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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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!