April 20, 2004

The American Song-Poem Anthology
(originally aired 11th Aug 2003)

I don't know how prevalent they are now, but once upon a time, you could open any trashy magazine and find ads, like the one on the left, which offered wannabe Burt Bacharachs the chance to fulfill their dreams...
Naturally, they were all a bit of con. Starry-eyed respondents submitted their songs/poems (along with a not-insubstanitial fee) and received recordings of these tortured pennings with professional arrangements and backings... but that's as far as it went. There was no "free examination" or appraisal of the song's "hit" potential. The companies involved in the song-poem industry didn't give a toss about the quality of the lyrics they were sent. So long as the money rolled in, they would record anything.

(A famous example of this philosophy in action is A Blind Man's Penis by John Trubee. In an attempt to see just what he could he could get away with, Trubee submitted an ode with lyrics like "Stevie Wonder's penis is erect because he's blind" and "Warts loved my nipples because they are pink/Vomit on me, baby/Yeah Yeah Yeah". And, lo and behold, it was recorded (with minimal changes) and given the full Nashville treatment... As always, there's a sample of the song on the server at Aquarius Records).

The result of all this is a goldmine of truly bizarre vanity recordings, in which serious-about-their-art professional arrangers (like the much-loved Rodd Keith) do battle with almost unrecordable lyrical drivel. Some of the more memorable outcomes of these "struggles" have been compiled on The American Song Poem Anthology (which can be purchased from Aquarius Records, who also have real audio snippets from some of the songs). Alternatively, you can download mp3s of song poems from the extensive collection at The American Song Poem Music Archive.

Posted by Warren at April 20, 2004 07:20 PM | Outsider