with James Call and Peter Huestis


JC - They did a 4 CD set of pop vocals from the 50s. It was excellent. I tried to prod them into doing instrumentals and uhh... there just wasn't a lot of response to that. Of course, they did the rock instrumentals, but the pop instrumentals from the 50s which there are many many beautiful ones--some of them are yours--but there's many beautiful instrumental songs from the 50s that I really think they are missing a bet. So talking a record executive into doing something...

LB - No, you can't do that. All they're interested in is some new rock group. Rock and Roll sells and that's it.

JC - I think that's changing.

PH - I think that's changing. I think people are starting to get increasingly interested in non-rock, non-blues based music forms. Were you familiar at all with the books that REsearch publications put out, INCREDIBLY STRANGE MUSIC?

LB - I heard about it, yeah.

PH - Well, you're mentioned in both of them. Almost every single person interviewed mentions how inspiring they found your music to be. And some of them list their Les Baxter albums as their most treasured possessions. I'd say they're among mine.

LB - I'm due to sell a lot of records. There are a lot of people--when people like my music, people are crazy about my music. Some people are just nuts about it. I think I'm due for another big selling spree...if they get it out right. I just don't hope for it--and don't do anything about it.

PC - Are you still active in the music world at all?

LB - Oh yeah, I'm always doing something. I was commissioned to do a concert piece--played at the county museum. It was a terrific piece. I have a tape of it here somewhere.

JC - Here in Palm Springs?

LB - No, at the L. A. County Museum. And with a big orchestra. I love doing concert music. That was where I started--doing concert music. I loved doing that and I was commissioned to do another piece. So it's going to be a hell-of-a piece. Then I really startled them. I mean, they get some would-be composers--it's a long program--and each composer pays for his own piece. They paid for mine, as a guest. They do a 3 or 4 minute piece. They gave me 2 pieces--2 original pieces. And I know the effect I have on an audience. I mean, I actually tear it apart, you know. The audience went wild over it. They played all these terrible pieces, then they played mine. The audience just went wild--just so different.

JC - Did you go to school for music?

LB - Oh, years ago. So long ago. I went to--I don't remember where I went. The Detroit Conservatory of Music. Uhh, Pepperdine College. They had a terrible music department.

JC - Did you go straight from there to arranging for radio?

LB - I was working all the time I was in college. I was working so much that I could hardly do my college work. And playing in a dance band at the same time.

JC - Oh, really?

LB - Yeah, I played tenor sax.

JC - In a swing band?

LB - Yeah. And arranging for a band. That was a little tough getting through college. Then someone asked me to do an album--which I did. It sold a lot. And then I was asked to do a picture. So I was doing albums and pictures at the same time. I was scoring films.

JC - How many films have you worked on?

LB - About 120. None of them are great films but I love the ones that I did. I love--in fact, I did all the "Beach Party" films just because I made more money off of those than I ever did QUO VADIS, you know.

JC - We both have a soundtrack that you did--that was surprising to find out that you did; WILD IN THE STREETS.

LB - I didn't do a lot on that. I did some on that.

JC - Well, most of the songs are by this group called The Sidewalk Sounds.

LB - The songs--but my original stuff in there is pretty wild.

JC - Yeah, absolutely. One of the pieces is, I remember--and I can't recall exactly what the name was--very original, very strange sounding. [There were actually two Baxter pieces, Shelly In Camp and Psychedelic Senate.]

LB - I know what you mean. I don't go out of style. I have young composers--I mean young groups say, "We thought you made it today." They say, "It's so contemporary." And I said, "No, I made it 30 years ago."

JC - So you were arranging on the radio and uhh... is that how you got picked up by Capitol?

LB - Oooooh, how did I get picked up? No, no, I , I was asked to do an album for Capitol. And I did it and it sold... to their surprise.

JC - Do you remember which one?


PH - Oooooh, I haven't been able to find a copy of that.

LB - It's a fabulous album.

JC - I'll bet. I like the title.

LB - I don't know if I didn't know what I was doing, but I was a concert composer. I went into the studio with a 15 voice choir, a cello, a french horn, and a flute I think.

JC - Wow!

LB - There's no explaining it. And yet the album sold a hell of a lot.

JC - I would love to hear that thing.

LB - You would love MUSIC OUT OF THE MOON.

PH - It's referred to several time in the INCREDIBLY STRANGE MUSIC books as being a great Les Baxter album.

LB - Then as a result of MUSIC OUT OF THE MOON I went over to RCA and did PERFUME SET TO MUSIC which is wonderful. MUSIC OUT OF THE MOON is with a choir. PERFUME SET TO MUSIC is with a choir and a big string orchestra.

JC - So musical interpretations of smells?

LB - Of smells! I'd never thought of it that way. They tend to refer to it as scents. [All laff] An actual perfume company or something did a whole bunch of things and they asked me to do it. So I did it. But anyway, it's called PERFUME SET TO MUSIC. But it's a wonderful album, a really good album. I want you to hear it.

JC & PH - [nearly in unison] We WANT to hear it!

LB - How do you get things like that?

JC - Thrift stores are where we find everything.

PH - I worry about the master tapes of your albums. Do you know are they being taken care of?

LB - I doubt it.

PH - I con only think of them sort of gathering dust in some Capitol warehouse.

LB - I doubt it. Particularly Capitol. Capitol doesn't even know I exist. Which is very foolish of them.

JC - Absolutely, absolutely! Particularly given the state of things right now in pop music.

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