Bob Thompson, inventor of “Space Age Pop,” recorded this piece of music with the Bob Thompson Orchestra and the Bob Thompson Chorus. Chill out, Bob Thompson, we know it’s all about you.
“While We’re Young” sounds like it could have jumped out of the ambient music from BioShock — and no surprise, it was recorded and released in 1959, the same year that Rapture exploded into civil war. Listen here!
True to the era, the album cover is a testament to the Patriarchy: (MMM, Nice and On the Rocks, both released in 1959)
(Not that album covers today aren’t hideously misogynistic, but women holding up trays and sitting in cocktails feels especially dated. Nameless woman, posed to sell sexy space age pop music. Excellent.)
Bob Thompson was a noted composer and conductor who wrote jingles and television music, but also scored some great stuff for music industry behemoths like Rosemary Clooney, Judy Garland, and the Andrews Sisters. He was popular enough to hire professional instrumentalists and vocalists and name the ensembles after himself, because he wanted to make sure you know that he was a Very Important Guy. He released 5 albums with his narcissistically named groups, and all of them have the same sort of vibe.
Speaking of vibes, check out the wicked vibraphone solos throughout this album — popularized by cool cats like Lionel Hampton and Cal Tjader, vibraphones took over jazz gigs across the nation, and for good reason. This percussion instrument has a hollow, bell-like sound with enough agility to play some serious jazz odysseys. It sounds fun, and dare I say… spacey?
Space Age Pop, also called Lounge Music or Bachelor Pad Music (because every single dude needs a jazzy chorus and a swingin’ vibraphone player to grace his man cave), this genre took off in the 1950’s with the advent of space exploration. This album came 2 years before the first human went into space, which happened to be Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagaurin in 1961. The moon landing occurred 8 years later, in 1969. Spacey! This genre was the first to venture into the unknown territory of early surround sound technology, called quadrophonic recording, and it took influence from every other genre. Classical composers like Debussy and Ravel made an impact, as did the rhythms and melodies of samba, 1940’s style big bands like the Glenn Miller Orchestra (another dude who named ensembles after himself), and space age jazz infused boatloads of Latin percussion techniques.
This music is a veritable melting pot of styles and sonorities, which arguably helped open the door to the delicious fusion styles we have today.