Home >Specials >Obituaries >James Last, the last king of easy listening

There was a time in India, going back decades now, when deprived lovers of music were sure to find the records of one band in music shops. That band was James Last and his Orchestra. Dozens of their albums would wink cheesily from dusty shelves with their dog-eared colourful album covers.

That’s because James Last, the conductor and composer who has died in Florida at the age of 86, produced no less than 200 records—at the rate of two a month, reputedly, at the height of his golden career in easy listening. In Britain alone, he had 75 hits.

If you begin looking at his ‘discography’ section in Wikipedia’s entry, you would tire of scrolling down. Your index finger would ache on the mouse.

But have a listen on YouTube to anything by James Last and his Orchestra and a smile is sure to cross your face—just as surely as the crease of worry disappears.

The music’s clichéd, the arrangement over the top, the guitar chords are squeaky clean, the pan pipes sentimental, the accordion… well Mediterranean comes to mind, the bass notes are struck with care. Everything about James Last and his Orchestra is so easy, and so mesmerizingly happy.

It was too hard to come across a hotel whose lounge didn’t echo with the sentimental strings of James Last and his Orchestra. And if ever there was a band to close dance to, it was James Last and his Orchestra.

And the names of his albums, what names! Non Stop Dancing 65, Happy Hammond, Trumpet A Go Go, Hammond A Go Go, Beach Party, Polka Party, Midnight in December, Guitar A Go Go, Humba Humba Party, Gentlemen of Music, and so appropriate this one, James Plays Abba.

Critics will carp. One reportedly called his music “accoustic milk porridge." But porridge never made you smile.

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