A. Panda’s Exotica Lounge

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So, here we go again, back to A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge for another music mix. This time I’m shooting for a compilation of Exotica and Lounge tunes, many of which I’ve only recently discovered. A lot of these songs are from the heyday of this style of music, the 1950s and 1960s. Many more are by modern-day artists who either revisited old chestnuts or created something new. All of them should fill you with a sense of escape, which is what we’re all about here in the Tiki Lounge.

Now, I’m not an artist or musician, though I really appreciate both. Where I flex my creative muscles is in writing and compiling. That’s why I enjoy this blog, and that’s why I also enjoy making music mixes. It really is an art form, mixing up other peoples’ work into something completely new.

For this particular musical collection, I have Dawn Frasier to thank for the inspiration. Dawn is an amazingly talented artist in Seattle who created the painting that is the cover of this mix. The original artwork is now hanging behind the bar in the Tiki Lounge. I also want to acknowledge some wonderful musicians who are Tiki friends of mine and landed in this mix: Jay Brooks of Clouseaux, Tony Marsico of The Martini Kings, Michael Bridoux of The Left Arm of Buddha, John Bartley of Five-Eaux, Mark Fontana of The Blue Hawaiians, Jim Bacchi of The Tikiyaki Orchestra, Brother Cleve of Combustible Edison, Russell Mofsky of Gold Dust Lounge, and all of the other musicians who made Exotica and Lounge music the treasure that we enjoy today. I hope you enjoy listening to this mix as much as I enjoyed bringing it to you. Aloha!

Here’s the playlist in case you want to see what’s in this mix:

A Panda's Exotica Lounge Playlist

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

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Tiki Music: Space-Age Bachelor Pad

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No music is more central to the Tiki scene, in my opinion, than Space-Age Bachelor Pad music. That’s why I put it at the center of A. Panda’s Galaxy of Sound. This is the theme music for the Mid-Century Modern era in America.

But what is it? Some people may consider this Easy Listening music – the kind of stuff that was blown off of the charts by the British Invasion of the 1960s. I prefer to think of it as the music that supported a lifestyle. The hip, romantic men of the Postwar period, creating sexy moods with furniture, drinks, and music, for the sole purpose of luring the fairer sex to their place for a good time. These were their anthems.

So here are the albums I’ve been listening to that bring the Space-Age Bachelor Pad to life for me. These are all sonically lush recordings, exploring the capabilities of stereo sound, jazzy instrumentals, and quirky vocals.

 

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Esquivel: Space-Age Bachelor Pad Music (1994). This music all begins with Juan García Esquivel, the Mexican composer/musician who created the style. This 1994 compilation bears its name for that reason. Esquivel pushed the boundaries of Jazz, Lounge and Instrumental music in the 1950s and 1960s, and popularized the use of stereo sound techniques and wordless vocals. Many of the musicians that followed owe a tremendous debt to this relatively obscure genius. Zu-zu-zu!

 

stan-getz-joc3a3o-gilberto-feat-antc3b4nio-carlos-jobim-getz-gilberto-1964 Getz/Gilberto (1964). Continuing the international nature of this music, Jazz sax great Stan Getz teamed up with Brazillian musicians João Gilberto and Antônio Carlos Jobim to introduce a sexy, jazzy music to the American consciousness. The zenith of this music’s popularity came with the tune Girl from Ipanema (sung by João’s wife, Astrud Gilberto), the ubiquitous song still instantly recognizable to this day.

 

Cover-Whipped-Cream-and-Other-Delights Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass: Whipped Cream & Other Delights (1965). Wow. That album cover. What can I say, but: wow! Herb Albert’s music was equally as sexy, which is why it was in constant rotation in bachelor pads across America during the Mid-Century Modern era. Anybody who remembers watching The Dating Game will instantly recognize the theme song and much of the in-game music from this album.

 

MI0001036280 Henry Mancini: Greatest Hits (2000). From The Baby Elephant Walk to The Pink Panther and Peter Gunn, Henry Mancini was the author of some of the most iconic music in movies and television of the Mid-Century. If you were watching TV or listening to a movie soundtrack in your bachelor pad, chances were good you were listening to one of Henry Mancini’s compositions.

 

6a00c2251d92a98fdb00d4144b99dd6a47-320pi Combustible Edison: I, Swinger (1994). This was the most important band of the Lounge/Swing/Tiki revival of the mid-1990s. Combustible Edison brought back the sound of the Space-Age Bachelor Pad with this album and their stunning soundtrack to the film Four Rooms, which also featured the music of Esquivel. Have I mentioned how profoundly this movie has influenced me?

 

31AX3HH0FSL Pink Panther’s Penthouse Party (2004). This album is an homage to the music created by Henry Mancini, with classics and new tunes performed by current artists like Fat Boy Slim, Dmitri from Paris, and Kinky. My wife Jess bought me this CD because of the SHAG cover art, but the music was a revelation. A bachelor-pad soundtrack for the modern age.

 

sgsound The SG Sound: The Pleasure Center (2007). Speaking of the modern age, I got to know Stephen Greaves through one of the Tiki groups on Facebook, where I was introduced to The SG Sound. What an amazing musician! This album would fit right into the mid-20th Century as well as it does in the 21st. Mahalo, Stephen!

 

album_esquivel_591 Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica: The Unforgettable Sounds of Esquivel (2010). Space-Age Bachelor Pad music comes full circle, as Brian O’Neill faithfully and meticulously recreates the music of Esquivel with his 23-piece big band, Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica. This was no small task, as none of this music was ever scored on paper, so Brian had to do it by ear. Mini Skirt is my favorite Esquivel tune and the current ringtone on my iPhone, so I think of Mr. Ho whenever he plays it for my incoming calls. Groovy!

So there you have it: the 5th and final star in A. Panda’s Galaxy of Sound. I’ve enjoyed sharing my Tiki music with you this summer. I suggest you also check out my new podcast, apandatikipod.podcast.com, where I’m featuring the actual music from my mix CDs. You’ll also hear some interviews with legends of the Lounge/Exotica/Tiki scene, along with some cool stories from my Tiki journey. I hope you’ll check it out and tell me what you think. Mahalo!

 

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Whenceforth A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge?

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Every once in a while, somebody asks me the question: “Andy, how did you get into all of this Tiki stuff?” The answer lies in my love of music and the intersection of creativity and anal retentiveness. Allow me to explain.

I really started getting into music in the mid-1970s, around the time I hit junior high. It started with The Beatles, then progressed into more current rock bands like Cheap Trick, Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith. My best friend Bruce and I used to go back and forth picking up the latest record albums (remember those?). We also used to enjoy making mix tapes on cassettes (another dying medium). Over the years, my musical horizons expanded into classical, blues, jazz, big band and zydeco music. As my discography grew, so did my zeal for keeping it all catalogued and organized. I created, expanded and still maintain my own, custom database of my music collection to this day, complete with digitized cover art for over 1,000 albums.

So, what does this have to do with Tiki culture? Stay with me, grasshoppers!

Fast-forward 30 years to the mid-2000s. With the advent of digital music, CD burners and iTunes, I decided it was time to rekindle my love of making mix tapes. Only now, cassette tapes had gone the way of the dinosaurs, and it was so much easier to make playlists on my Mac and burn them onto CDs. But where to start?

I decided to make a compilation of music singing the praises of drinking. I had really been getting into lounge music, from my early love of Sinatra to the more contemporary crooning of Harry Conick, Jr. and the big band stylings of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and the Brian Setzer Orchestra. I blame the movies for this turn in my musical taste. Swingers was responsible for introducing the Jump Blues style (think Louis Prima) to a new generation. Four Rooms brought me one step closer to the Tiki world by turning me on to the Space-Age Bachelor Pad music of Esquivel and Combustible Edison.

Okay, we’re almost there folks, please indulge me for another paragraph or two!

Once I picked a theme for my first modern music compilation, the next step was to design a cool album cover for the CD jacket liner. You see, I’m a very aesthetic person, and being the anal-retentive sort, I was destined to spend hours agonizing over this seemingly minor detail. Thank God (or Al Gore) for the Internet!

I started searching online for some artwork to complement my finely crafted music mix. I decided to name it Panda’s Swinging Cocktail Hour (Andy Panda is my long-time nickname and another whole story!). While doing a Google search using the phrase “cocktail art,” I stumbled upon the work of an artist named SHAG. It was love at first sight! Here’s what that first album cover became:

Panda's Swinging Cocktail Hour, 2003

Panda’s Swinging Cocktail Hour, 2003

SHAG is the nom de guerre of Josh Agle, a lowbrow artist from Southern California. My obsession with SHAG could (and probably will) fill an entire blog post, so I’ll summarize. His art features well-heeled women and men drinking, smoking and enjoying life. SHAG’s characters are typically found in chic or exotic surroundings, and he often features Tikis in his art. Here’s the first limited-edition SHAG print I acquired:

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SHAG, The Big Mug, 2004

I’ve gone on to acquire 10 more SHAG prints and many other pieces of his swag since starting with The Big Mug. In the process, I’ve learned much about the Tiki culture of the 1950s-60s in America. I have a whole basement full of Tiki mugs and statues, Hawaiian shirts and leis, and lots of Polynesian music and movies I enjoy. My man cave is the physical manifestation of A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge, but it goes beyond that. Tiki seems to find me in the strangest of places!

Finally, here’s one more story to bring it home – worlds colliding!

In 2011, SHAG released a new print of one of his paintings, honoring the wonderful Kahiki supper club in Columbus, OH:

SHAG, Last Days of Kahiki, 2011

SHAG, Last Days of Kahiki, 2011

I bought this print and was immediately curious about the story of this Mid-Century Tiki temple. In doing some research on the Kahiki, I found out it had been torn down in 2000 to make way for a Walgreens pharmacy. How sad! Anyway, the very same week I got SHAG’s Last Days of Kahiki, two other seemingly unrelated things happened. First, I got an email of new releases from a music company I follow that included a new album of old recordings from 1965:

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The Beachcomber Trio, Live from Kahiki, 1965

It turns out The Beachcomber Trio was the house band at The Kahiki, and these recordings from the year of my birth (coincidence?) had just been rediscovered. Of course, I bought the album immediately! Second, and even more unlikely, was an RFP I received at work that week (I’m an energy sales rep by day). My company was asked to bid on the natural gas supply for Kahiki Foods out of Columbus, OH. Kahiki Foods? Really?!? Could there be a connection?

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Sure enough, with a little more research I discovered that Kahiki Foods was owned by the family of Michael Tsao, the owner of The Kahiki supper club. After the restaurant was torn down, the Tsao family decided to focus on selling frozen versions of the Asian food The Kahiki had been known for. Unfortunately, we did not win their gas supply business, but I did run out to the store and picked up some tasty Kahiki General Tso’s Chicken!

So there you have it. My love of Tiki culture was fueled by music, ignited by art, and has continued to burn brightly for the past 10 years. Going back even further, I was probably born to live the Tiki lifestyle. 1965 was the tail end of the first wave of backyard Polynesia in America. How fortunate that I’m now able to participate in Tiki’s resurgence in the prime of my life. Mahalo!

SHAG, In Search of Tiki, 2008

SHAG, In Search of Tiki, 2008