Easy Listening

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This blog should definitely have a soundtrack. I’m reading a book by Joseph Lanza entitled Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak, Easy Listening, and Other Moodsong. (Just so you know, there are copyright symbols next to Muzak and Moodsong) and I’m listening to Mystic Moods Orchestra’s 1966 album One Stormy Night, the pitter patter of pouring rain and train whistles of which I remember vividly and fondly from my youth. Perhaps because it rarely rained in Southern California (another song cue?) I loved rainy days, and not merely because we didn’t have to dress out for gym.

I had no idea about my parents’ taste in music, but I remember albums by Martin Denny (“Exotica”) and 101 Strings Orchestra (or was it Living Strings?), and the many Readers Digest boxed sets. I can hear the ubiquitous theme songs to Percy Faith’s A Place in the Sun and The Song from Moulin Rouge (Where is Your Heart?) as well as Mantovani’s Ebb Tide. I also recognized the names Ray Conniff, Bert Kaempfert, Andre Kostelanetz (here referred to as “Kosty”) and Nelson Riddle.

I loved the dueling pianos of Ferrante & Teicher and the campy keyboarding of Liberace. I didn’t know that Lawrence Welk’s ballad written on the birth of his daughter became “Bubbles in the Wine” to capitalize on his Champagne Music Makers. I only know that we watched his television program religiously, and that one of my few claims to fame was performing the accordion in 1960 (I was 8) with the Lawrence Welk Orchestra at Pacific Ocean Park in Santa Monica.

Was it because I was a Francophile that I was fascinated by Francis Lai and Michel Legrand? And because I was a movie nut that I loved Matt Monro crooning Born Free, the swelling themes of Ernest Gold’s anthem Exodus, and of course, the soaring strings and crooning chorus of Henry Mancini’s Moon River.

I later loved songs sung against Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, The Carpenters’ aural landscapes,  and Angelo Badalamenti’s lush orchestrations. Easy listening is supposedly distinguished from elevator music, mood music, or lounge music, because while it might have been popular in some of the same venues it was meant to be listened to for itself rather than as background sound. Call it what you will, I still love listening to it.

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