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Tuesday, September 07, 2010


Beach Blanket Bingo
Music by Les Baxter
La-La Land Records LLLCD 1142 (US)
18 Tracks 47:41 mins

Following the recent release of Les Baxter's score for Panic in Year Zero, La_La Land Records continue their retrospective of the composer's music with his very different score for 1965's Beach Blanket Bingo. Baxter worked on all manner of pictures distributed by American International, probably most famously the Roger Corman adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe stories like Fall of the House of Usher. He also re-scored a number of Italian made pictures, like Goliath and the Barbarians (reissued recently by Intrada). But, in addition to all this (relatively) serious stuff, he was also responsible for the music to the wave (sic) of "beach party" pictures, commencing in 1963 with the film of the same name. All these films were variations on the same theme, with a more positive spin being given on the rock 'n' roll generation than in films like Rebel Without a Cause that came before. The clean-cut young leads at the centre were teen idol Frankie Avalon and former Disney Mouseketeer Annette Funnicello, but they were invariably backed by veteran players to provide something for the "grown-ups." In the case of Beach Blanket Bingo, Don Rickles, Paul Lynde and Harvey Lembeck were on hand - all of them familiar light comedic actors of the time, and there was even a cameo from Buster Keaton, no less.
Younger supporting members of the case included Linda Evans and Marta Kristen, both of whom were to make their mark in episodic television.
These films were just all a shade before my time. Oh, I was alive, just not aware of them at my tender age. I am However familiar with the style of music employed by Baxter, which is largely beat-driven pop/rock, a style that continued through all kinds of '60s film and TV fare. Songs were the dominant feature in the music for the "beach party" films, but unfortunately these cannot be presented here due to licensing problems (though their backing tracks are included as eight bonus tracks at the end of this disc), and Baxter's main theme is an instrumental arrangement of the film's title song, and this is used primarily in the more comedic moments. A secondary theme accompanies a number of featured skydiving sequences, and this is a suitably soaring affair, a little reminiscent of the composer's great theme for Master of the World. There is also a suitably ethereal love theme for Kristen's mermaid (yes, that's right, a mermaid - adding an element of fantasy to proceedings), and some suitably slapsticky moments, including a typically silent movie-styled piano accompaniment for the antics of Keaton.
It's all very light and charmingly nostalgic, though I must say that without the lyrics to sing along to (if that is your wont), the bonus backing tracks do begin to irritate after a while.
Accompanying the disc, is the usual high quality booklet, illustrated with colour and black and white stills, and featuring Randall D. Larson's detailed notes on both the film and its music, including the always invaluable cue-by-cue guide.
Limited to just 1200 units, you'd best get along to if you want to grab a copy. If you're not sure, take a listen to the clips provided before ordering.
I should also mention in closing that the label's Baxter fest continues with his rock 'n' roll score for AIP's biker flick Hell's Belles, released on the 14th of this month.


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