Tag Archives: Space Age Bachelor Pad

The 50 Guitars of Tommy Garrett: The Best Of

50GuitarsOfTommyGarrett_BestOfSpace-age bachelor pad guitar instrumentals from Snuff Garrett

Anyone who’s spent time shopping for vintage vinyl in thrift stores has come across one of Tommy Garrett’s two-dozen albums. What most of these shoppers never realize is that “Tommy Garrett” is better known as Snuff Garrett, famed producer of Gary Lewis & The Playboys, Cher and many others. As a sideline to his more renowned production work, Garrett assembled “an orchestra of guitars” to record dozens of instrumental albums, highlighted on the first two (South of the Border and South of the Border Volume 2) by the fretwork of Brazilian legend Laurindo Almeida, and in many of the remaining sessions by Wrecking Crew regular Tommy Tedesco.

These instrumentals are classic space age bachelor pad music, lushly arranged, wide-stereo productions of material drawn from the pop charts, bossa novas, sambas, exotica, film soundtracks, tin pan alley and Broadway. Although there is often a studio full of guitars strumming away, the promise of “an orchestra of guitars” is somewhat misleading, as the guitar-led arrangements also include percussion and horns. The Best of the 50 Guitars, clocking in at 33 minutes, was originally issued by Liberty in 1968, and focuses on Latin-influenced titles from 1961 (“Guadalajara”) through 1968 (“La Negra” and “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly”).

50GuitarsOfTommyGarrett_BestOfVol2The Best of the 50 Guitars Volume 2, originally a double album (and clocking in at a generous 58 minutes), was also released by Liberty in 1968. But where the first volume stuck to Latin titles, volume two broadens its selections to include the ersatz “Mexican Shuffle,” the Three Suns’ (and later, Platters’) “Twilight Time,” Bacharach & David’s “This Guy’s in Love With You,” the 1930’s waltz “Fascination,” the pop hits “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” and the film titles “Lara’s Theme” and “Born Free.” All are rendered in the lush 50 Guitars style, with virtuosic lead guitars that favor Latin flavors.

Varese’s reissues include the original track lists (remastered by Steve Massie) and cover art, and new liners by Laurence Zwisohn. These are a good place to get a taste of the 50 Guitars, which will likely be enough guitar-based easy listening music for many. Completists (and you know you’re out there), will need to pick up resissues of original albums (e.g., 1 2 3 4) and head back to the thrift stores until Bear Family picks through all the outtakes, assembles a hundred page book and issues the Complete Sessions of the 50 Guitars. These two volumes will help you pleasantly while away the hours while you wait. [©2015 Hyperbolium]

For Singles Only

DVD_ForSinglesOnlyFor Singles Only is an unremarkable 1968 comedy (imagine the AIP beach party kids grown up and living in a singles-only apartment building) that’s worth seeking out for its unusual list of musical guests:

  • The Walter Wanderley Trio with Talya Ferro (poolside!)
  • The Cal Tjader Band (poolside at the body painting contest!)
  • Lewis & Clark Expedition (in fringed leathers and playing Vox guitars!)
  • The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (at the Sans Souci club dance!)
  • The Sunshine Company (in the credits but not in the film?)

The cast includes John Saxon, Mary Ann Mobley (two-time Elvis Presley co-star and Miss America 1959!) and the always delightful Chris Noel (playing the incredibly bitchy Lily), and the film was directed by Arthur Dreifuss, who’d helmed Riot on Sunset Strip and The Love-Ins the year before. The score was written and conducted by Fred Karger, who was apparently an object of affection to no less than Marilyn Monroe! This film turned up on GetTV last week, so keep an eye on their schedule for a repeat. You can also buy it on DVD.

Various Artists: Moonage Timequake

Various_MoonageTimequakeSpace pop, early electronica, rockabilly and outside jazz

Cherry Red’s Righteous label offers up this stellar collection of twenty-seven kitschy, space-themed tunes. Space age bachelor pad collectors may be familiar with the selections drawn from Jimmie Haskell’s 1959 space-twang orchestral-pop classic Count Down!, as well as the orchestra, oscillator and Theremin “Out of This World” from Frank Comstock’s Project: Comstock – Music from Outer Space, but this set stretches much more broadly. In celebration of the moon landing’s fortieth anniversary, the collection reaches back to the late ‘50s and early ‘60s fascination with all things space. The lion’s share of these tracks are early rock, rockabilly and hillbilly boogie, but there’s also early electronic music from Thomas Dissevelt and Theremin virtuoso Samuel J. Hoffman, orchestral scores from Ron Goodwin and Bobby Chistian, and outré jazz from Sun Ra and His Solar Arkestra. Tying it together are snippets of spoken word and dialog, including a short piece from NICUFO founder Frank Stranges. The breadth may be too eclectic for some, but the range demonstrates how widely the space race infiltrated the popular imagination, and the rock ‘n’ roll rarities will set any party on a collision course with fun. [©2013 hyperbolium dot com]

Dick Schory: Re-Percussion


Dick Schory was a classically trained percussionist who worked for the Ludwig drum company. He recorded a highly regarded string of panoramic stereo space-age bachelor pad LPs, based on his original concepts for percussion ensembles. Though he started with a base of traditional drums, cymbals, gongs and xylophones, he also employed world percussion, repurposed everyday objects, and large orchestras. This 1957 release, originally on the Concert Disc label, is focused on percussion, along with piano, bass and guitar, and should really be heard in full CD (or analog LP) fidelity for maximum impact; though it’s unclear if Essential’s CDR-on-demand is produced from full-fidelity transfers (which themselves may or may not have been made from original master tapes) or from the parallel MP3 digital downloads. This will still be enjoyable at lower bit rates, but may not stand up to the audiophile quality amplification it deserves. [©2013 hyperbolium dot com]

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The Percussive Arts Society
The Ames Historical Society
Space Age Pop

Various Artists: Pan Am – Music From and Inspired by the Original Series

Swinging collection of ‘60s jet-age pop marred by contemporary covers

The vintage picks on this fourteen-track set nicely conjure the ring-a-ding-ding jet-age culture of television’s Pan Am. Unfortunately, the inclusion of two contemporary cover versions reeks of marketing opportunism, and interrupts the vintage vibe of an otherwise finely programmed collection. Grace Potter and Nikki Jean’s fans may enjoy their renditions of, respectively, “Fly Me to the Moon” and “Do You Want to Know a Secret,” but the modernity of their vocal styles sticks out among the company they’re keeping here.

The set opens with the underappreciated Buddy Greco swinging “Around the World” as if he’s got Rat Pack-era Las Vegas on a string. He sports the energy of Louis Prima and the cool of a young Bobby Darin. Darin himself brings the program back on track with a terrific version of “Call Me Irresponsible.” The collection includes international space-age bachelor pad chestnuts “The Girl From Ipanema,” “Mais Que Nada,” and “Quando Quando Quando” and serves up several lesser-known, but no less superb items. Ella Fitzgerald scats brilliantly through Rodgers & Hart’s “Blue Skies” and Peggy Lee opens “New York City Blues” as a smoky ballad before bursting into joyous celebration of all things Big Apple.

Shirley Horn provides a master class in jazz vocals with “The Best is Yet to Come,” a tune famously recorded by Sinatra and Basie in ‘64. Basie’s band adds its own notes of sophistication with the horn chart for Hank Williams’ “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” and Brenda Lee’s “Break it to Me Gently” will break listeners’ hearts with its gut-wrenching vocal. Nikki Jean has the bad fortune to follow Lee’s tour de force, sounding cute, but inconsequential in comparison. The set ends with Dinah Washington’s superb “Destination Moon,” closing a fine set of jet-age artifacts from and inspired by the television show. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

The Surfin’ Robots: Cowabungiga!

Synthpop meets surf music and post-punk

If you’ve been itching to take a toaster into the ocean, this French band’s electrosurf music is for you. It melds the repetitive electronic buzz, drum machines, low bass and processed vocal riffs of dance music with the spring reverb sounds of surf guitar. This rambles between banal dance tunes, kitschy Perry & Kingsley-styled synthpop, ‘50s and ‘60s space-age bachelor pad pastiche, and Raybeats-styled post-punk surf. Surf fans should check out “Cowabungiga,” “Chemical Beach,” and “Made in China,” among other tracks. Ennio Morricone fans, give a listen to “Lonely Space Surfer,” and those still freaking out from ‘60s acid flashbacks might like “Speed Spirals.” [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

The Surfin’ Robots MySpace Page

Buddy Cole: Swingin’ at the Hammond Organ

Theatrical Hammond organ takes on standards

Edwin “Buddy” Cole’s Hammond albums are probably better known by sight than sound. The album covers – particularly Have Organ, Will Swing and Powerhouse! – are treasured icons of the space-age bachelor pad genre, seen by many, but actually heard by few. Surprisingly, the music inside isn’t particularly exotic. Cole was more of a lush, theater organ stylist (a job he’d actually held in the 1930s) than a bluesy howler, and though he had significant chops as a jazz pianist, they were spent mostly as an accompanist behind Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and Nat King Cole (no relation). Here he sticks mostly to lyrical interpretations, though he does exercise the Hammond’s powerful sting, and adds some swinging bass lines and zesty percussion to the later arrangements.

Cole was prolific in his first few years recording with Capitol, releasing eight albums between 1958 and 1960, of which four are included here: 1958’s Have Swing, Will Travel, 1959’s Powerhouse! and Hot and Cole, and 1960’s Swing Fever. Given that the song lists stuck primarily to standards, the collection’s lack of chronological order (and the gaps in album sequence) will be noticed only by those who’ve lined up the original LPs by matrix number. The arrangements get quite a bit livelier by the last of the four albums, and cartoon fans will enjoy Cole’s take on Raymond Scott’s classic “Powerhouse.” Jasmine’s remastered all four albums in stereo for this bargain-priced set. [©2012 hyperbolium dot com]

Les Baxter: Space Escapade

Lush string scores from Les Baxter

This is indeed the sound of an escapade in space, if it were to be accompanied by sprightly melodies and lush, string-heavy arrangements whose vibrations somehow transcended the vacuum of outer space. Throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s, arranger/conductor Les Baxter lent his touch to all manner of musical trends, including exotica, jazz, folk, show tunes and film soundtracks. This 1958 entry plays up the theme of outer space with its cover art and song titles, but musically it’s akin to Baxter’s intricate orchestral music rather than the space age pop of Esquivel or the piano early experimentation of Ferrante & Teicher. The percussion and the pizzicato of “The Commuter” sound more like a busy day in New York than a Mars fly by, and “Saturday Night on Saturn” suggests the oppressive, syncopated work of Raymond Scott’s “Powerhouse” rather than the idle living of a modern society. Like many of Baxter’s albums, this is perched on the edge of kitsch; but also like many of Baxter’s albums, the listener’s ears are rewarded by the quality of the maestro’s orchestrations. Those who picked up El’s 2009 mono CD will be happy to learn that this MP3 collection is in full-spectrum, space-age stereo. [©2011 hyperbolium dot com]

Monocle: Outer Sunset

monocle_outersunsetEnchanting neo-space-age bachelor pad

The Brooklyn quintet’s first full length (their debut EP Lounge Act was released in 2005) is a thickly produced concoction of sounds that are both retro-futuristic and contemporary, ala Stereolab. Monocle draws heavily from the lounge atmosphere of ‘50s and ‘60s space-age bachelor pad music, packing their swinging tracks with buzzing synthesizers, and ethereal clouds of bass, drums and guitar. The results have the confessional tone of background music, but the energetic bite of productions that demand the foreground. Sunny Kim sings breezy and cool in the manner of Astrud Gilberto, and the instrumental backings have the antsy trance ambience of the Feelies or Luna. This is music from a future in which analog synthesizers are cutting edge, cold war spy films are all the rage and KPM’s swinging stock music library provides the soundtrack to your life. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

Listen to Outer Sunset
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