Five For Friday: Exotica!

Maggie and I were talking (i.e. commenting back and forth) before the A to Z Challenge when I played Paul Mauriat’s "L’Amour Est Bleu" on Song of the Day back in March. Her comment was "So many good instrumentals made their way on the charts back in the day. When did that trend end?"

Good question. The amount of instrumental music on the charts has declined steadily since the mid-’40’s, to where there’s hardly any new intrumental pop songs on the chart anymore. Maggie said she misses it, and so do I and I’ll bet some of you do as well. So let’s have a look at some instrumental pop music for the next few weeks. Maybe we can expand it into something more than a topic on Five For Friday…

The first thing I want to talk about, simply because it was the first thing on my mind, is exotica. This musical genre emerged in the ’50’s when orchestra leader Martin Denny covered Les Baxter’s song "Quiet Village" (which we’ll hear in a moment) on his 1957 album Exotica. His cover of the song reached #2 on the Hot 100 in 1959, while the album reached #1.

Denny describes exotica as "a combination of the South Pacific and the Orient…what a lot of people imagined the islands to be like…it’s pure fantasy though." It’s intended for the listener to feel like they’ve been taken someplace exotic, usually someplace in the South Pacific, but really anywhere, from the top of Mount Everest to the jungles of Brazil and everywhere in between. In modern parlance, it’s lounge music, made for sitting around sipping Mai Tais as it plays on your hi-fi.

Here’s a taste of what I mean. I used the article on essential exotica records on Discogs and built a playlist on Spotify, just in the event you want to do some further exploration.

I’m just going to give the names and artists of these songs, since it’s late in the day…

  1. Les Baxter, "Quiet Village"
  2. Martin Denny, "Exotica"
  3. The Surfmen, "Taboo"
  4. Stanley Black & His Orchestra, "Misirlou"
  5. Robert Drasnin, "Voodoo"

Back next week with more instrumental greats…

10 thoughts on “Five For Friday: Exotica!

  1. I used to enjoy this music back in my younger days and it’s still nice to listen to. Several years ago I went on a binge of buying CDs of this musical style. Now it’s just more CDs sitting on a shelf never getting played.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out


  2. Thanks John – I enjoyed listening to these … certainly a different way of music life back then – cheers HIlary


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