Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Bubbly Bubbly Mike Thomas


Today's feature covers that favorite topic of pop songwriters everywhere, Root Beer. I know this subject has been done to death, in such classics as "(I Can't Get No) Sarsaparilla", "My Heart Belongs to Dad's", "Lucy in the Mug with Root Beer", "Oh, Black Cow, Bambalam" "The A & W(inding) Road" and "I Want to Take You Hires". But despite that familiarity, give this one a chance.

It's called "Bubbly, Bubbly Root Beer", and it's from everyone's favorite Tin Pan Alley warbler, Mike Thomas. It's got all of the hallmark's of the era's TPA releases - the three piece band, the off-the-cuff sounding performance by everyone involved, and the idiosyncratic lyrics of yet another wishful thinker. Hoist a glass and have a listen!

Download: Mike Thomas - Bubbly, Bubbly Root Beer
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On the flip side, we have a ponderous piece of navel-gazing, titled "Questions of Flight". What starts as (and spends much of its time as) a series of open ended questions about the flight of various birds, eventually ends up at its real point, which is that the singer doesn't understand why his beloved chooses to "fly" away from him. If nothing else, this record is worth it for the awful note that Mike Thomas misses at 2:55, during the fade out.

Download: Mike Thomas - Questions of Flight
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Tuesday, January 09, 2018

His Horn Went "Beep Beep Beep"


HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!

What better way to welcome the new year, song-poem style, than with Rodd Keith, here in his Chamberlin assisted persona of "Rod Rogers and the Film City Orchestra", with a tribute to an iconic, if little praised, car of the 1950's and 1960's, the Rambler. The song-poets (and Rodd) clearly had "In My Merry Oldsmobile" in mind for at least the opening lines of this song. See if your toes don't start tapping and you don't start singing along with "Ramblers Dream":

Download: Rod Rogers and the Film City Orchestra - Ramblers Dream
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(And yes, regarding the title of this post, I do know that by the 1960's, when this was recorded, it was no longer the "Nash Rambler" that the Tokens sang about, but it was too good a reference to pass up.)

Fred Zak, co-poet of "Ramblers Dream" teamed up with a different partner for the flip side, "Western Ghost Trail". This is a rather tuneless, meandering record with very little to recommend it. Not only that, but somehow, the pressing of this record manages slow down and drop a half step or so, during the last half minute (that's not a problem with my turntable - I played it on two players with the same result).

Download: Rod Rogers and the Film City Orchestra - Western Ghost Trail
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Saturday, December 30, 2017

COOL THAT MOTOR DOWN!



I'm ending the year with a fairly wonderful release on the Fable label (a label which had a much higher percentage of wonderful to other-than-wonderful releases than virtually any other song-poem label). And the A-side of this one gives me pause, in describing it as a song poem, because a.) it's so strong a song, arrangement and performance and b.) not all of Fable's releases were song-poems, although a good majority of them were song-poems or vanity releases.

But a little digging found that the author of the song, one Jack Jaquay, had a minimal background as a writer, at least based on the Catalog of Copyright Entries. Add that to the dismal quality of the material on the B-side, and I'm pretty sure this is either a song-poem or a vanity release.

The inspiration for 1959's "Cool Cool That Motor Down" (sung by the previously unknown Mickey Frey) is likely the songs "Hot Rod Race" and its sequel, "Hot Rod Lincoln", at least in the arrangement and structure of the song, and its automotive subject (for the first two verses, anyway), if not the specifics of the story told.

And to these ears, it sounds mighty good, complete with sound effects, peppy guitar and drums, and an effective lead vocal. See if you don't end up singing the chorus after the record's over.

Download: Mickey Frey with Sandy Stanton's Panics - Cool Cool That Motor Down
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As alluded to above, the overall quality of the flip side, "Just For You", leaves little doubt in my mind that this side, at least, is a song-poem. No effort appears to have gone into making this into a good record. The pianist makes multiple errors, the singer sounds like he's seeing the words for the first time, and the entire band sounds like they are on autopilot. Then there are the words, which suggest a first attempt at writing a love poem. Well, at least it's sort of bouncy.

Download: Mickey Frey with Sandy Stanton's Panics - Just For You
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Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Eyes of Santa Claus Are Going Back to New Orleans


Just in time for Christmas, I purchased a Christmas Song-Poem. This one appears on the tiny "Cenla Records" label of Alexandria Louisiana, and the songs are copyrighted in 1961, per a little bit of internet research.

Cenla Records is barely represented within the vast reaches of the internet, mostly just references to this record, and a rockabilly record from 1959 (which has sold for over $150), which can be heard here. They do seem to at least possibly be the same "Cenla Records" - the label numbers both start with "CR", although on the other hand, why wouldn't they, given the name of the label(s)? The 1959 release does not sound like a song-poem record.

This one, however, does. The side I'm featuring first, "The Eyes of Santa Claus Are Watching", by the previously unknown Susan Young, seems like a stereotypical early offering from the Globe song-poem factory. Careful listening will demonstrate that the song only has one verse, and even with that verse sung twice, a guitar solo, and a coda, the record still only lasts 93 seconds.

Download: Susan Young - The Eyes of Santa Claus Are Watching
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On the flip side (and written by the same song-poet), is a real treat, at least in my book, and further proof that this is a song-poem record. Yes, it's the ridiculously over-the-top Roger Smith, here treating to his rendition of "I'm Going Back to New Orleans".

As with the flip side, there is only one verse, repeated twice and separated by a nice solo section, and this time, they manage to fill up a full 95 seconds. The band here is fairly wonderful, and the note(s) that Roger Smith sings at 0:59 should be in the hall of fame. Which Hall of Fame, I'm not sure, but it deserves enshrinement. '

Download: Roger Smith: I'm Going Back to New Orleans
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Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone - I'm so glad that I've been able to feature song poems, usually once a week (or at least three times a month) for nine full years now, and plan to start the tenth year in a week or two. Thank you so much for reading and listening.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Northeast of HELL!

First, I want to send a message to David S, who wrote to me recently about a Fable record I'd posted. He indicated that he wanted to share more information, but in e-mail. I'd rather not post my e-mail here, because I've found that leads to massive amounts of spam, but if you go to this post from a project I was involved in, in 2003, you'll find my e-mail address there, at the end.

(Also, thanks to Dan for a recent comment containing a strange sidelight to the Tin Pan Alley story!)

~~




Every now and then, I find a song-poem listing - in recent years, usually on eBay, but in many places, over the years - which has a title that I just can't refuse (providing the price is right). The sort of title that draws me in even if the performer or label or era is one that I don't normally collect. Such would be the case with a 1976 Real Pros single on Cinema. The chances that a record from that troupe (whoever was singing), in that time period, would appeal to me are roughly one in fifty. Maybe less.

But then came "Northeast of Hell". I decided I really wanted to hear a song-poem called "Northeast of Hell", and the price came down just enough to make it a worthy risk.

So here it is, and in this case, The Real Pros are fronted by Dick Kent. And I will not make the argument that it's a world wide winner - for one thing, it has the typical, soulless, going through the motions band sound of 90% of the song poems I've heard from after about 1974 (from this and every other label), with that awful early synthesizer sound, to boot.

But it does have a remarkable lyric - a plaintive cry of a lyric from a soldier who is deeply regretting having joined the U.S. army, due mostly to where Uncle Sam has decided to have him live. He is so disillusioned he even advises others to.... well, I'll let you hear for yourself, but it is a truly startling line.

Download: The Real Pros - Northeast of Hell
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If there's a pleasure to be found in the flip side, "My Last Care", it's escaping me. Perhaps those of you who enjoy the style of music being aped here will like it more than I do. Dick Kent injects some feel into the lyrics, I guess, but I have no use for this sound whatsoever.

Download: The Real Pros - My Last Care
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Monday, December 04, 2017

Crazy Bargain Baby!

 
 
So how did your Black Friday shopping go? And since then, have you found any crazy bargains? At the store where my wife works, today is the big sale for the season. Get there now!
 
Anyway, for your dining and dancing pleasure, here's the great Gene Marshall, accompanied by a loose sounding, first rate band (I especially love the drumming), singing up a swingin' storm, all about a subject just perfect for the shopping season, a "Crazy Bargain Baby". Just one caveat, though - she won't let him pet!
 
Sing it, Gene!
 
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The flip side is a moldy piece of MOR balladry called "Goldie". Perhaps you'll enjoy this more than I do, and can work up some words of which it is worthy. I cannot.
 
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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Thanksgiving Turkey Leftovers


As promised, here's a little musical turkey to go along with your leftover turkey sandwiches, two days after Thanksgiving. When you talk about song-poems and musical turkeys together, it's hard not to arrive at the Noval label, sooner rather than later. I have often wondered if Noval's customers were, by and large, happy with the results of their submissions, and also, how much they paid relative to other customers of other labels. There aren't enough Noval releases around to get a sense of whether they had repeat customers, as some of the larger labels did.

Beyond that, I'll let these fairly ridiculous records speak for themselves. As arranged by Fred, here's "Rocking Bronco", performed, as always, by an unnamed singer and band.

Download: No Artist Named (Noval Productions) - Rocking Bronco
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And here's the same team, with the expertly, and creatively titled ditty, "Love":

Download: No Artist Named (Noval Productions) - Love
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I hope that everyone (or at least those who celebrate it) had a wonderful Thanksgiving, and that you all have an even better Holiday Season!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

He Still Loves That Girl




Here's a nice, solid little pop ditty from Rodd Keith, from the earliest days of the Preview label. It's called "I Still Love That Girl (Can You See?) (although the lyric is, consistently, "can't you see?"), and it's got a keen shuffle beat, which peps up into a modified twist thing on the verses. It all sounds dandy to me. Everybody's having fun but him.

Download: Rodd Keith - I Still Love That Girl (Can You See?)
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The flip side, "Sheridan" comes from a side of Rodd Keith that doesn't really grab me, the ballad singer, with the setting bordering on the ponderous. I do enjoy hearing his triple-tracked harmonies, but even those don't save this particular track.

Oddly, both sides of this record indicate a length of 2:20, but the A-side is actually more than 20 seconds shorter than that, while this side is more than 20 seconds longer than what is listed.

Download: Rodd Keith - Sheridan
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HAPPY THANKSGIVING, EVERYONE - I hope to be back over the weekend with a bit of leftover turkey!

Monday, November 13, 2017

MOVIN' WITH PAPA!!!



 
I could have this chronology quite mixed up, but it appears to me that, near the end of his time running the Film City empire, Sandy Stanton began releasing a good number of his factories productions on the newer, Action Records label. Most of the known Action releases seem to have been released after the end of the last few known Film City releases, and essentially feature the same cast of characters, plus and minus a few, frequently accompanied by the ubiquitous Chamberlin.
 
Today's feature, 'Move with Papa", sung by the occasional Film City/Action warbler known as Frank Perry, is notable for some fun, silly lyrics, and, particularly, the atrocious work done with the Chamberlin: whoever made this track provided a second track of chording which is just slightly - and aggravatingly - out of tune with the rest of the track. The final chord over the rest of the track is a particular howler.
 
Oh, and while I'd love to think that the co-writer of these tracks was the great English comic actor Terry-Thomas, that seems unlikely.
 
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I can't actually work up much to say about the flip side, "Like An Angel So Sweet", which is a fairly typical non-entity from the genre and from this label.
 

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By the way, I do have a plan to try and keep up to a once-a-week posting schedule again, starting this week. Here's hoping!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Cool Cats Are On Star-X

Before I get to this week's offering, I need to share a link that Darryl Bullock sent me, of an astounding Halmark record featuring Bob Storm, which has been shared for the world on youtube. While this might not raise many eyebrows, were it to be released today, it certainly would have been the conversation piece in the early '70's, when it was actually released. I will say no more - I don't think I have any other words for this anyway. 

Have a listen, here. Thanks, Darryl


The AS/PMA website tells us that Star-X was a song-poem label, and of this there seems no doubt, given that it released discs by Sammy Marshall and the great Roger Smith. I have some question as to the actual story behind today's record, but the A-side is so fun I thought I'd share it anyway. The concern for me is that both sides were written by a team, and the same team. Then again, the performances are so ham-fisted they certainly sound like a group that was churning out demo-level renditions. Those with more knowledge than me can chime in with whether they think this is a song-poem, a vanity record or a legit release.

When I saw the credited artist, Dick Mason, I had guessed it would be Dick Kent in disguise. However, this record is from 1958, a bit early for him to have been the singer, I think, and besides that, it sounds nothing at all like him. I have no idea who this singer is.

The stronger of the tracks, by far, as I've indicated, is the A-side, "Cool Cats". These folks don't really understand rock and roll, aside from perhaps the guitarist, but they have a good time approximating it, and the result is infectious, rather ridiculous fun. Plus, the lyrics are certainly song-poem level, if that helps anyone in determining whether this is animal, vegetable or mineral. ,

Download: Dick Mason and Chorus, Music by the High Fives - Cool Cats
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The flip side, "Heavy Heart", has very little to recommend it, to my ears. The ponderous vocal and cookie-cutter, morose lyrics sound a lot like 100 other forgettable song-poem records.

Download: Dick Mason and Chorus, Music by the High Fives - Heavy Heart
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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Teacho's Working Overtime!


It's been too long since I've featured the great Teacho Wiltshire. An early stalwart at Tin Pan Alley, Teacho is one of the relatively few people named on Song-Poem release labels who went on to have a significant career in the legitimate music business. His name can be found in the production and arrangement credits of dozens, or more likely, hundreds of hits and near hits from the 1960's.

This, however, is from long before all that, late 1955, to be precise. It's a charming ditty titled "Working Overtime". This one was actually released twice by TPA, with two different flip sides. Sadly, I do not own the release with "Are You Willing" on the flip side, since it was indicated to be " The One and Only Rock 'n' Roll Waltz!", right on the label. But still, I doubt it would have lived up to the entertainment value of "Working Overtime".

Darryl Bullock, in a post featuring several TPA releases (although not this one), has a nice quote from an interview with a relative of label honcho Jack Covais, which includes some comments about this record. You can read that here. And glory be, Billboard even reviewed the thing! They got the copy with "Are You Willing" on the flip, but they still offered up thoughts on this one, opining dryly that "The singer's R & B efforts seem misplaced", and giving it the equivalent of a "D".

Well, I like it just fine. Judge for yourself! Without further ado, here is Teacho Wiltshire, His Piano and Orchestra, with "Working Overtime"

Download: Teacho Wiltshire, His Piano and Orchestra - Working Overtime
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On the flip side, the same combo performs a truly overwrought rendition of something called "Waters of Telufa". A quick web search does not immediately indicate exactly where this concentrated dampness can be encountered, but Teacho's mannered performance doesn't lead me to want to go there, anyway.

Download: Teacho Wiltshire, His Piano and Orchestra - Waters of Telufa
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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Peculiar and Unique Cluelessness of the Song-Poet


That the average song-poet is not in the least bit up to the task of constructing an effective lyric for a pop record is so clear as to not be worth arguing. The list of ways song-poets have missed the boat on songwriting is long and often comical. It includes, but is hardly limited to, choosing an unwieldy title, constructing lyrics which cannot possibly scan well when sung, tortured rhyme schemes, dumb concepts and mangled English.

Which brings us to today's feature, and a few words about Answer Records. As you no doubt know, way back when, any time there was a particularly unusual big hit record, or a novelty record, or a hit which was much bigger than the typical hit of the day, there would usually be multiple answer records. A few of them even became big hits, and at least one - Hot Rod Lincoln - became a bigger hit than the song which inspired it. One thing I've never seen on an answer record was the phrase "answer record" in the song title. Another thing I've not seen is an answer record which got the name of the original hit song wrong.

Then, up to the plate stepped song-poet Neil Gibson, who, in around 1976 or so, submitted his masterwork to the Preview company. What he wrote was a response to the then-fairly-recent hit "Help Me Make It Through the Night", what he titled it was "Answer To: 'Take the Ribbons From My Hair'". The thing is, there isn't a song titled "Take the Ribbons From My Hair", at least not that I can find. My thinking is that if you are inspired enough by a song on the radio, that you want to produce and promote an answer song, you ought to know the name of the song in question. And then you might want to create your own title.

After all, Jody Miller's "Queen of the House" was not titled "Answer to: 'Trailers for Sale or Rent".

Download: Gene Marshall: Answer To - "Take the Ribbons From My Hair"
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The flip side of this record is a song called "Handful of Teardrops". Question - who the hell holds teardrops? This is so clunky a phrase that in all of the internet, a Google search shows it to have ever been used only eight times.

The song lives down to its title, and while there are a couple of really nice, complex piano fills near the end, that's the only saving grace. The most notable thing about it is the absolutely horrendous quality of the recording, the production and the pressing. This record sounds awful.

Download: Gene Marshall - Handful of Teardrops
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