Hong Kong Beat Swings Sixties Hong Kong – Side 4

Side 4 Swinging Sixties Hong Kong – Yeah Baby! Featuring a number of great self-penned tracks as well as some excellent covers and rearrangements –

  • First off, ‘God of Song’ Sam Hui penned Merseybeat influenced ‘I’ll Be Waiting’ from his band, The Lotus. Strains of the Beatles’ ‘All My Loving’ along with some very nice close harmonies and Georgesque guitar licks
  • Joe Junior’s turn for a self-penned offering ‘A Letter from Susan’. The opening made me think of The Who in their Tommy era, then it bops along as a nice US bubblegum pop tune
  • Teddy Robin and the Playboys cover the Monkees huge hit ‘I’m A Believer’, with Teddy doing a fair impression of Davy Jones. This guy could really twist his voice around different styles
  • Next is a beautiful summer-of-love like beat ballad from the Sons of Han. I wish I could find out more about this band other than just that they recorded on the Diamond Label, and wish I could track down this tune. It’s an absolutely stunning effort if it was a locally penned tune. The song information credits “S. G. Tebbutt” but that draws a blank with all kinds of search combinations, as does the song title ‘Suspended Love Affair’ – the only search hit being by the Sons of Han. Deserves much more recognition
  • Michael Remedios and the Mystics offer a really good cover of soul singer Garnet Mimms’ upbeat gospel-fused 1968 Verve label hit ‘Stop and Think It Over’. Remedios really had a good voice for soul music, sounding a little like Jackie Wilson in this performance
  • Kong Ling (江玲) smashes the 1950s country ballad by Les Paul and Mary Ford ‘I Really Don’t Want to Know’ into the swinging sixties with a great swinging chacha-tinged rearrangement. Elvis also did a fine cover of this tune but doesn’t get close to the infectiousness of Kong Ling’s foot-tapping, finger-snapping and head bobbing version. Don’t forget to catch the slick piano work on this track
  • D’Topnotes go Hawaiian with ‘Love to Dance (Hala Hala)’, a lau-inspired-chacha-esque song written by their father, legendary Shanghai and Hong Kong band-leader, Lobing Samson. Guaranteed to get the aunties at the wedding dinner on the dancefloor!
  • A bluesy cover of the Rolling Stones ‘Heart of Stone’  from The Downbeats, with a decent Jagger-style vocal and nice guitar work that I reckon would make Keith Richards take a listen. Couldn’t find out much about this talented Filipino band who seemed to like to cover Stone’s tracks, perhaps because lead singer, Pepe Smith, was known as ‘Mick Jagger of the Philippines’
  • Another band with little available information about them, Mod East, offer a self-penned tune ‘Stranger to Love’ that has some rhythmic and vocal echoes with Peter and Gordon’s Lennon-McCartney penned ‘World Without Love’
  • Another self-penned track, this one from Anders Nelsson with his band The Inspirations. Some nice piano work, drum fills and use of fuzz box on this US garage-rock style tune ‘What Can You Do’
  • The Fabulous Echoes, fronted here by their Sri Lankan singer Cliff Foenander, who delivers a perfect vocal on this cover of 1961 R&B doowop classic by The Jarmels ‘A Little Bit of Soap’
  • Final offering is perhaps the cream, and one of the few Hong Kong sixties self-penned tunes in my personal all-time favourites playlist, a dreamy Beach Boys-inspired surf ballad with lush harmonies penned by Denis Yu of Joe Chen’s band The Menace, titled ‘On The Isles’. This is definitely one to put on repeat, slip on the shades and grab a cool drink or two while relaxing next to the lapping waves

Side 1 can be found here, Side 2 here and Side 3 here

When I arrived in Hong Kong in the second half of the 70s, Cantopop – with artists such as Sam Hui, George Lam, Roman Tam, Teresa Teng – was already rising as a genre of Cantonese-language western-influenced 1960s soft-pop music – think The Carpenters, Fifth Dimension and so on. Even the ‘harder’ sounding songs were softer rock from the likes of the Beatles – ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Michelle’ are probably still two of the most requested, and murdered, songs in any karaoke lounge with anybody over 40. It seemed the one sole rock band of any popularity at the time was Beyond, singing a kind of Hong Kong garage rock that took its influences from American rock and folk music – perhaps not surprising with the influence of US rock music during Hong Kong’s time as an R&R spot during the Vietnam war.

In the 80s the genre exploded of course with the arrival on the scene of huge artists like Anita Mui, Leslie Cheung, Leon Lai, Prudence Liew, Priscilla Chan, Sandy Lam, and others, adopting musical influences as wide as disco, folk, rock and synthpop. And so the Golden Age of Cantopop was born. I have two other blogcasts highlighting music from these eras can be found in the blogcast archives.

It came as a bit of a surprise when I started to DJ here in the 80s and began to dig more into the oldies from Hong Kong’s music past to satisfy older local clients. While cha cha and ballroom styles were still popular at that time with most people over the age of about 30 – and still are – I discovered that Hong Kong in the 60s had enjoyed a swinging and rocking scene, incorporating styles from UK beat music, US garage rock and psychedelic folk, alongside sweet Mandarin songs from the 40s and 50s and swinging jazz updated to the modern style.

The cause of this was of course influence from overseas on one side. Hong Kong had a huge Chinese diaspora all around the World – and you can still find village elders who’ve returned after decades overseas speaking with a Liverpool, Essex, or New Jersey accent – and on the other side there had been a massive influx of people from all nationalities and race decamping from post-war China. This brought to Hong Kong a number of highly accomplished Chinese ballroom singers, Macanese and Filipino band leaders and musicians, all coming together in the melting pot that was Hong Kong at the time.

While a lot of recordings from the time have been sadly lost, the sterling work of RTHK DJ Ray Cordeiro, who holds the record as the World’s longest working DJ and was a key mover in getting these artists and their music onto the radio in the 60s, and later entertainment impresario Anders Nelsson who grew up in Hong Kong, has helped keep these names and their music alive so that there’s a rich vein to tap into, so much that Hong Kong Beat’s tribute has been split into three 30ish-minute long sides.

Acknowledgement to Long Distance Voyager for fascinating insights about the Fabulous Echoes

Hong Kong Beat Swings Sixties Hong Kong – Side 3

Side 3 keeps swinging with more of Hong Kong’s 60’s English Pop Wave, featuring

  • The Anders Nelsson Group. Anders Nelsson was also the founder and member of 60s bands The Kontinentals and later 60s group The Inspirations. A US born Swedish national who grew up in China and Hong Kong, Nelsson possibly represented the eclectic mix of nations and music styles that defined the English music scene in Hong Kong at that time more than anybody else, and he later became a leading local music and film industry figure, and music impresario. He was one of the few musicians to be writing his own materials in those days but is probably better known to most Hong Kong people as a movie and TV ‘baddie’
  • Tony Myatt, a 1960s Hong Kong radio DJ, covers Jeb Stuart’s 1962 R&B twister ‘I Betcha Gonna Like It’. Tony went on to host radio shows in UK including BBC Radio 2’s ‘Nightflight’ and Capitol Radio’s ‘Topless Tone’
  • Kong Ling with an infectious twist version of Eartha Kitt’s ‘Somebody Bad Stole De Wedding Bell’
  • The Fabulous Echoes with a nice swinging soul version of  Barbara George’s 1960 US R&B number 1 and Billboard number 3 hit ‘I Know’
  • A soulful ballad rendition of José Feliciano’s Tom Springfield-penned song ‘Adios Amour’ by Macanese/Hong Kong band The Mystics
  • Fabulously smouldering version of Them’s ‘Gloria’ by Teddy Robin & The Playboys, with Teddy doing a passable impression of Van Morrison
  • Danny Diaz & The Checkmates cover the Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs rock n roller ‘Ring Dang Do’
  • The Satellites with a nice swingy cha cha-ish version of Ray Charles’s ballad ‘No One To Cry To’. Can’t find anything else about this band unfortunately
  • Hong Kong family group of four sisters and one brother, The Reynettes, with a high energy live recording of Fontella Bass’ ‘Rescue Me’. You can really feel the energy on the dance floor with this one
  • The D’Topnotes, possibly the best known Filipino family music group of Hong Kong 60s, with a skating and back-dropping cover of Jackie Lee’s northern soul classic ‘The Duck’, complete with cheesy sound effects
  • Joe Junior with his second band the Side Effects and a swinging cover of Pete Seeger’s anti-war folk anthem, made famous by Peter, Paul and Mary, and the Kingston Trio
  • Hong Kong British singer Marilyn Palmer covers Shirley Bassey’s ‘Kiss Me, Honey Honey, Kiss Me’. Sung in a kind of Connie Francis style, it was a huge local hit for her, exactly hitting the ever-popular Hong Kong penchant for cha cha and still gets enthusiastic cha-cha-heels out on the floor even today.

Side 1 can be found here and Side 2 here

When I arrived in Hong Kong in the second half of the 70s, Cantopop – with artists such as Sam Hui, George Lam, Roman Tam, Teresa Teng – was already rising as a genre of Cantonese-language western-influenced 1960s soft-pop music – think The Carpenters, Fifth Dimension and so on. Even the ‘harder’ sounding songs were softer rock from the likes of the Beatles – ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Michelle’ are probably still two of the most requested, and murdered, songs in any karaoke lounge with anybody over 40. It seemed the one sole rock band of any popularity at the time was Beyond, singing a kind of Hong Kong garage rock that took its influences from American rock and folk music – perhaps not surprising with the influence of US rock music during Hong Kong’s time as an R&R spot during the Vietnam war.

In the 80s the genre exploded of course with the arrival on the scene of huge artists like Anita Mui, Leslie Cheung, Leon Lai, Prudence Liew, Priscilla Chan, Sandy Lam, and others, adopting musical influences as wide as disco, folk, rock and synthpop. And so the Golden Age of Cantopop was born. I have two other blogcasts highlighting music from these eras can be found in the blogcast archives.

It came as a bit of a surprise when I started to DJ here in the 80s and began to dig more into the oldies from Hong Kong’s music past to satisfy older local clients. While cha cha and ballroom styles were still popular at that time with most people over the age of about 30 – and still are – I discovered that Hong Kong in the 60s had enjoyed a swinging and rocking scene, incorporating styles from UK beat music, US garage rock and psychedelic folk, alongside sweet Mandarin songs from the 40s and 50s and swinging jazz updated to the modern style.

The cause of this was of course influence from overseas on one side. Hong Kong had a huge Chinese diaspora all around the World – and you can still find village elders who’ve returned after decades overseas speaking with a Liverpool, Essex, or New Jersey accent – and on the other side there had been a massive influx of people from all nationalities and race decamping from post-war China. This brought to Hong Kong a number of highly accomplished Chinese ballroom singers, Macanese and Filipino band leaders and musicians, all coming together in the melting pot that was Hong Kong at the time.

While a lot of recordings from the time have been sadly lost, the sterling work of RTHK DJ Ray Cordeiro, who holds the record as the World’s longest working DJ and was a key mover in getting these artists and their music onto the radio in the 60s, and later entertainment impresario Anders Nelsson who grew up in Hong Kong, has helped keep these names and their music alive so that there’s a rich vein to tap into, so much that Hong Kong Beat’s tribute has been split into three 30ish-minute long sides.

With thanks for much information from Hong Kong English Pop Music Blogspot

Hong Kong Beat Swings Sixties Hong Kong – Side 1

When I arrived in Hong Kong in the second half of the 70s, Cantopop – with artists such as Sam Hui, George Lam, Roman Tam, Teresa Teng – was already rising as a genre of Cantonese-language western-influenced 1960s soft-pop music – think The Carpenters, Fifth Dimension and so on. Even the ‘harder’ sounding songs were softer rock from the likes of the Beatles – ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Michelle’ are probably still two of the most requested, and murdered, songs in any karaoke lounge with anybody over 40. It seemed the one sole rock band of any popularity at the time was Beyond, singing a kind of Hong Kong garage rock that took its influences from American rock and folk music – perhaps not surprising with the influence of US rock music during Hong Kong’s time as an R&R spot during the Vietnam war.

In the 80s the genre exploded of course with the arrival on the scene of huge artists like Anita Mui, Leslie Cheung, Leon Lai, Prudence Liew, Priscilla Chan, Sandy Lam, and others, adopting musical influences as wide as disco, folk, rock and synthpop. And so the Golden Age of Cantopop was born. I have two other blogcasts highlighting music from these eras that can be found in the blog archives.

It came as a bit of a surprise when I started to DJ here in the 80s and began to dig more into the oldies from Hong Kong’s music past to satisfy older local clients. While cha cha and ballroom styles were still popular at that time with most people over the age of about 30 – and still are – I discovered that Hong Kong in the 60s had enjoyed a swinging and rocking scene, incorporating styles from UK beat music, US garage rock and psychedelic folk, alongside sweet Mandarin songs from the 40s and 50s and swinging jazz updated to the modern style.

The cause of this was of course influence from overseas on one side. Hong Kong had a huge Chinese diaspora all around the World – and you can still find village elders who’ve returned after decades overseas speaking with a Liverpool, Essex, or New Jersey accent – and on the other side there had been a massive influx of people from all nationalities and race decamping from post-war China. This brought to Hong Kong a number of highly accomplished Chinese ballroom singers, Macanese and Filipino band leaders and musicians, all coming together in the melting pot that was Hong Kong at the time.

While a lot of recordings from the time have sadly become hard to find, the sterling work of RTHK DJ Ray Cordeiro, who holds the record as the World’s longest working DJ and was a key mover in getting these artists and their music onto the radio in the 60s, and later entertainment impresario Anders Nelsson who grew up in Hong Kong, has helped keep these names and their music alive so that there’s a rich vein to tap into, so much that Hong Kong Beat’s tribute has been split into four 30ish-minute long sides.

Side 1 brings a mix of tunes infused with rock, pop, beat, and Latin influences, featuring –

  • The Thunders, a Macanese band and winners of the 1968 Star Show organized by HK-TVB channel who were, unusually for the time, writers of much of their own music with the self-penned ‘She’s in Hong Kong’ with echoes to the style of Freddie & The Dreamers to me
  • Giancarlo & His Italian Combo was a nightclub dance band covering Mina’s 1959 Italian jive hit ‘Tintarella di luna’. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen an elegant Chinese lady in her seventies twisting to this
  • Michael Remedios & The Mystics were another mostly Macanese band, one of the few bands playing soul music at the time. First offering a great cover of Arthur Conley’s soul burner ‘Sweet Soul Music’, in a medley with shout-outs to local English pop wave artists of the time. Second offering a faithful cover of Frankie Valli’s ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’
  • The Lotus was a Hong Kong band where it all kicked off for Cantopop and movie giant Sam Hui, with a dreamy cover of The Beau Brummels’ garage rock hit ‘Just a Little’
  • The Fabulous Echoes were a mainly Filipino group who later changed name to The Society of Seven and exported themselves to the USA in the late 60s. They were huge on the nightclub and recording scene often backing other artists, such as Kong Ling, in the Diamond Records studio. Here they are accompanied by English radio DJ, Tony Myatt with his self-penned song ‘Everybody Knows’
  • Teddy Robin & The Playboys, another highly influential Hong Kong group on the later music and film scene, covering The Knickerbockers’ one-hit-wonder, Beatles-inspired garage rock US hit ‘Lies’. Teddy Robin was a very versatile singer and could knock out great covers of most top singers of the time
  • The Zoundcrackers – an early success for Macanese music, TV and movie artist Joe Junior – here with a cover of Gary Lewis & The Playboys perky sunshine pop song ‘I Gotta Find Cupid’
  • Rebecca Pan Di-hua [潘迪華] one of the top Shanghainese singers and actresses who came to Hong Kong in the late 40s, and is one of those traditional ballroom singers who made the transition to a Hong Kong pop style. Here with a Latin-flavoured rendition, sung in English and Mandarin, of Cliff Richards and the Shadows ‘Theme For a Dream’ that I personally think is much smoother and inviting version than the original
  • Tony Orchez was a top Hong Kong DJ and singer who hosted a pop show on TVB in the 60s who went on to write film scores and had successful radio shows in Los Angeles and Singapore, here with a smooth cover of Dusty Springfield’s Bacharach and David penned ‘The Look of Love’. Some nice vocal phrasing and vibrato in his voice in this version
  • D’Topnotes was a family group consisting mainly of the children of former Shanghai-based Filipino band leader Lobing Samson, who had all moved to Hong Kong after the war. The non-Samson family group members would later form the successful Cantopop band The New Topnotes. Offering a catchily-tempoed cover of James & Bobby Purify’s 1966 soul hit ‘I’m Your Puppet’ here
  • Mona Fong (Li Menglan [李夢蘭]) who later became the wife of film mogul Sir Run Run Shaw and also known as ‘Lady Shaw’, was another top Shanghainese singer who came to Hong Kong post-war and was another of the ballroom singers to make the transition to pop style, later becoming a highly successful TV and film producer. To me, I think she had one of the best voices of the time and reminds me a lot of Sarah Vaughan. Here offering a lush big band cha cha version sung in English and Mandarin of ‘Bengawan Solo’, originally an Indonesian language penned song about the Solo River that became a hugely popular song with Mandarin lyrics among Chinese singers around Asia in the 50s and 60s.

With thanks for much information from Hong Kong English Pop Music Blogspot

Hong Kong Beat Raising Awareness About Our Home On Earth Day 2022

Many artists have written songs about how wonderful our planet is, many have written about the dangers it faces from human action and conflicts.

Again this year, Hong Kong Beat presents a collection of songs about our home hoping that these messages will reach out.

Hong Kong Beat’s homage to the humble cowbell

“I’ve got a fever and the only prescription is more cowbell!”

In uttering that line during the April 8 2000 epic Saturday Night Live sketch featuring Will Ferrell’s fictional take on the recording of Blue Oyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper”, Christopher Walken set in motion a super-meme that has been used in everything from TV shows and movies, animation films, charity events, to online games. Its use has become so widespread that Walken has bemoaned audiences shouting out “needs more cowbell” during his stage shows, and Ferrell has commented that he thinks it has probably ruined Walken’s life. Blue Oyster Cult also weighed in saying that they loved the skit and it has probably lessened the eerie nature of the original track.

According to Ferrell the skit was inspired when, hearing the cowbell played during the song, he wondered “what kind of life does that person have?”. Despite the widespread popularity of the meme, the song in fact has a very muted use of the instrument that was almost a staple of rock music in the 70s. Even the band members were unhappy with its use, with drummer Albert Bouchard – who, despite contrary claims, was the cowbell player – saying that they thought it sounded “like crap” and, in a similarity to the skit, it was their producer – David Lucas, not the skit’s ‘The Bruce Dickinson’ – who insisted on including it. It was kept in only after heavy modification with tape and being played with a timpani mallet to deaden the sound so it actually sounds more like a wood block than a cowbell. To me that adds to the humour as it parodies the prominent use of the percussion instrument in so many other songs of the time, and since.

So in homage to the SNL skit, the meme and BOC’s genre defining song, Hong Kong Beat offers this set for rockers who have the fever!

RIP Taylor Hawkins, a tribute by Hong Kong Beat

Sadly the World has said farewell to another leading musician at a too early age, Taylor Hawkins of the band Foo Fighters. As the band’s drummer since 1997, Hawkins was more than just the man driving the rhythm, he was as much the spirit and soul of the band as its founder and former Nirvana drummer, Dave Grohl.

Among the post-grunge parody of itself that a lot of rock music had become during the latter half of the 90s, the Foos were one of the handful of bands that stood out and shaped a sound that was both new and fresh as well as a throwback to the hard rockers of the 70s and 80s, Hawkins being a key component to that sound offering backing vocals and of course meaty beaty big and bouncy fills that challenge you to jump out of your seat and kick out the jams.

Always one to acknowledge his influences both in drumming and performance style, he pointed to a handful of drumming greats in various interviews. From 60s icon Ringo Starr to punk and new wave giant Budgie (Pete Clarke), there were many notable influences including Alex Van Halen who he covered at a school concert performing ‘Panama’; the late Neal Peart of Rush who Hawkins acknowledged had ‘provided’ him with some of his favourite ‘borrowed’ beats; Steve Perkins of Jane’s Addiction who, along with the stage intensity of Police’s Stewart Copeland and inventiveness of Phil Collins, had greatly influenced his performance style; and last, but not least, Roger Taylor of Queen who he described as “so visual, the ultimate in cool and collected”. After watching Queen at the age of 10, Hawkins realised that this was exactly what he wanted to do with his life. In one interview he recounted how the Foos were listening to Queen and David Bowie’s ‘Under Pressure’ on the car radio when Dave Grohl just turned around and said with a laugh, “Why are we even trying?“ While the final version of ‘Under Pressure’ was an organic collaboration between the band members and Bowie, it was based on a Roger Taylor composition ‘Feel Like’.

So, as tribute to Taylor Hawkins, Hong Kong Beat offers this collection of tunes by his influences alongside some of his own best.

RIP Taylor Hawkins, you will be missed.

Hong Kong Beat Celebrates St Andrew’s Day with some modern ditties by Scottish lads and lassies

Scottish music isn’t all about wailing bag pipes, reels and hairy folk singers, there’s also a great wealth of pop and rock music by many artists from the country.

Hong Kong Beat would like to help Scots men and women the World over celebrates St Andrews Day 2021 with an hour of contemporary songs from the past 40 years by some of the best artists the country has produced.

Arrr! Talk Like a Pirate! Hong Kong Beat shivers the timbers for International Talk Like a Pirate Day

Avast landlubbers! Gather’round n lissen ee t’tales n’ shanties o derrin do, treasure n mutiny, as ye swig yer ale n’ rum, dreamin’ o’ sailin’ t’riches with Cap’n Morgan or the dreaded Blackbeard.

Started as an in-joke back in 1995, Talk Like a Pirate Day has become an international parody celebration, one that hasn’t been shanghaid by Hallmark, where adherents growl arrr at people they call matey and threaten to keelhaul any scurvy dog who dares to cross them, like pinching their parking space.

There’s a curious romance and escapism about the days of piracy – though the reality of a pirate’s life, fortunes and comeuppance was very different to the dreams of treasure, grog and a wench in every port. It’s like wanting to run away to the circus, but for jack-the-lads (and lasses) with a more adventurous and maybe blacker heart.

One thing everybody knows about life at sea are the shanties that were devised by sailors to help them through their backbreaking work or escape the hardships of life for a while in the tavern, so it’s no surprise that from a wealth of traditional music about life at sea there’s a lot of contemporary music and, given the nature of pirates, much of it adopts the a rakish and rebellious strains of heavy metal and punk.

N be warrrnd. ‘Tis not an Arrr-rated set o’ shanties!

Hong Kong Beat tribute to Charlie Watts, The Rolling Stone who gathered no moss

While Ringo was the Swiss timepiece of the Beatles, always playing ‘in the moment’, for the Stones Charlie Watts was The Moment, the slave driver behind Jagger and Richards. As reported by Keith Richards about a time in Amsterdam when Jagger called Watts “his drummer”, Charlie picked him up by the lapels, floored him with a punch and pronounced that he was nobody’s drummer but Mick was his singer.

Always immaculately turned out – on that Amsterdam occasion he was said to be resplendent, spick and span, in a Saville Row suit at 4 am! – he represented the poise and grace of the Stones as the counter-balance to Mick and Keith’s anarchy, both off stage and on.

Although it was not him on cowbell on ‘Honky Tonk Women’, his crashing intro on the floor tom and snare made the quirky off tempo cowbell iconic as a percussion intro or a vital addition to any rock tune. Without this as the yardstick, maybe Walken would have never pronounced “needs more cowbell”.

As a person who shunned the rock and roll lifestyle after breaking his ankle fetching a bottle of wine and who proclaimed that he never really got ‘it’, and that rock and roll was just dance music, you can hear his early jazz drummer influence on ‘Little Red Rooster’, and with a little improv evident during ‘Suck On The Jugular’.

Whether it was rolling on those floor toms, like on ‘19th Nervous Breakdown’, riding the snare on ‘Beast of Burden’, or simply riding on the rim of the snare and what was (probably) just a wood block on ‘Shake Your Hips’, he was ineffably the sound of The Rolling Stones and they were his frontmen.

Hailed by everybody, including his peers as “a true gentleman of rock and roll” Charlie will be missed and The Stones, forever how long they keep performing will never again be the same without him.

RIP Charlie Watts, one of the greats.