CD: Beach Blanket Bingo (1965)

November 18, 2010 | By

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Rating: Good

Label: La-La Land Records / Released: August 17, 2010

Tracks & Album Length: 18 tracks / (47:41)


Special Notes: 16-page colour booklet with liner notes by Randall D. Larson / Limited to 1200 copies


Composer: Les Baxter




The Beach Party films probably gave Les Baxter a balance from the lush orchestral scores for AIP’s Poe films, as well as the series’ gloomy subject matter of revenge, being sealed up alive, and obsessive love taken to blood-curdling extremes. (The Poe films did morph into tongue-in-cheek variants like 1962’s Tales of Terror, but their atmosphere remained gothic.)

If one has any memory of Baxter’s Beach Party scores, it’s of the Mickey Mouse cues that had to fluidly work their way between musical numbers, source songs, song and dance sequences, and short gags that encompassed satire, pratfalls, vaudeville pranks, and actors mugging the camera. The emotional spectrum within the films were pretty basic – love, anger, embarrassment, giddy joy – and there’s not a depressing chord nor experimental indulgence in Bingo because Baxter’s music had to support the weird fantasyland of a teen world free from adult responsibilities (and as Randall D. Larson elaborates in the CD’s liner notes, not a single parent in sight).

This teen paradise didn’t allow for lengthy cues and complex melodies. The music, like the films, were about having fun and being in a state of perpetual fun (or ogling half-naked teens in bathing suits).

Baxter’s score is a mélange of comedic touches – scratchy sounds, tinny taps, gliding woodwinds – and compact motifs for the characters, which include a militaristic march for the dopey biker gang leader, a dreamy theme for the mermaid and general feelings of love (such as the lush organ and flute sections in “Von Zipper Bit”), and a bopping rhythm that keeps propelling scenes, and accentuating teens traumatized by petty jealousies and romance. There’s also a spiraling string figure for scenes involving aerial actions that’s somewhat reminiscent of Nelson Riddle’s Batman: The Movie (1966).

La-La Land’s CD is comprised of original score and the backing tracks of songs expressly written for the film, minus the vocal tracks that were too costly to include on this release (making any singles released on vinyl all the more valuable for collectors).

The suite of 10 tracks that make of Baxter’s score actually holds its own due to sudden twists and dramatic turns between moemnts of love, fear, romance, and bopping fun (such as the keystone cops piano bit in “The Big Chase”). It’s a perfect encapsulation of the essence that made the Beach Party films so popular, and kept Baxter busy through seven installments, plus a few variants.

The backing tracks are there for fans and completists, but the lack of vocals makes it obvious how each song was heavily reliant on the singer. With the exception of the bluesy/brassy “Fly Boy” and the orchestral, easy listening hybrid “These are the Good Times,” most of the tunes are maniacally repetitive and sound alike, due to the same instrumental combos, with virtually identical bass and drums parts. Sudden silent gaps or sustained bits (as in “I Think, You Think”) illustrate the nakedness of the backing tracks, and while they’re intriguing bonus material that fill out the CD, most Baxter fans will likely focus on the score tracks.

The mastering of the mono score and stereo backing track elements is first-rate, and bass tones sound warm and soothing, with the richness of strings and light organ coming through crisply. Larson’s tongue-in-cheek liner notes provide an overview of the Beach Party franchise, as well as other teen beach films that were the rage during the sixties, and never really regained their popularity (except in fluffy crime shows like Baywatch, or noir-tinged feature films such as Into the Blue).




© 2010 Mark R. Hasan


Related links:

CD:  Batman: The Movie (1966)


External References:

IMDB Soundtrack AlbumComposer Filmography


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