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February 13, 2006 8:59 PM   Subscribe

We've heard of outsider music, but along with this is the strange world of song-poems. ...ordinary people" respond to come-on ads on the back pages of magazines, mailing in their heartfelt but often bizarre poems to "music industry" companies that, for a fee, turn those poems into real recordings. More inside...
posted by ashbury (16 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
As documented in Off The Charts, a movie about the business. The most famous of this type of song is by John Trubee, called Peace & Love (Blind Man's Penis). Trubee tells the story as to how it got made. NPR did a show about the phenomenon.

How about some download goodness? WFMU offers a few compilations. songpoemmusic.com, the end-all and be-all site of song poem, has some. Curious about Blind Man's Penis? It's here, in flash and NSFW. Your eyes might never forgive you. If you have an original 45 of this song, it's worth $250. Amazon reviews. Need more info? The Shadowy World of Song Poem Music link factory.
posted by ashbury at 8:59 PM on February 13, 2006 [1 favorite]


I listened to a piece about these on (I think it was) This American Life a while back. Very cool. Thanks, ashbury!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:02 PM on February 13, 2006


So it's like, vanity publishing for wannabee musicians? Interesting post, thanks.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:11 PM on February 13, 2006


i like this stuff a lot... but i would disagree with the wikipedia author that Harry Partch is part of this group...
posted by teletype1 at 10:54 PM on February 13, 2006


'I Like Yellow Things,' is an absolute charmer of a song.
posted by jonmc at 11:04 PM on February 13, 2006


Cool stuff and lots of great info, but is it just me, or are all the songpoemmusic.com mp3s unavailable? I keep getting Bingo telling me I have the wrong address.
posted by mediareport at 11:29 PM on February 13, 2006


A blind man's penis is erect because he's blind.

A song-poem classic.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:17 AM on February 14, 2006


The practice played off the intense desire of unsophisticated people, who often lived in remote areas, to realize their ambitions of making money from writing popular songs.

the practice played off the intense desire of unsophisticated people, who often lived in remote areas, to realize their ambitions of porking beautiful women in cool cars.

the practice played off the intense desire of unsophisticated people, who often lived in remote areas, to realize their ambitions of feeling like george jetson.

the practice played off the intense desire of unsophisticated people, who often lived in remote areas, to realize their ambitions of making money in the 'web 2.0' boom.

the practice played off the intense desire of sophisticated people, who often live in urban areas, to realize their ambitions of feeling superior to unsophisticated people who often live in remote areas.

in other words, the practice differed little from consumer marketing enterprise in its historical entirety.
posted by quonsar at 5:33 AM on February 14, 2006


GREAT FPP!

I love outsider music, but had never heard of song-poems before. Now I've got a new obsession. Thanks!

Oddly, I seem to be running into a lot of songs about Richard Nixon. Weird.

Were there a disproportionate amount of crazy songwriters that loved Nixon? It's like I could put together an entire album seemingly written and performed by John Ashcroft. Awesome!
posted by mr.curmudgeon at 7:39 AM on February 14, 2006


Thanks, ashbury, for the link on "Blind Man's Penis." I've often wondered for some time WTF the writer was thinking when writing that. A while ago I made a YTMND about the track (please forgive the self-link).
posted by Dr-Baa at 7:43 AM on February 14, 2006


I was fortunate, or unfortunate enough to have first hand experience with one of the song-poem majors, in Boston, in the 1970s -- watching the recording sessions in their studios, and reading the boxes and boxes of submissions carefully written in the submitters' sad hands.

There was a male singer and a female singer. I only really saw the male do his stuff. He sounded like Anthony Newley without the range or emotion. The melodies were essentially improvised in one take. The singer and engineer sometimes made weary jokes about the lyrics. But mainly, they tried to keep up the assembly-line pace, turning out as many songs as they could in an afternoon or evening.

Interestingly, it was not a seedy place, but a modern, one-story office structure in a suburban industrial park. It was clean, and employed about eight nice ladies to do the paper work. The guy who ran the business (and his seedy son) were semi-conscious of the absurdity and sadness of what they did. He was a great bullshitter, and was an expert at sweet-talking dissatisfied customers. (How different, I wonder, was what he did from what Sam Phillips did at Sun Records? Vanity records for poor negroes and white trash like young Elvis?)

I can still remember the owner sitting at his desk with a pile of envelopes, opening them one after another, taking the money out of the ones that had money, and tossing the ones that only contained lyrics and inquiries to one side.

Being there late at night, reading one after another of these pathetic lyrics, still redolent of the mobile home or apartment where they were carefully set down, you knew you had been given some privileged peek into the American soul. At first it was exhilerating. There was an almost prurient thrill to have this kind of access to the intimate dreams of the common man. Then it started to sicken you. Finally, you fled the place, in horror and despair, feeling tawdry and diminished, as you realized that your own hopes and dreams were no larger, or realizable, than those of these poor fools.
posted by Faze at 7:49 AM on February 14, 2006 [1 favorite]


Finally, you fled the place, in horror and despair, feeling tawdry and diminished, as you realized that your own hopes and dreams were no larger, or realizable, than those of these poor fools.

Which is exactly why I love this kind of thing, the odd sense of admiration for the people who actually produced something, wherein millions of others have not.

No matter how awful, no matter how insignificant...they remind you that it can be done, even if it should not have been.
posted by mr.curmudgeon at 8:07 AM on February 14, 2006


Jimmy Carter Says Yes!
posted by coach_mcguirk at 9:23 AM on February 14, 2006


Finally, you fled the place, in horror and despair, feeling tawdry and diminished, as you realized that your own hopes and dreams were no larger, or realizable, than those of these poor fools.

Dear Mr. Faze,

In the opinion of our professional song poem consultants, your submission has great potential...
posted by quonsar at 9:23 AM on February 14, 2006


Quonsar,

Brilliant!
posted by mr.curmudgeon at 9:31 AM on February 14, 2006


I've always wanted to hear the Trubee song, ever since I read about it in RE:Search Pranks!

Thank you, ashbury.
posted by interrobang at 5:39 PM on February 15, 2006


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