Space age pop
|Space age pop|
|Cultural origins||Late 1950s, United States and Mexico|
Space age pop is a subgenre of pop and easy listening music associated with Mexican and American composers and songwriters in the space age of the 1950s and 1960s. It is also called bachelor pad music or lounge music. Space age pop was inspired by the spirit of those times, an optimism based on the strong post-war economy and technology boom, and excitement about humanity's early forays into space. Although there is no exact album, date, or year when the genre was born, producer Irwin Chusid identifies its heyday as "roughly 1954 to 1963—from the dawn of high-fidelity (hi-fi) to the arrival of the Beatles."
The music is not limited to a single style, and it is not always easily categorized. There are several styles that can be recognized as an influence: classical composers like Ravel and Debussy; the big bands of the 1940s; and different exotic styles, such as samba, Latin, and calypso jazz. Space Age pop is related to the genres of lounge music, exotica, or beautiful music/easy listening, and may be regarded as a precursor to the musical genre of space music. Space age pop records often have space related covers, such as rockets, moonscapes, or extra terrestrial-looking graphics.
Genre and style
Space age pop brought innovation to popular music in several ways. Its LPs in the early 1950s included some of the earliest examples of concept albums, and embraced the earliest form of multi-channel surround sound known as quadraphonic, four-channel recordings on LP introduced in 1957.
Even though the space age pop-music takes on a variety of approaches in style, rhythm, composition and arrangement, it also shows some similarities. For instance, many of the composers associated with the genre used a string orchestra for applying warmth and color to the sound, often combined with a Latin percussion section. A variety of keyboard instruments, from piano to marimbas to organ, are frequently used, and occasionally even the theremin for that out-of-this-world sound. The arrangements of the instruments tend to be highly original, conveying a sense of humor and playful charm. Even the album covers often have space or modernist themes.
It is also common for composers to use well-known jazz standards as a basis for their own work and recordings, such as Harlem Nocturne, Caravan and Autumn Leaves. Classical pieces are also popular among space age composers, but almost always arranged in a lighter way than the original.
Resurgence in popularity of space age pop in the early 1990s
Space age pop, after being largely forgotten after 1963, underwent an enormous surge in popularity in the early 1990s, leading to the release in 1994 of the signature CD compilation of the space age pop music of Juan García Esquivel, Space-Age Bachelor Pad Music, which sold over 70,000 copies. Underground pop band Stereolab, in 1993, released Space Age Batchelor Pad Music [sic], an EP which is said to have factored significantly in raising awareness of the band. In the 2010s, we can hear the resurgence of the style through the tribute Jazz Vocal Ensemble Randy Van Horne Singers.
Composers associated with the genre
- Juan García Esquivel
- Dick Hyman
- Hugo Montenegro
- Les Baxter
- Henry Mancini
- Ferrante & Teicher
- Bob Thompson
- Vyacheslav Mescherin
- Bobby Hammack
- Randy Van Horne
- Dean Elliott
- Melodies and Mischief: The History of Space Age Pop Vol. 1, RCA 07863 66645-2
- Mallets in Wonderland: The History of Space Age Pop Vol. 2, RCA 07863 66646-2
- The Stereo Action Dimension: History of Space Age Pop Vol. 3, RCA 07863 66647-2
- Ultra-Lounge, Vol. 3: Space Capades, Capitol 7 2438-35176-2
- "RE/SEARCH: Incredibly Strange Music Vols. 1 & 2," Caroline Records 1993 (Vol. 1) & Asphodel Records 1995 (Vol. 2)
Notable space age pop recordings from the 1950s and 1960s
- "From Another World" by Sid Bass (RCA Vik)
- "Re-Percussion" by Dick Schory
- "Wired For Sound" (RCA Vik) and "Soundpower!" by Marty Gold
- "Other Worlds Other Sounds" by Esquivel
- "Skin Diver Suite" by Leo Diamond
- "Persuasive Percussion" by Enoch Light (Command)
- "Sputnik (Satellite Girl)" by Jerry Engler and the Four Ekkos (Brunswick Records), 1957. (rockabilly)
- "Telstar" written by Joe Meek and performed by the Tornados (Decca / London Records), 1962.
- Pulse (Monthly music digest of Tower Records/Video) #164 October 1997 Page 57 Article: "Catalog Rolling: How Record Labels Decide What Titles to Re-Release" (article begins on page 42)
- "the 1950s and 1960s - an era obsessed with technological advancements and new frontiers. The covers depict happy families, comfortable homes, and cocktail parties. Space Age Pop is the musical interpretation of these dreams. It comprises the eerie, mesmerizing sounds of Mood music, the Polynesian, Hawaiian, Caribbean, and jungle melodies of Exotica; the hi-fidelity and stereo-inspired sounds of bachelor pad music; and the dream, seductive rhapsodies of cocktail tunes." Page 1, Exotiquarium: Album Art from the Space Age, Jennifer McKnight-Trontz and Lenny Dee, St. Martin's Press Music/Songbooks, 1999, ISBN 0-312-20133-8
- "Space Age Pop developed out of America's insatiable appetite for the new and improved, providing grown-ups with the music they wanted: seductive moods, primitive beats, and fantastic effects.", Page 6, Exotiquarium: Album Art from the Space Age, Jennifer McKnight-Trontz and Lenny Dee, St. Martin's Press Music/Songbooks, 1999, ISBN 0-312-20133-8
- "The History of Space Age Pop" liner notes by Irwin Chusid, Space Age Pop Vol 1: Melodies and Mischief, RCA Records 1995
- Borgerson, Janet (2017). Designed for hi-fi living : the vinyl LP in midcentury America. Schroeder, Jonathan E., 1962-. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press. ISBN 9780262036238. OCLC 958205262.
- "The Beatles 1967 Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band is often cited as the first concept album. But Space Age Pop artists were recording them as soon as the LP came out in the late 1940s.", Page 10, Exotiquarium: Album Art from the Space Age, Jennifer McKnight-Trontz and Lenny Dee, St. Martin's Press Music/Songbooks, 1999, ISBN 0-312-20133-8
- "Between 1957 and the introduction of quadraphonic (four-channel) recordings in the 1970s, Space Age Pop artists made stereo an essential factor in choosing instruments and composing their music.", Page 10, Exotiquarium: Album Art from the Space Age, Jennifer McKnight-Trontz and Lenny Dee, St. Martin's Press Music/Songbooks, 1999, ISBN 0-312-20133-8