Romance, seduction, orchestral disco and public sex courtesy of Penthouse Magazine.
Without question, the finest collision of Penthouse magazine and LP records came with the release of the frankly astonishing Caligula soundtrack, but it wasn’t the first such experiment. In 1978, Penthouse ‘presented’ an album of sexy disco tunes called – depending on which release you bought – Pulsating Disco and Romantic Moods for Loving and Dancing or Let Me Be Your Fantasy.
The three tracks on the LP are credited to ‘the Love Symphony Orchestra’, though let’s not be mistaken here – this act was never going to compete with the London Symphony Orchestra apart from fooling easily distracted people picking up the album and not reading the name properly. Not that the Love Symphony Orchestra was a collection of amateur goons – among the members were a collection of experienced session players, including Gwen Guthrie on backing vocals and Andy Newark – ex of Sly and the Family Stone and later to drum on Pink Floyd‘s The Final Cut. But they were closer to Love Unlimited than any classical orchestra, in style and inspiration.
The three songs on the 28-minute album are a fairly interchangeable collection of anonymous disco numbers that have a vaguely sexy edge to them, and a weird desperation – there are probably few songs based around being sexually aroused by American football, but you’ll find one here. The songs, all co-written by producer Mitch Farber, are practically identical, save for the lyrics primarily sung by Diva Gray. But the selling point here was clearly the Penthouse connection, which seems to primarily consist of cover images. on the front of the album was the same soft-focus come-hither shot that graced the Girls of Penthouse VHS a few years later, while the gatefold cover and free centrefold poster that came with the original US release from Talpro Records were clearly more appealing than the actual music. But as the album cost more than an actual copy of Penthouse, it’s hard to think who would be buying it just for these nude photos.
The album had several global editions but was perhaps too anonymous a product to make much of an impact. Talpro and the Love Symphony Orchestra nevertheless followed up in 1979 with Penthouse Presents: Messdames Ce Soir, a record that immediately signalled its shoddy opportunism by misspelling the French ‘mesdames’ on the cover and featured covers of disco hits like Boogie Wonderland, We Are Family and In the Navy. With even less going for it creatively than the earlier album, this was essentially the end for the Penthouse music experiment – except, of course, for that notorious Caligula LP. At least the disco version of the Caligula theme tune that appeared on that LP makes more sense now…
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