I’ve just discovered that BBC Four are currently broadcasting a season of documentaries and concerts to celebrate the history of easy listening, that much-maligned and misunderstood musical genre. It’s interesting to me to see which artists the BBC pushes together into the ‘easy’ category – I’m not sure sure how comfortably Richard Clayderman sits next to Brasil ’66.
There doesn’t seem to be a season page on the BBC Four website, so here are my picks of things that might be worth a look. Some are coming up, some are already available to watch on BBC iPlayer. Apologies to non-UK visitors – I think you’ll need some internet know-how if you want to watch the BBC’s streaming videos.
The Joy of Easy Listening (90 mins)
A look at easy listening’s architects and practitioners, its dangers and delights, and the mark it has left on modern life. From its emergence in the 50s to its heyday in the 60s, through its survival in the 70s and 80s and its revival in the 90s and beyond, the film traces the hidden history of a music that has reflected society every bit as much as pop and rock – just in a more relaxed way.
Contributors include Richard Carpenter, Herb Alpert, Richard Clayderman, Engelbert Humperdinck, Jimmy Webb, Mike Flowers, James Last and others.
Burt Bacharach… This Is Now (50 mins)
Dusty Springfield narrates a documentary profile of the songwriter who won an Oscar for the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid score, enjoyed stage success with Promises, Promises and whose classic songs continue to influence modern music. Featuring interviews with Dionne Warwick, Noel Gallager, Hal David, Herb Alpert, Elvis Costello, Cilla Black, Richard Carpenter, Carol Bayer Sager and Gillian Lynne.
Herb Alpert & His Tijuana Brass (25 mins)
Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass play Something Special. Includes The Lonely Bull, What Now My Love, Up Cherry Street and Spanish Flea.
Only Yesterday: The Carpenters’ Story (60 mins)
Documentary about brother and sister duo The Carpenters, one of the biggest selling pop acts of the 1970s, but one with a destructive and complex secret that ended in tragedy with Karen Carpenter’s untimely death at 32. Featuring behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with Richard Carpenter, family and friends.
Easy Listening Hits at the BBC (60 mins)
Compilation of unique performances from the greatest easy listening artists of the 60s and 70s, including Burt Bacharach, Andy Williams, Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66, the Carpenters and many more.