Friday, 27 April 2012

In That Mood Again

Today’s post is a real treat for all of you song poem fans, and a real rarity too: an audio advertisement for the song poem trade from the star of the Halmark stable, Bob Storm.

This ultra-rare, one-sided 45 was issued on P.R.O records and pressed by the Rite custom pressing company. It was sent out to prospective clients of a song poem company in the hope that the lush orchestral arrangement and high production values would entice the potential customer to part with their hard earned cash to have the same ‘15 piece, pre-recorded orchestra’ produce something of the ‘same greatness of sound and quality’.

There’s no date on the label, obviously, no compopser credit and no clue as to which company put it out – until you examine the matrix that is. There are two numbers etched into the dead wax: 10003 which, according to the Rite Pressings Guide, dates it to 1963 and 1058 which, the same site attests, is the account number for the company that commissioned the disc, the infamous Halmark Records.

Now, I’ve written about song poems before, but I think it’s worth recapping. It’s a scam, we all know that, but for decades people around the world have been fooled into parting with their hard earned cash in a futile effort to have their feeble attempts at poetry turned into the next number one record. Surprisingly, in this day and age, it’s still happening.

The term, song poem (often song-poem) refers to lyrics (or poems) that have been set to music for a fee, a practice which has been around since the beginning of the 20th century involving dozens upon dozens of record labels, mostly in North America but also in Great Britain, Canada, Europe and Australia. Promoted through small display ads in magazines (Send in Your Poems! Songwriters Make Thousands of Dollars! Your Songs and Poems Can Earn Money for You!), the word ‘lyrics’ was avoided as potential customers would not understand what that meant. Those who sent their work in usually received a letter telling them that their words were worthy of recording by professional musicians, along with a proposal to do so in exchange for a fee – anything from $40 to $400 or more. It’s still happening today, but the undoubted heyday was from the start of the rock’n’roll era until the end of the 70s.

On receipt of the fee, these songs were hastily recorded and then pressed as vinyl singles or released on compilation LPs with songs by other amateur lyric writers. One or two copies would be sent to the customer, with promises (rarely, if ever, kept) that they would also be sent to radio stations or music industry executives. Most of the results were terrible; many, laughably so. Have a dig around this blog; you'll find dozens of examples.

Halmark (occasionally mis-spelled Hallmark) was one of the many, many companies producing song poems, and I’ve written about the company and its founder, Ted Rosen, before. The interesting thing about this particular pressing is that it dates the start of the Halmark saga to at least 1963 – a full four years earlier than had previously been believed. Phil Milstein’s fabulous article, which you can read here, states that Halmark began its operation in 1967 – although Ted Rosen had already been in the song poem industry for many years. Certainly the sound of this disc is early 60s but, thanks to using the same overwrought song beds again and again (and again) very few Halmark releases sound ‘of their time’ and it’s hard to be exact. All we can be certain about is that information on the matrix.



  1. I quite liked it; reminiscent of Andy Williams... But then, I've been listening to John Barry's music these past couple of days which at times is absolutely dire and brings out the worst of muzak, but then it's John Barry.

  2. What a great, GREAT find!!! Thanks for doing all of the research into this to determine the year and such. I'm quite envious!



    Don't know about that, but i did make me want to rhumba!!

  4. Reminds me of the old adage - "If it sounds too good to be true, then it is too good to be true!" Did the prospective artist receive a set of free steak knifes as well?


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