Quiet Village

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"Quiet Village"
Song by Les Baxter
from the album Ritual of the Savage (Le Sacre du Sauvage)
Released1951 (1951)
Format10-inch and 12-inch LPs
RecordedMay 17, 1951
GenreEasy listening
Composer(s)Les Baxter

"Quiet Village" is an orchestral pop instrumental that was written and originally performed by Les Baxter in 1951 and an instrumental album from 1959 by Martin Denny. In the liner notes to his album, Ritual of the Savage (Le sacre du sauvage), Baxter described the themes he was conveying in the work:[1]

[t]he jungle grows more dense as the river boat slowly makes its way into the deep interior. A snake slithers into the water, flushing a brilliantly plumaged bird who soars into the clearing above a quiet village. Here is a musical portrait of a tropical village deserted in the mid-day heat.

Martin Denny version[edit]

In the mid-1950s, Martin Denny and his band performed at a restaurant in Oahu, The Shell Bar, and frequently would play Baxter cover songs.[2] One night, while his group was performing, Denny realized bullfrogs were croaking along to the music. As a joke, the band began incorporating frog sounds and birdcalls into the performance. Soon after, people began requesting "the song with the frogs." "They really enjoyed the frogs!" Denny observed. "And they thought we were making those croaking noises. So I understood that this was the way to go."[3]

If you just hear [Quiet Village] on record, it sounds like a whole jungle—you don't know how or where any of those sounds originated. But if you hear it "live," then you can see how it's all done, with the percussion instruments. Quiet Village has a compulsive jungle rhythm to it; the bass has a hypnotic effect almost like Ravel's Boléro. On top of that are layers of exotic percussion, plus the sounds of the vibes, the piano, and (of course) the bird calls. It all adds up to a modern sound that evokes some very primitive feelings.[3]

The squawks and jungle sounds in the Martin Denny version of "Quiet Village" were performed by A. Purves Pullen, also known as Dr. Horatio Q. Birdbath.[4]

In 1957, Denny and his group released a cover of the song featuring exotic instruments and sounds that made it to number four on the pop singles chart on June 1, 1959 and number eleven on the R&B chart.[5] Denny also recorded a stereo version of the song in 1959, a bossa nova version in 1964, and a version performed on a Moog synthesizer in 1969.He released an album with a similar title (Quiet Village, the Exotic Sounds of Martin Denny) in 1959.

"Quiet Village"
Single by Martin Denny
from the album Exotica
B-side"Llama Serenade"
Released1958 (1958)
Format7-inch single
RecordedDecember 1956
StudioHollywood, California
Songwriter(s)Les Baxter
Audio sample
"Quiet Village"

Other cover versions[edit]

In 1977, The Ritchie Family recorded a disco version and added vocals. The single was included on their African Queens album. Along with the album's title track and "Summer Dance", "Quiet Village" hit number one for three weeks on the disco/dance chart in 1977.[7] However, unlike the Martin Denny version, The Ritchie Family recording did not chart on the pop singles chart. It did peak at #68 on the R&B singles chart.[8]

"Quiet Village"
Single by The Ritchie Family
from the album African Queens
Released1977 (1977)
Format7-inch single
  • 3:08 (7" version)
  • 5:45 (Album version)
Songwriter(s)Les Baxter
Producer(s)Jacques Morali
The Ritchie Family singles chronology
"Life Is Music"
"Quiet Village"
"American Generation"

In 1986, composer Mark Mothersbaugh incorporated the song and animal sounds into the prelude theme for the children's television program Pee-wee's Playhouse.[9]

Influential noise artist Boyd Rice and writer/publisher Adam Parfrey released a comedic version of the song entitled "Quiet Village Idiot" under the moniker "The Tards" in 1993.[10]

In 1991 Guitarist Danny Gatton recorded a version on the album "88 Elmira Street". This version introduced Les Baxter and Martin Denny's music to a new generation of listeners/musicians.


  1. ^ Baxter, Les (1952). "Ritual of the Savage (Le sacre du sauvage)" [sleeve notes]. Capitol Records.
  2. ^ Meyers, David; Motz, Doug; Meyers Walker, Elise; Chenault, Jeff (2014). Kahiki Supper Club: A Polynesian Paradise in Columbus. Arcadia Publishing. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  3. ^ a b Adinolfi, Francesco (2008). Mondo Exotica: Sounds, Visions, Obsessions of the Cocktail Generation. Duke University Press. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  4. ^ "'Doc Birdbath' is a one-man menagerie". Corpus Christi Caller-Times. 23 September 1977. Retrieved 25 October 2018.
  5. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 155.
  6. ^ The original length on the "Exotica" album was 3:38, but this was shortened for the single version.
  7. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Hot Dance/Disco: 1974-2003. Record Research. p. 218.
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 494.
  9. ^ Gaines, Caseen (2011). Inside Pee-Wee's Playhouse: The Untold, Unauthorized, and Unpredictable Story of a Pop Phenomenon. ECW Press. |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  10. ^ "The Tards (2) - I'm Just Like You". Discogs. Retrieved 2015-09-14.