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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Leonard Nimoy Gets Laid…

Listen, love ain’t free. You and I both know it, so let’s stop beating round that sad old bush and face the facts, OK?

Even when you wistfully think, “hey, no strings attached,” you just know that you’re lying to yourself. There’s ALWAYS strings attached. If not in heart, then at the very least, in purse…

And sometimes in heart as well, sometimes even a heart filled with disappointment…

But for the masses, disappointment is a worn-out old suit. Ill-fitting, uncomfortable and an embarrassment. Especially when the purse beckons towards instant gratification, especially when disappointment can simply be turned into a jaunty lil’ jingle to help celebrate the sin…

And speaking of jingles, are there any better than the one where instant attraction leads to instant fireworks? And instant fireworks leads to rings being exchanged? And rings being exchanged leads to some sort of happiness ever-after? But most often, only after those rings have lost their shimmer, going off on their merry pawn shopping way…?

But that’s just it – a blessed few get to realize their happiness ever-after, and the rest of us are simply relegated to dealing with the truth of the matter (most usually, only long after our purses have been drained of cash and fight) that eventually everyone has to pay, even Nimoy…

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So Jen told us this week’s Twisted Mix-Tape Tuesday prompt was “No Strings Attached,” and I instantly gravitated towards prostitution. None too sure why, but I feel that Anita said it best, when she cooed that she had been through the “mill of love,” only to find every type but True. And maybe that in itself is the truth of the matter. I mean, at least when dealing with General Hooker’s women, you know that you’ll be broke by the end.

Oh, and speaking of Hooker’s women, here’s your bonus track for this week – I hope that you enjoy =)

Judy & Friends

The second-most virtuous man I know is going through a pretty intricate operation today. Please keep him and the most virtuous man I know, his husband, in your thoughts and prayers. Thanks, and this post is dedicated to them…

Sinatra did it.

Streisand did it.

Bennett did it.

Hell, Martin and Cole did it, years after they were already pushing up booze-soaked daisies.

But the Mother of all dueting, the forevermore Queen of all that the duet sun shines itself upon, was one Ms. Judy Garland. A consummate professional, she was confident in her talent enough, as to not throw under the bus whatever musical tit-for tatter happened to be working with her at the time. A lesson that one of her co-stars embraced. Another consummate professional in his own right, maybe you’ve heard of him before, and maybe it was here that you did…

To be sure, Mr. Darin was no stranger to the art of duet either, a talent that shown through never brighter, than when he cajoled a little-known lyricist (and founder of Capitol Records) into doing an entire album with him – one produced for Capitol’s competitor no less, the ATCO Records label…

Now if Judy ever sang with Mercer, I don’t know, but I do know she eventually nailed both Sinatra and Martin – in a one-two punch that left them reeling…

Speaking of duets, unbeknownst to most, Sinatra and Martin weren’t actually opposed to working together, and on very rare occasion, these two would lock horns (of the musical variety, of course), even if Garland wasn’t able to come out and play…

Hell, they were even known to on even rarer occasion “Pack” it in with Sammy in tow…

But it will still be Judy who ends the day (not to mention this post), with her ability to pick ’em, work with ’em, and make everyone a winner in the process. Even when the artist chosen had everything to gain, more the still when compared to Ms. Garland’s absolute nothing to lose…

Oh, and for all of you Twisted Mix-Tape Tuesdayers who thought about this bonus ditty the VERY SECOND you heard Sinatra’s name today; I want you to know that, 1) you are waaaaay old and, 2) it was the first thing I thought of as well… enjoy!

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PS: I decided that since any of the “relevant” duets I could have come up with (Queen/Bowie, Fine Young Cannibals/Somerville, Public Enemy/Anthrax, Strummer/Cash, Pogues/Maccoll,  Reznor/Murphy) would most likely already be addressed by other, more capable Tuesdayers, it left me the room to actually drop my music snobbery for a spell, and play around with this prompt instead. I hope you dug this momentary diversion into what – I fear – will soon to be a forgotten entertainment treasure, and I hope you do your part to help us remember a world wherein talent was what drove the industry we so love.

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Terry Snyder and his Guns! Of Navarone!

I simply loved The Guns Of Navarone. No, not the movie, although it was pretty good. Well, actually, the follow up hit “Force 10 From Navarone” (starring a very young Harrison Ford, who was still at the time getting over his new-found Han Solo high) was really much better. But really, that isn’t the point at all, and I don’t believe I’ve ever digressed this early on in a post before (please don’t tell me if I have – a fella’s got his reputation to consider, you know). Anywho (or, as I suppose an actual writer would say “at any rate”), The Guns Of Navarone I’m thinking of wasn’t the International Ska hit that resulted from the movie either, even though I do find myself humming both The Skatalites and The Specials interpretation of it from time to time. And yes, there is so too a difference between each version – slight – but recognizable none the less. No, the “Guns Of Navarone” that I’m speaking of is actually the 70’s era play set put out by the folks at Marx. THE play set to beat all others.

NOT mine.

I distinctly remember first and foremost the overwhelming size of the box it came in. And while many other play set boxes made promises of good times to be had within, the Navarone slick did not fail to deliver. Now, I’m sure that the actual container was no greater than three feet in height, but at my young age it seemed to have damned-near touched the ceiling. It had to be big, to contain the mountain within – an item made of grey molded plastic – one solid piece. Light enough to be moved around easily by a young lad of sixish (?), but big enough as to provide for hours (if not days) of non-stop imaginary warfare. Like many of the other play sets of the era, this came with a plastic sheet that had some sort of cartoonish geography slapped carelessly upon it. And like many of the other play sets, this item served only to make my mother nervous that we might somehow be suffocated by it. Don’t ask. Just. Don’t. Ask. She needn’t have worried however, since again, like those from most of the other play sets, it was usually trashed by the end of the first week.

The set came with a full compliment of Germans (or “bad guys”) molded in grey, and Americans (“good guys”), molded in green. The mighty guns atop the mountain were a very realistic day-glo yellow (of course) and there were flimsy plastic flag masts – of the same color – included as well. By far, the Germans had cooler poses, helmets and “gadgetry”, but I knew that was all just a ploy to pull me over to the “dark side”. The Americans didn’t need cool poses to show how tight they were, I suppose, but there was one in particular that I eventually just had to show to my dad for clarification. The soldier in question was the one who seemed to be walking forward – gun raised high above his head – possibly in an effort to boldly stab a giant in his kneecap, or maybe kill a tree. My dad explained that the men positioned like this were so because what they were actually doing was wading through water, and the guns were raised high to keep them dry. The play mat didn’t have nearly enough “water” to place them all in, and I’m still none to pleased with their inclusion as a result. Conversely, my personal favorite were the soldiers who were carrying the stretcher. I liked them because they “walked” in a fashion very similar to my own, only I do it without the aid of a stretcher.

Also not mine

The set was loved so much that after the first was literally worn out, a second was brought in to relieve it. And as with the first, the damned plastic mat didn’t survive even a week.

So, what’s the point here? None really, I just happened to remember the play set, oddly enough, with my recent purchase of a three disc set of Enoch Light’s “Persuasive Percussion” series. Five long-playing albums in total, strung out over the three discs, with each and every song being arranged and played by Terry Snyder and his All Stars (brief side bar: there seem to have been so many musical groups of the lounge era who used the moniker “All Star”, and yet damned few are remembered today. That doesn’t seem very Allstarish now, does it?). At any rate, I purchased this musical gem knowing full well that I already owned all the material on the first disc and a smidgen of the second. I know that that seems to go against my usual bent of not allowing myself too much guilty pleasure, but with a price tag of under fifteen dollars, I gladly got myself down from the cross this time and indulged.

And am I ever glad I did!  The three discs contain a total of sixty tracks, with not a bad one in the lot. No matter how hard I try, none of these “soldiers” can be found to be in awkward poses. Honest and true lounge, the hits include “Hernando’s Hideaway”, “Brazil”, “Perfidio” and a bevy of other tunes that sound all the better with the use of bongos and those other instruments normally associated with latin percussion (no, I have no idea what any of them are called. And no, I have no desire to look them up for the purpose of this post. Let’s just say that there’s a whole lot of chicka-chicka, bongo-pop and reeka-reeka cacophony that results when they’re used, and the albums are simply delicious to the ears as a result. All crazy mamba jamba rhythym, but with a wafer-thin air of nonchelance and a wink of cool confidence still intact). In addition to the music, there’s the whole idea that – while for years, Mr. Light has had his name emblazoned all over the stuff (and therefore given the credit – as can be seen by the accompanying link) – it was actually Mr. Snyder that pulled through with all the hard work and the creativity – Bob Crewe, take note. Trust me, after hearing Enoch Light’s stuff sans Snyder, it’s plain to see Terry as being the mastermind and mad scientist in charge of this musical treat. Once again though, fame trumped talent – and that very much appeals to my still jaded though aged punk rock leanings.

I’ve listened almost exclusively to these discs since the moment they arrived in the post (we actually use the term “mailbox” in the states, but “post” always sounds so much classier), and they are still fresh, with each and every listen – much like every time I used to empty that Box O’ Navarone onto my floor. I’m thinking I should try to first see if Terry Snyder is still alive, and if so, determine which All Star nursing home he may be a resident of so that I can send him a note of thanks. I may even ask him if he had ever given thought to calling his All Stars “The Guns Of Navarone” instead. Musically speaking, he seems like the kind of cat who could’ve. Don’t believe me? Sit back, prepare for your mind to be blown, give it a listen…

and enjoy!