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:

 

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Panda’s at Rest

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Have you ever pictured your own funeral? It’s only natural, I think. I’ve been there, and one thing I know: the music’s going to be great. Why? Because I’ve already picked it out. That’s right – just like Mozart writing his own Requiem, I’ve put together a mix of music I want played at my funeral. And I listen to it all of the time.

So what makes for a good soundtrack for your own funeral? It’s got to be music that represents you. For me, that’s a pretty eclectic mix, but it starts with the classics, from both the Classical and Romantic periods.

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Mozart’s Requiem. Ever since the movie Amadeus, I’ve loved the story of this piece. Even if it’s not historically accurate, it makes for a great story, and fits my story, since I’m also writing my own death mass, so to speak!

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Dvorák’s 9th Symphony. My favorite classical composer. Ever. Maybe it’s my Slavic roots, or the melding of Old World and American melodies in Dvorák’s music. I’ve chosen the 4th movement, because the opening always reminds me of the theme from the movie Jaws. Very dramatic.

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Wagner’s Götterdämmerung. Again a movie reference, this time from my favorite movie of all-time, Excalibur. There’s something about the haunting refrain from Wagner’s Siegfried’s Funeral Music and Final Scene that gets to me, every time I watch King Arthur dying in battle and being carried off on a boat into the sunset of Avalon. Perfect way to end it all!

Lest I come off as too pretentious, I’ve also mixed in a bunch of 20th century music. Less dramatic, but more reflective. Songs like The Beatles’ In My Life, The Rolling Stones’ No Expectations, Frank Sinatra’s It Was A Very Good Year. The Doors, Led Zeppelin, and Aerosmith round out my high school years, while I also threw in some of my more recent favorites by Cake, Chris Isaak, Liz Phair and Nirvana. Plus a few other surprises.

All of these songs speak to me, and speak from my heart. I hope that when you hear them, you’ll think of me. Even before I’m dead. Mahalo!

Panda's At Rest CD2

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