This morning, Dad went to Blockbuster and rented a movie for "One Week Only" called Off the Charts: The Song-Poem Story (watch here), a documentary focusing on the mail-order music industry. The film, commissioned by PBS in 2004, has long been a favorite of ours, as it traces the stories of the supposedly average (but actually insane) people who've responded to ads in the back pages of magazines requesting lyrics or poems, which, for a small fee, these companies will set to music, record, and send back a record.
The business of song-poems stretches back to at least the 1940s, and you can imagine people back then being naive enough to think these places could turn their lyrics into hit records. But the kicker here is watching recent patrons use the service-- their common thread being a serious disconnect from reality. The product is bizarre, unintentional, heart-wrenchingly sincere outsider art. We chose Rodd Keith's "Cloud Nine", which stands out as an actually pretty lovable tune in contrast to hilarious novelties like Ramsey Kearney's "Blind Man's Penis" and Gene Marshall's "Jimmy Carter Says Yes". --Ric Leichtung, International Tapes