One of my guilty listening pleasures is Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. They were hugely popular back in the 1960s, and continued to have hits into the early 70s. They were hard to categorize, straddling the line between light jazz and instrumental pop, although some cynics might dub their music as “cheesy” or even “easy listening”. While they were never considered innovative by music critics, the listening public loved the Tijuana sound and bought their records in droves. Tijuana Brass albums were full of deliciously addictive instrumentals — and once in a while a vocal (“This Guy’s in Love with You”) by Herb — that would always make you smile. For many of us who grew up in the 1960s, this music evokes tons of good memories.
The most famous of the Tijuana Brass albums was Whipped Cream and Other Delights. That album was packed with the band’s typical brand of peppy instrumentals, but what set it apart from the crowd was THAT COVER: a beautiful tanned-skin young lady wearing nothing but whipped cream (although legend has it, that she was actually covered with shaving cream), the froth barely covering her breasts. She was pictured gazing seductively at the camera, calmly licking whipped cream from her fingers. And let me tell you, back in 1965 when this album was first released, such an album cover was almost scandalous stuff!
For many years I owned a CD compilation of old Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass tunes called Classics (Volume 1), which contained 25 of the band’s most famous recordings. I still play this one a lot, but I missed listening to some of the original albums, so I’ve been going back and buying some of the original Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass albums on CD in past couple of years. Most of these reissues also contain extra material. The “40th Anniversary Edition” of Whipped Cream and Other Delights, for example, has two extra tracks that weren’t on the original album. The CD reissue also includes a fold-out poster of the famous album cover along with a 20-page booklet. I proudly taped my copy of the poster to the wall of my bookshop, next to the drinks menu (yes, we have whipped cream!). At least once a week someone will comment on the “Whipped Cream” cover, usually along the lines of “I used to have that on vinyl” or “My father used to have that album.” One recent customer, however, told us that “My grandfather owned that record!” What can you say to that, except, “Hey, we’re all getting older!”
In addition to that album, I picked up Going Places and South of the Border, two other excellent studio albums by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass with extra cuts. I also bought a copy of Lost Treasures, a collection of previously unreleased recordings. Released by the excellent Shout Factory label, the 22 tracks on Lost Treasures range from covers of classics like “Fire and Rain,” “Close to You” and “Tennessee Waltz,” to oddball takes on “Popcorn” and “Flowers on the Wall.” If you are a Tijuana Brass fan, this is an album you need to have.
The musicians in the Minneapolis band Soul Asylum were inspired by Whipped Cream and Other Delights, or at least the album cover, and in 1988 they released a six-song EP called Clam Dip and Other Delights — complete with a similar-themed cover, except that their model was a guy covered in gooey clam dip. Or maybe they used shaving cream too. The music, however, bore no resemblance to that of the Tijuana Brass.
And then there was perhaps the most bizarre Tijuana Tribute of them all: Colonel Sanders’ Tijuana Picnic. Yes, this was a real album released in 1968 on an obscure label called Mark 56 Records. I had a copy of this on vinyl back when I lived in Florida. I have no idea what happened to my copy, but suspect it was with stuff I had in storage that was eventually dumped. I recently saw a copy selling for $100 online! There wasn’t much in the way of information or musician credits on the album, but the music was practically a carbon copy of what was on the Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass albums. In other word: fun stuff. But the big appeal here is the crazy cover. The picnicking family look absolutely thrilled with their bucket of chicken, and seem oblivious to the famous white-suited chicken king sitting in their midst.