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Incredibly Daring Music

by David Greenberger

Reprinted from the liner notes to the song-poem compilation CD, The Human Breakdown Of Absurdity (Carnage Press)

cover art by Jim Blanchard

Incredibly Strange Music -- now there's a limiting and misleading banner for you. It's a heading that has come to embrace everything from restaurant lounge organists to amateur yodelers. In no case were the performers creating for a genre called Incredibly Strange Music -- there was no such category. The name is as meaningful as other terms of marketing convenience and obfuscation: new wave, alternative, physically challenged.

The songs in this collection present people who have not sought to be strange. If anything this music is incredibly daring, created by everyday people who are, for once, willing to sidestep their normal routines and in so doing risk failure. Then again, perhaps failure doesn't even enter the picture; for most it's just faith, belief and conviction. The closest most of us ever come to stepping out of our lives and into a momentary waking dream of this sort is to get up on Karaoke night and belt out "New York, New York" or "Just The Way You Are."

Motivated by everything from visions over the prairie to the hit-bound possibilities of the rhyming couplet they thought up while gazing into the water cooler at work, starry-eyed dreamers from across the land would send their lyric wanna-bes (and a handful of cash) to one of several enterprises advertising their service in the back of pulp magazines. That service: to turn your poem into a song. That these attempts at creating a hit would never even attain the status of hopeless obscurity comes as no surprise to anyone faintly aware of the actual workings of the commercial marketplace. But the fact that the songs don't even remotely resemble anything that's ever been a hit anywhere is what's fueling the current wave of interest.

The music's obvious characteristics are a surreal bouillabaisse of shortcomings, twitches and accidental glory. It's as different from pop radio as shrimps are from humans. What needs to be reasserted is the shadowy presence of the instigators of each of these songs. Whether the writers thought of themselves as misunderstood poets or hamstrung sages, they were making a living doing something else, something far less magical. And who was bringing their vision to full flower? A studio full of musicians in drudge situations not that different from their own: players locked in windowless studios for hours at a stretch, cranking out as many as a dozen songs for each of those hours while wondering how much longer it would be before this foot-in-the-door turned into something more meaningful.

This is a remarkable opportunity to hear people who could be your neighbors or relatives offering words they think should be songs. They may well have overshot the runway, but the entrepreneurial spirit that was happily cashing their checks was not about to tell them they were wrong. This music is created by people acting on their desires. The idea of winning at such an audacious pursuit perhaps motivated them to write those checks, but ultimately they did what they did to feel an interaction with the world that says "I'm here! I'm alive!," in ways that the routines of the rest of their life would rarely allow. And what is more noble or less arbitrary than a whim borne to its fruition?

Track list for The Human Breakdown Of Absurdity

  1. Mary Kaye & Sammy Marshall with The Party Crashers: Twist And Turn
  2. Rod Rogers with The Swinging Strings: I Can't Decide (If It's The Beatles, Elvis Or Rick)
  3. Bobbi Blake: Gretchen's New Dish
  4. unknown: I Lost My Girl To An Argentinian Cowboy
  5. Gene Marshall: Out In The Woods
  6. Shelley Stuart: Yummy, Yummy, Dum-Dum
  7. Teri Summers & The Librettos: City's Hospital Patients
  8. Norm Burns & Singers: Human Breakdown Of Absurdity
  9. David Sonenberg: Boogie Bop
  10. Teri & The MSR Singers: More On Ode To Billy Jo
  11. Dick Kent: The Immortal Danny Mose
  12. Rod Rogers and The Swinging Strings: You Bug Me
  13. Shelley Stuart: Where Is My Wandering Boy Tonight?
  14. Dick Kent: Dance, I'm Gonna Take My Baby
  15. unknown: The 23rd Channel
  16. Rodd Keith: Ecstasy To Frenzy
  17. Rodd Keith: Lost In Space
  18. Norm Burns: Baby, Set Your Date On Time
  19. Rod Rogers & The Librettos: The Best Behind The Wheel
  20. Rod Rogers & The Librettos: Santa Claus Goes Modern
  21. Bobbi Blake: Fatty Patty
  22. Dick Kent: Hot Pants
  23. Dick Kent: Last Of The Big Spenders
  24. Gene Marshall: Shut Up And Quit Talking
  25. Alan Poe: Tell Him Baby
  26. Rodd Keith: The Mini Skirt Fad
  27. Dick Kent: Hang Ten
  28. Gene Marshall: All You Need Is A Fertile Mind
  29. Ron Davis: Escape From Society
Tracks 17-20 also appear on the Carnage Press LP The Beat Of The Traps.

The Human Breakdown Of Absurdity is available online from Forced Exposure.

Other song-poem compilations you may enjoy:

Carnage Press
I'm Just The Other Woman || The Makers Of Smooth Music || The Beat Of The Traps

Daddy, Is Santa Really Six Foot Four? || Do You Know The Difference Between Big Wood And Brush

I Died Today

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