On The Sentimental Side

As I sit here at my desk writing, I am listening to the Longines Symphonette Society's version of My Favorite Things. You may think this is a hyper-hip new group that one finds on KCRW. But it is not. It is as easy listening as it sounds. It amazes me that I can find such a wealth of easy listening on Spotify. Why would hipsters listen to The Melachrino Strings and Orchestra's Music for Romance? They may be cool and have beards, bangs, and beanies, but I'm sure even hipsters entertain. And perhaps they would prefer the dulcite tones of Lawrence Welk during dinner rather than STRFKR.

On that note, I pulled out some of my favorite records. It's easy to make fun of the design of these, but is that really fair? Yes, they have sexual overtones and everyone has a doped up rufie and druggy look. But consider the audience. These records were played during dinner or cocktail parties. 

Perhaps the goal was a swingers type situation with guests. Then they are perfect. Or, one's date might put one on the hi-fi, turn the lights low, ply a date with alcohol and... Again, the form and content address the message.

I will admit, I love the A Man and A Woman cover.

Sean Adams

Sean Adams is the Chair of the undergraduate and graduate Graphic Design Program at ArtCenter, founder of Burning Settlers Cabin studio, and on-screen author for LinkedIn Learning/Lynda.com He is the only two term AIGA national president in AIGA’s 100 year history. In 2014, Adams was awarded the AIGA Medal, the highest honor in the profession. He is an AIGA Fellow, and Aspen Design Fellow. He has been recognized by every major competition and publication including; How, Print, Step, Communication Arts, Graphis, AIGA, The Type Directors Club, The British Art Director’s Club, and the Art Director’s Club. Adams has been exhibited often, including a solo exhibition at The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Adams is an author of multiple magazine columns, and several best-selling books. He has been cited as one of the forty most important people shaping design internationally, and one of the top ten influential designers in the United States. Previously, Adams was a founding partner at AdamsMorioka, whose clients included The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Disney, Mohawk Fine Papers, The Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, Richard Meier & Partners, Sundance, and the University of Southern California.

Sweeter than Sweet

Conniff Up_Up_And_Away

I truly think I'm losing my mind. Yesterday, I stumbled across the Ray Conniff Singers. Of course, I have a few Ray Conniff albums. Who doesn't? But I never knew about the singers. First, the album covers are a symphony of blurry women. Each cover employees the lovely gauze filter that was popular for high school senior portraits when I was eighteen. I think it's time this style returns to fashion. I don't know why everyone is blurry. I understand watching Dynasty and the screen goes extremely soft when Joan Collins appears. The blurry effect is a good way to hide old age. Nobody would guess she isn't twenty-two. The Ray Conniff album women are young, so that doesn't apply. Perhaps they were embarrassed and requested a soft focus for recognition issues.

Second, the music. I thought I knew sweet and saccharine. I consider myself rather an aficionado of square and unhip, but this music transcends even my expertise. Their rendition of Up, Up, and Away is alarmingly nice and happy. It's truly sickening and could drive sane people to torture. It is, however, a wonderful tool with teenagers. If you have one, or two, play this in the car when driving them around. Insist on singing along if friends are there also. This is a sure fire way to help any teen step away from the dark side and become pleasant.

 

 

 

The Sweet Sounds of Filth

I admit I’m a dingbat with some technology. But, I thought I could manage iTunes. Clearly I can’t. I thought I was purchasing a Jackie Gleason song, Serenade in Blue, and I somehow purchased the entire Jackie Gleason easy listening library. I now have 100 of your favorite quiet songs for sedation. Whooee, hot times at the old homestead are in store for you. I don’t understand why it’s called elevator music. They don’t play it on any elevator I’ve ever ridden. I would love to hear easy listening in the elevator.

On that note, I pulled out some of my favorite records. I hadn’t noticed the sexual overtones used, but then I was typically looking for a specific song. Now that I see it, I can’t get it out of my head. Who bought these albums? Did only men shop at record stores in 1955? It’s an odd marketing approach. Maybe women weren’t allowed to purchase records and were forced to listen to whatever the husband liked. “You will like this version of Wives and Lovers, dammit.” The woman with the pussy especially disturbs me. It’s oddly suggestive.

 

Cockeyed Optimist

19 The Sermon

20 You'll Never Walk Alone

Some weeks are just plain hard. I know I've had a difficult week, when I find myself listening to Rodgers and Hammerstein albums. Oh, and drinking heavily, too. Many of you already know that when we were at the ranch growing up, the only records we had to play were Rodgers and Hammerstein records in my grandmother's den. The lyrics had an evil way of knitting themselves into my head. So now, when I feel really crappy, one of those lyrics pops into my head: When you walk through a storm, keep your chin up high, climb every mountain, don't worry about others not liking you, just try liking them, and you'll never walk alone are the bits of advice I tell myself. But don't knock it until you've tried it. There's nothing wrong with a little pep talk. And when you're feeling a little beat, play some Rodgers and Hammerstein. And when you're really, really beat, listen to The Sermon from Carousel (above).

Ricky not Zac

My niece, Izabelle, is like most 12 year olds today. Last summer she loved Zac Efron, which was fine, except his hair is always in his face. I suggested she start listening to Ricky Nelson. This was as popular as suggestion as my idea of buying her a nice kilt and sweater set. I’ve even gone as far as putting publicity shots of Ricky Nelson, Tab Hunter, and Troy Donahue in frames next to her desk in her room at my house. I’m pretty sure she just feels sorry for me and considers me the squarest person in the world. But I’m not being square, Ricky Nelson is a cool guy. His music kicks ass, and he’s handsome in that way 12 year old girls like. When she’s older, she’ll discover how super groovy Ricky Nelson really is. At least he kept his hair combed.

Rosemary

14 God Bless America (Live)

It may not be fashionable, and certainly far from hip, but I absolutely love Rosemary Clooney. Her voice is so unpretentious and clear. There is no overlay of sentimentality and she never milked a song for emotional impact. Rosemary Clooney seems like a fish out water in many of her movies. It’s not that she isn’t good, she’s just real. In White Christmas, everyone else, Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, appears to be in a heightened state of slickness and artifice. But, Rosemary Clooney plays it directly and authentically. Her life was an amazing tale of poverty and abandonment, success and fame, a crashing career, and remarkable comeback. Somehow the fact that she had a breakdown after being several feet from Bobby Kennedy when he was shot at the Ambassador Hotel, reminds me that she was an actual human being. This seems like an appropriate response in this instance. Throughout everything she never took the role of a victim, she just kept punching. Her music is about this. Her last concert before her death was two weeks after September 11, 2001, the last song she sang that evening was God Bless America.

I Just Wasn't Made for These Times

When we started AdamsMorioka in the mid 1990s, the design world seemed endlessly enthralled by the discordant, weird, and complex. Unfortunately, we’re none of those things, so we were forced to fall back on our own values and personalities. I recall talking with Noreen at Hamburger Hamlet about this. “Let’s face it,” I said, “We’re just not that groovy.” She agreed, and made a wonderful analogy that the designers doing work that was complex and avante garde were like Portishead or The Smashing Pumpkins, we were like The Beach Boys. This was confirmed years later at a dinner with Ellen Lupton. After dinner, she turned to me and said, “You know, you’re actually smart. I thought you were just a beach surf guy.” I’m taking this as a compliment.

Actually, I liked being more like The Beach Boys than The Boo Radleys. First, Pet Sounds is one of my favorite records. Second, I think they were adventurous and did some amazing things with unexpected instruments and tone. The Beatles gave them credit for being a major influence on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. And finally, Wouldn’t it Be Nice? is a remarkable piece of music that I could listen to endlessly. And, I do at work. It’s like torture, but it’s the price you pay if you work with us.

Music for Sedation

In the last two weeks, several people who don’t know each other told me I should meditate. Perhaps it was my clenched fists or violent outbursts. I don’t know. It’s a nice idea, and I went online to learn how to do it. I learned that it takes time, and I don’t have enough to meditate. So, I went to Amoeba Music in Hollywood to buy easy listening records. You know you’re wound too tight when you think Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby are just a bit too raucous. There is no easy listening section at Amoeba. Obviously, people who shop there are very hip and buy vinyl to spin at their DJ gigs. This is good for me, because all the records I want are in the $1.00 Clearance section.

Within 15 minutes, I’d only made my way through the first four rows of records and I had to stop. At this point, I had 40 records. Clearly, this could go very wrong without some self-control. I hope that my love for easy listening doesn’t spark a trend. I seem to be the only person in Los Angeles looking for these records, probably for good reason. Now, you may say, “Sean, no, bad, stop.” I admit the music is remarkably schmaltzy. It’s amazing that someone could beat all the life out of every song on a record. But it is relaxing to me and takes less effort than meditation.

The covers all share the feeling of heavy sedative addiction. The women tend to look like they’ve been slipped a roofie, and the men tend to look neutered and stunned. There’s no room for excitement, passion, or anger in this world. Even the typography goes out of its way to be “nice”. And, of course, you knew that The Lawrence Welk Show was destined to end up here at Burning Settlers Cabin. If you can manage, you must watch this clip until the terrifying people in yellow sweaters pop into the screen and demand that you, the viewer, be happy and nice and pleasant. I mean it, be happy dammit! But not overly happy.

What did you put in that champagne? I can't get up.
Something is very wrong here
This family is terrified, and the kid in the middle has a black eye
Darling, just let the drug wash over you
And people say I'm too tan?
Be happy! Be happy! Now!
I have to admit this is pretty groovy, albeit druggy
Once again with the sedatives
The music is strangely bad, but the name is genius
Relax. Just relax. Stop struggling
And of course, Lawrence Welk
Life is so pleasant and predictable
Why is everything so slow, why can't I move my arms?
These are the real
If I let go, I'll fall down. My legs are like jello.
You have to admit, the type is pretty snappy