A. Panda’s Christmas Lounge

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Back in 2011, I decided to make my 3rd Christmas playlist. This one was inspired by the music I enjoy listening to in A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge. This is a mix of classic and contemporary lounge crooners, jazzy numbers, surf and Tiki tunes, and some straight-up Christmas classics. Throw in some cool SHAG art and a cup of egg nog and you’re ready to enjoy the holidays in Mid-Century Modern style!

I also decided to turn this into a podcast, which you can check out here: apandatikipod.podbean.com

Here’s the back of the CD case with the track listing.

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You can also listen to the playlist on my web radio:

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A Small Collection

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Tiki mugs are addictive. At least, they are for me. It all started with a nice score on eBay, and since my first Tiki mug purchase, I’ve gone on to collect a few more. I’m now out of room in the shelf I built just 6 months ago, which means I should probably stop buying Tiki mugs. Or build another shelf in A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge. 😎

As I marvel at the small collection of Tiki mugs I’ve amassed in just a few short years, it dawned on me: these works of art are mileposts along my Tiki journey. I will now recreate that journey for you, with pictures to prove it. Here we go.


The Kahiki Polynesian Supper Club, Columbus OH. As mentioned before, I found this gem on eBay, at a pretty reasonable price. There were many Tiki mugs sold at The Kahiki, so it isn’t particularly rare, but I had just begun researching this now-extinct Tiki temple and had a trio of “worlds colliding” moments (see Whenceforth A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge) when I found this mug. It was the start of a new addiction.


The Mai-Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Show, Fort Lauderdale FL. As my research into Tiki temples continued, I learned of the granddaddy of them all, The Mai-Kai. Founded in 1956 by two brothers from Chicago, this is the oldest and best Polynesian supper club in the world. My wife Jessica and I took a long weekend trip to Fort Lauderdale a couple of years ago (see Aloha Spirit: The Mai-Kai) so I could see this Tiki Mecca for myself. We spent many hours in this beautiful place, walking through the gardens, checking out the amazing Polynesian dance show, and knocking back a few libations in The Molokai Lounge. The tall Tiki mug came with my first Mai-Tai, and the rum barrel came from the gift shop. Good times, and I would return later for The Hukilau.



Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Room and Trader Sam’s, Anaheim CA. In 2013, Jess and I hit the road again, this time to California for the 50th anniversary celebration of The Enchanted Tiki Room (see Aloha Spirit: Los Angeles). We spent a couple of sessions in the new Trader Sam’s, where my favorite drink was the Krakatoa. It came with a cool animated show in the bar and this spiffy, lava-dripping Tiki mug. I also picked up this amazing Pele mug by Kevin Kidney at the Enchanted Tiki Room festivities, where I also scored some cool SHAG swag from the man himself. It was a memorable trip that contributed a lot of pieces to the Tiki Lounge.


The Hukilau, Fort Lauderdale FL. In 2014, I left Jessica at home and met my buddy Bruce at The Hukilau, the East Coast’s biggest Tiki weekender event (see The Hukilau: Day 1). 4 days of hanging out with like-minded Tiki geeks led to many new friendships and 2 cool new Tiki mugs: an orange coconut mug and a Marquesian cannibal mug by Eekum Bookum. Tasty.

Tiki Pop, Paris France. Sven Kirsten is the godfather of the modern Tiki movement (see Tiki Ohana: Builders). His newest book, Tiki Pop, was the companion book to the expo he had in Paris in 2014, Tiki Pop : L’Amérique rêve son paradis polynésien, at the musée du quai Branly. I gladly scooped up this tome and the Tiki Bob mug that came with it. Both are displayed proudly in the Tiki Lounge.


Three Dots and a Dash, Chicago IL. Last year, for my 50th birthday, the family took a road trip to Chicago. We spent time visiting my buddy Bruce, who lives in Lincoln Park, and he surprised me with a gift of this cool Tiki mug from Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge in Minneapolis MN. After a wonderful dinner at David Burke’s Primehouse, Jess took the kids back to the hotel and Bruce and I headed to Three Dots and a Dash for some Tiki drinks. While there, I picked up this gorgeous seahorse bowl designed by Baï of Paris. This is the most beautiful piece of Tiki art I own! It would inspire me to get another Tiki mug from Baï later.


Hawaii Kai, New York NY. When we returned from Chicago, my mother-in-law Phyllis surprised me with a gift of this cool bamboo Tiki mug. She got it on her honeymoon in NYC, at the now-defunct Hawaii Kai, Manhattan’s most famous Polynesian supper club. This is the rarest Tiki mug in my collection. Mahalo, Phyllis!


Tiki Lounge, Pittsburgh PA. Last year, we attended the first annual Wildwood Vintage Tiki Weekender in Wildwood NJ (see Wildwood Weekend), organized by my friend Beth Lennon of Retro Roadmap. I made a lot of new friends at the beach that weekend, including Paul Matarrese from Pittsburgh. During a room crawl / swap fest, I bartered one of my music compilations for this cool Tiki mug Paul brought along. The matchbook was a nice throw-in.

 Tiki Farm, San Clemente CA. Tiki Farm is one of the most popular purveyors of Polynesian pop culture around. They’ve created many Tiki mugs during the current Tiki revival, and just celebrated their 15th anniversary with this beautiful mug by Doug Horne. The mug comes with a cast-in spear holder in the back to hold a cool orange spear swizzle stick.


Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at The Polynesian Village, Orlando FL. On a quick trip to Orlando for a work sales conference last month, we made a quick stop in my happy place, The Polynesian. When we were there for our last family vacation, Trader Sam’s was still under construction. It’s now open for business! I met my newest Tiki friend, George Borcherding, for some Dole Whips and a couple of Tiki drinks. Our first drink was the Uh-Oa, which came in this cool bowl. I now have 2 Tiki mugs from Trader Sam’s, one from each coast.


Ku by Baï, Paris France. Ku is the Hawai’ian God of War. This is my 2nd Tiki mug designed by Baï, but this one I got directly from her. Whereas the Three Dots and a Dash seahorse bowl is my most beautiful Tiki mug, Ku is my most detailed and substantial Tiki mug. I really love Baï Tiki’s work – it’s stunning!

So there you have it. These are my prized possessions: Tiki mugs collected along many stops of my Tiki journey. But these aren’t the only Tiki mugs I own. My friends have a habit of thinking of me during their travels, and pick up little Tiki trinkets to bring home as gifts to me. Some of these gifts are Tiki mugs. Nondescript but cool, I haven’t been able to identify their origins, but I display them around A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge nonetheless. Here are a few final pictures of these beauties in action. If anybody recognizes any of these Tiki mugs, please let me know. Aloha!




Mid-Century Modern

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If you’re into Tiki like me, you hear a lot about the Mid-Century Modern era in America. But what exactly does that mean? And what does it have to do with Tiki?

According to Wikipedia, Mid-Century Modern is a term that “generally describes mid-20th century developments in modern design, architecture and urban development from roughly 1933 to 1965.” So, our first clue of the connection is the timeline. Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt opened his first Don the Beachcomber’s bar in Hollywood in 1933, and the first great wave of Tiki lasted until about 1967, when the Summer of Love aesthetic supplanted Tiki as the primary means of escapism in America.

So, was Tiki a part of Mid-Century Modern design? Not really. Tiki art and architecture were more primitive and natural than MCM, which was more clean, crisp and futuristic. However, they occupied the same space in America’s history, and co-existed quite nicely. Think The Jetsons meet The Flintstones!

But why should I care about Mid-Century Modern? Because it was the backdrop against which Tiki occurred, and there were many connections between the two besides timing. I like to think of SHAG’s art when I envision this era in American history. SHAG incorporates a lot of the MCM design aesthetic in his artwork, much of which recalls the 1950s-60s of Palm Springs: architecture, artwork, cocktail culture. And SHAG paints a lot of Tikis as well. These are the things he knows.

In the next few blog posts, I’ll explore the different elements of the Mid-Century Modern era. I’ll be learning along with you as we go in more depth into this important topic. Aloha.

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Tiki Ohana – Chroniclers

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The Tiki resurrection that began in the 1990s was effected by people getting together to share their love of Polynesian pop. It was a rediscovery of Mid-Century Modern American culture that was all but forgotten by the 1970s and 1980s. Thanks to Otto Von Stroheim’s Tiki News (1995) and Sven Kirsten’s The Book of Tiki (2000), this lost era was now back in print for the Tiki tribe to enjoy. These chroniclers of the movement took Tiki to the next level.

 

Screen Shot 2015-03-08 at 9.33.17 AMHanford Lemoore (Tiki Central). Tiki Central is the internet’s first and biggest bulletin board for Tiki enthusiasts. Since 2000, Hanford Lemoore has presided over a virtual universe of like-minded people sharing their love of Mid-Century Modern, Polynesian-inspired things. News, events, art, food and drink, music, collectibles, Tiki bars, and much more. If you need to find anything in the world of Tiki, you can find it here: www.tikiroom.com.

 

Nick Camara (Tiki Magazine). It wasn’t the first printed magazine devoted to Tiki, but Tiki Magazine debuted in 2005 and has been going strong ever since. Nick Camara’s labor of love has always featured full-color spreads on topics of interest to the Tiki ohana, and covers by artists like Derek Yaniger and SHAG. Tiki Magazine has just been revitalized to now include a broader range of topics from the Mid-Century Modern era. You can subscribe here: www.tikimagazine.com.

 

image Koop Kooper (Cocktail Nation). For the best in retro and modern lounge and exotica music, you must check out Koop Kooper’s syndicated radio show and podcast, Cocktail Nation. The lounge lothario and high priest of all things hep, swinging and swank, Koop Kooper has been collecting and playing lounge music from his penthouse in Sydney, Australia since 2007. His show also includes interviews with some of the biggest movers and shakers in the Lounge, Exotica and Tiki scenes, and he’s published two books of those interviews. You can listen to the man from Down Under here: www.cocktailnation.net.

 

image Jim Hayward (The Atomic Grog). There are many blogs dedicated to the Tiki scene, but The Atomic Grog is my favorite. Jim Hayward has been publishing this blog from his South Florida home since 2011, and he often is the first to scoop everybody with new happenings in the world of Tiki art, music, and cocktails. He has also hosted many in-depth interviews with the titans of the Tiki ohana. Don’t just take it from me; check it out for yourself: www.slammie.com/atomic grog/blog.

 

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Steve Seifert (Tikiman Pages). For a very specific slice of Tiki culture, try a taste of Steve Seifert’s Tikiman Pages, an unofficial website devoted to Walt Disney World’s Polynesian Village Resort. The Polynesian is my happy place and one of the Tiki temples I’ve previously written about (Tiki Temples, Oct 2014). For this reason, Tikiman Steve’s website and Facebook page hold a place close to my heart. He really has a comprehensive pulse on the past, present and future of this wonderful place, and has been sharing his knowledge with the world since 1999. You can see what Steve has to say here: www.tikimanpages.com.

Tiki Ohana – Artists

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Tiki artists. Their art is considered lowbrow by some, but for us in the Tiki ohana, their work is priceless. And accessible. In fact, it was through art that I was introduced to Tiki culture in the first place (Whenceforth A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge, Nov 2013). It all started for me with a single piece of art by SHAG.

 

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Josh Agle a/k/a SHAG. Southern California’s SHAG is my favorite artist. I’ve already written at-length about my infatuation with him (Stalking SHAG, Jan 2014), so I will just add how much I enjoy the sharp lines and crisp colors of his work. SHAG’s art is derived from his background as a commercial illustrator, and infused with stories that spring from the Mid-Century Modern world: cool men and women, drinking and smoking, and Tikis. Lots of Tikis. Please check out more of SHAG’s work at his website: www.shag.com.

 

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Derek Yaniger. The art of Atlanta’s Derek Yaniger is ubiquitous in the Tiki ohana. His simple, fun style is right at home in the themes of beatniks, spies, and Tikis. Yaniger is in great demand with musicians and organizers of Tiki events such as Tiki Oasis and The Hukilau. I started realizing how popular his work was when I ordered the latest Snappy 45 set from the Exotica band Clouseaux and admired Yaniger’s cover artwork. It reminds me of the late 60s/early 70s animation of The Pink Panther cartoons. Please check out more of Derek Yaniger’s art at his website: www.derekart.com.

 

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Brad “Tiki Shark” Parker. Perhaps nobody’s Tiki art is as colorful and dense as the work of Hawaii’s Brad “Tiki Shark” Parker. Tiki Shark has also been the most aggressive marketer and promoter of all of the Tiki artists I’ve seen. His images appear on everything! Calendars, beach towels, flip-flops, skateboards, you name it. I actually first came across his work when I bought a cool lamp made from an old Tiki Shark Tiki mug. It has a place of honor in the Tiki Lounge! Please check out more of Brad Parker’s work at his website: www.tikishark.com.

 

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Sandra Fremgen. The brightest up-and-coming artist in the Tiki ohana is Southern California’s Sandra Fremgen. I may be a little biased. I got to know Sandra via Facebook through a chance encounter, based on our mutual love of pandas. She found and liked my A. Panda’s Tiki Lounge page, and I in-turn “discovered” her amazing art series Panda and Me. We’ve developed a great relationship in a short time, based on our mutual respect for each other’s work. I’m proud to have featured her artwork in a previous post (Artwork in the Tiki Lounge, Feb 2014). Please check out more of Sandra Fremgen’s work at her website: www.pandaandme.com.

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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Tiki Music: Lounge

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Lounge music. The term evokes a range of images, from a cheesy singer playing piano in a hotel bar, to a glitzy big band vocalist belting out standards in Vegas. In any case, the singer is the star of the show, be it a lowly lounge lizard, a sultry siren, or one of the Rat Pack crooners fronting a big band.

The lounge music I’ve enjoyed over the years parallels the rise, fall, and rebirth of Tiki. Lounge really hit its stride in the Mid-Century era of the 1950s-60s, and enjoyed a revival in the 1990s, just like Tiki. This versatile musical genre is still going strong today, though it is evocative of a time long gone.

Here, then, are the lounge albums I’ve listened to since the 1980s. My enjoyment of most of this music predates my love of Tiki, so perhaps it was a precursor for me. Or, yet again, worlds colliding.

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Frank Sinatra: Capital Collectors Series (1989). The Voice. Arguably the greatest vocalist ever, Frank Sinatra began his singing career in the 1930s with big bands during the Swing era. I believe he peaked during his Capitol Records years, 1953-60, which coincided with his rise as a movie actor. Sinatra set the table for all Lounge singers who followed him.

connickHarry Connick, Jr.: We Are In Love (1990). One of the young bucks who followed in Sinatra’s footsteps, Harry Connick, Jr. was a child prodigy from New Orleans who began performing at the age of 5. Like Sinatra, he parlayed his early success as a Lounge/Big Band vocalist in the 1990s into an acting career, both in movies and television.

louis-primaLouis Prima: Capital Collectors Series (1991). Louis Prima was a versatile musician of great longevity. He began his career with a New Orleans Jazz band in the 1920s, led a Swing combo in the 1930s, a Big Band in the 1940s, and a Vegas Lounge act in the 1950s. Prima perfected the Jump Blues Lounge style during his Capitol Records years, 1956-62. Anybody whose original music sounds just as good as future covers by Brian Setzer and David Lee Roth was ahead of his time. Louis Prima brought high energy to Lounge!

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Dean Martin: Seasons Greetings (1992). Who doesn’t love Christmas music? Lounge artists have made their fair share of holiday albums, and then some. Of all of the Rat Pack’s efforts, Dean Martin’s are my favorite. His smooth, comfortable voice was the perfect vehicle for conveying the warmth of Christmas music. Dino’s version of Baby It’s Cold Outside is one of my favorite holiday tunes ever.

FBennettLadiesTony Bennett: Here’s to the Ladies (1995). Speaking of smooth, here’s another cat that’s been singing forever. Tony Bennett started singing jazz songs in the 1950s, peaked in the 1960s, faded in the 1970s and 1980s, came back strong in the 1990s and is as popular as ever today (Is this pattern getting old yet?). Although he doesn’t have the greatest voice, Bennett’s style is so natural that it seems he was born to sing Lounge music.

zootsCherry Poppin’ Daddies: Zoot Suit Riot (1997). The Swing music revival of the late 1990s didn’t last very long, but its impact on Lounge music is undeniable. Cherry Poppin’ Daddies introduced a new generation of music lovers (like me) to the Jump Blues style made famous by Louis Prima 40 years earlier. Their music was full of energy and had a sense of humor more biting than Prima’s, which seems corny by comparison.

bigbadBig Bad Voodoo Daddy: Americana Deluxe (1998). This band did Cherry Poppin’ Daddies one better with their unforgettable soundtrack to the movie Swingers. Who hasn’t danced to their hit song Go Daddy-O? I know I start dancing whenever I hear it! Big Bad Voodoo Daddy has managed to maintain their popularity while the rest of the Swing revival hasn’t, as they continue to tour to this day.

ElvisCostelloBurtBacharachElvis Costello and Burt Bacharach: Painted from Memory (1998). This was a most unlikely collaboration. Burt Bacharach was the composer of many Easy Listening hits in the 1960s. Elvis Costello led the New Wave of Rock&Roll music in the early 1980s. Together, they created a collection of heartfelt, spellbinding music, the likes of which hadn’t been heard in years. A perfect Lounge album.

the-look-of-love-52afa6f68c454Diana Krall: The Look of Love (2001). Not to be outdone by her husband Elvis Costello, Diana Krall has made a name for herself as a Lounge singer. Her sexy voice (think Kathleen Turner), stunning good looks, and piano-playing ability add up to the total Lounge package – une chanteuse par excellence. I could listen to Diana Krall, or better yet watch her perform, all day long. 😉

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Martini Kings: Lost in Paradise (2010). Like Elvis Costello, Tony Marsico cut his chops in Rock&Roll bands, playing bass with many big stars (Bob Dylan, Roger Daltrey) and as the regular bass player for Matthew Sweet for 10 years. With his current band, Martini Kings, Marsico has carved out a cool niche playing upright bass in a classic Lounge combo. They are in great demand in the Modern Jazz circles of Southern California and beyond. My favorite Martini Kings tunes include female vocalist Kate Campbell, who gives the band a smooth, sexy sound with a retro feel. I hope to see them perform in-person some day.

The music in these albums could be the soundtrack to many a painting by SHAG. It’s no wonder I fell in love with his artwork, and apropos that I stumbled upon it while searching for cover art for my first mix CD, Panda’s Swinging Cocktail Hour, which included a heavy dose of this music. I guess it really is a case of worlds colliding for me that Lounge and Tiki are so intimately connected.