Thursday, May 15, 2014

Plagiarism, Plain and Simple


The backing tracks that were used by the folks at Halmark weren't always just random moldy sounding orchestral monstrosities and other outdated material which seemed 20 years older than the records for which they were used. As Sammy Reed pointed out last year, a few of Halmark's backing tracks were clearly originally made to back up cover versions of songs from the late 1960's. Specifically, he identified the music beds for "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me", and "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" (the latter of which was driven home even more strongly by the discovery of this record).

Those songs had complex enough structures and standard enough settings that the fact that their backing tracks were for those specific songs might never have occurred to me. The resulting songs, therefore, don't particularly song like the tunes for which the backing was created.

The same cannot be said for today's astonishing and wonderfully odd feature, "Footprints on the Moon". That's because the song over which this track is built has a unique sound, arrangement and chord progression. From the opening bars, it's clear that the backing track used was meant for use with the song "Gentle On My Mind", with every aspect of it sounding like a fun-house mirror version of the hit song version by Glen Campbell (except that the pristine instrumental performances of the original have been replace by uninspired hackwork, led by a banjo part which sounds like it's being played by a student new to the instrument). Even the voice of the singer - who I don't recognize as a Halmark regular - has a passing resemblence to Glen Campbell's timbre.

I can't imagine a writer being satisfied with this result, unless he was completely unfamiliar with the country hits of the day. But then again, this is a writer who's peculiar lyrical conceit here is to have a title which focuses on the fact that men had stepped on the moon, but a lyric which itself focuses almost entirely on the man who DIDN'T step on the moon - it's primarily a complaint that Michael Collins didn't get the attention or praise he deserved for taking the other two up to the moon and "back to their native land". A worthy focus, I suppose, except that the writer overshadows Collins himself by continuing to focus on the fact that two others left "Footprints on the Moon". Nicely done.

This just strikes me as the height of contempt for one's customer, more than even the typical song-poem company towards its song-poets, and, as I titled this entry, plagiarism, plain and simple.

And a weirder record I don't expect to hear this spring, that's for sure.


For some more typical Halmark weirdness, next up we have the immortal Bob Storm, using the aforementioned backing track to "By the Time I Get to Phoenix", singing the words of the same song-poet as "Footprints on the Moon", in this case, a first person ballad about life on the road as a hobo. It's called "The Rod Rider's Song":



Flipping the record over, we find two other absolutely average and typical Halmark tracks, each with one of the backing tracks that Halmark collectors will know from the first bar or two. First up is Jack Kimmel with "Look at Me":



And then there's Bob Storm again, oiling up that voice of his for a turn at the song "Hurt and Rejected":





4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ha! I've always loved "Footprints" (i think you put it on a tape for me years ago), and you nailed it in your description!

Poor Michael Collins!

I have to say....I've always felt the same way! He comes all that way....only to have to wait behind! Alone!!!

Sammy Reed said...

When I headr "Footprints on the moon", it hit me that this background was also used in "Ten Miles to the Rockies" (http://bobpurse.blogspot.com/2009/08/reason-i-search-for-halmark-records.html), although that one was not as obvious to figure out!

Sammy Reed said...

That's "heard". Sorry.

Anonymous said...

I am weeping at "Footprints". A little bit of wee has also escaped. This is schadenfreude of a very high order indeed. Quite merciless but deserving of none.