Well, hello everyone. It's my first post here and boy howdy it's a good one. First post as Listener Fodder that is. Every day this year you can catch the 365 Days Project that I am involved with (as the coordination guy) with many others sharing audio delights (or in some cases audio travesties).
In the mid-1980s I first had my taste of what is now termed "Space-Age Bachelor Pad Music" and a dozen different variations of genre defining terms to describe 'this' music. It was the music of my grandparents in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I remember visiting family and being subjected (at the time) to Lawrence Welk. If someone would have told me at age 12 in 1981 that I would be fixed to the tube less then a decade later watching re-runs of pink champagne bubbles and safe/sanitized sounds I would have thought they were nuts. I was young and a kid, whaddya expect. The new ELO and Bowie albums were much more important to a kid who was born in 1969. Well, to this kid. And in 1979 I wish I could say I was ultra-cool and had the Industrial Records catalog in my knapsack next to picking up Roger Roger, Les Baxter, Esquivel records at 2nd hand stores, but I had not yet experienced the music that would shape a defining role in my future musical listening.
I was living in Berkeley, California, in the late 1980s when I first heard of Bob Thompson. I found a copy of "Mmm, Nice!" at Rasputin's records on telegraph. Must have been 1987 or 1988 and I vividly remember the 50 cent, 25 cent, and 10 cent record boxes. I don't recall any dollar boxes on the floor, those prices were reserved for the shelf stock. Of course prices went higher, but for a record by Bob Thompson I probably paid a quarter. Suckers! Okay, well you can still find Bob's records in thrift stores and rather cheap at 2nd hand shops, but that's not because it sucks... it's because of the amount pressed of his first album, the one I was lucky to find. After a moving around quite a bit over the years my records have gone up and down in size, and I still consistently purge. But "Mmm, Nice!" is still with me. It's one of about 50 records I have had 20+ years. The title song "Mmm, Nice!" has been a staple in my dj crate. Listen to the song here.
There's a NEW, premiere compilation of BOB THOMPSON'S greatest hits now available on iTunes, called 'THE SOUND OF STYLE', including many rare, out of print gems. Compiled by Spenser Thompson. Click here to visit iTunes and view the album. If you do not have iTunes (or if you do), here is the tracklisting: On The Rocks, The Little Black Box, Mmm, Nice!, Joie de Vivre, Playboy, Peek-A-Boo, Just For Kicks, Star Fire, Carissima Darling, Dancing On The Ceiling, Moment In Madrid, Angeltown, Early Bird Whirly Bird, Scene Of The Crime, BankAmericard (Commercial).
Spenser sent me word of the compilation available online and that prompted me to mention it here and I asked Spenser if we could feature some rare (and a couple not so rare) selections for download for you and you and you! So here they are, with notes from Spenser Thompson...
1. Gloria Lasso - Parfait Ne Changez Rien (2:39)
"This was also named Ruby Lips by Les Baxter (Less Baxter is always a good thing). After getting a 4F from WWII because of asthma, Bob moved from the Army base in swampy MI to Paris. He got arranging jobs with Gloria Lasso and other French singers but there was a bias about hiring Americans. Bob's musical agent in Paris liked to talk while peeing standing up, while his secretary took notes." - Spenser Thompson
2. Ricardo Montalban - Chihuahua Choo Choo (2:24)
"Excellent example of Bob's arranging skill, inventiveness, and quite literally bells and whistles. This album is a rarity but very listenable. Called" Premiere: The Top Motion Picture Stars of Hollywood Make Their Record Debut," it also features NY stage veterans Marge and Gower Champion singing their 1957 NBC sitcom theme song; Rita Moreno; Eve Arden; Debra Paget. This album is funny, classy, and unique." - Spenser Thompson
3. Felix Slatkin - Happy Hobo (1:42)
"An unremarkable piece in melody, but of interest because of Bob's use of all percussion as an arranging technique, as he did with his all-drum, Grammy-winning commercial for Texaco in 1960. Felix Slatkin was a classical musician with some strange pursuits outside this." - Spenser Thompson
4. Mae West - Criswell Predicts (2:49)
"Bob went on a tour with Mae West as her bandleader. Bob was not a fan of her music or persona, but was in need of a job. Mae believed in the spiritual world, and would not shake hands with people because she was afraid of 'spirit transmission.' (As my mother put it, "She shook everything else!"). She was the Madonna of her time. In fact, my mother was on the tour too and could not come within 100 feet of Mae because the latter wanted to be the center of attention. If you have seen the film Ed Wood, you may remember the character Criswell, a TV psychic operating out of KTLA in LA in the late 40s-50s. This was the same man Mae saw for her spiritual needs. She wrote lyrics on a napkin and bob wrote the music, holding his nose." - Spenser Thompson
5. Texaco Commercial (1:01)
"David Brinkley mentioned that he liked the music on this commercial during his national newscast. it played during a break. You can see this commercial within the walls of the museum of radio and television in NY or LA." - Spenser Thompson
6. Mel Torme - Pepsi is for Swingers (1:21)
"A big band arrangement. Pepsi killed the ad idea when they started worrying that the term swinger had changed into another meaning in the 1970s!" - Spenser Thompson
8. Interview with Spenser Thompson - Part 1 (12:57) and Part 2 (8:04) and Part 3 (16:21)
Here is an interview on public radio in 2007 with Spenser Thompson. Spenser, at his portentous best discusses his father's music and features key tracks!
And just when you thought it was safe to stop downloading...
That Agency Thing
That Agency Thing (196?), the rare industrial musical, is available on this page! A tribute to the glory of radio advertising, it stars veterans of Broadway shows, TV shows, and commercials--Paul Frees (the voice of Boris Badanov and other Jay Ward characters), June Foray (Rocky of Rocky and Bullwinkle), and Herschel Bernardi. This is a suite of tunes, a mini musical with full orchestra. Bob Thompson and Alan Alch, two L.A.-based friends and writing partners, came up with a coherent piece that references show tunes and The Three Penny Opera with wit and charm. Thanks to Spenser Thompson, this material, which most likely will never be released, can be more widely heard. This is only one of a handful of full industrial musicals posted on the Web. The hopeless, schlocky fare of most industrial musicals is absent here. "That Agency Thing is probably one of the highest-quality industrial musicals ever made," according to Jonathan Ward, author of Recruit, Train, and Motivate, a history of industrial musicals.
And while you are listening to all that music. Here is an interview from 1999 to check out.
So dig into these featured compositions, and if you like what you hear, then like me, you will be perpetually rewarded for years to come.
Thanks for listening!