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Muzak to get Mutated to: E-Z Listening with DEVO
04:33 pm



Booji Boy, crooner?

There are fewer musical sub-genres considered so across the board lame as muzak. Even other questionable genres and sub-genres, like Christian rock or vanity albums (IE. a record made by Bruce Willis or Solo Cup heiress Dora Hall), have a fan base. Muzak, or as it was more quaintly known “elevator music”, were the instrumental nuggets associated with portals of American consumerist Hell. Elevators, waiting rooms, the dentist’s office, assorted department stores your parents or grandparents would shop at and being put on hold were just a few of the key places that one would be assaulted by the tepid, non-threatening notes of muzak. Whether it was something originally created to be as inoffensive as possible or golden hits and oldies watered down to a level of being barely recognizable pre-chewed, pre-digested musical pablum, it was a format that was inescapable by the mid to late 1970s. So who better to subvert arguably the most hated form of music in America and make it not only great, but mind-blowingly brilliant than the pioneers who got scalped themselves, than DEVO?

In 1981, the band behind the energy domes released two cassette tapes via their official fan club, the still-thriving and operating Club DEVO, featuring “muzak” versions of some of their better (and lesser) known songs. Whether you were a member or smart enough to purchase their then current New Traditionalists album which included an order form. The original description read as “Muzak versions of your favorite DEVO tunes performed by DEVO at a rare casual moment. Mutated versions of DEVO classics, “Whip It,” “Mongoloid,” and many others round out this limited edition collectors item.”
Original Cover Art for the Cassette release of E-Z Listening
These tracks were enough of a hot commodity among both DEVO fans and the curious alike to warrant bootlegs available both via vinyl (some of which are still warranting figures up to $200 online) and even apparently an 8-track tape. It was released to the general public in 1987 via a CD from Rykodisc, which combined both tapes. For a band that has built a legacy of coloring outside the lines and mixing commentary on the fallacies and foibles of American culture with sounds and images that are often surreal, this album is a strange artifact, even for the most hardcore spud.

More muzak from DEVO, after the jump…

Posted by Heather Drain | Leave a comment
JUST what you’ve been waiting for: Kmart’s piped in music 1988-1993 is now online
11:30 am




Just when you thought you’d heard it all when it came to collector specificity—“I only collect Beatles original press on Vee-Jay!” “I only collect sealed Firestone Christmas records!”—something like this comes along and leaves you in kind of minor awe. There’s long been a collectables subset that’s coveted private press records and tapes meant for distribution only among employees of a certain business. Broadcaster April Winchell shares rather a lot of such unintentionally comical material on her completely amazing MP3 sharity page; highlights include the infamous 1979 McDonald’s flexi-disc and a KFC “inspirational” pep-talk. This is related, but I’ve never heard of anyone doing it before. Via Chart Attack:

Mark Davis worked behind the Service Desk at the Naperville, IL Kmart in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Every month, corporate office issued a cassette to be played over the store speaker system — canned elevator-type music with advertisements seeded every few tracks. Around 1991, the muzak was replaced with mainstream hits, and the following year, new tapes began arriving weekly. The cassettes were supposed to be thrown away, but Davis dutifully slipped each tape into his apron pocket to save for posterity. He collected this strange discount department store ephemera until 1993, when background music began being piped in via satellite service.


22 years later, Davis has done the world the extreme favor of uploading all that material to It’s amazing how quaint so much of it seems now. This compilation of pharmacy ads, for example, is full of really straightforward, just-the-facts announcing; the total absence of any heavy emotional manipulation like we’re subjected to in ads now is conspicuous here to the point where these almost sound robotic:

This call to action to visit the paint department was from the turn of the ‘90s, but with the exception of some sfx near the beginning, it sounds like it could have been scripted and recorded in the early ‘60s. Advertising sophistication grew much more rapidly than this in that time period, I wonder how Kmart could have been so stuck in the past.

Here’s an example of something less specific, an hour and a half of music and ads. It’s pretty strictly formatted: one blandly soothing contemporary pop/jazz song, one call to action, repeat repeat repeat. There are more than 50 of these, again, at


Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Merry Crassmas: Anarcho-punk goes Muzak (+ bonus Penny Rimbaud interview)
America circa 2013 in a nutshell: The ‘Wal-Mart Cheer’ is the most depressing thing you’ll ever see

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Seeburg Industrial Background Music Records

I think that those of us who are old enough to remember hearing actual Muzak in public places were in fact hearing one of these diabolical devices: The Seeburg 1000 background music system. Essentially a stackable spindle record player that played Seeburg’s specially produced 16rpm, big hole in the middle LPs chock full of motivating background music, sure to bring out the productivity in your employees and the wallets from your customers. I was delighted to find literally hundreds of clips of these records, alas mostly being played on conventional players, on the youtubes. For the pupose of this post I’m concentrating on a few examples from Seeburg’s long running Industrial library:

Average tempo: medium fast. Predominantly instrumental,with a light seasoning of great vocals. An occasional polka or march. Emphasis on popular music. Minimum of stringed instruments. Unusually rhythmical. Over-all lively character but never a rock ‘n’ roll. Designed for Industrial plants only.

Much more after the jump…

Posted by Brad Laner | Leave a comment