Mix: Let’s Break Out The Lancers!

When I was young, my parents weren’t particularly fancy in regard to what they drank (at least before I got them into vodka martinis in my mid-late 20s.) After work, my dad often enjoyed a bottle of Michelob poured into the tall, narrow glass while on holidays and other special occasions, my mom favored an inexpensive table wine—most often, Lancers Rosé, a Portuguese variety which came in an opaque, slightly chunky, burgundy-colored bottle. I recall this as a ubiquitous presence in our house up through the ‘90s when I was considered old enough to imbibe along with my folks. Still, given its classic design, Lancers felt more like a 1970s remnant; I suspect it accompanied many a fondue pot or a helping of Steak Diane sautéed in an electric skillet.

This mix could provide the soundtrack for a Lancers-soaked dinner party my parents or their friends might’ve thrown in the years immediately before my birth. Roughly spanning 1967 to 1973, it conjures a comfortably bourgeoisie, non-rock (or at least soft rock) vibe—unhip, if you’re less charitable, if not positively square. Without fully lapsing into Muzak territory, some of these smooth sounds are directly from my parents’ record collection of the time: Sergio Mendes and Brasil ‘66 (crafting a magic carpet ride out of a Simon and Garfunkel folk-rock standard), The Fifth Dimension (somewhat forgotten gem “Last Night I Didn’t Get To Sleep At All”) and of course Burt Bacharach, both as a solo artist (“Pacific Coast Highway”) and on tunes written with Hal David and made famous by Dusty Springfield (“The Look of Love”), Herb Alpert (“This Guy’s In Love With You”) and Dionne Warwick (“Amanda” from The Love Machine soundtrack is a bit of a deep cut but its arrangement is Burt at his baroque best.) 

Other selections I remember hearing on the radio (in particular, Milwaukee’s still-on-the-air WMYX-FM), albeit a decade or so after their heyday include Mason Williams’ groovy symphonic rock instrumental “Classical Gas”; Todd Rundgren’s “Hello It’s Me” (the classiest singer-songwriter crossover hit this side of vocal-soundalike Carole King); “We’ve Only Just Begun”, arguably The Carpenters’ best, most melodically complex single (written by 1970s mascot Paul Williams); The Spinners’ syncopated-yet-still-like-buttah “I’ll Be Around”.

The title references a lyric in Peggy Lee’s novelty hit “Is That All There Is” which I do not recall hearing in my youth; other selections fit the overall vibe but were likely too quirky (Julie London’s unlikely Ohio Express cover, Minnie Riperton’s psychedelic folk hymn), obscure (Harry Nilsson pre-“Everybody’s Talkin’”, Laura Nyro’s original version of an eventual hit for The Fifth Dimension) or ephemeral (Lalo Schifrin’s soundtrack music) to encounter in the wild back then. By the mid-70s, sophistication of this sort was quickly becoming passe in pop music—Barry White’s breakthrough single “I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby” is the pivot, anticipating disco excess but not above lacing its seven-minute-long seduction suite with flutes and harpsichord. It’s placed near the end of this mix, late in the evening after the Lancers ran out with a mysterious glass bowl of all the guests’ keyrings perhaps surfacing (though not at one of my parents’ gatherings as far as I know.)

Haunted Jukebox Mix #4: Let’s Break Out The Lancers!