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Sat 18 Aug 2012 10:30 BBC Radio 4

28 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 08 March 2012

For many casual listeners, the music usually defined as 'lounge' may conjure up something kitsch and outdated, bringing to mind the world of Austin Powers or the sentimental, string-sodden arrangements of their parents' record collections. As comedian, composer and lounge aficionado Rich Morton discovers, there's a large and healthy subculture of lounge lovers who view it as anything but outdated. For the past twenty years, clubs devoted to lounge music have been thriving, and several successful series of lounge compilations have brought obscure and sought-after tracks by some of the greatest 20th century pop and jazz performers to the ears of a new generation.

As a composer and collector of lounge tunes, Rich goes in search of the alchemy that produces a lounge classic: whether it's the voice of a Rat Pack regular, the tight brassy arrangement of a Neil Hefti or a Quincy Jones, the timeless simplicity of a Burt Bacharach or Tony Hatch melody - or simply a mood, something indefinable, laid-back, evocative of a time and a place that's anywhere but here.

Rich meets fellow lounge collectors, club owners and composers - with the shared passion for a music that's often overlooked or derided but, as the programme reveals, constantly being reinvented. New technology means that classic tracks are being re-discovered and shared as never before, producing fascinating advances and musical hybrids within lounge culture.

Producer: Paul Bajoria.

  • Welcome to the lounge!

    Welcome to the lounge!

    I'm especially keen - er, more like obsessed really - with the cultural phenomenon of early twentieth century jazz singers negotiating that tricky musical journey from their 'swing roots' (in what was still quite a conservative, even reactionary society) to the crazy, groovy, liberal counter-culture world of the psychedelic '60s. Of course, in many cases it was due to economic necessity.

    Major recording artists like Frank Sinatra, Sarah Vaughan and Peggy Lee had enjoyed huge hit records in the '40s and '50s but were struggling to sell records in the fast-changing world of '60s pop. I'm not sure that they wanted to embrace the new era as such, but I think their record companies did!

    I'm intrigued to discover more about this particularly kitsch sub-genre of Lounge Music, as there is actually something very cool about Ella Fitzgerald singing the hippy-trippy 'Put A Little Love In Your Heart', or Mel Torme re-working the sunshine pop classic, 'Happy Together'.

    And if we are talking Lounge, let's not forget the weighty Burt Bacharach catalogue! Who remembers the sublime recordings of 'This Guy's In Love With You' by Sammy Davis Junior, or 'What The World Needs Now' by Tony Bennett?

    And how about a subtle and insouciant version of 'Wives And Lovers' by Julie London? (although her renditions of 'Yummy, Yummy, Yummy' and 'Stoned Soul Picnic' are far more apposite if we are talking about real psychedelia!).

    Have you checked out Dean Martin's dreamy interpretations of 'Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head' or 'By The Time I Get To Phoenix' by Jimmy Webb? Speaking of whom, Sammy Davis Jr does a fabulous job belting out his iconic compositions, 'Up, Up And Away' and 'Wichita Lineman'.

    What fascinates me about these largely overlooked and under-rated recordings is the obvious cultural clash dramatised in each song. Captured in the vinyl (or MP3s nowadays) is the sound of a staid 1940s and '50s American culture clashing head-on with an iconoclastic and revolutionary Swinging '60s world.

    Though strangely incongruous in each given format, there's something wonderful about hearing the fantastic jazz-trained and swing- styled vocal phrasing brought to an essentially rock-based pop song by a crooner who learned his or her trade in front of a brass-led big band. You want another example? Okay!

    I can't imagine anything more amazing in terms of pre-'50s jazz/swing meets '60s pop/folk than Count Basie and the Mills Brothers doing a funky, soulful version of Peter, Paul and Mary's 'I Dig Rock 'n' Roll Music'.....Wow !!!!!!


    Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66: 'Mas que nada'
    Tony Hatch Orchestra: 'Music to Watch Girls By'
    Benny Golson: 'The Swinger'
    Dean Martin: 'Sway'
    Sammy Davis Jr: Spinning Wheel'
    Andy Williams: 'Music to Watch Girls By'
    Quincy Jones: 'Soul Bossa Nova'
    Pete Moore: 'Asteroid' (Pearl & Dean Theme)
    Tony Hatch & Jackie Trent: 'Gotta Get Away'
    Frank Sinatra: 'Downtown'
    Frank Sinatra: 'Call Me'
    Mel Torme: 'Comin' Home Baby'
    Ananda Shankar: 'Jumpin' Jack Flash'
    John Barry: 'Fun City'
    The Rich Morton Sound: 'Colour Me Groovy'
    Thievery Corporation featuring Loulou: 'Un simple histoire'


    If you'd like to explore the lounge back-catalogue further, here are some more of Rich's recommended picks - none of them by the artists you'd expect - guaranteed to make the perfect lounge compilation. All you need to go with it is the perfect cocktail...

    Blossom Dearie: 'Sunny'
    Mel Torme: 'Sunshine Superman
    Ella Fitzgerald: 'Sunshine Of Your Love
    Dean Martin: 'For Once In My Life'
    Frank Sinatra: 'Mrs. Robinson'
    Sammy Davis Jr: 'You've Made Me So Very Happy'
    Nancy Wilson: 'Spinnin' Wheel'
    Mark Murphy: 'Windmills Of Your Mind'
    Count Basie & The Mills Brothers: 'Gentle On My Mind'
    Al Martino: 'Can't Take My Eyes Off You'
    Bobby Darin: 'Charade'
    Lena Horne: 'Wives And Lovers'
    Tony Bennett: 'Alfie'
    Carmen McRae: 'Close To You'
    Peggy Lee: 'Somethin' Stupid'
    Wayne Newton: 'Strangers In The Night'
    Matt Monro: 'Georgie Girl'
    Esther Phillips: 'The Girl From Ipanema'
    Sarah Vaughan: 'Jive Samba'
    Julie London: 'Light My Fire'
    Greetje Kauffeld: 'Cabaret'

    And here's another fantastic playlist of film and TV music, either lesser-known titles from great soundtracks, or supercool versions of well known themes.

    Burt Bacharach: South American Getaway (Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid)
    Dave Grusin: Sunporch Cha Cha (The Graduate)
    George Duning: Way-Out Calypso (Bell, Book & Candle)
    Lalo Schifrin: Roulette Rhumba (The Man From UNCLE)
    Neal Hefti: Cartoon Capers (How To Murder Your Wife)
    Henry Mancini: Something For Audrey (Two For The Road)
    Francis Lai: Elephant Shake (Hannibal)
    Burt Bacharach: Bond Street (Casino Royale)
    Michel Legrand: The Boston Wrangler (The Thomas Crown Affair)
    Count Basie & His Orchestra: Goldfinger
    Tito Rodriguez: Theme From The Apartment
    Hugo Montenegro: The Fox
    Quincy Jones: Baby Elephant Walk
    Jimmy Smith: The Cat
    Herbie Mann: Our Mann Flint
    Hugo Montenegro: Lady In Cement
    The Alan Tew Latin Sound: The Troubleshooters (Mogul Theme)
    Teddy Randazzo: The Girl From UNCLE
    The Marketts: Batman Theme
    Cyril Stapleton: Department S
    Tony Hatch: Gotta Getaway (The Persuaders)
    Albert Elms: The Champions Incidental Cue 5
    Edwin Astley: Randall & Hopkirk Deceased - Incidental Cue 2


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