A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
Welcome to our series highlighting the music we have here at Thomas Ford Memorial Library. Each week of 2013 we will discuss one of our favorite songs from the collection. Classical or Country, Hip-Hop or Heavy Metal, we’ll be blogging for every taste.
Flip through the backs of some old 1970’s magazines and eventually you’ll find ads that read something like “You’re Poem Could Be Our Next Hit Song!” or “We NEED Your Words!” These are the origins of song-poems. Vanity press record labels that convinced everyday folks to pay for the production of records based on their own lyrics. After all, they could totally have a hit if they’d only pay for a few more 45’s to self-distribute to their local record stores and radio stations. As Phil Milstein puts it in the liner notes to this compilation, song-poems are a “scam that produces a unique work of art with every transaction.”
The result of setting amateur poetry to quickly written and produced music is sometimes disturbing, sometimes funny, and sometimes even moving. My favorites are songs like “I Lost My Girl to an Argentinian Cowboy,” a song with mysterious origins and inscrutable intentions.
Our narrator has lost his girl to a gaucho, obviously. But are we really supposed to be sad for him? I mean, he doesn’t sound all that broken-up about it. Nor do his bombastic Sons of the Pioneers style back up singers. Instead he just seems really interested in gauchos: their habits, their language, their music, their dances, the whole of gaucho culture. He keeps going on and on about them—man are they tough, but oh they’re fancy too! Why would he do this? Who could have written these words? Why, oh why is this even a song? And the sound of the thing! Sure, the mind boggles at the lyrics, but this music is proof that ears can boggle too. It’s a country and western nightmare. It sounds like Slim Pickens fronting a band of leering rodeo clowns.
Yet, in the decade or so that I’ve known about “I Lost My Girl…” I don’t think I’ve gone a full month without putting it on at least once. The song inexplicably fascinates me.
Go ahead and listen to “I Lost My Girl to an Argentinian Cowboy” and if it doesn’t move you then try some of the other song-poems on The American Song-Poem Anthology. I know you’ll find at least one that speaks to you. Who knows, maybe it’s the kind of song-poem you would have written. I can only hope that my own would have failed in as spectacular a fashion as our gaucho obsessed friend’s.
Review by Matthew