championed this one on RR many a time. It is, IMHO, a work of such twisted genius as to be worthy of anyone’s record collection. The astonishing proto-rap bit in the middle defies description.
On to a really odd one Rod Rogers and the Swinging Strings “Sing your address”. What it says on the tin.
Penultimately we have a real doozy, from the legendary ( in certain circles) William H. Arpaia. Unusually William actually performed on his own records and released them too but this is one of his “demos” done by a song-poem company. Entitled “Listen Mr Hat” it is, probably , the oddest of the lot.
Finally, how could I leave you without the legendary John Trubee track “Blind Man’s Penis” ? In truth it doesn’t really “belong” here. It was done as a joke really. Trubee decided to test the claim of the company that they would record “any song” by sending in a lyric so perverse and, well, stupid that, surely , they would reject it….some days later he received his record.
They had made one , minor change, the original title was “Stevie Wonder’s Penis” which, we must assume for reasons of not wanting to be sued, the company changed to “blind man”.
It really beggars belief this one. Why they decided on a jaunty “country style” backing for lyrics like “Warts love my nipples because they are pink” we shall, probably, never know.
A word of caution. Don’t expect Hi-fi. These were quickly produced “knock ‘em out and cash the cheque” things but, to me, they are more human, more treasurable that a whole heap of Bohemian Rhapsody CDs. You may have heard the phrase “Old, Weird, America”. Well here it is. In all it’s glory. The voices of the unheard ( and , possibly, unhinged) given life at what was, really, quite a reasonable rate.