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.