Monthly Archives: November 2006

’60s Filipino pop music

Like other Asian nations, much of the ‘60s pop music, and many of the personalities, of the Philippines came from the country’s own stylized version of Western cinema. Still, as far as the pop music scene of ‘60s Metro Manila goes, it’s rock ‘n’ roll records that I think of as the galvanizing force. Imported by US servicemen stationed at Clark Air Force Base and Subic Naval Station, and played on Armed Forces radio, I imagine the impression such records might have made on the Filipino teenager, and I imagine, too, a city a bit like the pre-Beatles Liverpool of the late ‘50s. The records were hard to come by, the musical instruments were impossible to come by, and, by virtue of its scarcity and the music’s exotic energy and excitement, the fascination with rock ‘n’ roll was born.

Commensurate with a rising wave of activism and civil unrest in the Philippines – and a growing awareness of Filipino cultural identity – rock ‘n’ roll assumed more countercultural tones as the 1960s wore on, coalescing finally as Pinoy Rock in the late ’60s. It’s the earlier forms of ’60s Filipino pop music that are surveyed very noncomprehensively this week on Office Naps, though.

The amazing Pinoy Classic Rock site was indispensable in writing this week’s post.

1. Eddie Peregrina & The Blinkers, Blue Eyes (D’Swan)
Singer Eddie Peregrina seems to be best remembered for his tearjerking ballads. Here with his band the Blinkers, however, the harmonies, stinging fuzztone distortion, and rough ‘n’ tumble production are reminiscent of a ‘60s American garage band doing their Yardbirds impression.

The Blinkers were Salvador “Buddy” Yap (bass), Edgardo “Bee” Morelos (rhythm guitar), Max “Boy” Alcaide (drums), and Edgard “Eddie” Peregrina (vocals, lead guitar, and organ). I would guess that they recorded “Blue Eyes” in 1968.

Eddie Peregrina apparently died in a car accident at age thirty, sadly.

2. Vilma Valera, I Got You (I Feel Good) (Jonal)
In Philippines show business it seems that, as an actress in the movies, you would also sing in the movies.
A popular actress of ‘60s Filipino cinema, Vilma Valera audaciously reworked this early James Brown dance floor hit as part of her performance for Boogaloo, a movie made in 1968. (Check out this fantastic lobby poster for it.)

Vilma Valera recorded several albums before her retirement from show business (and marriage to American Air Force commander Darrell Arthur Morrow) in the early ‘70s. She now resides in Sacramento, California.

3. Helen Gamboa, Shing-A-Ling Time (Jonal)
This is a cover version of the Liberty Belles’ girl-group soul anthem. It’s a big, brassy discotheque bombshell with Helen Gamboa, Filipino superstar, at the helm.

“Shing-A-Ling Time” was performed for 1968’s Shing-A-Ling-A-Loo – one of a suite of pictures from that year starring Ms. Gamboa.  (Other names included Bang-shang-a-lang, Let’s Go Hippie and Operation: Discotheque.)

As with her colleague Vilma Valera’s “I Got You,” the arranging and conducting was handled by the enigmatic D’Amarillo, who, if these two selections are representative, seems to have been the Philippines’ equivalent of hip ‘60s soundtrack composers like Lalo Schifrin and Quincy Jones.

Gamboa later married Vicente Tito Sotto, popular Filipino congressman and himself a former film and music personality.

4. Ronnie Villar & The Firedons, El Tomador (Mabuhay)
England’s Cliff Richard was one of the first Western rock ‘n’ rollers to break into the Asian pop markets, albeit with somewhat polished form of the music. The Shadows, Richard’s backing band, recorded separately as an instrumental combo, and they, like their American counterparts the Ventures, were quite the pop phenomenon in Asia as well. It’s their enduring “Apache” which is rendered here in a dramatic derivation by Ronnie Villar & the Firedons. The Firedons have that same sense of melody and precision, but carry the characteristic “wet” echo sound of the Shadows to wondrous extremes.

In addition to vocalist Ronnie Villar (who obviously did not appear on this), the Firedons included Willy Villar (lead guitar), David Llorente (rhythm guitar), Cesar Llorente (bass), and Waldy Cruz (drums). I’d guess that “El Tomador” was recorded around 1963.

Posted in Miscellaneous Flotsam | 13 Comments

The Desert

In the early 20th Century, arthritis-addled citizenry sought relief for their maladies in the warm, dry air of the desert. Decades later, Carlos Castaneda-addled graduate students set forth in the name of academic discovery, getting really, really baked in the warm, dry, visibly oscillating air of the desert. It’s always been a good place to disappear, the desert, and a good place to transform yourself, too.

1. The Sound Offs, The Angry Desert (Era)
Theirs was a vision of the Desert Southwest as a place where angelic choruses called wordlessly, a place where organ and relentless wind and surf guitars convened, a place where bad maracas went to die.

In reality, the Sound Offs were probably just another group of studio musicians from Los Angeles, that epicenter of 1960s pop culture. Having availed themselves of the latest in fuzztone technology and thunderstorm sound effects, the Sound Offs put it all to expert use in 1963 for this atmospheric instrumental.

2. The Desert Rats, Sohonie (Mink)
You finished reading “On the Road” and now you’re determined to have your own road trip into the American Southwest,
your own communion with the spirit of American freedom and adventure. Wait until you run out of gas on some godforsaken stretch of Death Valley. Wait until you’re just another picked-over pile of calcified bone on the desert floor. You do whatever you want. I’ll be at home, listening to “Sohonie” instead. Two guitars and a cymbal. That’s all I need.

The Desert Rats were another mystery instrumental group. And, like the Sound Offs, I’d also guess that they recorded “Sohonie” in Los Angeles, circa 1963.

3. Tommy Strange, Purple Desert (Shamarie)
“Purple Desert.” It goes barrelling forward like some runaway train, all demon runs up and down the piano keys, and winds up, upright-piano-style, in some
Olde Western Saloon.  Well, now – that’s basically a John Ford movie.

Tommy Strange recorded “Purple Desert” in Fort Worth
, Texas, circa 1964. Aside from that, it’s a complete unknown. The flip side is a boozy mid-‘60s country tearjerker.

Posted in Instrumentals/Surf, Miscellaneous Flotsam | 8 Comments

Bagpipes

The mechanism of the instrument – a bag, fundamentally, directing air across the pipe’s reed within the instrument, the holes on the pipe allowing precise notes to be played – can be traced to different regions of Europe, Africa, and Asia, but most people naturally associate bagpipes with the military music of the Scottish highlands.

The real miracle of the bagpipes, though, this strange contrivance of tassles, pipes, and the bag, wedged like a pillow under the arm, is that they produce anything, let alone their drones and otherworldly reels of sound.

Its mysteries and precise origins aside, I take it as further evidence of the 1960s as jazz’s creative and commercial zenith, that two unique jazz musicians – Rufus Harley and Duke Payne – were able to transcend the instrument’s popular associations, if for only a few choice releases.

1. Duke Payne, The Bottom (M and M)
Layers of percussion, a vibraphone, a Hammond organ and peals of wah-wah guitar are all here in this dense, reverberating exposition of psychedelic jazz. And there it is, too: the sound of the bagpipes swirling around unmistakeably in the mix. The bagpipe, capable of sustained, uninterrupted drones, is heard to spectacular effect on “The Bottom,” a late ‘60s release on one of Chicago’s finest indie R&B and jazz labels, M and M records. (See Red Saunders Research for an excellent overview and discography of this fascinating label.)

Artee “Duke” Payne is probably best remembered today for his forward-thinking saxophone and flute work with Odell Brown and the Organ-izers, an excellent ‘60s soul-jazz combo (see Larry Grogan’s survey of Odell Brown material here). Payne is also part of what’s great about post-war Chicago’s community of musicians and the proliferation of tiny record labels that serviced them. With plenty of work to go around, it was a community that seemed to encourage the exchange of ideas and a spirit of freewheeling adventure.

As of at least 2005, Duke Payne was still performing and actively playing the bagpipe.

2. Bros. in Co-op, Listen Heah (Bunky)
It starts out its brief life as a straightforward vamp on “Listen Here” – an Eddie Harris composition that’s the essence of hip ‘60s jazz commercialism. With the introduction of the bagpipes, however, “Listen Heah” is transformed – the bagpipes are no less hip, just a completely different kind of hip – and transformed yet again with another set of bagpipes (presumably overdubbed).

The bagpipes we hear are again the handiwork of Duke Payne. Little is otherwise known about the Bros. in Co-op; I would assume that they were Chicago jazz musicians assembled by arranger (and future ‘70s R&B; superstar) Donny Hathaway for a one-off session, circa 1968 or ’69.

3. Rufus Harley, Bagpipe Blues (Atlantic)
Often mistakenly referenced as jazz’s only bagpiper, Philadelphia’s Rufus Harley is, with numerous guest appearances and five albums released between 1966 and 1972, the instrument’s most visible emissary. He’s also, as far as I know, the bagpipe’s true originator as a jazz instrument.

As the story goes, Rufus Harley was already a professional saxophonist when, inspired by the Black Watch pipers at John F. Kennedy’s televised funeral, he decided to have a go at the bagpipes. The bagpipes aren’t really the sort of instrument one just picks up on a whim; it’s to Harley’s credit that by 1966 he’d released one of Atlantic Records’ top-selling jazz albums, and was himself appearing on national television dressed in full Scottish regalia, wringing the hell out of his bagpipes – just like the Black Watch three years earlier. His “Bagpipe Blues,” a jazz march (vaguely reminiscient of Benny Golsen’s “Blues March”), is the title track of his debut album, and it seems appropriate that this was also the album’s lead-off track. Several years of marshalling his energies and here was Rufus Harley, a black jazz musician in a kilt, with bagpipes. It reads like the opening salvo of a creative mind marching into battle against squares, skeptics and snobs.

Rufus Harley passed away in August 2006, a proponent of jazz bagpipes until the very end.

Posted in Jazz Obscura | 13 Comments

Bay City Rollin’

(Ed. note: A terrific guest post this week courtesy of O-Dub, well-known to many of you as the proprietor of the one best and longest-running music blogs out there, Soul Sides.)

I don’t remotely profess to have a very deep collection of Bay Area soul/funk 45s. I leave that to my friends like Justin Torres or Matthew Africa. That said, as the place where I spent 16 years living and more importantly, became a DJ, writer and record collector, I do feel an affinity with the soul tradition that came out there, especially given how so much of it flew under the proverbial radar for many years. I pulled out three selections: two recent acquisitions, the other an all-time favorite.

1. Sugar Pie DeSanto: The Whoopee (Brunswick)
No doubt, someone will astutely note: but uh, Brunswick wasn’t a Bay Area label. This is true but DeSanto was most definitely an artist who became associated with the Bay (even if she was born in the BK). Normally, I would have been tempted to post “Git Sum,” a fantastic track she put together for Oakland’s Jasman Records. However, I had never heard “The Whoopee” until recently and it’s another great soul cooker from her. Personally, I really want to see how this dance is done but as she says, we won’t really know how to do it until the Sugar Pie do (with mini-skirt no less). Yowzers.

** I just learned recently that Sugar Pie suffered a devastating loss: her house caught fire and her husband died trying to put it out. Not only has she lost her house but also her life partner. People are in the process of trying to set up a way for donations to get to her. More info available here. **

2. Eugene Blacknell: The Trip (Pts. 1 & 2) (Boola Boola)
The 7″ everyone used to want by Blacknell was “Gettin’ Down” and sure, it’s a good funk 45…”massive breaks,” that sort of thing. But in terms of the go-to 7″ I’d want to use in the middle of a DJ set, I’d grab “The Trip” first, every time. The elements here are superb: gutbucket guitar, a chomping bass, tireless drumming and that bank of horns that pushes the groove on, relentlessly. Did I also mention the “massive breaks” in the middle? The 45 has parts 1 and 2 split in half on the 7″ but I stitched them together to create a more seamless song.

3. Pi-R-Square: Fantasy (Pts 1 & 2) (Wee)
Hands down, not only my favorite Bay Area 7″ but possibly my favorite 45, period. For a long time, it was a Holy Grail single amongst collectors though in recent years, it’s become far less obscure but that hasn’t diminished its singular excellence one bit. I’ve tried to describe it before but it’s difficult to articulate just how sublimely awesome this whole single is. The way it builds, transforms, takes you on this nine minute trip that you never want to get off of.

–O-Dub (Soul Sides)

Posted in Soul | 20 Comments