90s Easy Listening

Regular readers will have noticed our series originally called the 90s Lounge Boot Boom underwent a name change in our last update to the much simpler 90s Boot Boom. 


The 90s Boot Boom series is our own Encyclopedia of 90s Crate Digging charting changes in digging culture via monitoring the pulse of mixed genre boots that began as Funk, Soul, Jazz and Latin comps in the early 90s before evolving to include ost, psych, folk and anything else that interested crate diggers in their search for breaks. 

90s Easy Listening

90s Easy Listening

We realised the word Lounge didn’t really apply to either early 90s boots or later ones which only began to include lounge, easy listening and library tracks after 1995 immediately after the release of the highly influential The Sound Gallery lp. 


The Sound Gallery triggered a minor avalanche of compilations which culled easy and groovy tunes from the 60s mod scene, 70s easy listening and library lps so we’ve decided to create a supplementary series focussing on them and the scene that launched them.



forumusic presents...

The 90s Easy Listening Scene: Introduction

The Sound Gallery lp lit the blue touch paper and transformed a localised London easy listening affair into a national pop chart and TV advert bothering one.


Compiling easy listening tracks mainly from the EMI Studio2Stereo series it tipped off regular charity shop and car boot vinyl hunters to a wealth of groovy and funky tracks on lps they usually flicked past. 


An over-simplification perhaps but it nutshells for illustration purposes the way a dedicated London scene of DJs and club-goers expanded musical horizons for a much larger number of record collectors in the UK who had previously assumed easy listening lps to be worthless. The Sound Gallery compilers were aware of this:


This album is the first in a planned series that will explore the world of some of the most exciting mood music ever recorded. Mostly originating from EMI's flagship 'Studio Two' label, augmented by offerings from the United Artists label and the KPM Recorded Music Library, 'The Sound Gallery' features tracks from albums recorded over an eight year period from 1969 to 1976. These tracks were recorded using the best available studios...

90s Easy Listening

90s Easy Listening

...with the best session men - and using the most advanced recording techniques of the day.


Tired myopic tastemakers of yesteryear had long dismissed these records but time has now gone full circle and I am happy to see that these legendary fabulaous recordings are once more available for all to enjoy


- The Sound Gallery sleeve notes


Released early in 1995 the compilation included music from a raft of artists and studio bands who were not at that time on the radar of many record collectors. The lp had little publicity but flew from record store shelves in great numbers. 

90s Easy Listening

90s Easy Listening

Smashing (1991 - 1996)


The Sound Gallery lp arrived precisely at a time when interest in easy listening had begun to mushroom beyond the clubs and pubs where people were both dressing up and dancing to it.


Early 90s nightclubs like Smashing hosted by Matthew Glamorre and Blow Up hosted by Paul Tunkin were both the launch pad for the interest in easy listening in the late 90s and also the bridge that linked the scene back to the 80s.  Neither club opened or closed with a fully-fledged 100% easy listening music policy.


At Smashing the music policy was all over the place and the main emphasis was on having a good time, not trainspotting the latest funk, soul or jazz discovery but its anything goes approach pre-empted many later 90s clubs and mirrored the evolution of mixed genre bootlegs.


Smashing host Matthew Glamorre had clubbed alongside Leigh Bowery in the 80s as well as being a part of his Art Rock band Minty.  With adventurous crate-digging DJ (and future Sound Gallery compiler) Martin Green at the helm Smashing carried the musical eclecticism from many broader 80s club nights into the 90s and attracted an eclectic crowd into the bargain. Alix Sharkey summarised the Smashing playlist and clientelle in an article in The Independent newspaper in 1994.

The Smashing Playlist


'Queen Bitch'; the Beastie Boys' rap cacophony; the Barbarella theme song; the Happy Mondays' narcoleptic white funk; or the Smiths' 'Panic', dissolving into throbbing acid house. What kind of music do they play? The only kind. 


Indy rock? James Last? Grunge? Sammy Davis Jnr? Sixties soundtracks? Si, si, senor. Glam? Punk? New Wave? Disco? Pinky and Perky? Tick them all off, and anything else that comes to mind.


Meet your fab hosts, Matthew, Martin, Michael and Adrian, whose various musical and aesthetic preferences clash and mutate in this kaleidoscopic jolly-up.


Oh, what a life of human waste: Mods, rockers, skins, trannies, beatniks, disco queens, hippies, dippy chicks, old school trendies, all the nightlife gangs are welcome.


Alix Sharkey review of Smashing in The Independent October 1994

90s Easy Listening

90s Easy Listening

Blow Up (1993 onwards)


A similar eclecticism existed at Blow Up which evolved into a brand and record label and is still going strong. From their web site today:


Blow Up opened its doors for the first time on October 13th 1993 when DJ and promoter Paul Tunkin hired the upstairs function room of a Camden pub called The Laurel Tree.


He had wanted to create a club night with a new agenda, a direct reaction to the musical climate of the early 90s and its infatuation with the US Grunge scene (and its lack of style), alongside a UK Indie scene that was missing the colour, energy

90s Easy Listening

90s Easy Listening

and ambition needed to make a serious raid on the charts. The first club flyer went straight to the point with a Pop Art target and arrow, synonymous with the sixties Mod scene, and was accompanied by the tagline: 'For the 90s Swinging London'.


It was more a statement of intent as London wasn't exactly swinging at the time - an attempt to bring the energy of a lost 60s London into a head on collision with the then emerging British Pop Scene. Blow-Up's opening night would be a blueprint for the club's sound.


Easy Listening, Dancefloor Jazz, Beat and British Rn'B, Swinging Soundtracks, 60s Club Sounds, French Pop, Psych, British TV Themes, 60s Electronica, Music Hall Knees-Ups, 70s New Wave and Glam were all featured.


Missing in action from that list are the words library music. DJs Paul Tunkin and Andy Lewis were the among first wave of DJs to discover the downright groovy and break-laden delights lurking in the vaults of libraries such as KPM and Chappell and released a KPM compilation in 1996. Tunkin was also quick to spot the potential of The Karminsky Brothers who joined the Blow Up team in 1994 and were responsible for Espresso Espresso, one of the best easy listening lps ever compiled.

Library Music


To categorise all library music as easy listening would be absolute nonsense but the easy listening scene definitely played a major role in raising awareness of the musical goodness to be found on them. For this reason we are including reviews of selected compilations of library music in this series as it would be impossible not to given the number of other lps that freely mix library music and non-library music.


Though Tunkin and Lewis were among the first wave of DJs spinning library music, the jury is presently out on who actually spun library records first and it's definitely something else Forumusic would like to get to the bottom of.


A helpful thread entitled 'Easy / Library' on the excellent VG+ music forum had various members suggesting names of DJs and nightclubs playing easy and library music from the 80s onwards and we'll be including some of their information and saying thank you properly when we've followed through on the various leads.


We'll compile here a chronological history of easy listening and library compilations from 1995 onwards whilst also attempting to trace the roots of the 90s scene through interviews and by piecing together anachronistic releases from the late 70s onwards.

90s Easy Listening

90s Easy Listening

All hands on deck

..sang the James Last singers on Cap'n Last.


Fingers-crossed we can also get the real story of the 90s Easy Listening Scene by speaking directly to the likes of Paul Tunkin, Martin Green, Eli Hourd, Fraser Moss, Patrick Whitaker, the Karminskys and Count Indigo and any other DJs, movers, shakers and attendees from the easy 90s club scenes that we can find.


On that note Jonny Trunk, the compiler of The Super Sounds Of Bosworth; the first commercially available library comp of the 90s, spoke to Forumusic way back in October 2010.


(We're still grateful to both him and Andy Votel for allowing us interviews before we existed).

90s Easy Listening

90s Easy Listening

Trunk Records


We have an article coming soon on Jonny and the roots of Trunk Records which we'll upload as soon as we can make it down to the Big Smoke for original photographs of the man himself.


Jonny's reminisces from clubbing in the late 80s and his stories about record collecting in the early 90s provides a perfect starter for a series of interviews.


Music heads can quibble semantics but for clarity our articles covering the whole mid-1990s retro-boom in easy listening, lounge, exotica and library music will be titled the 90s Easy Listening Scene and we're hoping that tag will draw more interested parties into the discussion via the wonders of search engines.


Comments, criticisms or corrections on anything here are welcome over on the Forum where a 90s Easy Listening section will shortly appear. 



Alive and Lovely fanzine

90s Easy Listening

90s Easy Listening

90s Easy Listening

90s Easy Listening

Images above left and right from book jacket and logo design of Easy! The Lexicon of Lounge by Dylan Jones published 1997 by Pavilion Books Limited.

Alive .... and Lovely No.2 fanzine kindly lent to Forumusic by Craig Sayers. Thanks also to eruditio, effi_deep, llmod1 from the Forumusic forum for helpful pointers.

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