Sounds Astound… in Stereo Action!

This week’s prompt for Twisted Mix-Tape Tuesday is “Dealer’s Choice,” which basically equates to “t gets to do whatever in the flip he wants!” So, and without further ado, welcome to my lounge.

No, seriously, this overdue return to the ranks of the TMTT tweeters is going to be all about the lounge music, ya dig?

I first discovered this musical smorgasbord, when I decided that while playing bands like The Exploited and GBH around the house wouldn’t necessarily be healthy for my young children’s ears, I still craved ear worm oddities. What I didn’t expect, but realized as the Lounge scene was dribbling all over my mental radio’s play list, was that bands that I formerly thought were groundbreaking – bands like Skinny Puppy – didn’t even hold a candle to the weirdness and creativity that folks like Les Baxter orgasmed all over almost every single disc he put out. And HE did it in a suit and tie, sans fake blood and pyrotechnics!

Although he’s the Big Daddy of the lounge scene, he’s going to bring up the rear today, as one of his biggest contributions to the era, was performed better and more famously, when covered by lounge’s other Big Daddy, Martin Denny…

Now most folks knowledge of lounge music starts and ends with the above played “exotica” genre. But there were multiple flavors of the stuff, and the second most fascinating would HAVE had to have been the Space Age scene. While not pertaining to matters sci-fi in each and every instance, instrumentally these cats were flying in the atmosphere nonetheless, as J. Hoffman once showed with the help of Billy May…

Instrumentation was important to the burgeoning population undergoing the “Surround Sound” evolution, and for whatever reason, the Hammond B5 bore a scene all unto itself. Quite possibly the very first recorded instance of geeks proving that they could be cool and hep – some even getting laid in the process – regardless of the fact that every natural law would seem to have been in opposition to the idea…

Now it’s has been reported that lounge music developed as a result of American soldiers traveling overseas and hearing for the first time, wholly “other” musical concoctions. Mounds and mounds of releases capitalized on this idea, and of all the countries “explored” South America was by far one of the busiest. Represented poorly quite often by white men with New York accents, it was also performed to loungesque perfection by the Third Head of Lounge’s Unholy Trinity, a certain Juan Esquivel…

Of course, one simply could not travel Lounge’s seven booze-soaked adventure-filled seas without a layover in sunny Vegas. And while stopping there, we’ve really no need to look at too many of the other usual suspects (in this post, at any rate), than another New York accent you might have heard of – maybe even here – who spent at least a bit of his life riding high…

And yes, before we scuttle off, we must tip our hat to the original pack of “Mr. Vegas’…”

Nice!

But t, what about Baxter, daddy-O? You said he was swinging up the rear, and you’ve already blown through five + 1 choice slices of musical peculiarities. Last call’s been called, and Happy Hour is over, Jack! What gives?

That, my friend, is why God invented the Bonus Track.

As I mentioned, Les was The Man. The man who never got the credit due, for being The Man in a scene that would – in the final analysis – never get the credit due for being the door opener for so many of the other scenes to follow. So to play us outta here today, we’ll listen to one of the tracks that I feel best epitomizes the lounge era sound. The cherry on top of an already multi-flavored, layered, and dipped in martini sound cake…

Thanks for stopping by my joint today, and please, remember to take a complimentary gift bag on your way out…

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The Dreaded Also Ran’s

PS: Here’s the “Also Ran’s.” A collection of the tracks (consider them “B” sides to the above selections) that almost made the cut, only to be nixed once I remembered that the final result of each post was supposed to be worthy of a well-mixed mix-tape… Enjoy!

Exotica

Space Age Bachelor’s Pad

Hammond B5

International

Vegas

Rat Pack

Bonus Baxter

PPS: If interested in learning more about this scene, start by exploring Capitol Record’s Ultra-Lounge compilation mixes. A veritable cornucopia of all things Lounge, and a worthwhile addition to anyone’s music library.

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For 3 Reasons…

This coming Sunday through Wednesday I will once again be dragging my feet (not to mention my solitary “if you can’t take it on your back, then don’t take it all” backpack) to Las Vegas, and I am telling you this for – as the post title implies – 3 reasons.

flamingo_hotel_las_vegas_NV

• First off, if you should happen to be in the area at the same time, let’s grab a drink, shall we? Drop me a line if you’d like to meet the t behind the “t.”

• Secondly, should my near-future posts appear to be erratic and/or wholly absent, this trip is the reason why. No, I’ll not be dead yet. Or at least we’ll just assume that to be true, until such time as the week following comes round, and you still haven’t heard from me.

• Thirdly and most importantly, I’m telling you this sort of as a promise to NOT get all weepy like I did last year, and post an overly mopey and generally pissy rant about the people who populate, if only for awhile, this fair(ish) city. OK, well at least I will try very hard not to. What? I’m an emotional guy. I can’t always help it.

Now, those of you who know me well may very well believe that the song included today is actually a thinly veiled, “secret” reason #4 behind today’s post. And as always, those of you who know me well, would be absolutely correct in your beliefs. So let’s get crackin’!

• Oh, also, if any of you happen to know where is the best place to catch a good Drag Queen show out Vegas-way, I’d be forever grateful for your two cents!

Cuts me up

At a certain point, while waiting for the Rueben that would end up being sanitized of flavor and eaten alone, I opened my portfolio and started scribbling the following:

Sitting alone, I rage at this world for no reason in particular. This world, that does nothing to shake me off, but yet embraces me not either.

I often wonder, is it me who is “wrong”, or is it this mortal coil who is in error?

And why do I feel such a deep and gaping disconnect? Why can’t I just drink the Kool-Aid everyone else here has seemed to indulge so greedily in? Why can’t I put on the mask of contentment and believe it to be true?

Why in the fuck am I sitting alone in an over-the-top Vegas cafe on the verge of tears?

Again?

From moijoie (click on image for more)

Now I must tell you, while I would very much like to edit a great deal of the above, I’m leaving it intact for the purpose of this post. A purpose I’m still unclear of, actually. I’m leaving it like it is, because while it may not be a very good read, the words came with immediacy and with intent. The words needed to come out before the tears did. Those damned tears.

What’s with them any way? For years, I bemoaned the fact that I found it literally impossible to shed even one, but as of late, it’s all I can do to keep them in. And this time it wasn’t because of C, or dad, or my suckass job (OK fine, not “suckass” per say, but not at all where I really want to be). No, this time, it was because of the people that surrounded me. The good and gentle folk, patiently waiting for their flavor-sanitized food. Affecting smiles through their clown makeup. Attracting attention through their jangling jewelry and their cackle calls. Thoroughly enjoying themselves in a world that is only real if you ignore the fact that it is not. I felt bad for these people. I know, it’s stupid. Here they are, having a grand old time in their plastic kingdom, and here’s little sackcloth t, pitying them in their joy. But I suppose that’s just it – there was no “joy” present, just en-joy-ment. The air was full of whatever it is they normally pump into the Vegas resorts, that magical stuff that never allows you a sleepy nod. But joy? Joy was not in the air. Joy wasn’t even in the room.

“Wow t, thanks for coming back, only to totally harsh my mellow, dude!” No, wait – let me explain first. C.S. Lewis is my “go-to” guy when discussing joy, so we’ll be seeking his opinion momentarily. For me, joy is much more than the orgasm. For me, joy is knowing that the orgasm will come. OK, I suppose that Mr. Lewis would most likely never endorse an analogy like that, but he might have said something like this instead:

“In a sense, the central story of my life is about nothing else ….. it is that of an unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other satisfaction. I call it Joy, which is here a technical term and must be sharply distinguished both from Happiness and from Pleasure. Joy (in my sense) has indeed one characteristic; and one only, in common with them; the fact that anyone who has experienced it will want it again. Apart from that and considered only in its quality, it might almost equally be called unhappiness or grief. But then it is a kind we want. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted it would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasures in the world. But then, joy is never in our power and pleasure often is.”

Or a bit more succinctly:

“The very nature of Joy makes nonsense of our common distinction between having and wanting.” 

He might have said that. Had he ever written about it. In books possibly titled something like “Surprised By Joy” or “Letters To Malcolm.” And if he had, what I believe he would have meant is this – Joy comes in the anticipation. The wanting. The Longing. Much like the giddy hand-clapping that goes on while trying not to, but trying to, fall asleep on Christmas Eve, joy isn’t the present you’ll receive the next day, it’s the – well – the Joy you feel in the waiting for it. It’s almost better – scratch that, it is better – than the actual gift altogether. What I saw in Vegas were people who were not feeling joy. What I saw in Vegas were people who only kept telling themselves they were. The smiles never really lasted long enough. The nervous twitches never totally settled. The voices still rose, and tempers still flared while waiting in line. Or for a cab. Or waiting for food. Or for a drink. Or waiting for, well, you get it. There’s a shit-ton of waiting to be done in Vegas. And while they were waiting, the thin veneer of “joy” could be seen running down sweaty necks and off of twitching palms. They had drank the Kool-Aid, but it had no affect, so they simply pretended to be stoned instead.

And I felt bad for them.

It was at that unforeseen moment that the tears began to well, and I had all I could do to keep myself together. Not only did I feel bad that they were tricking themselves into their joy, I began feeling deep throbbing pangs of my own, wishing that I could be back with my Joy at that very moment. Back where I’m accepted, even without the clown makeup or the jangling jewelry. I longed so badly to be there. To be safe. And in that longing, my Joy increased. And my strength along with it. And I used these to muster the wherewithal to tighten the belt of my big boy pants, before soldiering on with the rest of my little trip. One that will go down in the history of the human race as an absolute and utter yawn.

Unless the videos surface, I suppose.

I’m back home now, away from the lights, the noise, the airborne stuff that never allows you to sleep. And I’m happy. Just before I sat down here, I was ironing my Korporate Amerika trousers, once again forming a new crease mere millimeters away from the intended one, all while dancing about pretending to be Peter Murphy. And as I did, I thought again about those poor people. And I wondered if they too were “back to life” by now. I wondered if they too were ironing and singing and screwing up their trousers in the process. And I wondered if they too were happy. More importantly, I wondered if they had finally found their Joy.

I hope that they are. And I hope that they did. For again, as C.S. Lewis might have said at some point in time that “Joy is the serious business of Heaven.” If so, we’d best get cracking.