Lounge music

Lounge music

Lounge music is a retrospective description of music popular in the 1950s and 1960s encompassing such genres as exotica, easy listening and space age pop. Lounge music ranges from beautiful music-influenced instrumentals, to modern electronica with chillout or downtempo influences, while maintaining its focus on retro-space-age cultural elements. The earliest forms of lounge music appeared in the 1920s and 1930s, known as light music. Lounge music is a form of mood music, intended to create the feeling of another place such as a jungle, an island paradise, or outer space.

Lounge music may also refer to music played in the lounges and bars of hotels and casinos, or at standalone piano bars.

Retrospective usage

Exotica, space-age pop, and some forms of easy listening music popular during the 1950s and 1960s are now broadly termed lounge. The term lounge does not appear in textual documentation of the period, such as Billboard magazine or long playing album covers, but has been retrospectively applied.

While rock and roll was generally influenced by blues and country, lounge music was derived from jazz and other musical elements borrowed from traditions around the world.

Exotica from such artists Les Baxter, Martin Denny and Arthur Lyman sold millions of records during its heydey. It combined music that was popular outside the USA, such as various Latin genres (e.g., Bossa Nova, Cha-Cha-Cha, Mambo), Polynesian, French, etc. into a relaxed, palatable sound. Such music could have some instruments exaggerated (e.g., a Polynesian song might have an exotic percussion arrangement using bongos, and vocalists imitating wild animals.) Many of these recordings were portrayed as originating in exotic foreign lands, but in truth were recorded in Hollywood recording studios by veteran session musicians. Another genre, space age pop, mimicked space age sound effects of the time and reflected the public interest in space exploration. With the advent of stereophonic technology, artists such as Esquivel used spatial audio techniques to full effect, creating whooshing sounds with his orchestra.

A good deal of lounge music was pure instrumental (i.e., no main vocal part, although there could be minor vocal parts). Sometimes, this music would be theme music from movies or TV shows, although such music could be produced independently from other entertainment productions. These instrumentals could be produced with an orchestral arrangement, or from an arrangement of instruments very similar to that found in jazz, or even rock and roll such as the Hammond Organ or electric guitar.

Lounge singers

Swinging music of the era is also considered lounge and consisted of a schmaltzy continuation of the swing jazz era of the 1930s and 1940s, but with more of an emphasis on the vocalist. The legendary Rat Pack of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr., along with similar artists such as Bobby Darin, Jackie Gleason, Wayne Newton, Louis Prima, Sonny King, and Sam Butera are notable examples. The music of Burt Bacharach was soon featured as part of many lounge singers' repertoires. Such artists performed mainly at featured lounges in Las Vegas casinos.

Lounge singers have a lengthy history stretching back to the decades of the early twentieth century. The somewhat derisive term lounge lizard was coined then, and less well known lounge singers have often been ridiculed as dinosaurs of past eras and parodied for their smarmy delivery of standards. In any event, these lounge singers, perhaps performing in a hotel or cocktail bar, are usually accompanied by one or two other musicians, and they favor cover songs composed by others, especially pop standards, many deriving from the days of Tin Pan Alley.

Many well known performers got their start as lounge singers and musicians. Although he claims not to have worked for very long, Billy Joel worked as a lounge musician and penned the song "Piano Man" about his experience. Not all lounge singers, however, sing lounge music.

Resurgence

Lounge emerged in the late 1980s as a label of endearment by younger fans whose parents had played such music in the 1960s. It has enjoyed resurgences in popularity in the 1980s and 1990s, led initially by ironic figures such as Buster Poindexter and Jaymz Bee.

In the early 1990s the lounge revival was in full swing and included such groups as Combustible Edison, Love Jones, The Cocktails, Pink Martini and Nightcaps. Alternative band Stereolab demonstrated the influence of lounge with releases like Space Age Batchelor Pad Music. The lounge style was a direct contradiction to the grunge music that dominated the period. These groups wore suits and played music inspired by earlier works of Antonio Carlos Jobim, Juan García Esquivel, Louis Prima and many others.

In the 2000s Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine has added to this resurgence by covering hit songs of other genres in the style of a lounge singer. Other artists have taken lounge music to new heights by recombining rock with pop, such as Jon Brion, Pink Martini, the Buddha-Lounge series, and the surrounding regulars of Café Largo. The movie The Rise and Fall of Black Velvet Flag (2003) is a documentary about three older punk rockers who created a lounge-punk band.

In film

In the 1980 movie The Blues Brothers, most of the members of the band were reduced to performing as "Murph and the Magictones" (headlining at a Holiday Inn) after band leader Jake Blues went to prison. Interestingly, when the band takes a break to speak with Jake and his brother Elwood, Murph switches on a Muzak version of Just the Way You Are, performed by Billy Joel, a former lounge musician himself.

In the 1984 cult film, Repo Man directed by Alex Cox, the Circle Jerks perform as a very poor lounge act, grinding out a slow, "swinging" version of their normally raucous When the Shit Hits the Fan.

The 1989 film The Fabulous Baker Boys starred Jeff Bridges, Beau Bridges, and Michelle Pfeiffer as a successful lounge act. The film Swingers was set during the late 1990s lounge and swing revival in Los Angeles, and featured legendary performers like Dean Martin, Louis Jordan and Tony Bennett, as well as modern lounge acts like Love Jones, Joey Altruda and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

Comedy

Andy Kaufman portrayed Tony Clifton. A parody of show biz entitlement and excess, Clifton is untalented, lazy (often not bothering to remember the words to the songs), and abusive to his audiences. Bill Murray also portrayed a particularly bad lounge singer on Saturday Night Live, Nick The Lounge Singer, best known for providing his own lyrics to the John Williams theme from Star Wars and performing an over-the-top version of the Morris Albert hit "Feelings". Later, Will Ferrell and Ana Gasteyer portrayed a goofy married duo of lounge-style musicians, but in incongruous venues such as high school dances. British comedians Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones appeared as a cheesy keyboard and bass duo during the end credits of one series of their long-running sketch show.

On radio

KANU, the public-radio station of the University of Kansas, located at Lawrence, Kansas, USA, broadcasts "The Retro Cocktail Hour", a two-hour show featuring "space-age bachelor-pad music", spy jazz, exotica, and other, similar music. Hosted by Darrell Brogdan, the show can be heard at 91.5 FM on Saturday evenings from 7 P.M. to 9 P.M., Central time, or anytime on their Website - www.kpr.ku.edu/retro.

See also

References

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