Saturday, April 11, 2009

Music for TV Dinners / Music for TV Dinners: The Sixties

How can I begin to explain these wacky aberrations of nature? Let's start with the titles. Random, these. Why have music for TV dinners? Weren't TV dinners created so you could eat Salisbury hockey puck, potato buds, and cherry surprise (surprise! fake cherries!) while basking in the radiation emanating from your boob tube? Isn't music kinda irrelevant here? Well, they had to name this set something. Unendurably Perky Muzak: The Golden Years, Vols. 1 and 2 must not have been catchy enough.

But enough slamming. Both of these albums are honestly quite charming in their own way. Completely a product of each of their eras, they also perfectly encapsulate those eras. There is no question which decade each of these albums came from, nor in which context you would expect to hear them.

A disclaimer: I do not have either of these albums. Any commentary I have about this is based solely on listening to the quick 30-second snippets available by the good folks at But really, that's all you need to hear to judge 'em.

In a nutshell, the original Music for TV Dinners is the music that defined the simple chipmunk-like optimism of squeaky-clean urban and suburban 1950s America, filled with happy capitalist consumers radiating civic pride. And these songs are among the earwormiest of earworms, generic background music to those kitschy black and white films about modern living through technology. Songs like "Shopping Spree," "Happy Go Lively," and "Trafficscape" were probably manufactured by scientists who were recruited by corporate types or G-men to motivate the populace to spend, be happy, and revel in the comfortable and secure times, never mind the fact that we were in a Cold War with those evil Soviets. Or maybe not. Either way, Music for TV Dinners makes the opening credits to Leave It to Beaver sound like a dirge. Take that as you will. (Tragically, Music for TV Dinners appears to be out of print as of this posting. If you want it, you'll have to shell out a pretty penny for it.)

Music for TV Dinners: The Sixties shares the same optimism and catchy hooks that its predecessor boasts, but there's where the similarities end. Just like its title claims, none of this music could have been contemplated before 1960, let alone be performed or recorded then. Think Burt Bacharach. Think Herb Alpert and his Tijuana Brass. Add some go-go beats, some mod stylings, some evidence that Americans had entered the jet age and were loosening up considerably and becoming more cosmopolitan. Suave, breezy and ebullient, you could imagine this music being played on the radio while cruising down the Pacific Coastal Highway in your powder blue Jaguar convertible. Basically, Music for TV Dinners: The Sixties lies at the exact point where Las Vegas lounge, Muzak, and Brill Building greatness collide. Truly groovy and Austin Powers-worthy.


urban bohemian said...

I have BOTH these albums, and they're delightful. If one ever needed to channel one's inner Donna Reed while doing household chores or preparing dinner, this is the soundtrack to have in the background. And yes, it will transport you to a world of old cartoons, educational films, commercials and faux-documentaries on how "our company is using science to give you a better future". But oh, so fun!

Uncle Spike said...

It now looks like BOTH albums are out of print. So hold on to those! You've now got valuable pop kitsch gold.