This week's topic of dialogue moves me to relate how I discovered RR in the first place. I had compiled topical CDs before - mainly Christmas songs - but a couple of years ago I found myself interested in songs with talking parts. The most famous one is probably Elvis's Are You Lonesome Tonight which features a 50 second long soliloquy in the middle. There were others that came to mind such as The Diamonds' Little Darling. So I set about looking for other songs with spoken parts to put together a CD. But my limited musical knowledge only produced about 15 songs so I decided to do a Google search. The right combination of search words finally led me to the RR column on Spoken Word songs ( http://rrindex.com/topics/spokenword.htm) I had not heard of a single one of the songs so my reaction was, "Damn! I've hit the motherlode!" Even more so when I checked out the blog leading up to it.
After that I compiled not one, but two 20-22 song CDs which I called Talkies Volume 1 and Talkies Volume 2. I even wrote liner notes for the first one explaining that there were five different kinds of songs with talking in them and I even designed CD covers (from an image I scrounged off the net).
The liner note for the first CD went as follows (it includes the songs for the first CD as well).
Talkies - Volume 1
Many pop songs from the 50s and 60s had talking parts – spoken monologues as part of the song. The quintessential “talkie” which is the first song in this collection was Elvis Presley’s Are You Lonesome Tonight. About halfway into the song, Elvis speaks those classic lines:
“I wonder if you’re lonesome tonight. You know someone said that the world’s a stage and each must play a part. Fate had me playing in love with you as my sweetheart. Act 1 was when we met. I loved you at first glance. You read your lines so cleverly and never missed a cue. And then came Act 2. You seemed to change. You acted strange. And why I’ve never known. Honey, you lied when you said you loved me and I had no cause to doubt you. But I’d rather go on hearing your lies than to go on living without you. Now the stage is bare and I’m standing there with emptiness all around. And if you won’t come back to me, then they can bring the curtain down.”
This passage takes up a full 50 seconds, almost a third of the song.
Spoken parts like this add a certain dimension to a song and so I started cataloguing songs with recitations as part or all of the piece. There are, I discovered five different kinds of talkies. The first kind are like the Elvis number – A bit of singing, a bit of dialogue and some more singing to end the song.
The second kind are songs with spoken narration only at the beginning of the song to set the scene for the song that follows. An example of this is Tom Dooley by the Kingston Trio also in this collection. A variation of the intro narration is a dialogue involving more than one person as is heard at the beginning of the Shangri-Las classic Leader of the Pack.
“Is she really going out with him? Well there she is. Let’s ask her. Betty, is that Jimmy’s ring you’re wearing? Mm Mm.”
The introductory monologue is popular in songs from musicals such as the opening number from Little Shop of Horrors. Interestingly, a throw-away spoken line from Leader of the Pack – “Look out! Look out! Look out!” just before the motorcycle crash, is reprised in a different context in Little Shop of Horrors. (It’s also used in New Girl in Town from the 2007 movie Hairspray – not included here.)
The third type of talkie is the aside or comment. The best example is the Barenaked Ladies If I Had a Million Dollars which has asides about stocking a fridge in a treehouse and eating Kraft dinners.
The fourth type is the song that is mostly spoken with the possible exception of a sung chorus line. Classics of this type include Jimmy Dean’s Big John.
The fifth type is only spoken word with musical background music. A brilliant example of this is the hilarious Judge Dread by Prince Buster.
Here is the playlist with “talkie type” indicated:
1. Are You Lonesome Tonight? – Elvis Presley – Type 1
2. Little Darling – The Diamonds – Type 1
3. You Can Depend on Me – Brenda Lee – Type 1 (Brenda Lee is big on monologues and has four songs featuring them in one of her greatest hits collections)
4. A Letter from Sherry – Dale Ward – Type 1 (This song differs than the preceding ones in that the monologue is recited by someone other than the singer)
5. Have You Seen Her? – The Chi-Lites – Type 1
6. Deep Purple – Nino Tempo and April Stevens – Type 1
7. Tom Dooley – The Kingston Trio – Type 2
8. Leader of the Pack – The Shangri-Las – Type 2 (with a touch of Type 3 thrown in)
9. Little Shop of Horrors – Soundtrack – Type 2 (with a touch of Type 3 thrown in)
10. Miss Otis Regrets – Bette Midler – Type 2
11. If I Had a Million Dollars – Barenaked Ladies – Type 3
12. Mr. Custer – Larry Verne – Type 3
13. Dentist – Steve Martin – Type 3
14. Big John – Jimmy Dean – Type 4
15. The Boll Weevil Song – Brook Benton – Type 4
16. Hot Rod Lincoln – Commander Cody – Type 4
17. Patches – Clarence Carter – Type 4
18. Somewhere Down the Crazy River – Robbie Robertson (The Band) – Type 4
19. Judge Dread – Prince Buster – Type 5
20. Past, Present and Future – The Shangri-Las – Type 5
21. Say Man – Bo Diddley – Type 5
22. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – Gil Scott-Heron – Type 5
I have enough songs to put together a third CD but haven't got around to it yet.
Anyways - that's how I discovered Readers Recommend. I loved the concept and have been a loyal fan ever since