Space Age Pop Music

All quotes belong to The Space Age Pop Music Page

Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of space age pop.   “Its era was roughly 1952 to 1963, from the dawn of high-fidelity (hi-fi) to the arrival of the Beatles.”  It was inspired by the spirit of optimism of the post war economy, technology boom, and our first forays into space.  Its regional scenes were in Mexico, the U.S. and Japan.

The genre is associated with Mexican and American composers and songwriters.  It was typically orchestrated with synthesizer, piano, marimbas, organ, bass, drum machine, drums, sampler, keyboards, flute, bongos, and theremin; sometimes vocals.  The arrangements of the instruments tend to be highly original, conveying a sense of humor.  The sub categories of Space Age Pop Music include: Space Age Bachelor Pad Music, Cocktail Music, Exotica, Jet Set Pop/ The Now Sound, and Outsider Music.

The musical influences are Ravel and Debussy; the big bands of the 1940s; and samba, Latin, and calypso jazz.  After 1963 Space Age Pop music was primarily forgotten. Then it surged in popularity again in the early 1990’s.

So hold on to your hats, we’re going to take a little ride back to the wacky, crazy music of the space age pop era! Below you will find short descriptions of Space Age Pop Music categories and examples of each.

Space-Age Bachelor Pad Music
“A phrase coined by Byron Werner to describe the music of Esquivel (the king of space-age b.p. music) and others that reveled in dramatic contrasts of dynamics, instrumentation and vocal effects, and wild movements of sound from left channel to right (of hi-fi stereo) and back again and seemed aimed squarely for the generation of white American males that came of age with Playboy magazine and high fidelity stereo equipment.”
Youtube Mix of Esquivel Recordings:
Henry Mancini – Baby Elephant Walk
Raymond Scott – Portifino :

Cocktail Music
“Refers to the string of recordings made in the mid-1950s that intended to make a direct tie between their musical contents and the enticing act of sipping Martinis in a stylish bar while some gorgeous woman in a knock-out dress gazed at you with lust and awe. These often were by piano trios, playing light classics and sanitized jazz and featuring titles like ‘Cocktail Time’ and ‘Cocktails, Anyone?’ Irving Fields was probably the king of cocktail music.”
Irving Fields Trio – Holiday In Haiti

“The strictest definition limits exotica to the imitations of Polynesian, Afro-Caribbean, and Hawaiian music that were produced by Les Baxter and others from the mid-1950s to the very early 1960s. This music blended the elements of Afro-Cuban rhythms, unusual instrumentations, environmental sounds, and lush romantic themes from Hollywood movies, topped off with evocative titles like ‘Jaguar God,’ into a cultural hybrid native to no place outside the San Fernando Valley.”

“There were two primary strains of this kind of exotica: Jungle and Tiki.  Jungle was definitely a Hollywood creation, with its roots in Tarzan movies.  Tiki was introduced with Martin Denny’s Waikiki nightclub combo cum jungle noises cover of Baxter’s ‘Quiet Village,’ Tiki rode a wave of popularity in the late 1950s and early 1960s marked by the entrance of Hawaii as the 50th state in 1959 and the introduction of Tiki hut cocktail bars and restaurants around the continental United States.”
Ritual Of The Savage (1951) – Les Baxter Full Vinyl LP
Martin Denny – Quiet Village (1957)
Don Ralke “Bongo Madness” 1957 Exotica Lounge FULL ALBUM with Buddy Collette & Jack Burger

Jet Set Pop
“Jet Set Pop is mostly instrumental music that followed the decline in Space-Age bachelor pad music in the early 1960s.  Jet Set Pop enjoyed vastly greater popularity than its predecessor, epitomized by the many Top 40 hits by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Its rise was marked by the introduction of Brazilian bossa nova music in 1962, which added numerous songs that quickly became new exotica standards: ‘The Girl from Ipanema’; ‘Summer Samba (So Nice)’; ‘Desifinado’; and Sergio Mendes’ ‘Mas Que Nada.’ Herb Alpert added the Tijuana Brass sound in 1963, and Tony Hatch, Petula Clark, Tom Jones, and John Barry’s James Bond scores.”
Herb Alpert and The Tiajuana Brass – Lonely Bull
Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66 – Mas que nada

The Now Sound
“There’s a thin (and perhaps pointless) line between Jet Set Pop and the Now Sound. The two styles share many common characteristics in material, often covering the same tunes. The Now Sound embraced the instrumentation, rhythm, and (it hoped) the audience of rock and roll.  The Now Sound was the sound of the discotheque, the Whiskey a-Go-Go, the “In” crowd. The basic rhythm section is pure rock–electric bass and pounding drums. The Now Sound is an irresistible blend of Hammond organ, big band brass and reeds, funky bass line, and here and there a bit of Ondioline (electronic keyboard instrument — forerunner of today’s synthesizers) tossed in.  It’s a real tossed salad of influences — bossa nova, Latin soul and bugalu, big band, R ‘n’ B, instrumental rock, and Motown’s rhythm section. But it works.”
Trombones Unlimited – These Boots Are Made for Walkin’
KAI WINDING – “More” (1963)
Claus Ogerman – It’s Not Unusual
Dick Dale & The Del Tones “Misirlou”
The Viscounts / Harlem Nocturne Music by Earle Hagen

Outsider Music:
“Outsider music includes anything that might be considered to fall outside the mainstream of popular music. And here the mainstream applies on a global scale, so what’s termed ‘World Music’ doesn’t pass the test in most cases because it’s usually just mainstream pop music from somewhere else on the planet.”