Juan Garcia Esquivel, born Jan 20, 1918 in Tampico, Tamaulipas, Mexico, is one of the most influential and successful artists of the experimental stereophonic sound that came to be known as Space Age lounge music. With the introduction of electronic instrumentation in the first half of the 20th century, experimentalists like Esquivel joined the ranks of other artists reaching into rhythmic influences from around the globe. Some like Martin Denny and Les Baxter explored deeply into a territory called Exotica which combined elements of American jazz with Pacific, African, and South American rhythms. Esquivel chose to stay closer to home relying on more of the pop elements evolving in the U.S. and influenced by the sounds and rhythms of the Caribbean.
Esquivel was hugely successful. Lounge music emanated out of an American population that was experiencing first hand the race to space and a desire to use its new found wealth for heavy doses of entertainment. Everything felt new and wild in the music scene of the 1950’s. Big band and blues had given way to rock’n’roll, and the big boys needed their own scene as well. Those that could afford it held kitschy cocktail parties while playing the sounds of lounge out of Hi-Fi stereo cabinets. This image of opulent decadence are probably more fantasy than reality, but listening to Esquivel one could close one’s eyes, kick back with the over-sized stereophones and dream of girls in tight dresses and sleek capris go-go dancing at pool parties while tanned and handsome men in their pencil suits and ties kept up with a martini in each hand.
Eventually, lounge music gave way to the irritating sort of music that one typically associates with velvet-walled Las Vegas acts where faux big cat lapels, women past their prime vamping for men past their prime, and a distinct smell of sadness hangs in the air. By the late 1960’s, cool lounge was dead. If someone offers you a pound of lounge, you will be disappointed. Do not accept substitutes.
Oddly, Esquivel has surged to popularity and lost prominence twice. In the 1990’s, lounge music had a rebirth of sorts with a new wave of revivalists looking to recapture the hep movement of the 1950’s and early 1960’s. It’s too bad the music doesn’t have staying power. It’s too outrageous and dated to come back as anything but a novelty at this point, so for those of us that want to reminisce about a past that we never really experienced, we’ll keep holding torch for you brother Esquivel!
(12″ LP releases, US and Mexico)
- Las Tandas de Juan Garcia Esquivel (1957, RCA Victor Mexico)
- To Love Again (1957, RCA Victor)
- Cabaret Tragico (April 1958, RCA Victor Mexico)
- Other Worlds Other Sounds (October 1958, RCA Victor)
- Four Corners of the World (December 1958, RCA Victor)
- Exploring New Sounds in Hi-Fi/Stereo (May 1959, RCA Victor)
- The Ames Brothers: Hello Amigos (1959, RCA Victor)
- Strings Aflame (August 1959, RCA Victor)
- The Merriest of Christmas Pops (1959, RCA Victor)
- Infinity in Sound, Vol. 1 (August 1960, RCA Victor)
- Infinity in Sound, Vol. 2 (April 1961, RCA Victor)
- Latin-Esque (1962, RCA Victor)
- More of Other Worlds Other Sounds (1962, Reprise Records)
- The Living Strings: In a Mellow Mood (1962, RCA Camden)
- The Genius of Esquivel (1967, RCA Victor)
- 1968 Esquivel!! (1968, RCA Mexico)
- Burbujas (1979)
- Odisea Burbujas (1980)
- Vamos al Circo (1981)
- Space-Age Bachelor Pad Music (1994, Bar/None Records)
- Music From a Sparkling Planet (1995, Bar/None Records)
- Cabaret Mañana (1996, BMG Entertainment)
- Merry Christmas from the Space-Age Bachelor Pad (1996, Bar/None Records)
- See It in Sound (1998, House of Hits Records), recorded 1960, previously unreleased
- The Sights and Sounds of Esquivel (2005, Bar/None Records)
- Esquivel! Remixed (2006, SonyBMG Mexico)