Song-Poems
Guy Lochhead, 10/09/10
‘MSR music’. People’s lyrics set to music for money. Advertisements in the back of pulp magazines promising ‘songwriters make thousands of dollars’ captured the imagination of naive bedroom poets. Amateur lyric writers would send their work to production companies, who’d set the words to music performed by the in-house session band and send a copy of the recording to the customer. The resultant matches/mismatches have a cult following, dancing over all sorts of artistic minefields of amateurism, ownership, quality control, industry‚Ķ Horrible industrial opportunism, exploiting the hopes and dreams of a naive public. At worst, these recordings show a horrendous capitalist opportunism, cultural snobbery, and mutual ignorance; at best, they reveal the industry as a beast whilst simultaneously showcasing the latent talent and extraordinary imagination in everyone. I love them. There have been quite a few compilations put out (particularly noteworthy is the ‘MSR Madness’ series), as well as a documentary, and, of course, hundreds of original cassettes and 45s. I don’t want to include the documentary, because finding out about the writers is less interesting to me (for the programmes) than the industrial self-subversion of the song-poem. This reasoning suggests I should include an original 45, but I don’t want to contribute towards the obsessive cult thing, so instead I will include one of the readily available compilations, which also cut out the vast majority of poetic landfill. I’ll include the ‘Off The Charts Companion CD’ (the soundtrack to the aforementioned documentary ‘Off The Charts’), as it acts as a good best-of, with most of the major names, and will also direct people to the accompanying film, which is definitely worth a watch.

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