Yer ferkin’ signature tunes, coz I dun loike the ways fings aer done ‘ere
Sunday 16 February 2014, 5.39am HKT
8.15pm local time, 13°C (55°F), cool and overcast
TO HELL with Valentine’s Day — either you got lucky … or back to the Vaseline with your girlfriend whose name ends in .JPG. Massage your pain to the rhythm of our signature tunes.
This is the long-awaited follow-up to the post “Burn your bridges before arriving there” (27 Jan 2014).
By the way, I’m totally sloshed with IKEA Akavit Snaps (Swedish schnapps) so this post isn’t gonna make much sense to anybody…
Explaining to the ‘unexplainable-to’
Like I said in my previous post, one of the top things I hate and detest about Hong Kong has always been the way It Gets Things Done.
Don’t get me wrong — The Hong Kong Way gets results — just that I don’t like how it gets those results. It’s uncool and, frankly speaking, insulting once too often to those on the receiving end.
Let me explain it to you this way.
Remember that oddball song “Ice Cream” sung by the Waring Pennsylvanians from the 1920s and then redone by some band in the 1970s? Unrelated to this post — just wanted to give that one a plug here, no special reason.
But srsly, if a place could be sung as a song — for instance, a pop song that could represent the national identity, the cultural psyche — then it’s something that reflects the people and society of that place at a certain point in time.
Many songs do exactly that.
To me, Don McLean’s American Pie IS the USA — followed in close order by Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A. and James Brown’s Living in America.
Those of you old enough to remember better or worse times might consider Jimi Hendrix “National Anthem” live at Woodstock 1969 (with ‘Mad Mike’ Borton on drums) to be the USA — and I’d back that 100% (because I’m also old enough).
Across the pond, Brits tend to be highly predictable in their unpredictability. That’s because EVERYBODY has multiple-personality disorder there. For a dispassionate pseudo-race, the British are oddly passionate at trying to ‘be diff’rent’ because that’s just so keeping up with the Jonses. So the whole plethora of British music (whatever the genre, including the fake genre of ‘indie music’) IS Britain.
For my money (and age), I’d say Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody is SO British that the average Brit can’t even begin to imagine. Or try Genesis, Siouxie and The Banshees and Bananarama — all able to drive anyone barmy, a highly characteristic British trait.
Also deeply appreciated are wildly alternative and fluctuating opinions, another quintessentially British trait.
Of course, stuff from the Bee Gees completely straddled both British and Australian psyches.
Dontcha hate my digressions, like in every post here
I don’t have time or space to get into signature tunes of the other countries, but you get the general idea now. Songs reflect the spirit of their own times but are open to multiple interpretations (even inturdpretashuns).
American, British and most other Western music are different — but not much. Taken as a whole, Differences in Western music is as different as somebody wearing a floral dress and another wearing a plain dress. It’s still a dress, with the hemline at different places.
To most Asians (especially Far Easterners), Western music is a different culture with different values.
On meeting a foreign or unknown culture, Far Easterners tend to interpret it through the stereotyped imagery FROM and OF its OWN culture and projecting that imagery onto that foreign or unknown culture.
I’m not saying that’s good or bad — it’s just IS like that.
Other than that, a Chinese dude really summed up the differences quite well, using American music as his example:—
“American music is strong. Chinese songs are only love songs, but American songs have various expressions. I think it’s a different culture, but I don’t hate it. I thought the members of Linkin Park expressed themselves, and it’s the expression that we don’t have in China.”
(By the way, I also find most Chinese people can’t relate to ‘Western’ culture unless and until it’s in terms of American ‘culture.’ Not saying it’s good or bad; it just IS.)
The way we honky-tonk and singy-song
If your musical/cultural fare is decidedly American or British laced with the occasional European bird-droppings, this is what pop music is like in other places.
Forgive me. Right now, I’m self-medicating with a brandy-glassful (345cc) of IKEA Akavit Snaps (schnapps), so the following might not make much sense to some of you. Or all of you. Like most of my posts anyway…
For the quintessential Hong Kong identity, it depends on who you ask. “Who you ask” being the operative words, because a lot of the noticeable discrepancies have to do with the place being the point where ‘East meets West.’
(It’s more like East meets PSEUDO-West, but that’s another story for another day…)
That being said, most Hong Kong Chinese persons will say the Hong Kong psyche is to be found in just about any ’70s-era songs by Hui Koon-kit 許冠傑, better known as Samuel Hui or just Ah Sam. Nearly all of this guy’s songs ARE the very stuff of the Hong Kong collective consciousness. Which explains his nickname The God of Songs.
Of special interest to shredders, Ah Sam plays mainly on Ovation guitars. (See my award-winning post “How well do you know your guitars.”)
(All links are YouTube. All transliterations Wade-Giles and Hong Kong traditional.)
Choi Sun Doh 財神到 (‘The God of Wealth Arrives,’ 1978)
(image via tj.focus.cn)
I effing challenge ANY Chinese-blooded person ANYWHERE not knowing this one. It’s virtually a meme. From the movie The Private Eyes (半斤八兩, 1976). Please, watch the video, even if you don’t get the lyrics.
Long Tsz Sum Sing 浪子心聲 (‘From the Heart of a Loafer,’ 1976)
By the way, ‘tsz’ is pronounced ‘chi.’ That’s Chinese faggotry for you. (Why not spell it ‘chi’?)
Most Hongkers (homegrown and overseas-raised alike) will recognise this Hong Kong musical icon, also from the movie The Private Eyes (半斤八兩, 1976). Ah Sam did an English-language sing-along version of it (called Drifter’s Song), which sounds remarkably like a Sixties flower-power song.
Yat Shui Gak Tin Ngai 一水隔天涯 (‘Water Over the Horizon,’ 1974)
If you want the total Hong Kong effect, this is IT.
Both the 1974 and the original 1966 versions are highly specific to the Hong Kong psyche and still tug at our heartstrings. The Chinese mainlanders can’t relate (and WON’T relate) — there being no two ways about it here.
Jor Kei (左几 ‘jor-kay’) penned the straitlaced original lyrics for the 1966 movie of the same name. The satirical version (lyrics by James Wong 黃霑) first appeared in the movie soundtracks of Naughty! Naughty! (綽頭狀元, 1974) and Games Gamblers Play (鬼馬雙星, 1974).
Of interest to hardcore music buffs:—
Lashed at the back end of Ah Sam’s satirical version is the schmaltzy 1971 Mandarin song Ai Ni San-bai Liu-shi-wu Nian” (愛你三百六十五年 ‘Love You for 365 Years’), originally by Hong Kong singer Yiu Soa-yung (姚蘇蓉) in her 1971 album of the same song name.
The Mandarin song itself is a James Wong remake of the 1969 Japanese go-go dance track Anata-ga I-nakute-mo (あなたがいなくても).
Mieko Hirota (弘田三枝子) first recorded “Anata-ga I-nakute-mo” for her 1969 Japanese ‘sister funk’ album Nin-gyō No Ie (人形の家 ‘Ballad of a Doll’s House’), and the song has been covered many times by Japanese and other singers. Score by Kawaguchi Makoto (川口真) and original Japanese lyrics by Nakanishi Reizo (中西禮三 a.k.a. Rei Nakanishi なかにし礼) as a loose interpretation of Marva Whitney’s 1967 “Unwind Yourself” (written by James Brown).
Why the music-buff interest? The Mandarin and Japanese tunes were popular among the Chinese-speaking community in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. So the ’Nam movie producers have messed up a bit here.
Ching Cheun Mung Leui Yaan 青春夢裡人 (‘Dreams of A Young,’ 1974)
Sounding remarkably more like an ’80s tune than one from 1974, this is a Cantonese remake of a Ken Tobias song and used in the movie soundtrack of Games Gamblers Play.
Be surprised at Ah Sam’s English-singing talents. He covered Ralph McTell’s Streets of London (1969) and sounded just like McTell himself except for the slightly faster tempo. In 1977, he covered Chris de Burgh’s 1975 A Spaceman Came Travelling (a favourite Christmas tune in the UK throughout the late ’70s) and sounded de Burgh enough to fool most people [LISTEN].
‘No money, no talk’
But none of the above are Hong Kong’s REAL signature tunes.
Any old Hong Kong pitbull knows full well that it’s Tseen Tseen Tseen Tseen (錢錢錢錢, ‘Money Money Money Money,’ 3:25 mins) from the soundtrack of the movie The Last Message (天才與白痴, 1975). Part of the chorus are the English words “No money, no talk” — quite frankly, stark naked realism as a description of the quintessential Hong Kong attitude.
Kind of like the Japanese attitude “no ticket, no laundry, sayonara” — which, at the very least, is a different idea in that the money had already passed hands but now you need the ticket to get back what you’ve put in.
This is where I spin out of control, like in every post
I know, I know — in nearly every damn post of mine I have some lame excuse to go off at a tangent, to the point the reader is forced to wonder DAFUQIZDIS to do with the main topic.
I don’t know, just enjoy DAFQQIN ride, I guess. Everythin’ spins outta control sooner or later…
Interestingly, Hong Kong’s official WESTERN signature tune is “Love’s Theme” (1973) by Barry White and Love Unlimited Orchestra — thanks to Cathay Pacific Airways’ TV commercials worldwide throughout the 1970s and ’80s. One helluva nice signature tune, the best that money could buy. It was also the airline’s own theme song.
Sorry, I didn’t buy the blimming’ WordPress upgrade to embed videos *Hic from the Akavit* so you’ll have to click the blimmin’ links.
Watch the 1980–85 TV commercials on YouTube (4:42 minutes) — one of the world’s top 5 most memorable airline commercials and definitely one of the most iconic advertising. Some of my school buddies thought I came from the 21st century because of the Cathay ads.
Here’s another one from 1983 (1 min) starring and narrated by Michael York, with a modified “Love’s Theme” in the background.
Then THIS flaccid 1992 Cathay Pacific spot as aired in New Zealand (1 min).
Here’s a mix of Cathay Pacific TV ads 1980–2008 (2:38 mins) with Love’s Theme superimposed — the images and music still work! One super-dooper testament to that song’s staying power as a signature tune — truly made Hong Kong “the world’s city.”
Cathay’s commercials only got beat by British Airways’ 1989 commercial (original full 90-second version), which ranks as one of the greatest ads ever filmed.
Other than that, you might remember this schmaltzy Continental Airlines commercial from the 1970s.
Watch Pan’s People (an all-girl dance troupe from the late 60s/early 70s) dancing to Love’s Theme (3:26 mins).
The Real McCoy Hong Kong Signature Tune
The Hustle … Hong Kong’s actual signature tune (image in my collection)
Kungfu fans will know Hong Kong’s actual signature tune is The Hustle (1975) by Van McCoy and the Soul City Symphony.
They KNOW because, back in the Disco Era Seventies, Hong Kong had two or three real American soul food restaurants. Jen-yoo-effing-wine soul food rest-joo-rantz, my giant funk soul brother. You have NO F*CKING IDEA how groovy those times were, with the Chinese locals traipsing around in AFRO HAIRCUT and blaxploitation flares.
You’d never thought we had stuff like that here, yeah?
You never knew, you never mothertruckin’ knew…
American servicemen of Vietnam vintage will sure to recall with great fondness Wanchai district (灣仔, literally ‘a cove’), which used to have these long lines of girly bars and hooker pads. U.S. Navy Shore Patrol ply the streets with Hong Kong constables in green safari uniforms trying to beat the shit about of grunts who just finished whacking V.C. Charlie for 12 months (or 13 months for U.S. Marines).
Of course, it also had these long lines of tailor shops that made U.S. military uniforms and sold replacement insignias, dogtags and medals (especially the Purple Hearts).
“Murica — F*ck Yeah!”
(You can tell I’m really a Vietnam War generation belonger. *Hic*)
Here’s the description to the photo above:
“82 Lockhart Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong, July 1972. As of 2009 (Google Streetview) that tattoo place still seems to be there, as does a later reiteration of the Neptune bar. When I left this place to head home, I didn’t even have a dime to pay the bus at the Los Angeles Airport — I had to beg one from another passenger. One of the girls from a bar I frequented came to the airport to see me leave, and actually paid for the taxi there! (Of course, I had paid her plenty too.) Thinking about this trip 40 years later, if I had a ‘re-do,’ I would have skipped Japan altogether, and gone straight here to Hong Kong. The days I spent here are still vivid memories — the other places I went have faded in my memory such that I can barely recall them.” (m20wc51 at Flickr)
You want to see more Seventies Hong Hong? Visit m20wc51’s Flickr stream.
(via Central Home)
Learn to do the hustle in this YouTube video (4:05 mins).
“First you have to understand that New York City is the birth place of The Hustle. If you talk to 10 different people from New York, you’ll get 10 different responses … but, … every one of those 10 New Yorkers will agree upon is that The Hustle started here, in the Big Apple. … Once Saturday Night Fever exploded on the scene in 1977, … the portrayal of Hustle in the film was nothing like what we were doing in the clubs of New York. To many of us purist Hustle dancers, the film was sacrilege and … A lot of us actually hated it because it was a caricature … But the rest of America bought it and the movie became a social phenomena.” (Central Home)
If you prefer to be taught by chicks, here’s a shorter, clearer step-by-step guide (1:54 mins).
Then there’s this whole cellblock of inmates in the Philippines doing the hustle (3:36 mins) as daily morning routine — a far better way to maintain order. They ain’t half bad either. Here’s the video documentary about it (20¼ mins).
*Does the Michael Jackson moonwalk to exit with the brandy glass in hand…* which is totally Eighties…
Wouldn’t you like to see ME doin’ the moonwalk…
© The Naked Listener’s Weblog, 2014. (B14038)
Updated 16 Feb 2014 (typo fixes) — it means I’m not afraid of making mistakes…