Life can’t be all hacking through the jungle with a machete or leading a team of frogmen in a suicide mission attempt to sabotage an enemy U-boat. Sometimes, you find yourself slipping out of your shoulder holster (don’t worry — you’ve got a Pistolet Makarova under the pillow…just in case), pouring two glasses of champagne, and lying an elegantly-attired (soon to be elegantly un-attired) other down on the carpet in front of the fireplace.

In these moments just before and during intimacy, there are two important things you must have in place. First, check your breath. Second, make sure you have proper love making music on the hi-fi. Most of us understand that assailing your intended intimate (or intimates — we are liberated peoples of the world, after all) with a face full of sour stout beer breath can kill the mood. But just as effective at ending an evening that shouldn’t end is filling the room with the East London Rhode Island Pomp and Circumstance Military Marching Band’s Salute to John Philip Sousa. Unless, I suppose the sousaphone is your fetish, in which case, do your thing, you beautiful freak! But for those lacking a John Philip Sousa turn-on, while that album may be fine for strip clubs, when you are in your home, hotel, or a lean-to on a deserted beach, it behooves you to indulge in something a little more sensual.

And while one can’t fault the swinger who relies on a bit of Marvin Gaye to set the tone, at this point serving up “Sexual Healing” is just a little bit predictable — though still less so than Barry White (the human embodiment of satin sheets). Knowing that you who read this site live a certain sort of lifestyle, it seems worthwhile to plumb the depths of continental cocktail music to assemble a selection of the most sultry audio aphrodisiacs for the steamy night of romance that will inevitably follow your day of adventure and intrigue. Not every track is entirely suitable for your erotic escapades — the occasional circus music sounding song does slip in from time to time, as do songs that could be described as “jaunty.”

But then…maybe that’s just a challenge.

Piero Umiliani — Tropical Quartet (Il Corpo, La Ragazza Fuori Strada, La Ragazza Dalla Pelle di Luna, Le Isole dell’amore)

Umiliani is the king of the sleazy listening erotic soundtrack. It was difficult to keep from making this list too Piero Umiliani-heavy, or just listing 10 great Umiliani joints. The man knew what he was doing. Il Corpo, La ragazza fuoristrada, Le Isole dell’amore, and La Ragazza Dalla Pelle Di Luna form an irresistibly lush triptych of erotic tropicalia. Is it a coincidence that three of those films star the striking Zeudi Araya Cristaldi? Each score is full of sweeping strings and ghostly female vocals that say so much without actually saying anything at all, anchored by Edda Dell’Orso, the be-all end-all of wordless female vocals. There’s also an undercurrent of tribal drums beneath the Euro lounge production, all there to help you maintain a steady rhythm that eventually crescendos in a frenzied, exhausted climax. Finally, there’s a touch of Martin Denny-esque exotica woven throughout, making for a positively hypnotic blend, and also a couple breezy “driving along the coast” tracks. These scores are fantastically potent and must be employed with either with extreme care or absolute abandon.

Piero Piccioni — Camille 2000

Radley Metzger’s stylish slice or erotic cinema is a grand accomplishment in pop art perversions, kitschy kink, and self-indulgent bourgeoisie decadence. One-time accused murderer Piero Piccioni — second, perhaps, only to Piero Umiliani when it comes to soundtracks of this nature — turns in a score that fits perfectly with the movie’s parade of elegant sleaze and ennui (ennui is important to the mood). If you’re up for a particularly adventurous or experimental night, this is the slice of wax to put on, especially if your night also includes wall-to-wall white shag carpet, a ceiling made of broken mirrors, walls covered in bubble wrap, an assortment of red plastic orb chairs, and a trapeze.

Pierre Bachelet & Herve Roy — Emmanuelle

Emmanuelle was my first dirty movie and, as a result, is still my favorite. The world it conjures from the pages of a saucy book written by a free lovin’ French diplomat and his libertine wife (credited to her, but no one believes that) is one of soft focus, wicker furniture (so much wicker furniture), and of course wild, polyamorous sex. I will admit that the charms of Pierre Bachelet’s score for the film were lost on me when first saw the film at the impressionable age of 10, in thrall as I was of Sylvia Kristel. But I’m able to revisit it now and find it a perfect example of early seventies sexadelica with a dash of raunchy porno funk bubbling to the surface every now and then. The theme song is a Serge Gainsbourg-esque masterpiece and so beautifully French, expertly invoking that glorious middle of a Venn diagram where meet sleazy and sensual. Mélodie d’amour chantait le corps d’Emmanuelle

Sonia Rosa — Golden Bossa Nova

If you’re putting together a library of music for love making and there’s no Sonia Rosa in it, you have done something horribly wrong. Her voice hovers somewhere between cute and bubbly, and breathy and sensual. The arrangements backing her are simple but effective, driven by guitar and strings. It sets the perfect, quiet state of mind. A beachfront hut or hacienda is a plus but not a must. Sonia will set the right mood no matter where you are. She also collaborated with Yuji Ohno, the cocktail lounge and jazz freak responsible for the music from the swanky, jet-setting Japanese anime series Lupin III. That particular collaboration, Spiced with Brazil, is not as well-suited for lovemaking, but if you need to make a quick getaway in your Citroën SM, I recommend having that one handy as well.

Stavros Xarhakos — Koritsia Ston Hlio

I stumbled across this one knowing nothing at the time about Stavros Xarhakosthe, a wonderful Greek composer who later became a member of the Greek Parliament, or the film from which this music is taken. That was something worth rectifying. The album cover is a thing of stark beauty — the white background, with a brilliant orange circle representing the sun, and a beautiful woman in a white bikini. Not buying the album was out of the question. Luckily, the music sounds exactly like the album cover. Breathy female vocals, strings, xylophones, even the occasional male vocalist. The whole album sounds like a sultry, sun-soaked European holiday. Sometimes sensual, sometimes aggressive, always hypnotic. This one proves that the Greeks could do sexy Euro lounge every bit as well as the Italians.

Bruno Nicolai – Philosophy In The Boudoir


When it comes to Italian soundtracks, Nicolai was a giant among giants, eclipsed only by his mentor and frequent collaborator, Ennio Morricone. As accomplished with horror and giallo as he was Westerns, action films, and sex pictures, truly he was the kama sutra of composers. Being the soundtrack for a Jess Franco films (himself a jazz fan of the highest order) loosely based on the writings of the Marquis de Sade, Nicolai’s score for Philosophy In The Boudoir meanders into some spacy, psychedelic territory…but then, so should your lovemaking. Sometimes things just need to get weird. If you’re at an orgy that involves naked go-go dancers, incense, and at least one guy in a Nehru jacket, then “De Sade 70” and “Drug Party” will be perfect. “Skyscrapers,” “Cheek to Cheek” (it being a Jess Franco film, which cheeks is open to interpretation — go wild!), and “Psycho Meeting” are more conventional if still exquisitely opulent examples of romantic cocktail jazz. There are, admittedly, some challenges. Marimbas and steel drums are not necessarily the instruments of passionate lovemaking, but during every orgy, you eventually have to take some time out for canapés and a gin and tonic.

Piero Piccioni — Swept Away

First, a word about the cover. Making love on a beach is not all it’s cracked up to be. But, like a LinkedIn account, it’s something you have to do anyway. That said, you might as well have the right music for the occasion. Piccioni delivers a slick mix of breezy strings and a bossa beat, with a couple guitar driven numbers that speak with a certain sadness — after all, the greatest loves need in them a dash of the melancholy and tragic. Lest it all become too heavy, however, Piccioni spices things up with more upbeat numbers like “Significa Amore.” All in all, this might be the most subdued of the selections in this list — there aren’t even any of the sighing female vocals that are the hallmark of so many of the greats in the genre. But don’t let that fool you. Piccioni may serve up some challenges, but just like making love on a beach, it’s worth the effort.

Nico Fidenco — Emanuelle Nera Orient Reportage

The “Emanuelle” with one “m” films are a fecund source of mood-setting soundtracks, but just as the movies sometimes veered wildly into bizarre and even unpleasant content, so too do many of the soundtracks meander from the sensual to the sleazy to the just plain weird. To make them work, you need someone with an open mind — the kind of man or woman who would live in the warped universe of the “Emanuelle” films, populated by nymphomaniac photojournalists, horny government officials, panting locals, cannibals, and occasional bearded religious messiahs. Emanuelle Nera Orient Reportage is the most consistent for lovemaking, be it in a bedroom draped in silks and mosquito netting, on the rough wooden floor of a ruea hang yao, or on the front lawn of your manor, in full view of an audience of scandalized prudes. Bossa nova, a flash of the tribal, plenty of organs and strings, and a toe from time to time in the world of acid folk and sleazy funk. As the movie is set in Thailand, there are also some stabs at ethnic Thai flourishes. “Emanuelle Nera O.R.” might throw you for a loop with its sort of goofy beat, but you’ll get through it. Laughter is good for lovemaking…as long as you’re not laughing from start to finish, and the other person knows why you are laughing.

Barigozzi Group — The Optical Sound

Studio session supergroup Barigozzi Group liked to get a funky and experimental from time to time, but then, so should you. This compilation of their best work contains some really beautiful, groovy stuff, great for your night (or day — who’s to say?) of passion, or maybe just for a drive in a smart sports car along a dramatic European coast. If you’re doing that, just be sure you are wearing a smart suit or a jaunty silk scarf and bug- or cat-eyed sunglasses. This is a slick one, with lots of organs, flutes, ethereal electronic doodling, and forays into African-influenced jazz-funk. You’re going to need a lot of energy to keep up. No wordless vocals, but the appearance of weird, psychedelic stuff like the Moog and a Mellotron adds an otherworldly mistiness. If you can’t make love to the outer space sounds of a Mellotron or a theremin, you have work to do.

Ennio Morricone — So Sweet, So Sensual

Making a list of proper love making music without including the undisputed master of the Euro soundtrack would be unforgivable. While there are many individual soundtracks from Morricone that fit the bill, this compilation is easily the most vigorously effective. Every track is there to set a mood romantique, with moaned and sighed vocals by the best moaners and sighers in the business. Play this album, and clothes will elegantly slide off human bodies without you having to even do anything. “Mariangela E la Seduzione” is practically an act of accomplished lovemaking in and of itself. What do you need: a theme for an erotic massage that becomes more? Morricone has your back. Something a little more psychedelic? Maybe something with an air of the gentle flower people writhing in a sun-dappled field? Morricone is there for you. Want to get a little dark, a little disturbing even? There is no situation in life for which Morricone has not prepared you. Along with the two Pieros, anyone who wants to properly set the mood needs to acquire a working knowledge of Ennio Morricone beyond the spaghetti western soundtracks — though if you can set a romantic mood with the theme from Death Rides a Horse, then more power to you.

Actually, now that I’m listening to it…