Notes on

‘Retro-Cool, Space-Age bachelor-pad Lounge Music’


…Once upon a time, back when Granddad was gettin’ jiggy and dealing with his mid-life crisis’, a short-lived musical movement was going on as well. This music made Grand-dad feel young and cool, tuned-in and happening.

Educated musicians were searching for an alternative to big band music, but not ready to embrace rock and roll as anything other than the primitive, loud, adolescent style of music that it was at that time. What was retroactively referred to as ‘space-age-bachelor-pad’ music was an in-between style, embracing the sophisticated arrangements and instrumentation of big band, but also leaning into world music idioms (tiki music, anyone?) latin (bossa nova, mambo,)  jazz, and experimental instruments such as the theramin, whistling, Hawaiian guitars, chimes, African percussion instruments, the wah-wah guitar, and the synthesizer. Anything to be different!

Much of what became television music—cop and detective themes (the exquisitely rich Mod Squad!) the spy genre, the goofy scene-changing music of the Brady Bunch, and Batman—was a direct offspring of the ‘bachelor pad’ movement, as practiced by American composer/producers such as Esquivel, Martin Denny, and Les Baxter; Brits named Alan (Hawkshaw, Tews, Morehouse, Parker) and a lot of Italians. The style was modern, urbane, and sophisticated, with daring (or crazy ignorant) choices in instrumentation.

Surf music, funk, bossa nova, salsa, big band, extract of Polynesia, and many other ingredients went into the ‘Space-Age-Bachelor-Pad-Lounge-Cool’ movement, and some of those guys sold a lot of records! Perhaps at that time, the idiom could even have headed rock and roll off, beating it back into the garage where it seriously always belonged, but, the public fancy went in another direction, and rock and roll soon took its stranglehold on pop music.

Like steampunk, which celebrates an aesthetic that never quite existed, bachelor pad music reflects a missed opportunity, an alternative musical fashion, a stylistic false-turn down a cul-de-sac that nobody bought into, and so was foreclosed on again, and again. And that’s how we traded in our dreams of a modern bachelor pad on a hippie crash shack with beads in the doorway and a bong on the mantel, and that is how Ted got left behind. I remember. But not the bong part.