Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

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“It was twenty years ago today, when Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play…”

So begins the most important Beatles album ever (in my opinion). It was 1967. The band had decided to stop touring to concentrate on writing music. Two of my favorite albums, Rubber Soul (Dec. 1965) and Revolver (Aug. 1966), began the transition from the early Beatles of Love Me Do to the more complex music of their later recordings. With Sgt. Pepper, this transformation was complete.

This is a wonderful album, featuring the competing songwriting talents of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, the Indian-influenced orchestration of George Harrison, and probably the most iconic song Ringo Starr ever sang. Mix in some hallucinogenic drugs and a wide assortment of musical instruments and ideas, and you arrive at Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

It’s hard to believe it’s been over 50 years since this album was released. It sounds as groundbreaking today as it must have sounded in 1967. I was fortunate to have just purchased the 50th anniversary edition from 2017, which is an amazing collection of pictures, posters, videos, and of course music. Lots of music. There are four CDs worth of music here, including the original mono mix of the album, the original stereo mix, a new stereo mix, and lots of outtakes.

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The biggest reason why I bought this edition is the new 5.1 surround-sound mix of Sgt. Pepper on a separate Blu-ray disc included in it. If you’ve been following along with my social media posts, you know that I’ve really been getting into these surround mixes of great albums. I was curious to hear how the original 4-track recordings would translate into 5.1. I was not disappointed! The surround-sound mix of Sgt. Pepper really pops, introducing me to sounds I hadn’t noticed before.

It was worth it to me to buy this collection just for this new mix. All of the bonus features, including a wonderful book and video on the making of Sgt. Pepper, will keep me busy for a long time enjoying this wonderful album. Which is as it should be, for a masterpiece that has aged well after 50 years.

Mahalo John, Paul, George, and Ringo!

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Owning Tiki

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I’ve been a participant in Tiki culture for about 15 years now. In that time, I’ve learned a lot about what Tiki is (and what it isn’t). First and foremost, Tiki is an escape. The many aspects of this escape – music, art, drinks, decor – have been the subject of my musings in this blog, my Facebook page, my podcasts, and my 8tracks music channel.

What I’m particularly proud of is that I have become somewhat of an expert in Tiki to those who know me. I like to think I occupy the Tiki space in those people’s minds, and they often ask me questions, send me texts and pictures from Tiki-related places, and bring me things they think I might like for my Tiki Lounge.

One of the questions I get asked most often: “Andy, how did you get into Tiki in the first place?” I got tired of telling my Tiki origin story over and over again, so I wrote a blog post about it (Whenceforth A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge?). The next most popular question I get is “Is this Tiki?” I’m not always right, but I do try to explain the difference between Oceanic Arts and Party City, i.e. legitimate and respectful Tiki versus tacky cultural appropriation.

The most fun communications are texts from friends who know my love of Tiki and want to show me they’ve paid attention to what I’ve told them. Here are a few recent examples:

Both of these texts came to me in the past month!

Finally, the most gratifying aspect of owning Tiki is when friends bring me things from their travels. I’m not talking about my Tiki ohana, as we send each other things all the time, especially Tiki mugs. I’m talking about unsolicited gifts from unexpected people and places, just because they thought of me and saw something cool. A few examples:

I love that people think of me when they see Tiki things and bring them over. It’s not the gifts as much as the thought that brings me joy. No matter what it is, I will try my best to display these items proudly in the Tiki Lounge, after thanking the givers publicly on my Facebook page. Let’s hope I never run out of room here!

To all of you who have asked me questions about Tiki, showed me you listened and appreciated the knowledge, and brought me tokens of your appreciation, I say mahalo from the bottom of my heart. You are always welcome in the Tiki Lounge for a Mai-Tai and a temporary escape to a fun place.

A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge Soundtrack

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Welcome to the soundtrack of my Tiki Lounge, a world both virtual and real. I originally created this playlist in 2010, but have just updated it (9 years later) to include my theme song, Panda Strutt, by the wonderfully talented Jon Tiki of Five-Eaux. This tune, which can be heard at the beginning of my podcast episodes (including the latest, Panda’s Musical Journey), now kicks off this compilation. It makes sense to me. I hope you enjoy it!

Here is the playlist:

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Click here to listen to this playlist on my 8tracks station:

Panda’s Christmas Island

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Christmas Island. It is a magical place, where palm trees sway, Tiki drinks flow freely, and the music is very festive. In my version of Christmas Island, the soundtrack is made of all of the stars in Panda’s Galaxy of Sound: Surf, Hawai’ian, Exotica, Lounge, and Space-Age Bachelor Pad. It’s not exactly your parents’ Christmas music, but never fear: it will put you in the mood for Christmas. Tiki style.

This is my fifth Christmas compilation and first in 6 years. There’s a nice mix of old crooners, surf stalwarts, new Hawai’ian music, and some exotica that will leave you wondering how anybody could reimagine Christmas this way. I hope you enjoy it.

Mele Kalikimaka!

Here’s the playlist:

Panda's Christmas Island CD Playlist

And here’s a link to my 8tracks radio page where you can listen to this mix:

Panda’s Childhood in the 1970s

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I turned 5 years old in 1970. My earliest musical recollection is of listening to The Beatles, and I remain a big fan. However, my parents were into straight-ahead rock & roll, having just gone through the Summer of Love a few years earlier. In rifling through their record collection, I was exposed to a lot of Led Zeppelin, Santana, and Jethro Tull, to name a few bands that were big then. As I grew into my teenage years, I supplemented that with my own favorites: Aerosmith, Cheap Trick, David Bowie, ELO. The list goes on and on!

This music defines the 1970s for me. I now own over 200 albums from that decade, and whittling it down to a manageable playlist was hard. To honor the 1970s, I made this a 2-disc set, or double album in the vernacular of the day (there were a lot of those back then, not so much anymore). Here is the playlist:

Panda's Chilhood in the 1970s CD Playlist

And here is a link to my 8tracks page where you can listen to it right now:

 

Pins in The Tiki Lounge

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There are many facets to the story of my Tiki journey. One angle I haven’t explored yet is my collection of Tiki pins. As I look back on the many pins I’ve gotten, and continue to get new ones, it suddenly occurs to me: these pins tell a story. With pretty pictures. Let’s start at the beginning.

2008-13, Walt Disney World

Our first family vacation to WDW in Orlando FL was in December of 2008. We were on the every 18 month plan, which saw us journeying to the Polynesian Village Resort four times between 2008-13. These were the days before Disney Magic Bands, so you carried your ID cards in a plastic pouch on the end of a lanyard. The lanyard was a perfect place to hold pins, and we were quickly introduced to the art of pin trading at Disney.

Pin trading was a family affair, as my wife and kids were really into it. I also enjoyed it, and was fortunate enough to score my first Tiki pin (the one with the black Mickey ears hat) via trade. I loved that pin, and through a little research, I discovered there were two more Tiki pins in the set. I managed to find the second one in due time, again by trade (because they no longer sold these), but the third one eluded me. Then, one day, by dumb luck, the third pin (the blue one) found me. Seriously! We were walking through Animal Kingdom, on our way to the Safari ride, when a Disney cast member came running up to me and offered me a trade. He had noticed (from afar) the two Tiki pins on my lanyard and told me he had the third one if I was interested in it. I sure was! It was karma that this missing pin found me, early on in my Tiki journey.

Besides trading for pins, we also bought our fair share of them. At first I was drawn to the pins from some of our favorite WDW rides, like The Haunted Mansion and Tower of Terror. Then I discovered pins specific to the Polynesian Village, available in their main gift shop, Bou-Tiki. They had some fairly generic (but still cool) pins, and they incorporated Lilo and Stitch into some of them, an added bonus. During our first visit, which was during the Christmas season, I also found a special Holiday 2008 Polynesian Village pin. What a great find! It turns out they put out a new holiday pin every year. I have made it my goal to get one of these special pins every year that we visit WDW. So far, so good.

2013, Disneyland

For my 48th birthday, Jess and I decided to take a trip to Los Angeles CA. My main motivation for the trip was to attend the 50th anniversary celebration of Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Room, the original. We also snuck in a trip to Whittier to visit Oceanic Arts, on our way to Anaheim. Jess wanted to try Disneyland, to see how it compared to Walt Disney World, which we had been to four times already. She also had never been to California and wanted to see Hollywood and Santa Monica. We ended up staying at the Disneyland Hotel, which is where the ETR celebration was being held, and put us close to Disneyland before we toured LA.

Magic bands were just becoming a thing at Disneyland in 2013, but we still had cards to navigate our hotel, which meant another pouch/lanyard and more space for new pins! Here I focused on the pins specific to Disneyland, including the hotel were we stayed, the iconic park sign, and the rides we really enjoyed. Some rides were unique to Disneyland (The Matterhorn), some were better here than at WDW (Space Mountain, It’s A Small World), and some not as good (Splash Mountain). It was fun to try them all, and I got as many pins as I could to remember our one trip to Disneyland.

But let’s move on to the main reason for our visit: the 50th anniversary of The Enchanted Tiki Room!

I was very excited for this event, mostly because it would be another opportunity to see one of my Tiki art heroes, SHAG. Disney had commissioned him to do some special paintings for this event, and I was lucky enough to get him to personalize a print for me. I had also pre-ordered a bunch of ETR swag that I picked up at the event, including some pins marking the 50th anniversary (displayed on yet another lanyard, this one for the event!). While we were at Disneyland, we of course did the Enchanted Tiki Room, which was another attraction much better there than at WDW. The main difference is the outdoor courtyard area, which features 8 animated Tiki god statues and a stand selling Dole Whip (as captured in SHAG’s art). I hadn’t planned on getting the special pins dedicated to each Tiki god, but after seeing them in person, I had to have those pins too. All are now displayed proudly in the ETR corner of the Tiki Lounge.

2014-18, Walt Disney World Part Deux

Back to Walt Disney World we go. A lot had changed when we returned for a family vacation in 2014. Magic bands had now replaced the old card system, so there was no need to wear lanyards anymore. They were building a new Tiki bar at The Polynesian Village called Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, modeled after the Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Hotel which had opened the year before (and we got to visit a mere weeks after it opened!). They also opened a new stand at the Great Ceremonial House, the Pineapple Lanai, where you could get Dole Whips and floats. And yes, they were building new over-water bungalows out back, and for a mere $2500 a night, you too could stay there. Too rich for our blood.

Anyway, though WDW and The Polynesian were changing, as were our family vacation plans (now on a 36-month schedule), my hunger for pins has not changed. I still seek out the special holiday pin every year we visit. Although we’ve only been back twice for full family vacations, we have been back for special trips at least once a year over the past 5 years. Even though we might not be there over the holiday season, I have friends in Florida who visit Orlando regularly and can pick stuff up for me. So, for example, we took a road trip in June that had us at The Polynesian for 4 days; the 2018 holiday pins weren’t available then, but you can bet I will have one of those pins hanging in the Tiki Lounge before the end of the year!

2018, Non-Disney Tiki

So, why did it take me 10 years to realize that other folks make Tiki pins besides Disney? I don’t know. Maybe I was distracted by other art forms, like paintings, Tiki mugs, and books. Or Tiki playing cards, like the cool Tikilandia deck designed by Robert Jimenez from LA. It was when I ordered two sets of these beautiful cards that I received one of Robert’s pins as a thank you gift. Well, that pin was so cool that I had to order another right away! I decided to display these pins on a new canvas, literally – the back of my Tiki bar director-chair stool, which is made of canvas.

Not long after I got the Tikilandia pins, I next discovered the Salty Dame and PinChe Loca pins made by Megan Besmirched from Chicago. Megan is part of the great Tiki scene in the Windy City that includes Kymm Bang’s gravel art and amazing Tiki bars Three Dots And A Dash, Lost Lake, and the Witco shrine of Hala Kaliki.

Finally, my newest pins come from Gil Taimana from San Diego. He is the owner of Tahiti Gil’s South Seas Trading Co. and Tahiti Felix’s Master Tattoo & Museum. I met Gil through the Disneyland Addiction group, and his artistic homage to Disney and the Enchanted Tiki Room is quite strong. Just look at these amazing pins! They really tell a story, and if you’ve been to the ETR at Disneyland, you appreciate the story even more. Pretty powerful that a tiny work of art can do that.

Panda’s Bride of Surf

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Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. My 6th Surf music compilation has a little bit of everything, from oldies but goodies like Dick Dale and The Ventures, to new artists like The Surfragettes and Jason Lee and The R.I.P. Tides; cool “borrowed” covers of my standard bookends, Wipe Out and Hawaii Five-O, and a couple of tunes by one of my favorite bands, Blue Hawaiians. This is a marriage made in Heaven.

Here is the playlist:

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And here is the link to listen to this playlist on 8tracks: