RIP Marvin Hamlisch

We Talk About Movies

English: Official Picture for Mr. Marvin Hamli...

Not just a rare EGOT, but an even rarer PEGOT (that’s with a Pulitzer as the cherry on top of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony), Marvin Hamlisch and his music is sure to continue to be loved sincerely by romantics and liked ironically by hipsters the world over, with varying levels of appreciation from all kinds of listeners in between. Still scoring films as recently as Soderbergh’s crime comedy The Informant! in 2009, Hamlisch’s range went from dark and heavy dramas such as Sophie’s Choice, to marshmallow-lite fluff like Three Men and a Baby. But what he’ll be most remembered for are his  passionate love themes. The movies and the artists chosen to interpret his songs may be all over the place in terms of artistry, but the melodies themselves are top caliber heartstring-tuggers all the way.

Hamlisch hit an early home run with the inevitable…

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Disc-o-vering Jay: Odyssey’s Jay Fonacier

Local music retailing store stalwart Odyssey’s top guy Jay Fonacier shares his spin on life in the biz of trading tunes

On Work:

I juggle twenty things in a day, It’s my personality and also my skill, I wouldn’t be happy just doing one thing. I’m way too hands on. In fact I wish I were doing some work right now.

On Music:

I’m a real music guy, growing up I used to spend my entire allowance on records. The love of music keeps me going because retail is really challenging. You have to get fulfilment from hearing about new bands, going to concerts, and seeing hit artists fly off the shelves.

On the Digital Future:

Being a child of the 1980s I’m not totally digital yet, CDs are still my favored medium, But I have a kick-ass vinyl collection and I still have the mix tapes I made for high school girlfriends.

Besides piracy, our greatest challenge these days comes from digital downloads. We try to make the store and the products more attractive so people keep coming in. But I’ve been spending a lot of my time preparing for a digital future. We’re putting up our own download site and introducing these interactive digital kiosks into our stores. Now you can listen to an unlimited amount of music before you buy. It’s the start of an evolution to an age where everything’s more digital.

I look forward to a future where a customer would come in and he could browse through the whole catalog, choose whatever he wants, and we produce the CD for him. Since it’s all bits and bytes, it really does away with our problems regarding inventory. We could have a fantastic store where we just beam music into your portable music device.

Worst case: Nobody buys physical product anymore and they’re all downloading it for free. Nobody pays for anything digital

Best case: We’ll be there with the most popular format that the market consumes music and media in the future

On Piracy:

I think that the pirates have a pretty comprehensive offering. They’re quite creative and resourceful, I have to give them that. They have a good idea, it’s convenient. But we want to improve upon that, to offer something that’s more exciting, but legal. As the Philippine economy progresses, there should be less tolerance for piracy.

If I had my way I’d crush them under a steamroller with me driving while wearing a hardhat. They’re freaking playing dirty. I’d bury them under all the fake CDs they’ve produced. Or I’d force them to listen to really bad 1980s heavy metal, hairspray American guitar rock like Poison and Nelson.

On the Music Business:

The market is really primarily a hot hits market, it’s not very deep or into multiple genres. There are times when we tried all these titles, but they wouldn’t sell. We really have to focus on our high inventory, high turnover popular products.

A major record label may have a total of around 20 new releases out in a month, but they’ll only let 3 or 4 trickle down to the Philippine market, the rest will never hit our shores because of shipment issues. I’d like it to be more like the book industry where you can release a greater variety of material and see what really catches on. The bottleneck is the distribution policy of the major labels. Being able to release more product for the ears is what I’d really like to change.

We don’t have many niche radio stations. With the internet hopefully more people get to hear more kinds of music and the labels will be ok with trying out more vanguard, exotic titles and categories, and there’d be more radio stations for the independent listener. Hopefully they make it easy for us retailers to show them this variety. We’re only reacting to their policy that we have to keep it mainstream.

I’m happy with how some of these local indie record labels have been coming up. People have been asking after them. We want more bands of that ilk to succeed.

When there’s a certain title we really want to push, we’ll rack it out and make sure that even a blind person won’t be able to not check it out. Sometimes we’ve been successful.

You gotta support local artists. There’s this whole OPM resurgence. People think that these corporate juggernauts make so much money but that’s not really true. These guys take a lot of risks, I respect what they do. They take a bet on twenty artists and only a couple will bear fruit. Digital sort of takes out the risk in that. It’s important to show bands our support through legal means, whether physical or digital. If you guys love your music you should take a stand. Keep the ecosystem going.

Profits aside, if I could go crazy I’d just stock the stores with so many genres. Let them be a place where anybody could come in, from the coolest Brit bands to all these Brazilian samba labels. I’ll just pack them in with everything, with something for everyone.

-interview by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved. first published in Manual magazine, 2007

We Talk About Movies

Over at Encore’s World of Film and TV, Andrew is hosting a blogathon about movie scenes featuring “the splendor of cinematic rain”. Here is my submission.

The rain is such a multi-sensorial experience that visuals alone don’t seem to do it justice. I ended up thinking of scenes that didn’t just show the rain but married it to music gorgeous enough to evoke that exquisite feeling of wet, cool drops falling on your skin and soaking into your clothes, or the even more exhilarating sensation of running through a wall of water.

This scene can be considered the climax of Alfonso Cuaron‘s sorely underappreciated adaptation of Dickens’ Great Expectations. In one long tracking shot, helmed by genius cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (before Malick snapped him up), and lushly scored by Patrick Doyle, the camera follows Ethan Hawke‘s Finn (a.k.a. Pip in the original) as he runs through the rain…

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Crash Chords: Rock the Line

Pinoy Rock, or Filipino Rock, is Rock music – Pinoy style, Made in the Philippines,  Original Filipino Rock Music. The words may be in English or whatever language, but the sound is pure Pinoy.

Timeline of Pinoy Rock

Pre-Rock Age (The Stone Age)

  • “Combos” roamed the scene, bagging nontraditional instruments like floor-bass bongos, maracas, and gas tanks
  • Bobby Gonzales – One of the first Filipino proto-rockers, major hit was “Hahabul-Habol”
  • Eddie Mesa – the “Elvis Presley of the Philippines”

The 1960s

Swingers’ Scene

Maria Cafra logo.

Maria Cafra logo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Instrumental bands like The Deltas, The Celtics, RJ & the Riots, The Technicolors, The Downbeats, The Hi-Jacks, and The Electromaniacs cropped up, spawning the first Filipino singer-songwriters
  • The British Music Invasion influenced a new breed of acts like Downbeats, Tilt Down Men, The Moonstrucks, The Dynasouls, and Bits & Pieces.
  • Rock culture arose in the wake of Woodstock producing acts like Circus Band, Maria Cafra, Anakbayan, Isang Kilo Band, Psyclones, Makati Avenue Blues Band and Juan De La Cruz Band

The 1970s

Classic & Psychedelic

The Best of Apo Hiking Society Volume 1
Apo Hiking Society (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Nationalism drove the rise in songs composed in Tagalog. Socio-political issues were hot topics for all artists.
  • Freddie Aguilar, Asin and Florante fused Folk with Rock.
  • Freddie’s debut single, “Anak,” became the most commercially successful Filipino recording in history
  • Apo Hiking Society, Anakbayan, Juan de la Cruz Band, and Banyuhay also came to the fore.
  • The term OPM (Original Pilipino Music) was touted.
  • Hotdog gave birth to the Manila sound.

The 1980s

Punks and Protests

Freddie Aguilar is a very popular folk musicia...

Freddie Aguilar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Enveloped Ideas

Enveloped Ideas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Protestors used song lyrics to vent socially relevant themes, like in the music of Gary Granada and the band Buklod
  • Freddie Aguilar’s Bayan Ko (My Country) was the unofficial anthem of the 1986 EDSA Revolution.
  • Joey Ayala at ang Bagong Lumad popularized Ethno-rock
  • Pinoy punk rockers like Betrayed, G.I. & the Idiots, The Jerks, Urban Bandits, and WUDS could care less about politics, it was all about the attitude
  • With The Dawn’s independently released single “Enveloped Ideas”, a New Wave of music dawned over the scene.  Unsigned struggling local bands like Deans December, Ethnic Faces, Identity Crisis, and Violent Playground gained cult status

The 1990s

Pop and Postmodernism

The rise of NU 107.
The rise of NU 107. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Parokya ni Edgar at a live performance
Parokya ni Edgar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • Introvoys and After Image ruled over the early 1990s
  • Then in 1993 the Eraserheads released their first commercial album, Ultraelectromagneticpop and the decade was defined.
  • Rivermaya emerged as a worthy challenger while Yano persisted in mining the sociopolitical schtick.
  • The NU Rock Awards gained cred as the awards to pursue
  • Wolfgang and Razorback muscled into the Metal sceneOn their heels followed Nu Metal mutineers Greyhoundz, Cheese, and Slapshock.
  • Novelty rockers Parokya ni Edgar began to hit it big

The 2000s

Pretty and Pogi

Barbie's Cradle's Barbie Almalbis, Wendell Gar...
Barbie’s Cradle’s Barbie Almalbis, Wendell Garcia, and Kakoi Legaspi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • The upsurge in popularity of Hip-hop, R&B and covers saw hard rock go dormant at the start of this decade.
  • The commercial success of Bamboo and Orange and Lemons got labels interested in bands and song-craft again.
  • Cute singer-songwriters such as Barbie Almalbis and Kitchie Nadal gained fans of all persuasions while the “good-looking” front-men of Cueshe and Hale broke out as the new breed of matinee idol.

More stuff at

-compiled, adapted and edited by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved. first published under music column Crash Chords in Manual magazine, 2006

Crash Chords: Playing Along (music & sports)

Cover of "Bring It On (Widescreen Collect...

Cover via Amazon

Extreme singing anyone? Maybe popping a neck ligament while belting power ballads can now be classified as a sports injury.

Sports and music go together like quarterbacks and cheerleaders. That’s why I’m starting off with the much-acclaimed cheerleading saga “Bring It On”. From the pre-credits sequence to the training montage sequences to the final competition, this film comes as close to perfection as possible. As far as I’m concerned, there have been very few moments where we get to experience that perfect marriage between sports, music, and cinema. And they’re all in “Bring It On”. Too bad the available soundtrack album doesn’t do justice to the gamut of music featured in the actual movie. It’s a major travesty that the two climactic cheer themes weren’t included, at the very least. But listening to cheer music is only half as cool without the perky visuals anyway. And “Bring It On” is worth experiencing in Progressive Scan High Definition and Extended Surround Sound Plus. If only for the extended version Toni Basil’s immortal cheer classic “Mickey”.

Ok, for those on a more “classical” bent, there are other great sports movie soundtracks. Baseball may seem to be the sport that lends itself easily to cinematic musical metaphors and bringing out a guy’s sensitive side. Right before he went on to work exclusively for Pixar, Randy Newman hit one right out of the park with his moving, evocative score for the Robert Redford baseball tear-jerker “The Natural”. James Horner’s “Field Of Dreams” score was a stirring home run as well.

Cover of "Brian's Song"

Cover of Brian’s Song

Brian’s Song” was the smash 1971 TV movie starring James Caan and Billy Dee Williams, that tells the story of Chicago Bears football player Brian Piccolo, his friendship with teammate Gale Sayers, and struggle with terminal cancer. The film struck such a chord that it got a theatrical release, a remake in 2001, and is considered one of the top “makes-men-cry” movies. The musical theme to Brian’s Song, “The Hands of Time,” composed by Michel Legrand, with lyrics by Marilyn and Alan Bergman, also hit it big.

Cover of "Ice Castles: Original Soundtrac...

Cover of Ice Castles: Original Soundtrack Album

On the other hand, what could be more girly (or gay) than ice skating? The 1980 movie Ice Castles wrung out a tender, tearjerking love story from the stirring whirl of Olympic Competition Skating. But it was its theme, the song “Looking through the Eyes of Love”, written by Marvin Hamlisch & Carole Bayer Sager and originally performed by Melissa Manchester, that struck gold, and continues to be a staple in other competitive sports such as talent contests, beauty pageants, and weddings.

Chariots of Fire (instrumental)

Chariots of Fire (instrumental) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Who else starts humming the melody that goes “tun tun tun tun tun… tun… tun tun tun tun tun…” whenever they go running? Footage of sprinters in slow motion was never the same again after the world first got a listen to the synthesized stylings of Vangelis’s Academy Award-winning “Chariots of Fire” soundtrack in 1981. A master of the Moog who was once asked to join the prog-rock band Yes, the Greek composer Vangelis crafted, in Chariot’s main “Titles” theme, a magnificent symphony to exertion, grace, and victory.


200 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

John Williams also took a shot at this goal by composing the Theme and Fanfare for the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics. The usual bombastic Williams style goes on to win a Grammy Award and becomes one of the best known (and frequently borrowed) musical themes for any Olympic Games.

Not to be left out, we Pinoys can unabashedly belt out our homegrown arena anthems with the best of them. These include the Sex Bomb dancers’ imaginative “Basketball” and Manny Pacquiao’s vanity track Para Sa ‘yo Ang Laban Na ‘To. Maybe in the next Olympics videoke could be one of the new sports in competition. That might just give us our best chances for a gold medal. But win or lose, we’ll do… what we have to do… and do it… our way…

-text by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved. first published under music column Crash Chords in Manual magazine, 2006

Crash Chords: Driving Beats (music to travel to)

Interstate Love Song

Interstate Love Song (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In this age where dubbing mix tapes has been largely usurped by burning mix CDs which is gradually being supplanted by composing MP3 playlists, it’s easier than ever to cook up a tailor-fit musical program to suit every activity. There’s little better than going all meta while on a road trip, plane ride or boat voyage and listening to songs about modes of transportation and travel destinations. There are old, reliable chestnuts like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” or “Get Here” (lyrically they’re practically the same song), “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane”, “Sailing”, or “Ocean Deep”; the usual FM radio suspects such as Sheryl Crow’s “Everyday is a Winding Road” or Stone Temple Pilots’ “Interstate Love Song”; Heavy Metal spark plugs like AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell”, Meatloaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights”, and Steppenwolf’s hog-rider anthem “Born To Be Wild”; or country classics like Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” and Hank Williams’ “Lost Highway”.

Hardcore travelers may choose to ditch the tunes and concentrate on the native sounds of their chosen location. But there are sure to be instances where cocooning one’s self in music, ANY music, will be much more preferable to snores or vapid chatter.

As far as I’m concerned, travel music has to be non-nauseating, non-irritating, and non-repetitive. You do NOT want to suffer from Last Song Syndrome while in transit. Nor do you want to develop a headache or a hard-on. So thematically, it’s best to stick to geography and commuting to keep your mind out of the gutter and in the right groove.

Deutsch: Logo

Deutsch: Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To set the scene, it’s useful to look to the continental landmarks such as “Africa”, Toto’s number one 1983 hit about their safari-slash-spirit-quest on the Dark Continent. Appropriately enough, this song was included in the soundtrack to Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Then there’s Men At Work’s 1982 wonder “Land Down Under”, which I think lay the groundwork for our future tolerance of Crocodile Dundee, Russell Crowe, and the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Folk icons Simon and Garfunkel are both patriotic and pensive in “America” their dramatic ballad to Western wanderlust. Paul Simon was also later inspired by that enduring mecca of musical Americana with “Graceland”.

The band named America on the other hand, burst onto the scene with “Ventura Highway” the lead track and first single from their aptly titled album Homecoming.  As recounted by composer Dewey Bunnell, the song is about leaving, escaping the cold Omaha winters by moving to California.

Artwork for Michigan by Sufjan Stevens

Artwork for Michigan by Sufjan Stevens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In terms of geographical ambition though, Sufjan Stevens just can’t be topped. With plans to come up with an album for each of the 50 United States, Stevens started off with Michigan, a collection of folk songs, instrumentals, and odes to the cities and landmarks of his home state that is loaded with vivid imagery, characters, and sentiments on faith, humanity, and hope for the future. Illinois explored even weightier subjects, including such native sons as serial killer John Wayne Gacy and poet Carl Sandburg, and ended up as one of the most highly acclaimed and awarded independent albums of 2005. Up next, fans are speculating between Oregon, Rhode Island, Minnesota, and Arkansas on the Sufjan state list.

Across the pond, Scottish band Ballboy penned the glorious strings-and-spoken-word piece “A Europewide Search For Love”. Set to swooning cellos and a shuffling beat, we hear front man Gordon McIntyre speak-singing verses such as “someone once told me ‘the world is moving because you are’, and tonight there are people travelling through Europe on trains, looking for something that they’ve never had before, wondering if they’ll find it and if they’ll recognise it if they do” in a warm Scottish burr that makes you want to line up for tickets to the Trans-Siberian railroad post-haste.

A personal favorite, the criminally underappreciated The Wedding Present, produced Mini – an EP celebrating the Michelin lifestyle, sort of like a more muscular and masculine musical version of Stanley Donen’s “Two for the Road”. Mini contains songs bearing such titles as “Drive”, “Convertible”, and “Sports Car”. These naughty rock confections feature enough fun raspy engine noises to get one’s motor running and drive purring. The Weddoes’ most recent album, Take Fountain, was greatly inspired by front man David Gedge’s own transatlantic/transcontinental romance thus featuring tracks like the jangly “Ringway to Sea-Tac”, the dense epic “Interstate 5”, and the bouncy “I’m from Further North Than You” (formerly entitled Edinburgh).

On the OPM front, we can always hum “Tayo na sa Antipolo” while taking Ortigas Extension or belt Sampaguita’s “Laguna” as we cruise down SLEX. Just a parting suggestion, if ever The Amazing Race producers were to look for a new song to base the show’s theme on, may I respectfully propose the Flaming Lips’ “Race For The Prize”?

-text by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved. first published under music column Crash Chords in Manual magazine, 2006

Crash Chords: A Line In The Sand (beach music)

junior kilat

junior kilat (Photo credit: RainHeart)

Hey Jude‘s Boracay, photo by Jude Defensor

There’s no better way to get into the mood for writing about beach music than actually going to the beach! So naturally, I’m off to Boracay. On the ride from Kalibo, I happen to be seated right in front of a set of speakers blaring the Visayan reggae of Junior Kilat. The band’s front man Budoy Marabiles seems to have gained instant nationwide notoriety through Celebrity Big Brother, even if in the Visayas his wacky cable TV magazine program on small-scale industry called “Ismol Tym” has already made him a media icon for years. Junior Kilat brings to life the legendary Sigbin of Cebu’s lower mythology through their in-your-face dub/reggae act. The band’s live performances are notorious for their crazy energy and madcap antics. Reggae maybe be familiar to most for its down-to-earth arrangements and carefree message, but Junior Kilat adds droll humor and complex issues to their atmospheric sound, the upshot is a true island original.

Boracay’s DJ Manster. photo by Jude Defensor

Upon arriving at Boracay’s blessed White Beach, it was time to drink down the sunset over at Hey Jude’s while chilling out to the soundtrack spun by island DJ extraordinaire, Manster. The night-time hours faded into a colorful blur and before I knew it, I was brunching at d*mall, munching on a Mozzarella Burger over at Byte Club, and reflecting on the patron saint of beach dudes, Jimmy Buffet, and his cult hit “Cheeseburger in Paradise”. In Jimmy’s own words, “The myth of the cheeseburger in paradise goes back to a long trip on my first boat, the Euphoria. We had run into some very rough weather crossing the Mona Passage between Hispaniola and Puerto Ricoand broke our bow sprit. The ice in our box had melted, and we were doing the canned-food-and-peanut-butter diet. The vision of a piping hot cheeseburger kept popping into my mind. We limped up the Sir Francis Drake Channel and into Roadtown on the island of Tortola, where a brand-new marina and bar sat on the end of the dock, like a mirage.” Awesome.

Margaritaville-West German7''SingleCover

Margaritaville-West German7”SingleCover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Singer/songwriter Buffett has translated his easygoing Gulf Coast persona into a successful recording career and a business empire based on a lifestyle spent by the beach. With a core of Sun Belt fans he has dubbed the “Parrotheads”, and songs like “Margaritaville” hitting the Top Ten, Buffett’s tropical world view has earned him the throne of king of all beach bums.

It’s interesting to note how beach music (also called shag music) didn’t really have a point of origin. The carefree beach dances that used the name started somewhere – the beaches of South Carolina, where white kids had broken the color barrier as early as the 1930s by convincing local DJs to add rhythm and blues to their lists. Shag was one of those rare cultural events that picked its own music after the fact. When the 1960s rolled along, beach culture found its new epicenter on the Pacific coastlines of California and Hawaii.

Pet Sounds has been regarded as one of the gre...

Pet Sounds has been regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time and is one of the most universally-acclaimed albums in rock history. “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time”. Rolling Stone . November 18, 2003 . . Retrieved November 3, 2009 . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Beach-related or otherwise, the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds is one of the best albums ever, breaking ground for an impending wave of innovative and intelligent rock. The project was also a musical watershed in the studio craft of composition and production, featuring dense layers of gorgeous male vocals, keyboards and guitars overlaid with orchestrated strings, bicycle bells, harpsichords, flutes, the theremin, Hawaiian instruments, Coca-Cola cans, barking dogs, and more. Looking past the technical achievements, the songs themselves stand as classics, with brilliant melodies sustaining lyrical themes of love, innocence, spirituality and modern-day ennui. The album may be brimming with Brian Wilson’s hallmark idiosyncrasies, but its vocal harmonies remain pure Beach Boys.

Where else would we expect to find a wellspring of sweet summer pop than Australia, that lucky country of lifeguards. The Lucksmiths are an Aussie indie-rock trio turning out wispy folk-pop melodies that underline self-effacingly witty lyrics to cheery-poignant songs with titles like “T-Shirt Weather” and “The Year of Driving Langorously”.  Their eight albums are overflowing with lighthearted, good-natured, laidback but sharply written ditties concerning swimming pools, road trips, theme parks, summer jobs and summer stock, in a wistful, jangly style I like to call “breezy indie”.  They’re surf and turf and shrimp on the barbie with a slight dash of The Smiths.

Deutsch: Ballermann 6/(span. Balneario Nº 6) F...

Deutsch: Ballermann 6/(span. Balneario Nº 6) Foto: 22. Mai 2001, Lothar Velling, Disenyador gràfic, Espanya (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What have 600 years of progress since the Renaissance managed to cook up on Europe’s beaches? For Old Worldbeach culture, it has been reported that the seaside villages on the Balearic Islands of Spain are strictly separated by nationality. The Germans here and the English there and ne’er the twain shall meet. Ballermann 6 refers to one of the best-known clubs on the isle of Mallorca. Decidedly lowbrow and unpretentious, this mecca of mass tourism plays the most popular, trashy, summery music you can imagine. The English say that Ballerman 6 is where all the Germans go to get drunk at breakfast time and pass out in the noon-day sun to British music. Although it’s more accurate to state that what they’re really playing are mostly UK-produced remixes of old American pop songs (i.e. the Pet Shop Boys either riffing on or ripping off the Village People). While the Germans contend that when the English do have the good taste to write a whole new song for the occasion, it’s usually about some lofty theme such as rubber chickens.

-text by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved. first published under music column Crash Chords in Manual magazine, 2006.

Crash Chords: Listening In Shame (But Liking It!)

Cheese, glorious cheese. That’s what guilty pleasure music is all about. And I’m not talking about the dairy product. But a crazy mix of mushy, maudlin, silly and maybe even just plain stupid stuff that we all love anyway because gosh, we’re still human. Though there may be some tunes that are inherently tacky, cheesiness is predominantly an aspect that rests squarely on the lyrics side of a composition. To start off, I declare that the theme song to this article should be: “Bakit Ako Mahihiya?” (Why Should I Be Ashamed?) – the Didith Reyes-sung theme to the Gretchen BarrettoGabby Concepcion ST starrer of the same name (another guilty pleasure all to itself). If you’re willing to wallow in even more shame, watch this on a double bill with “Isang Linggong Pag-Ibig” (One Week of Love), named after the shamelessly entertaining immortal classic by jukebox queen Imelda Papin, and again starring the brazen Gretchen. Then sing along at the big finish.

Cropped screenshot of Bette Davis from All Abo...

Cropped screenshot of Bette Davis from All About Eve. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Past the Papin, the crown of top sentimental songstress was seized by Jessa Zaragoza for a few fabulous years. Built like a billion-dollar battle cruiser – with Betty Boop’s figure, Bette Davis’ face, and Boy George’s vocal range – Jessa further buttressed her unique persona by enunciating her song lyrics as if she were continuously sucking on a giant jawbreaker candy ball. Now I feel guilty just for writing all that.

GMA Supershow

GMA Supershow (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The 1980s was a decade we all wish we could do penance for. And I think some record producers are still praying novenas so that their souls won’t go straight to hell. Whoever thought up Timmy Cruz’s oeuvre is sure lucky that Timmy is doing Christian music at the moment. But back during her godless teenybopper years, her Taglish song lyrics never failed to tickle. Just imagine them translated completely into English and you’ll come up with something like “I love you boy, if you only knew. I’m really really annoyed with you.” And ain’t that a priceless sentiment? Please stop snickering. I’m sure you watched GMA Supershow too.

J.A.M Transit Nissan DVC-289 (fleet Nos 8180 a...

J.A.M Transit Nissan DVC-289 (fleet Nos 8180 and 8160) Ermita, Manila, Philippines. (Photo credit: express000)

Thanks to that show I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for Ms. Jam Morales (and some of her other co-hosts, most of whom couldn’t sing, but released albums and held concerts anyway). Partly because I thought she owned the JAM Transit buses. And partly due to that distinct throaty quaver in her voice and the buhaghag hair that make me think of her as the Irene Cara of The Philippines.

What a Feelin'

What a Feelin’ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Speaking of Irene, I’ll cop to angsting over “Out Here On My Own” and maybe uh, shuffling a few times to Flashdance (Oh! What A Feeling!), but admitting to doing anything along to the “Fame” theme is just too mortifying.

I’m militantly indifferent to rap music for now, but back in Grade 6 I knew the lyrics to Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby” and Andrew E’s “Andrew Ford Medina” by heart. And I was proud of it! I also really liked the stylings of local female rapper Lady Diane, she of short-lived “Saddam” and “Si Mario” fame.

The irrefutable precursor to rap (as affirmed by Rico J. Puno no less), songs with spoken word segments are another shameful preoccupation. I think I can trace my interest in this subset of songcraft to watching that scene in Superman where Lois Lane asks “Can You Read My Mind?” as set to John Williams’ score.

But my love affair with the spoken word was cemented by this heartfelt speech: “Hey, you know what paradise is? It’s a lie. A fantasy we create about people and places as we’d like them to be. But you know what truth is? It’s that little baby you’re holding and it’s that man you fought with this morning, the same one you’re going to make love with tonight. That’s truth, that’s love!”

Who doesn’t know this song and love this song and feel guilty about doing so? Since “Never Been To Me” tackled the rather weighty and controversial themes of abortion and prostitution, a few moral watchdogs took their interpretations of the lyrics a bit further and even mistook the word “fought” for a certain sound-alike four-letter word. Fans may be fascinated to note that it was originally written with Robert Shaw’s character from JAWS as its inspiration and with a male lyric.  It was only when singer Charlene began working with producer Ron Miller for her debut album on  Prodigal Records, that he re-wrote the lyrics to come from a female perspective. Strangely enough, when Ogie Alcasid remade this gem, he chose to retain the girly viewpoint. Why? Maybe only Michelle Van Eimeren knows for sure.

Admitting to a fondness for Pinoy Power Pop requires either extremely thick skin, a note-perfect appreciation of the concept of irony, and/or an official Jologs membership card. Down the road from where I live there used to be a beer garden with an open mike where you could jam with the band. Aegis songs were very popular among their clientele. A friend and I used to fantasize about showing up one night and just totally debasing ourselves by singing a medley of “Luha” (Tear), “Basang-basa sa Ulan” (Soaking Wet In The Rain), and “Halik” (Kiss).

I also really dig Orient Pearl’s anthemic “Pagsubok” (Trial). The really “malalim” (profound) Tagalog lyrics sung rapid-fire and with tons of conviction prick at my patriotic and power-ballad hungry heart for some reason. Try singing “Pagkabigo’t alinlangan, gumugulo sa isipan, mga pagsubok lamang yan wag mong itigil ang laban!” (Defeat and doubt, disturbing thoughts, they’re only trials, don’t stop the fight!) seven times fast!

Some people may find a penchant for soap opera themes particularly blushworthy, but I believe it’s their loss. They should try parsing the pathos and bathing in the bathos of the tremendously profound Anna Luna theme: Saan ka ba patungo? Bakit ka nag-iisa? Ang tangi mong karamay, dumi sa iyong paanan. At isang anino ng pag-asa ang iyong kaibigan. (Where are you going? Why are you alone? Your only companion is the dirt on your feet. And your friend is a shadow of hope). What could be more sublimely pathetic than that?

Then there’s the enigmatic but hopeful theme to Mara Clara, the soap that launched the career of the great Gladys Reyes. It goes: Ang buhay minsan, nakapagtataka, kahit ating sikapin na ito ay maiba. Sa bandang huli, babalik muli sa kung saan lahat nagsimula. (Sometimes life is puzzling, even if we try to change it. In the end, it goes back to where it all started). As if privy to the many secret twists and turns to be revealed throughout the beloved series, the theme song’s words drip with conundrums and double meanings.

Ok, so now that I’ve typed, saved, and sent you all this incriminating crap, will you editors please call the sniper off? He’s scaring my cats.

-text by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved. first published under music column Crash Chords in Manual magazine, 2006

Crash Chords: Good Vibrations (music for healing)

Sound is composed of waves, vibrating air particles that strike our bodies and ears, affecting our minds and flesh. Tuned to the right frequency, sound can influence our moods, thoughts, and health. And some scientific studies have proven that this is more than just new-age-y gobbledygook. It may not be possible to accurately quantify how much of a boost to one’s well-being good music can bring about, but I guess it’s alright to hope that the more tasteful tunes make for more effective therapy. Here are a few suggestions for albums you can put on to do yoga, get a massage, light a scented candle, or transcend this plane. Om, everyone.

Recognized as a landmark work in the modern instrumental genre, Natural States by pianist David Lanz and guitarist Paul Speer draws on the energy of the lush forests, dramatic waterscapes, and majestic mountain rages of the northern Pacific coast of the American continent. Building on a minimalist framework, Lanz and Speer layer tonal colors from jazz and rock, over which woodwinds soar and hover as grace notes. This spatial epic is a milestone in the evolution of New Age, ambient, and early progressive electronic music. The duo’s second collaboration, Desert Vision was meant to harmonize with the stark vistas and lingering sunsets of the American Southwest. Imbued with the vigor, subtlety and edge that characterize Paul Speer’s compositions, Desert Vision’s subtle and melodic soundscapes feature the strikingly delicate interplay between Lanz’s piano and Speer’s electric guitar. Desert Vision rises above most elevator music by evoking not just the splendor of the natural world, but also its dark and melancholy corners. These two albums would work best as a soundtrack to someone’s personal spirit quest, be it a road trip or a head trip.

Sweet Lullaby

Sweet Lullaby (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Deep Forest, the creation of French keyboardists and programmers Eric Mouquet and Michel Sanchez, treads the middle ground between world music and electronica known as ethnic fusion. Marrying traditional ethnic folk tunes with cutting-edge electronic beats, Deep Forest’s first hit Sweet Lullaby fused ambient techno with the chants of African pygmies. Their second album, Boheme explored the more temperate tones of Mongolia, India and Hungary, held together thematically by the voice of Transylvanian singer Marta Sebestyen, resulting in effectively eerie mood music for inducing trances. Comparsa continues with an emphasis on Latin and Caribbean grooves, lusher and edgier arrangements, and hushed vocals.DeepForest’s dance club roots align their tracks more toward enlightenment of a more physical bent, like power yoga or tantric sex.

With Sirens, Mychael Danna lives up to his work with such luminaries as Ang Lee, Atom Egoyan, Mira Nair, and Terry Gilliam to reign over the ranks of composers of what has been termed as “cinematic spacemusic”. Utilizing electric and pedal steel guitars, bamboo flute, and Scottish Highland bagpipes, the album sounds like a sonic stew of folk sounds from the Orient and the vast Canadian wilderness, rooted in the mysteries of the female psyche. Inspired by the unrelenting monochromatic greyness of the great Canadian skyscape, Danna’s Skys was originally planned as a suite of pieces for orchestra, worked out on an inexpensive digital sampling keyboard. Danna fixated on the sampler’s murky string sound, which conveyed precisely the mood he was looking for. In the final production, oboe, flute, cello, clarinet and trumpet were recorded live using classical musicians, but the digitized string section remains in all its rough glory. The resulting style is what he terms “orchestral romantic minimalism”, where short melodic/harmonic cells are repeated for emotional resonance, painting the immensity of the grim northern skies. Clearly, spacemusic is meant for spacing out, getting one’s head lost in the clouds and the heavens, gazing up at the sky and bidding the world goodbye.

-text by Jude Defensor, first published in Manual magazine, 2006

Sprouting Wood (an interview with Bamboo)

Bamboo, one of the best known Pinoy Rock bands...

Bamboo, one of the best known Pinoy Rock bands in the Philippines. Taken December 2006 by exec8 during their Christmas party. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The name Bamboo may have preceded the band, but it doesn’t necessarily define them. “The band comes from the chemistry of all the members, it’s like DNA,” says drummer Vic Mercado. “When you lose one member, it all changes. You can’t force it.” But Vic jokes that if they do need to replace their lead vocalist, they can always get the local equivalent of that “Coldplay” guy.

For a rocker who seems so spontaneous onstage, Bamboo Mañalac himself is a stickler for details and preparation, preferring to have everything planned and checked beforehand. So right now he’s rather wound up about their next project, which charts unexplored territory for the Filipino music industry. Even their big-gun record label, EMI, is still “making kapa” (feeling things out). What they’ve done is combine their first two albums, putting together all of the songs with English lyrics, and giving it a final edit and polish. Then they’ll be releasing the resulting album simultaneously in 6 countries around the region: India, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore, followed by a grand Asian tour. Bamboo could grow bigger than was ever thought possible for a Pinoy band. So we at Manual are glad we got them before things get too crazy.

When asked what music he’d like to pose to for the cover shoot, Bamboo cites Miles Davis, “basta negro,” he says without any hesitation. Vic theorizes that black music has extra soul because of the legendary size of their genitalia. He got to prove this for himself when he was left behind in LA and doing his laundry alone in a neighborhood shop. A homeless black man was sitting outside against the wall, getting himself drunk. Before Vic knew it, the man’s huge package was hanging out. Then the guy started playing with himself. This prompted Vic to speculate that the blacks’ gift for musical improvisation must come from down there. It turns out that the band found themselves fascinated by, of all things, LA’s laundromat scene. In La-la land, these temples to the washing machine provide other distractions such as arcade games, internet service, cafes, and even bars as an alternative to watching dirty clothes go round and round. The guys would observe seedy-looking Latinos hanging out, drinking bottles of god-knows-what concealed in brown paper bags, each character ripe fodder for a gritty tale. Bamboo recounts the time when he was doing his laundry in a shop somewhere in Melrose while the others were away. He then found himself in the middle of a brawl between a member of the Chinese Mafia and a Taliban terrorist, or so they seemed. There aren’t any laundry-inspired songs yet in the band’s repertoire, but you never know. The guys also found it great fun to play Dr. Phil-type self-help audiobooks on the long drives, the psychobabble would always get them to crack up laughing. It was also a blast to be able to crank up the volume on guitarist Ira Cruz’s collection of classic porn soundtracks, real premium boom-chicka-wow-wow stuff that you don’t normally get to appreciate while otherwise “enjoying” porn with the sound turned down low.

Bamboo describes his bandmates as “mga walang hiya” (shameless). They’d agree to get naked, if the situation called for it. If there’s one thing they’re never going to do, it’s to pose with their instruments, a concept they find too cheesy for words. They don’t really care about fussing with their appearance. While touring the US with glossier, more glamorous acts like The Strokes, Bamboo noticed that they were the only band who didn’t have a particular style. There’s Bamboo with his close-cropped hair, Ira with his tats and goatee, and bassist Nathan Azarcon’s impenetrably dark glasses. Hardly a cohesive look. They’re not saying never to being all made up or dressed up, just that they’ll never do it for the money. That’s a hard line to follow in an industry where commercial endorsement tie-ins are increasingly picking up the slack for weakening sales. But Bamboo is the band in the pole position now, and they’re not bowing out anytime soon.

-first published in Manual magazine, 2006. text by Jude Defensor, some rights reserved.

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