Agony Shorthand

Thursday, July 01, 2004
“OFF THE CHARTS : THE SONG POEM STORY”.....A good laff can be had for about an hour with the recently-released DVD of “Off The Charts: The Song Poem Story”, which tracks the 1960s rise and ongoing inner machinations of one of the music industry’s all-time great scams. You’ve seen the ads: “Is one of your songs or poems a hidden ‘Hit”?”. It’s been about 15 years since the song poem racket hit hipster consciousness (I’d mark the release of the “Beat of the Traps” LP as the starting point, “Blind Man’s Penis” notwithstanding), and while it’s an easy laugh full of very easy targets, it’s still a pretty crazy story. This hour-long film tells it reasonably well, picking on a couple of borderline lunatics like Caglar Juan Singletary (“Non-Violent Tae Kwon do Troopers”) a bit too much, but does have some terrific shots of 1960s compilation song-poem LPs and the deluded dreamers who made them. The DVD also includes an excruciating locally-produced late 70s TV show called “America Sings”, featuring the worst disco-era cheeseballs imaginable doing lipsynch interpretations of song poems, with a host and hostess whose inane, scripted banter makes Donnie & Marie’s repartee sound like the Alqonquin roundtable. If this sounds appealing, I’d say you can probably walk, not run, to the video store to check it out.