The Rise and Fall of Easy Listening

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The Rise and Fall of Easy Listening

Postby radiofan » Tue Jun 23, 2015 9:14 pm

The Rise and Fall of Easy Listening
A look at the marketing and mockery of a genre on its 70th birthday.

By MARC MYERS June 22, 2015 6:19 p.m. ET

Easy-listening music and its maestros never had to worry about screaming teenage fans or long stadium tours. Ridiculed in the 1960s and since as “elevator music,” the gentle genre was marketed then as music for frazzled adults run ragged by the decade’s social upheavals, argumentative kids and rock’s blare. Unlike other forms of music, easy listening wasn’t meant to be analyzed or even heard. Instead, albums typically featured lush orchestras playing pop melodies at a slow tempo that subliminally freed minds from the clutches of anxiety and distraction.


Back in the 1960s and ’70s, easy-listening orchestras led by Mantovani, Bert Kaempfert, Ray Conniff and Percy Faith, among others, accomplished this with yawning violins, wandering trumpets and moody pianos playing in a style free of jarring moments or aesthetic calories. Today, given the music’s calming, reflective powers, many aging baby boomers are rediscovering the soothing sounds they once derided in their parents’ dens and station wagons.

Found now largely on satellite radio stations, easy-listening music has a long history that dates back 70 years to the end of World War II, when the government and the music industry sought to help returning soldiers relax as they rejoined families and society. The first easy-listening album was released to widespread popularity at the end of May 1945, and enjoyed strong sales almost immediately. Issued by Capitol Records, Paul Weston’s “Music for Dreaming” featured eight songs on four 78s, which today remain masterpieces of understated jazz-pop orchestration.

“Music for Dreaming” introduced a radical new genre of pop-instrumental music that quickly became known as “mood music.” Its precursors were the “Sweet” bands of the 1930s and early ’40s that served up a softer form of swing, and Glenn Miller and Claude Thornhill both developed distinctly mellow sounds for their prewar dance bands. Weston’s album, however, was the first created specifically to change the moods of audiences. Songs like “Don’t Blame Me,” “I’m in the Mood for Love” and “Rain” featured warm-milk string arrangements to prepare evening listeners for a good night’s sleep.

Weston’s instrumental album was recorded just as the federal government was looking into music’s powers to alter emotions. With World War II winding down in early 1945, military officials researched music’s ability to help recondition millions of veterans struggling with psychological disorders ranging from trauma and stress to anger-management and insomnia. In March 1945, the U.S. War Department issued Technical Bulletin 187 detailing a program on the use of music for reconditioning service members convalescing in Army hospitals.

Record labels looking for new niches to exploit sensed an opportunity. With the country in the thick of World War II in 1944, pop vocalists like Frank Sinatra, Jo Stafford and Doris Day had been recording romantic ballads backed by lush orchestrations. Weston, who was signed to Capitol that year as the label’s chief producer and arranger, conceived an album of softly arranged instrumentals that relaxed listeners without the distraction of singers.

The success of Weston’s “Music for Dreaming” was immediate: By July 1945, it was No. 3 on Billboard’s pop album chart. But despite the album’s success, Weston put the mood concept on hold. In 1944, an album was merely a collection of 78s slipped into a binder that resembled a photo album. Listeners had no hope of enjoying more than a few minutes of music on each side before having to get up and turn over the record, which ran counter to Weston’s chill-out objective.

Read the full story at: http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-rise-an ... 1435011284
Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who couldn't hear the music.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of Easy Listening

Postby Casey » Wed Jun 24, 2015 1:05 am

PAUL WESTON - MUSIC FOR DREAMING - FULL ALBUM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtRuNohgskI
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Re: The Rise and Fall of Easy Listening

Postby jon » Wed Jun 24, 2015 11:31 am

There was a time in the mid- to late 1960s when companies began forcing their employees to listen to elevator music, in the belief that it increased productivity. Many retailers forced it on to their customers, in the belief that it would increase Sales. Muzak and Q Music were the main beneficiaries in Western Canada.

Fast forward to the mid-1980s, and the same "subliminally freed minds from the clutches of anxiety and distraction" argument re-appeared as part of the New Age movement, and the music it spawned, typically what we would call Smooth Jazz today.

Never quite understood why it was ever used in Elevators. Not a place you expect Sales or Productivity to occur.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of Easy Listening

Postby jon » Wed Jun 24, 2015 4:40 pm

On a related topic, this gets my award for best use of Elevator Music: Around 1980, a small park in Downtown Edmonton had become a haven for drug dealers late at night. City Council voted to pipe Elevator Music into the park after dark, and pretty much eliminated the problem.
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Re: The Rise and Fall of Easy Listening

Postby radiofan » Wed Jun 24, 2015 9:05 pm

"Moon River" by Henry Mancini was a favorite used on outdoor speakers at several Lower Mainland 7-11's and McDonald's to discourage the riff raff from hanging around/
Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who couldn't hear the music.
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