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 – Part 2

Side 2 of this offering of music from the English Pop Wave of Hong Kong Swinging Sixties, brings a mix of tunes infused with rock, pop, beat, and surf sound influences, featuring –

  • Another offering from The Zoundcrackers – an early success for Macanese music, TV and movie artist José Maria Rodriguez, known by his stage name as Joe Junior, here with a soft cover of ‘Once Upon A Time’ originally by Boston counter-culture group Teddy and The Pandas
  • Joe Junior & The Side Effects. This was Joe Junior’s band after the break up of the Zoundcrackers, here with a jangly beat cover of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich’s ‘We’ve Got a Good Thing Going’
  • The Magic Carpet. Can’t find much information about this sixties sunshine pop band, other than Uncle Ray has fortunately included them on his 101 collection of Hong Kong sixties hits, with this cover of The April Fools ‘Things Go Better With You’
  • Here covering Australian beat group The Easybeats ‘It’s So Easy’, Danny Diaz & The Checkmates, were a Filipino rock ‘band of brothers’ – Danny, Romeo and Rudy and brother-in-law Michael) – on the Diamond label and were highly successful on the Hong Kong scene after beating all other bands in the ’69 Levis ‘Battle of the Bands’ challenge. The Diaz family were all musicians and had a huge influence not only on the local music scene in the 50s and 60s but also on international pop music. As told by Danny Diaz, in the 1950s there was a soldier called Terry Parsons stationed in Hong Kong who was always getting into trouble sneaking out of barracks to hang out and sing with the Diaz family. That soldier won Radio Rediffusion’s Talent Time show several times and, at the urging of radio DJ Ray Cordeiro and the Diaz family, would take singing more seriously. After returning to the UK where, once his break came, that soldier would become known as one of the best if not the most perfect natural baritone voices of the time, Matt Monro. Thank you to the Diaz family for your influence!
  • Another superb song from Mona Fong (Li Menglan [李夢蘭]), swinging ‘Wooden Heart’ in a way that just made Elvis’ version sound, well, wooden
  • Kong Ling (江玲[Kong Yan Lai]) was one of the “Sweethearts of Hong Kong” singing in the Kowloon nightclubs of the 50s, and later recording with The Fabulous Echoes, here covering The Crickets ‘More Than I Can Say’ with a swinging cha cha style sung in English and Mandarin lyrics
  • Another from the Fabulous Echoes this time with Tang Kee-chan performing a Hong Kong take on Pat Boone’s ‘Speedy Gonzalez’ suitably modified to Hong Kong life with ‘Speedys’ part sung in Cantonese. Tang, known as “The King of Comedy”, was a well-known Hong Kong comedic actor and radio personality
  • Instrumental surf-sound influenced and garage rock self-penned TV show theme tune ‘Norman’s Fancy’ from Teddy Robin & The Playboys
  • The Menace were another HK Diamond Records band led by musician Joe Chen, another who went on to become a huge influence on the music scene in the Cantopop era, here with a self-penned sunshine pop song ‘Strawberry Sundae’
  • Another offering from The Mystics fronted by Michael Remedios, a psychedelic soulful version of New Zealander John Rowles’ epic power ballad ‘One Day’, with some lovely organ fills instead of the original orchestration and a highly creditable vocal by Remedios who was regarded as one of the top male singers in Hong Kong at the time
  • A swinging uptempo cover of the Mamas & Papas’ California surf-sound song ‘You Baby’ from the D’Topnotes
  • The Reynettes were a Hong Kong family group of four sisters and one brother, who were popular performing at many of the nightclubs of the time and in Singapore, and gave us maybe one of the most endearing – yet, to some, jarring – self-penned theme tunes celebrating sixties Hong Kong ‘Kowloon, Hong Kong’

Part 1 can be found 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 and acknowledgement to the 2019 ABC-CBN documentary project On the Record: An Instrumental Hong Kong Documentary

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!

The First Swing of the Axe – Hong Kong Beat selects favourite iconic rock songs

A single spotlight… A lone guitarist… The opening chord of a classic rock song… The crowd is instantly on its feet in recognition…

So many of the great rock songs start with an iconic guitar opening with nothing else except perhaps a lone cowbell or muted snare to accompany the guitarist, hunched in concentration over his guitar, lit by a sole spotlight… Perhaps it’s a driving riff or maybe just a sustained single note, maybe a big crashing sweep or an intricate pick, or an accident like Lennon’s feedback on I Feel Fine…

We all know our favourites. Instant recognition of the art of the lone axe man… and pure inspiration for the air-guitar heroes 😀

Hong Kong Beat presents just a few of our favourites in this 2 hour salute to the First Swing of the Axe.

Hong Kong Beat ends the year with a Retro Swing party!

Ever since people began going to Prohibition-era speakeasies and dance halls, a tune with a swinging beat has never failed to get the feet moving and the fingers snapping.

Since the revival of swing in the 1980s by big bands like Royal Crown Revue, Brian Setzer Orchestra, Cherry-Poppin’ Daddies, and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, younger musicians, DJs and producers have been inspired to dive into the vast catalogue of music from the past 90 years, combining it with hip hop, house and EDM, even Eastern European folk and klezmer music as electro-swing.

Tunes as diverse as charlsteson and ragtime classics, Latin mambos and tangoes, jazz staples, lindy hop, boogie woogie, and even 60s gogo, have been reworked, remixed, refreshed, and had electronic tricks and ballsy bass tracks added, to excite new generations of discos and nightclubs goers.

Hong Kong Beat presents an hour of electro-swing from a recent retro swing party.

Jazz… Nice.

 

50 years on, at the closing of Woodstock, Hong Kong Beat offers ‘Woodstock 69 – Missing In Action’

It’s said that Woodstock was remarkable, not for what happened but for what didn’t happen, the expected mayhem. As the festival closed to Hendrix’s never- to-be-equalled free jam of the ‘Star Spangled Banner’, nobody was thinking of what else didn’t happen, such as the huge bands that didn’t make it.

So, for your pleasure, Hong Kong Beat offers the Woodstock 69 MIA Festival of bands who were invited (or might or might not have been invited, some of the memories of organizers are a little fuzzy from back then) but either turned it down or didn’t make it. The song choices are of course mine, but as these were all songs in their catalogues from before Woodstock, it’s a good bet they would have been played, if they had been there. Continue reading to the end and click on Max Yasgur’s farm to go to the mix-tape.

The Young Rascals – They were big at the time and ‘Grooving’ was a summer of love anthem, but turned it down to work on their new album.

Tommy James & The Shondells – Another big summer of love band with ‘Crystal Blue Persuasion’, but turned it down when they were told “Yeah, listen, there’s this pig farmer in upstate New York that wants you to play in his field.”

Chicago Transit Authority – Were billed to play but their promoter pulled them out for a gig at Filmore West the same weekend, and substituted new act Santana instead. I loved CTA in those days, but thank you Bill Graham for pushing Santana’s breakout that weekend. I’ve seen Chicago twice, and Santana three times since then 😀

Blues Image – Another big band of the summer of love, but their manager convinced them not to play because of the rain and chaotic roads.

Jeff Beck Group – Booked but broke up week before apparently because he didn’t want Woodstock to be a memorial for the band.

The Byrds – Felt burned out by festivals already that summer and didn’t think it was going to be a big issue, together with concerns over payment. Later said they regretted their decision.

Jethro Tull – Ian Anderson had an aversion to “drugged out hippies” and was “put off by naked women, unless the time is right”, also saying he didn’t want to “spend the weekend in a field full of unwashed hippies.” Played Isle of Wight two weeks later though…

The Moody Blues – Were originally billed to play but had a clash with a gig in Paris.

James Taylor – Was considered but was under contract to the Beatles label, Apple, and his appearance didn’t pan out when the Beatles hoped for appearance fell through.

Joni Mitchell – Wanted to be there and was originally planned to play but her manager advised against it in case she missed the Dick Cavett TV show a few days after.

Simon & Garfunkel – Were invited but turned it down as they were too busy. Art was in the middle of filming Catch-22 and the duo were busy getting songs together for Bridge Over Trouble Water. They can be forgiven for missing Woodstock on both counts.

The Doors – Jim Morrison was reported to have agoraphobia and a fear of being shot. Later the band said that it was because they thought it would be a second class Monterey Pop Festival.

Spirit – They were an influential West Coast band of the 60s, who were headlining supported by Led Zep just a few months before (and who may have been the “inspiration” for ‘Stairway to Heaven’). Were invited but declined to instead launch a promotional tour.

Rolling Stones – Some reports say they weren’t invited because, when first approached, Mick said he was too busy filming ‘Ned Kelly’ in Australia. A huge mistake, on both counts.

Iron Butterfly – Billed and were on the way, but got stranded at the airport because of the roads to Woodstock being closed. Asked for a helicopter but the organizers didn’t want to pay for it, probably in case every other band wanted one (and by day one, they reportedly already knew they were in the hole for about US$1m!)

Frank Zappa – “A lot of mud at Woodstock…We were invited to play there, we turned it down.” Zappa later said he never regretted it as he loathed hippies. My selection of ‘Willie The Pimp’ was only recorded some time in July or August of 69 and wasn’t released until October that year, but it’s my bet that a raw free jam of the 9+ minutes song would have been one of the highlights of the festival, if Frank had taken the Mothers there.

Free – Turned it down for no known reason, but played Isle of Wight two weeks later instead. My theory is it might have been because they almost needed parental permission, as bass player Andy Fraser had only just turned 17 at the time!

Procul Harem – Were invited but were tired out after their own long tour, plus the impending birth of Robin Trower’s first child.

Pink Floyd – A bit of a mystery, were they invited or were they not? Accounts differ, even from reliable sources. Several reasons for not being there, first they weren’t invited (as they weren’t yet known in the USA); they were invited but were touring Europe at the time (true); they were invited but turned it down because as a band they were suffering issues, like Syd Barrett’s mental condition (also true); not invited because their kind of music didn’t seem to fit the billing, but I reckon 9+ minutes of  ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ would have made some of the “bad brown acid” pretty unnecessary.

Led Zeppelin – Were invited but were also headlining at a nearby festival that same weekend, and it’s said that their manager didn’t want them to share the line up with other bands. Rock stars? Egos? Nah…

Bob Dylan – Lots of reasons given, sick son, hated the chaos near his home near the actual Woodstock, originally intended festival site, but actually he set sail for UK on Aug 15th to play the Isle of Wight festival two weeks later.

The Beatles – Were supposedly asked (through John Lennon it seems), but as they had all but broken up and hadn’t performed in concert together for 3 years, it’s unlikely in the acrimony between them, that they would have reformed just for this. Other suggestions say Lennon was invited but thought his drug convictions would get in the way, whereas another theory suggests it was because his request for Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band to perform was turned down. As Lennon might have said “Imagine nearly half a million people singing ‘Give Peace a Chance’” What a missed opportunity.

Hong Kong Beat tripping with the Summer of Love at Woodstock 50 years on!

1969, The Summer of Love and Woodstock, 50 years on. Wow!

In this blogcast, Hong Kong Beat brings you a selection of tracks from the band set lists, in appearance order, from the three days of music and a dawning of a new age that, even though it wasn’t the biggest, best, or even the first music festival of its kind, it set down a marker in modern history of music and human culture.

At 14, it marked something in my life too, when on 15 August 1969 in UK, a friend of mine said he wanted to hitchhike there and I asked him how he hoped to get there in time and over the ocean. “Don’t be daft” he said, or something similar, “it’s at Woodstock, over near Oxford” (about 20 miles away from where we lived) – so, I learned that some people are dimmer than a burned out light bulb!

While it was all a bit mysterious to me at the time, it sent messages about music and its power to move people, something that struck a note with me as I had just had my first DJing experience a few months before, which led to my first kiss!

Peace out ✌️