Please File Under Adult Contemporary
In the mid 1970s, record stores and radio stations around the country started receiving copies of a 12-inch single. The front of the sleeve was an overexposed black and white photo of someone with long hair looking out a window from behind. The back of the sleeve was solid black with nothing but the song names. Side A was called “Your Broken Heart,” Side B was a cover of “Blue Moon.” There were no artist credits for Side A, though Side B credited Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart as the original writers. The only other information was a small note that came with the records that read, “Please file under adult contemporary.”
At the time, most store owners and DJs would only listen to the first minute of a single before deciding to sell or play it. Side A seemed to be a soft rock instrumental ballad. Side B was a piano solo rendition of “Blue Moon.” Because of the lack of artist information, many of the places that received the records discarded them or put them in storage. Most of the record stores that received it followed the instructions and filed the record with the other adult contemporary records. The few that listened to the record all the way placed it with the novelty records.
While “Your Broken Heart” begins as a normal soft rock ballad, it gets more chaotic as it goes on. It’s also longer than one would expect, clocking in at 8 minutes and 51 seconds. Around the 3 minute mark, the song suddenly shifts to an arrhythmic drum solo. The drums then drop out completely and are followed by a racket that sounds like all the other instruments randomly playing the same note over and over again. The song returns to a soft rock ballad, albeit a far different sounding one than the first 3 minutes. The ballad is interspersed with burst of what’s been described as free jazz improvisation. This continues until the last minute and a half. The music drops suddenly and a drone and the sound of heavy breathing take up the remainder of the track. Some who’ve listened to this part at high volumes have said they heard very quiet talking in the background as well, but were unable to make out what was being said.
The cover of “Blue Moon” on the B-side is also unusual. It goes for 6 minutes and 4 seconds, almost twice the length of other renditions. The song goes as a usual until the about 2 minute mark. At this point a mistake in the playing is made. For almost 3 minutes the sound of angry pounding on piano keys and pained screaming goes on. People who have listened to this track have described this part as “blood curdling” and “very disturbing.” The pounding and wailing gives way to quiet weeping until suddenly cutting off at the end of the track.
Very few bought the record and even less listened to it more than once. Many who blindly bought it either angrily returned the record to the stores or threw it away. It did find a small niche audience, especially among fans of experimental music.
One music critic, who specialized in reporting on fringe musicians, described it as “a clever deconstruction of music made for mass appeal.” A few months after writing the review, the critic began to refuse to eat. The reason he gave when pressed was, “Nothing tastes right anymore.” Despite the efforts of his family and doctor, the critic died of malnourishment.
A late night radio DJ whose show revolved around comedy and novelty songs, occasionally played both sides of the record. He would say that the record was “a funny joke, despite being made entirely at the listener’s expense.” Over the next year, the DJ became increasingly lethargic and indifferent. He was eventually fired for going on the air and saying, “I don’t give a shit about this fucking show anymore,” and then sitting in silence for the remainder of the show’s time. Shortly after, he disappeared and was never heard from again. It’s also notable that during the time he began playing the record, the area his show aired in had a large spike in suicides and traffic accidents.
The records themselves are now rare collector’s items, going for hundreds of dollars on sites like eBay. Mp3s of the songs are unusually hard to come by and difficult to find due to the generic names of the tracks and the lack of any artist information. It seems like people who come into possession of the songs don’t usually have much motivation to upload them to the internet.
Or to do anything at all.
Ben Arzate lives in Des Moines, Iowa. His poetry and fiction has appeared in various places online and in print includingBizarro Central, TwentySomething Press, Ugly Babies Vol.1, and Spoilage. His first poetry book, the sky is black and blue like a battered child, is available on Amazon. He also often reviews books at Cultured Vultures and his blogdripdropdripdropdripdrop.blogspot.com