Friday, 22 May 2015

Not Like A Song At All

Although I have been editing this blog for almost eight years now, I think that this maybe the first time I have featured an instrumental as the plug track. Sure I’ve included instrumental B-sides in the past, but unless my memory fails me (and, at my age, that is starting to become a regular occurrence) I don’t believe that I have ever presented you with an entirely instrumental selection.

Well, today I aim to address that. And how.

This spectacularly inept disc – Your Voice Is Like A Song backed with Take A Cup Of Kindness - was issued in 1971 by song-poem supremos Tin Pan Alley, but it’s not a song poem. Oh no: the writer of the two tunes, one Elmer S Galloway, also performs them – or should I say attempts to - with all the élan of a three year old picking up his or her first toy guitar.

This is a vanity pressing. A few song-poem outfits also allowed erstwhile composers to perform their own material, and would knock out a handful of discs to said tunesmith for a fee. Our Elmer clearly thought that as he had composed these two tunes, who could be better than him to perform them?  Unfortunately the answer to that is ‘anyone’; one of more of Tin Pan Alley’s regular roster of catastrophically awful musicians would have done a better job that poor old Elmer manages.

It’s clear, judging by the mistakes and the chronically poor timing, that Elmer had but one chance to commit his precious - albeit preposterous - tunes to vinyl: what a shame then that this was the best performance he could muster. I can’t tell you much about the man, apart from the fact that he was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in August 1921 and that he died in December 2001 aged 80, just four days before Christmas. 5’ 6” high, Elmer served as a private during WWII. He was a prolific songwriter, and in March 1976 alone he copyrighted 18 tunes, including Space Age Holiday, You Were Great and Play For Me A Melody. 1976 was a good and productive year for Elmer: in the previous year he had only copyrighted four songs, and three of those were co-writes. He was still composing in the early 1980s (his song Can't Love You Now, Love You Later was issued on cassette in 1981).

Happily, my copy of the disc comes with a lead sheet for Your Voice Is Like A Song; my guess is that if Elmer had been willing to spend more money someone like Billy Grey or Madelyn Buzzard would have recorded the vocal version of the song. Perhaps they did: maybe there’s a second version of this, still waiting to be discovered that included a tortuous vocal performance to match Elmer’s rotten words. I hope it exists, and that it was Madelyn Buzzard who had to suffer the ignominy of singing the line ‘singing like a songbird in the sullen air’. Wouldn’t that have been delicious?



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