Elevator Ahoy!

Do you ever have the urge to hang around in a shopping center or office building in the late 50s or early 60s? Don’t be ashamed — it’s a natural part of growing up. However, while I can’t direct you to a time machine, I can at least give you a bit of the ambience.

One of the pop culture accouterments of the era was the background music we now sometimes describe as “Easy Listening,” or more cynically, as “elevator music.” (Another term, “Muzak,” was actually the name of a corporation that produced and delivered the stuff to subscribers. It changed its name some years ago, but like Kleenex, Velcro, or Xerox, the brand is sometimes used as a generic.) One of the competitors in the market, the Seeburg Corporation (which manufactured jukes, orchestrions, and — for a time — Williams pinball machines), developed a special record player — the Seeburg 1000 — that played records made by the company and distributed to users in the pre-satellite era. The tunes included instrumental covers of popular tunes, light jazz, show tunes, and other music you might have heard over cocktails at a restaurant or over popcorn before a movie started at your neighborhood theater. The records were distributed quarterly, with a special batch of Christmas tunes at the appropriate time of year. The records played at 16 2/3 rpm, and the player typically held 25 records, each side of which contained 20 tunes. As the machine was cleverly constructed to play records without flipping them, a 25-record stack would play — you guessed it — 1000 songs at a go, with enough pizzicati and muted trumpets to founder a team of Percherons.

Seeburg went out of business in 1980, but devotees of the company and its products have created a 24-hour stream of this stuff, and fans of Space Age Bachelor Pad music and other aspects of the Mid-Century Modern aesthetic may find that it hits the spot. At the very least, it brings us back to a time when the term supermarket was used with irony-free wonder. I can’t guarantee this music will make your world look like this:

Southdale Center Mall

The Southdale Center Mall, from mallsofamerica.blogspot.com

but if you close your eyes, it may feel that way.

A tip of the Mondo Mortarboard to “Senator Artie Mondello,” guitarist for the Delusionaires, a nifty band.

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About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
This entry was posted in Culture, Music. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Elevator Ahoy!

  1. nightfly says:

    It’s too bad that K-Tel doesn’t have a similar service for all those TOP HITS BY ORIGINAL ARTISTS! that I recall from my parents’ 8-track player. But according to their site they do offer licensing for using the songs, and CD formats are available for purchase… or at least all that will happen when their New Site Comes Soon.

    In the meantime there’s all this… including some 8-tracks.

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