Pop music of the late sixties embraced psychedelic youth culture yet appealed to listeners of all ages up and down the radio dial. Easy Listening Acid Trip explains the missing musical link between electric guitars and orchestral strings, from the Beatles to Lawrence Welk, and why we just can’t help but liking songs we hear in the elevator.
In his acclaimed book Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak, Easy-Listening, and Other Moodsong, author Joseph Lanza explored the forbidden beauty and social importance of an otherwise shunned musical category. Now, in Easy-Listening Acid Trip, he pushes the boundaries further by taking his subject into altered states, showing how psychedelic pop (as opposed to the ear-grinding jams of “acid rock”) offered other worlds
and strange sounds that took listeners through a mind-bending time travel back to vaudeville, Tin Pan Alley, British Music Hall, and the melodic traditions that made songs hits before your grandmother was born. These influences, in turn, inspired many easy-listening arrangers and conductors to reinterpret the songs into instrumental wonders that were often just as (if not more) surreal.
Easy-Listening Acid Trip takes readers on a journey that includes the Hollyridge Strings’ haunting version of the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever,” Paul Mauriat’s lush treatment of Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair),” and Mariano and the Unbelievables’ baroque-pop tribute to the Lemon Pipers “Green Tambourine.” The book also provides numerous anecdotes, such as how quickly after the Strawberry Alarm Clock released their 1967 hit “Incense and Peppermints,” Muzak recorded an instrumental version by Charles Grean and His Orchestra that kept the electric guitar but re-contoured the tune with harps, horns, flutes, a tambourine, and other effects for offices, restaurants, supermarkets, and of course, elevators.
Delving into the songs along with the international roster of composers, arrangers, and conductors who recorded them, Easy-Listening Acid Trip celebrates the trippy paradox linking psychedelia to easy-listening: a netherworld where the Beatles meet The Percy Faith Strings, where Donovan meets David Rose and His
Orchestra, and where other flower-power-pop favorites meld with the likes of Ferrante and Teicher, Lawrence Welk, and the Mystic Moods Orchestra.