Capitol’s “Songs Without Words” Contest

Songs Without WordsEither Capitol Records was exceptionally hard up for decent songwriters in 1961, or their “Songs Without Words” contest was one of the most dream-fulfilling opportunities ever to hit the record-hoarding public. American Idol for songwriters, and some 41 years prior, Capitol’s “Songs Without Words” contest was an unprecedented marketing ploy that boasted a $500 advance against royalties for publication rights to the Better Homes & Gardens reading, fuel pump-changing, plastic hat-wearing, Leave it to Beaver-style, June and Ward Cleaver-minded entrepreneur with aspirations for stardom, and a little free time on their hands.

The skinny, in a sleeve-shaped nutshell is this… all the enthusiastic, future Paul Simon had to do was acquire the “Songs Without Words” contest album (Capitol Records T-1601 and ST-1601, mono and stereo respectively), listen to the ten, instrumental tracks of varying genres (6x popular, 2x Country & Western, and 2x Rock ‘n’ Roll), isolate the one, don’t mess this up or your future is doomed track that spoke to the lyric-writing demon inside of them, and print or type their lyrics in the space provided on the entry blank located on the back of this sleeve (sleeve desecration was required, and scissors were necessary for cutting along the printed, dotted lines).

BackEntries were, quite stylishly, judged against three separate categories, each based on a 33 1/3 point system (all totaling 99.9 possible points… I see what you did there, 1961 Capitol Records. Kudos to you!) based on the following:

– Appropriateness and suitability (the manner in which the structure and content of the lyrics fits the melody)

– Composition, distinctive style and poetic flair

– Commercial appeal (suitability for presentation to today’s listening audiences)

Apparently nobody (on the internet) knows who any of the 10 winners with executive-pleasing lyrics were, but little forgotten moments in record publishing history like this are certainly entertaining to discover on an otherwise, calamitous Thursday morning.

A Nutritiously Balanced Vinyl Breakfast

GB IIBeginning around 1962, the flexi disc, or phonosheet, has been a low cost, low quality audio option for anything from Beatles Christmas “thank you’s” to fan club members, to a message from Biz Markie wedged inside issue #2 of Grand Royal Magazine that I need to dig out of the closet, to information on The New Ghostbusters Movie Mystery Sweepstakes found on specially marked cereal boxes back in 1989.

Only slightly thicker than a piece of paper, the flexi disc was a reasonable medium for offering audio, be it songs or clues on how to meet a REAL Ghostbuster, from unconventional sources. I imagine few of you to equate a box of breakfast with a vinyl record, but who knows. I’ve been surprised before. Once… he turns 9 this October. I joke.

This particular flexi disc boasts a chance for a very lucky participant to become an honorary member of the Ghostbuster’s team. (Really, it was just a cheap ploy to get people into theaters to see Ghostbusters 2.) All the groggy-eyed, little elementary school twerp needed to do was answer the following questions on a 3×5 card (apparently any other sized card would result in immediate disqualification from the mystery sweepstakes) and mail the answers along with their name, age and address, including zip code, and telephone number to the following address:

The New Ghostbusters Movie Mystery Sweepstakes

PO Box 4029

Beverly Hills, CA 90213-4029

Question 1: Name the woman who works in the art museum, who is Peter Venkman’s girlfriend.

Question 2: At what holiday does the big bust happen at the end of the movie?

Question 3: What US monument do the Ghostbusters work from to save the city?

Cheap ploy or not, I miss the days when I could stroll into a Piggly Wiggly and walk out with a record. For those of you dying to hear (what sounds like) the voice actor of Egon Spengler from The Real Ghostbusters cartoon show, a video of the record can be found here.