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The Golden Age of Porn: Vintage Soundtracks to Bone By

EDITORIAL FEATURES

It Wasn’t All Slap-Bass and Bad Midi Music in the Background

Cliches about porn are endless and some of them are right on the money. The acting is rarely worth an Academy Award. Lighting and skill with a camera were especially uneven during the early days of commercial porn. Scripts ranged from the sublime to the sophomoric. And then there were the musical soundtracks.

Initially, it was all about the visual. Due to the Motion Picture Production Code (MPPC), acquiring professional equipment was difficult for those hoping to create something unique for adult content. There was either no music or it was suggested by dancing. Then the music that porn will forever be remembered for began to provide the background audio. Music samples, rhythm loops, early funk guitar tracks, sexy basslines, and over-the-top organ solos were most common, with the occasional commissioned full orchestration.

As at-home viewing of adult videos became widespread, the amount of time available to put together an original soundtrack decreased, and the amount of outright musical piracy increased. There are certainly stand-out examples of excellence, but much of it can accurately be described as “elevator music.” Well, so long as it didn’t have lyrics.

Called “porn groove” or “porno groove,” these musical mashups blended lounge music, folk, psychedelic rock, wah-wah pedals, Hammond organs, and crashing percussion. Whenever someone sings “bow-chicka-bow-wow” we immediately know they’re making a reference to American porn music from the 1960s and 1970s. European art cinema was not pornographic per se, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t face censorship after it arrived in the States. Because of this, the adult movie theater was the place to look for it.

Foreign films including the Italian Sweden: Heaven and Hell, West German Schulmädchen-Report, West German-Spanish Vampyros Lesbos, and Italian-French Last Tango in Paris, all brought new sounds to American audiences. Sitars, psychedelic jazz, acid rock, brass, and strings sought to arouse the eardrums of viewers who might not normally watch a porn film but would make an exception for “art.” If erotic fare from the very late 1960s gave the world nothing else, it gave the world, including The Muppets, the impossible-to-forget song by Piero Umiliani, “Mah Nà Mah Nà.”

Once the 1970s got up and running, Deep Throat and Behind the Green Door were released and featured the first specially created porn flick scores. According to FarOutMagazine, the soundtrack from Deep Throat was designed with a broader audience in mind, so it includes soft rock, show tune, and bubblegum pop tracks. It was released on vinyl and can sometimes be found in thrift or collectable record stories. Be prepared to pay dearly if it’s not accidentally in the bargain bins, because original copies sold for hundreds of dollars in 2015.

When Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: An X-Rated Musical Comedy hit the scene, it was notable for having its own, unique big band score. The Mitchell Brothers were able to finance their own dedicated music department, which their film Behind the Green Door relied heavily on. Wikipedia lists The Opening of Misty Beethoven, which is an erotic retelling of Pygmalion and My Fair Lady, as having its own original score, not counting the big cum shot accompanied by the William Tell Overture at the conclusion.

But it was the Academy Award for Best Picture winner, Midnight Cowboy, that broke the boundary into mainstream. Its background accompaniment included music by John Lennon. Aiden Shuman’s backing tracks for The Devil in Miss Jones is still considered one of the best of its time. The moody soundtrack album and later CD re-issue featured the song “I’m Comin’ Home” by Linda November.

Baffling to me is the fandom behind the music played during Debbie Does Dallas. The Phoenix New Times considers it to be one of the 10 best and packed with “a firm dose of wah-wah funk and blaxploitation-like vibes.” I obviously have to watch this movie again, because I remember it as a constantly changing series of what seemed like public domain mini-clips.

Things took a nose-dive during the 1980s because the creation of unique compositions could not keep up with the speed of video production. Producers turned to licensed or quick turnaround, primitive electronic music.

Those who want to hear these soundtracks for themselves do not need to hunt down the videos and films they are from. Inside Deep Note includes not merely 20 sexy songs including “Pimp Fight,” "Sex on the Beach,” “Slip It In,” and “Hebrew National Salami,” but also supremely frank sex talk between tracks.

The New York Synpornia Orchestra released Deep Throat: A Tribute to Blue Movies, and luxuriates in the classical tunes that turned us on during Big John Holmes, Behind Convent Walls, Deep Inside Mary Millington, and Sensations, among others. And, finally, there are the two volumes of Sex-O-Rama. The re-recordings of classic soundtracks such as I Like to Watch, Eruption, Behind the Green Door, Seka’s Fantasies, and Debbie Does Dallas. It’s a lively collection of funk, light jazz, and exotica from the Golden Age of Porn.

Those not ready to become members of the cult movie soundtrack collectors club have sources like YouTube to fall back on. Search for Porno Groove: The Sound of 70s Adult Films, Amanda by Night, Debbie Does Dallas, Sex-O-Rama 2, and Porno Sonic.


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