Filed under: Taiwan
This week, we have a guest post by my good friend Mack Hagood. Mack and I go way back – all the way to high school (which was a very long time ago). Every few years or so, we’ll lose touch, and then somehow our paths cross again. Besides his Far East Audio Review and managing the mysterious masked Asian A Go Go band Red Chamber, as well as occasionally touring with Pine Top Seven, he is working on his doctorate for Ethnomusicology at Indiana University.
Here’s a Christmas gift to Radiodiffusion listeners: two yuletide tracks from the Taiwanese 60s instro album X’mas A GO GO. I found this LP on a Taipei vinyl hunting trip I that chronicled on my now-defunct website, the Far Eastern Audio Review.
There are several outstanding features of this record, the first being the cover, which has become an integral part of my annual holiday decorations. Damn, these cats look sharp. The back cover features a cross emerging from a jolly wreath of holly and silver bells—nothing like celebrating a kid’s birthday with a foreshadowing of his eventual execution. Also interesting is the name of this band, the Blue Star Chorus–quite an odd name for a Ventures-inspired instrumental rock band. (I am certain that my translation of lan xing he chang tuan is at least literally correct, though the album doesn’t provide its own English translation of the band name.)
As for the Christmas music, we’ve got one standard and one curveball. First off is a sassy chug-a-chug take on “Silent Night, ” complete with slide guitar and vibraphone. Nothing silent or holy about this one.
Next, we’ve got “I Love to Whistle.” What is a 1930s show tune made famous by the likes of Fats Waller and Deanna Durbin doing on a Christmas album? Well, listen to the first four bars—sounds a lot like “Frosty the Snowman, ” right? Methinks we’re hearing the result of a little cross-cultural confusion. Perhaps one of the boys briefly heard “Frosty” in a Christmas context and assumed it was actually the older tune. Can’t say for sure, but really, who cares? Blue Star lays down some cool dueling guitar action, with one of the guitarists making a “stinger” sound that seems to be a Blue Star trademark.
This album was released in November of the 56th year of the Minguo calendar– better-known to Gregorian calendar fans as 1967–on Union Record (sic), a label probably best known in the West for its counterfeit Ronnie James Dio records.
Catalog number CMX-8015 on Union Record of Taiwan, released 1967.
Filed under: Taiwan
Cai Mi Mi & Five Petals Guitar Band were from Taiwan.
Taiwan is also commonly used to refer to the territories governed by the Republic of China (ROC) and to ROC itself, which governs the island of Taiwan. Taiwan is also currently claimed by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as a PRC province, though the government of the PRC has never controlled any of the current ROC territory commonly referred to as Taiwan.
There is little information about Pop music in Taiwan, especially anything that predates the 1980s. But, judging by records from the likes of The Telstar Combo, there was obviously something going on there. Although it does appears that many of the artists may have moved to Singapore, where they released records on labels that were based there.
According to mod-ifed music:
Cai Mi Mi, a Taiwanese singer, was a bright star in the late Sixties. In 1968, she led The Five Petal Group (an authentic girl band who apparently played all their own instruments!). “Mama Guitar” (also know as “Mama Get Me A Guitar”, which was covered by The Telstar Combo) was their biggest hit, and the group won instant fame when appeared on a popular television variety show singing the song. Interestingly, the original singer of this song was supposed to be Teresa Teng, but as she was overseas, Mi Mi and The Five Petals had the opportunity to record it.
I have seen Cai Mi Mi translated into English as Bai Mi Mi, Cai Mei Mei, Chai Mi Mi, Mi Mi Tsai and even Wai Wai Pai…
Thanks to Ho Chui-wa for the translation.
Catalog number LFLP 130 on Life Records of Singapore. No release date listed.
Filed under: Taiwan
The main island of Taiwan, also known as Formosa, is located in East Asia off the coast of mainland China, southwest of the main islands of Japan but directly west of the end of Japan’s Ryukyu Islands, and north-northwest of the Philippines.
In 1968, she became famous after giving a performance on a popular music programme in Taiwan, and released eight albums within the next two years. In 1973, she attempted to crack the Japanese market, taking part in Japan’s Kōhaku Uta Gassen, a year-round singing match of the most successful artists of that year, and won the prize for “Best New Singing Star”.
In 1974, with the song “Airport” (空港), she conquered Japan, where she remained a leading star despite a short exile in 1979 when she was deported for having entered on a fake Indonesian passport, bought for $20,000, a deception rendered necessary by a break in relations between Taiwan and Japan on China’s entry to the UN Security Council. Singing by now in Cantonese, Japanese and English as well as her native Mandarin, Teng was soon popular as far as Malaysia and Indonesia.
She was well known and her music was also hugely popular in mainland China despite the fact that the authorities had branded most Western music, including her music, as “decadent”. However, she was never to perform there. She performed in Paris during the 1989 Tiananmen student uprising, singing for the students and proclaiming her support for them and for democracy..
Teng died from a severe asthma attack while on holiday in Chiang Mai, Thailand at the age of 42 (43 by Chinese reckoning) on May 8, 1995. She is buried in a mountainside tomb at Chin Pao San (金寶山; translates to Golden Treasure Mountain), a cemetery near Jinshan, Taipei County in Taiwan. A memorial was built at the tomb with a statue of Teng and her stage clothes on display, with her music playing in the background. There is also a large electronic piano keyboard that visitors can play by stepping on the keys.
Thanks to Ho Chui-wa for tanslating the titles.
Catalog number LFEP 3102 on Life Records of Singapore. No release date listed.
Filed under: Taiwan
I could find no information what so ever on Wu Jin Lan, who was to the best of my knowledge, from Taiwan.
This record has almost no English on it, with the exception of the song titles. I scanned it in, and e-mailed it to Menghsin Cindy Horng, who I had corresponded with in the past about Asian pop music… But she couldn’t find anything either.
Thanks to Menghsin Cindy Horng for her help.
If you have any information, please contact me.
There is no catalog number listed, but “吴 SM-1“ is engraved in the vinyl. It was released on Four Seas Records. No other information is available.
Filed under: Taiwan
The Telstar Combo were from the island nation / renegade Chinese province Taiwan.
I have not been able to find out anything about the band, except that they were the backing band for a number of Taiwanese singers, most notably Hsieh Lei 謝雷.
After the initial posting, I found this bit of information about the label:
The record was put out by Haishan Records, the dominant force on the pop scene back then. Their roster included around 80% of the big stars of the 60s and 70s, but they got hit badly by financial troubles in the early 80s. Many of the employees jumped ship and started their own record companies. Haishan is still around, but it only puts out re-issues of the oldies.
Thanks to Mack at Far East Audio for getting this translated for me.
Catalog number SL-2081 on Hai Sahn Records of Taiwan. No release date listed.