Saturday, January 24, 2015

She's a Bad Mother...

First, I want to say something off topic for a moment: 

What a sad day.

It's hard to remember for sure this many years later, but I think Ernie Banks was my first celebrity hero. And while that would have been because he was a great ballplayer at first, other things continued to make him someone I found amazing, and worthy of the word hero: specifically, his positivity - about everything, apparently - was a real inspiration.
Over the years, I've heard multiple people who knew him say that his public persona of always being upbeat and having a positive outlook wasn't an act - it was really who he was. I've always found that something to aspire to. Seeing him in an appearance at Wrigley or at some other event covered on TV always brightened my day. I'll really miss him.

Now that I've brought the mood down, let's raise it with something ridiculous. I don't know that there's a lot to blather on about regarding this record, titled "Save Your Tears Mom". First, it's Norm, and I love Norm. He's not always good (see the flip side), but there's a far better than average chance of hearing something I'll want to hear again if his name is on the label

And when the first words out of his mouth are:

Save your tears, mom
It was you who taught me to steal
You said it would be alright, 
Didn't you? can be certain that you're in for a fun two minutes and 48 seconds. And it does not disappoint.

Of the flip side, "Dawn", I can think of nothing worthwhile to say whatsoever. Even Lew Tobin didn't want to claim a co-writer credit on this one.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Tony Rogers Does His Homework

By now, almost everyone who planned on being in school for the winter semester has returned to school. So what better time for a light-hearted complaint about Homework?

As I wrote a few months ago, the Star-Crest label fascinates me. Although their products seem to have started appearing in the early 1960's (the only confirmed date for the label found in the AS/PMA website is 1961), virtually everything I've heard from the good folks at Star-Crest sounds like it was intended for release in the 1930's.

That causes even more of a disconnect than usual with label stalwart Tony Rogers' rendition of "Homework". The lyrics present a typical young man, perhaps in his late teens, complaining of how he won't be showing up on time for his date (where they'll "neck and talk"), because of all the work he's been assigned. When it turns out that he's too late to even go to her door at all (although he also stopped to "take a bath"), he decides to read a good book, only to realize he can't even do that, because, you guessed it, there's more homework to be done.

That actually would not a be a bad bit of storytelling for an early '60's novelty pop or teen idol rock and roll record, come to think of it. Gary "U.S." Bonds could have made that work.

Unfortunately, lyricist William E. Cobb sent his lyrics to Star-Crest, and not Sterling or Lee Hudson, and we end up with a backing, and vocal delivery, that sound straight out of 1933. I wish I could have been there when Mr. Cobb heard the results of the work he'd paid for. Still, for all it's ridiculousness, I pretty much love this record.

On the flip side, we hear Mary Marcuso's lament of having been tricked by an untrue lover, one who has now gone on to break yet another lover's heart. The setting again sounds like it was created in the mid-'30's (well, minus the guitar line, anyway) but at least this time, the lyrics and feel are appropriate to that time.

It's worth noting that this side of the record is a mere 84 seconds long: last week, I speculated that the total time of that week's 45 (3 minutes, 10 seconds) might be a record. Well, today's two-sider contains music that totals exactly... 3 minutes, 9 seconds!!!

Friday, January 09, 2015

Starting the Year Right!

Happy New Year!!!
And what better way to kick off the new year than with some of the typical weirdness I've come to expect when I see the artist credit of "Phil Celia" on the old time Tin Pan Alley label.
The song title is enough to draw one in "A Fat Man in a Compact Car", and the song doesn't disappoint. Set to what at first sounds like a march beat, it's actually (to my ears) styled as a Lou Monte styled Italian novelty, although largely minus the ethnic accent. The words do the title justice, too, with the following couplet being perhaps the high point:
"If You're Obese
You Need Some Grease..."
The ending is a spectacular failure - clearly, Phil and the band have two different ideas of how the repetition of the final lines was supposed to work.

On the flip side, we find one of the shortest song-poems I've ever heard or seen on a 45 RPM single (I think the magnificent Joe Stantan performance of "A Has-Been" may be shorter, but that was on an EP).
This song, on the other hand, is the only thing on this side of the record, and it runs 75 seconds (the entire 45, including both songs, runs three minutes, ten seconds - I bet that's a record!).
We've got the same 6/8 rhythm here, only in a higher key, and definitely a march beat in this case. The lyricist actually squeezed in quite a bit of information (and a moment of casual racism) into his brief creation. And the last three seconds are worth the price of admission!


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Best Record I Bought in 2014

Okay, let me say right off the bat that I know it's possible, even likely, that many of you who read this site already have sound files of both sides of today's record. They were part of the song-poem website's downloads, and later were (and probably still are) in a WFMU blog post. 

But this is easily the best record I bought this year, and if I'm going to have a site largely dedicated to song-poems, I don't know how I can overlook having acquired this one. 

Both of those previous postings were also from a cassette copy provided to AS/PMA, and perhaps you'll find the song quality of the first song better here than in the previous recording (the flip side of my copy, alas, is beat to hell). The acetate also apparently left off the word "The" from the first song's title. 

If this is old news to you, well then, maybe consider me to have perhaps taken a week off for the holidays...

Quite simply, this record, "The Beatle Boys", is my choice for the best Rodd Keith record I've ever heard, or ever expect to hear. This is, to my ears, a perfect record. Certainly not technically perfect, but I've always found technical perfection boring. But this record and song are just "right" in just about every way that a song or record can be "right".

Regular readers of this site know that I'm quite partial to the Chamberlin sound, and it's never been used more effectively than here. Right off the bat, the transition from the chord at the nine second mark into it's 7th chord, with that gorgeous little (organ setting) treble figure played over... well, it's only four seconds, but from the first time I heard this record over a decade ago, that just gives me chills. Masterful. The use in this section of what I think are sax settings is just as excellent.

And then, in the chorus he uses the ethereal, otherworldly "ooohs", to equally great effect, before returning to the earlier settings, continuing to add little keyboard fill ins in a most excellent fashion.

The lyrics are funny and sad at the same time, and aside from the weird decision to use the word "mandolins" (perhaps it flowed better than "guitars"), I can absolutely hear this as the real lament of guy whose girl has gone Beatle-crazy. The last line, while I'm sure not original in the mid-'60's, is still really funny. The melody is as indelible as any I can think of - it runs through my mind all the time. The melody in the verse in particular resonates with me about as much as a tune is capable of doing.

And then there's the vocal. Rodd was clearly able to perform lyrics which sounded like he meant every word; to become the voice of the person who wrote the song. There are countless examples. I don't believe any of those other records match the ache, longing and frustration I hear in his voice here (and on a sadly comic song, yet!). The inflection on such lines as "I don't get a chance", "I would shine my shoes, buy a shirt and a cane", "They will sing of love", and several other spots is enough to give me more chills. A vocal performance for the ages.

While perhaps not my favorite song-poem record of all (today, that is perhaps "Darling, Don't Put Your Hands On Me"), it is easily my favorite Rodd Keith record , and even on a day when I am the least interested in it, it would still rank in my top five song-poems. Every moment of it works perfectly on every level. In my imaginary version of the land of media, this would be a record that was well known and treasured by the millions who listen to oldies radio.

The flip side, "It's Shindig", is certainly no slouch, either. The lyrics are a lot of fun, and there are again a lot of cool things happening in the instrumental track. On the other hand, Rodd seems to have had fairly consistent trouble - on multiple records - staying with this particular backing beat, a go-go beat drum pattern which for some reason hits the turnaround every FIVE measures.

Sometimes that disconnect between that beat and the rest of the song adds to the otherworldliness of an already weird record - that's the case with my second favorite Rodd Keith performance, "The Watusi Whing-Ding Girl" - but here, on a straightforward song with some good, but normal lyrics, I find it a real distraction.

On the other hand, there are some lovely and cool moments here. I enjoy the minimalist solo (especially if I can ignore that the drumming by that point is in another song). But my favorite by far is the little melodic turn (and the vocal that contains it) from 0:27 to 0:32 - five seconds of vocal and tuneful bliss.

I hope you and yours had a wonderful holiday season, and that your 2015 is even better! Here's this year holiday greeting card from my family to you: 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

No Substitute for Jesus!

For the night before Christmas, here's our old pal Mike Thomas, singing a very direct verse about Jesus. Yes, a verse. This song consists of an introduction, a verse sung by Mike for 30 seconds, an instrumental section which I don't really hear as containing a "solo" per se (just a series of guitar arpeggios), followed by the same verse again.

My favorite part of this record is without doubt the totally out of place and poorly performed bluesy ending.

As is often the case, I've buried the lead here by featuring the topical song first. The real interest here is on the flip side, "My Substitute". This is a gem of a peppy number, but rather than be specific, I'll just say that the item being used as a substitute does not disappoint, nor does the truly unexpected style of the solo section.. 


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas Moon

Howdy, Folks!

Well, with five days to go, if you're half as busy as I've been (and continue to be, you can hopefully understand why I'm spinning today's ditties with a minimum of wordage. Today, from the tiny Advance Records song-poem label, we have the previously unknown (and awkwardly named) Bob Lobdell, along with th Don Eagle Trio (that's what it says, "th"), with the somewhat less-than scintillating yuletide number, "Christmas Moon". The surface clicks at around 0:45 of this record appear to be from an imperfection in the vinyl itself - I can't make it better...

The flip side of this Advance release clearly comes from Lee Hudson's song-poem emporium, but that's clearly not the case for this side of the record - I'm not sure I have a handle on which company might have produced this record - my best bet is Tin Pan Alley, but I'd welcome other ideas.

On the flip side, it's the always welcome Cara Stewart, as usual with Lee Hudson, on the non-Christmas number "Someone to Love". Nothing special here, but I could listen to her every day.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas Downer

Today, of course, we have another Christmas related song. In this case, it's Gene Marshall with "Raindrops on the Rooftops. But the only thing I found myself thinking while listening to this track was "what was the writer's intention in putting together this lyric?" Because the song is all about how Santa can't go to areas where it's raining and there's no snow. 

Presumably the song wasn't intended for those who are past the Santa age, or who were never there to begin with. I would think most songs about Santa's visit (aside from winking ones like "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus", and a few I can think of with very adult themes), are directed straight at those who are actually (and anxiously) awaiting his arrival with parcels of toys. 

So, again, why write a song presenting the very real possibility of rain on Christmas Eve, and which states directly that, in that case, Santa simply won't arrive. To play it for the kiddies? And if you do, what if it's raining that night? 

I'm happy to hear a good Christmas novelty track, especially if it's from around a different bend than usual, but this one is built on a weird premise that I can't imagine working at all on its presumed target audience. 

On the other hand, Gene sounds great!

The flip side, "My Time", also sung by Gene Marshall, is about as resolutely average a Preview 45 of the era that you're likely to hear. It's interchangeable, musically, with dozens of other releases. And the lyrics are about that song-poem standard, the good old days (and how bad things are getting today. Specifically, this is about the movement of time, and just how amazingly good things used to be (referring to some point in history where there was only peace and brotherhood - not sure when that was).