In the early 1970s Jamaican dubmeisters supreme King Tubby and Lee “Scratch” Perry collaborated on an album called Blackboard Jungle wherein each mixed one channel of stereo down to what amounted to two separate mono mixes. It’s breathtakingly ingenious—not to mention a terribly elaborate and work intensive process—but it doesn’t hold a patch on what “easy listening” legend Juan Garcia Esquivel got up to a decade prior. He’d sometimes use an entire orchestra in each channel, the musicians sitting in adjoining recording studios…
Have a listen to “Mucha Muchacha” from Esquivel’s 1962 album, Latin-Esque—this is some serious stuff, is it not?
Mexico City-raised Esquivel was the primary creator of the sub-genre of easy listening that was retrospectively called “Space-Age Bachelor Pad Music” (a term coined by DM pal, artist/Subgenius Byron Werner). His innovative, idiosyncratic (and instantly recognizable) music made full use of the vast possibilities of the newfangled stereophonic soundscape—exotic instrumentation, quick-change dynamics, polyphonic percussion, ping-ponging sound effects—and the perfectionist composer, arranger and pianist created the sort of record albums that insured they were used to demonstrate the highest fidelity stereo equipment. Incredibly, he was an entirely self-taught musician.
Although Esquivel’s heyday was over by the late 1960s—he was scarcely active at all in the 70s and 80s—a 1994 compilation CD put together by music archaeologist Irwin Chusid and titled, what else, Space-Age Bachelor Pad Music—brought his career new attention (and arguably ignited the entire easy listening revival at the time). Since then most of his albums have come back into print and although Esquivel died in 2002, there is still strong interest in his music (not to mention his distinctive eyewear). His 1962 album More Of Other Worlds Other Sounds has even been released as a high definition audio 24 bit/192 kHz download, sounding as good, if not much better in 2015 than it sounded being played in those space-age bachelor pads back in the day.
Incredibly, though, there’s almost no visual representation of Esquivel’s career on YouTube?!? What gives? This is a guy who Frank Sinatra personally hired to open for him in Las Vegas. Imagine the visual of a man conducting two orchestras at once?!? But there’s like… nothing. I did turn up a documentary about him, but the first of four parts is missing. What there is besides that amounts to this short interview that the Mexican maestro gave to a fellow named Bob Wilkins in approximately 1968: