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Book Review: Wieng Kum Kam

Atlantis of Lan Na

This book is the result of research done by Chiang Mai resident Garry Harbottle-Johnson, who had originally intended making a map of the ruins of Wieng Kum Kam, but in his foreword he mentions how the work expanded as the historical details were uncovered. This book Wieng Kum Kam (ISBN 974-85439-8-6) is the result from that research. It is very much a Lanna effort, with the publication in Chiang Mai of the text this year and distribution being handled by Chiang Mai University.

The book begins with an overview of the Kingdom of Lan Na, the land of a million rice fields, with the reminder that all of the history of this region dates back 4000 years to the migration of the Tai speaking peoples, long before the advent of the civilization that now speaks “Thai”.

The author then takes you through the time line immediately preceding the founding of Wieng Kum Kam, with the meanderings and triumphs of King Mengrai and his sons. I found the lack of filial trust interesting, with family ‘back-stabbing’ being a favoured method of advancement, especially while attending funerals of previously incumbent kings! A parallel to the governmental coups in the past 50 years could be drawn perhaps?

Following the historical pages there are detailed descriptions of the 34 archaeological sites, with many maps and photographic illustrations. These are invaluable for the tourists who can at least find the major sites and what they contain.

The book finishes with more general history of the regions and the cities ruled by King Mengrai and then followed by some notes on Wieng Kum Kam today and a small bibliography.

The review copy was made available by the author and has an RRP of 225 baht in Thailand. As with all things historical there can be divergent bodies of opinion on the true “facts” of the case. After all, there is nobody left who knew King Mengrai personally, so it becomes difficult to refute or bolster arguments without some of the very latest scientific techniques now available to archaeologists. Even carbon dating is a somewhat expensive way to put an age just to ruins so that many people feel it is not really worth the time or money involved.

This represents an unfortunate state of affairs from many points of view. We are all the results of our histories and as such we should hold our heritage dear. From the point of view of tourism, there are visitors from the ‘new world’ whose society only goes back a couple of hundred years and who thirst after the experience of standing in a city many hundreds of years older than the oldest known artefact from their society. The UK has realized this long ago and actively restores and promotes historical sites, as do many countries in Europe. Perhaps the time is nigh when this will truly happen in Thailand. Garry Harbottle-Johnson no doubt hopes so. If this book is a catalyst in bringing this about, then it will all have been worthwhile. King Mengrai will thank you for buying this little volume.

Music CD Reviews: Sigue Sigue Sputnik

Blak Elvis vs The Kings of Electronic Rock And Roll

by Mott the Dog

**** 4 Stars Rating

Way back in 1986 were born a group with wild haircuts, attitude, claims of world domination, and hyped with slogans as “it’s easier to teach someone to play drums than to be thin,” and “the music is merely a soundtrack to the video.” Yes, Sigue Sigue Sputnik wanted it all and did not care how they got there. Signing for EMI for 4 million pounds, front page headlines in the Sunday Times even before a song had been released. A roller coaster that would not stop, or so they thought.

Well, after the much hyped first single “Love Missile F1-11” shot to No 1 in 15 countries, a Top 10 follow up single, a sell-out European tour, and Platinum selling album “Flaunt It” (that actually had adverts in between the tracks), things started to go rather quiet for Sigue Sigue Sputnik. The press backlash began and for the first time the Sputniks were no longer in total control of their own destiny and the brave decision to manage, write all their own songs, and control all their own marketing and press releases looked liked being the wrong one.

Unrest at EMI and poor marketing of the second album “Dress For Excess” and subsequent singles in 1989 resulted in Sputnik being kicked into touch (despite actually selling more than 1 million records) and to be never seen again.

Wrong! Sputnik just went into hibernation and waited for the public to catch up. “A band 10 years ahead of their time.”

That time is now. For the last 2 years Sputnik have formed their own label, toured all over Europe, and released a stunning album “Piratespace”, and sold merchandise via the Internet. “Something this great will never lay down and die,” claims Tony James, band leader.

Sigue Sigue Sputnik have proved the critics wrong, they can actually play, and in fact play very well. “Piratespace”, the comeback album, was full of hardcore techno Rock ‘n’ Roll that only Sputnik can play. However, it did see Sputnik moving into new directions with songs like “[email protected]”, a dreamy classical techno rock ballad that would have fitted perfectly into any James Bond movie soundtrack. Slave Trade with its Mark Bolan guitar licks and The Prodigy backing track mixed in dub and littered with movie samples from movies such as the Matrix, Sputnik always seemed to be playing well below themselves, claiming that it wasn’t about music for them. But their influences have always been the greats. Bowie, Bolan, James Williamson, Bryan Gregory, and now Sputnik are all about music albeit still marketing themselves in ways that no other band could possibly dream of.

The new album “Blak Elvis vs The Kings of Electronic Rock And Roll” is an Album of not so much covers of Elvis tracks, but how Sputnik feel the music should have sounded then and in the future. Sputnik still have a head full of glam, but with roots firmly in the future dreaming of what Rock ‘n’ Roll will sound like in the year 2050 and trying to create that now. Bold indeed but fun all the same. This is Sputniks Tribute to Elvis.

The songs have been completely re-hashed even as far as changing the titles. “Always on my Mind” in the new millennium is now “Always on my Mindwarp”. Vocals in dub are ripped up with Stun Guitar Movie samples and Driving Space Bass (A Roland G 707 Synth Bass).

The album also sees a new song entitled “King of Rock n Roll”, Sputnik’s tribute to the King, which is a glam rock masterpiece. “I’m the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll and I la lalaaa like it”. However, the two highlights for me are “Hound Dogg” and “Burning Luv”. Maybe Elvis would have sounded like this in the future or maybe not, but I’m sure Elvis - if alive - would be shaking his blue suede shoes!

Overall the album is all very much the same, but entertaining, innovative, and certainly different. Personally I think this album has been released for the band’s benefit, as I question who the target audience might be. Elvis fans may buy out of curiosity (and they should). Although the press release claims that this album is a back to its roots Sputnik record, I see very few similarities to the Sputnik’s early material with its driving Giorgio Moroda Donna Summer bass line and therefore it maybe a slight disappointment for hardcore Sputnik fans. However, it is actually a very good album and well worthwhile addition to your CD collection.

In conclusion: Sputnik have been through it all, superstar status and in the gutter and dreams shattered. Maybe those dreams were just visions of the future and that future is now. Sputnik are back! Welcome back. It’s what the music industry needs right now, a band totally in control of their own destiny, not prepared to conform. As the Sputniks preach: “History will prove us right.” Well, it may just do that Mr James and Co.

Elvis will probably be shaking in his grave! Check out the Sputnik story at www.


Martin Degville - Vocals

Tony James - Space Bass

Neal X - Stun Guitar

SSW 005 released on Sputnikworld records

Tracks Listing:

1. Trailer

2. King of Rock and Roll

3. Hound Dogg

4. Heartbreak hotel (Chain saw mix)

5. Always on my Mindwarp

6. Burning LUV

7. Shook Up

8. Double Trouble

9. Mystery Trainz

10.Kan’t Help falling in Love

11.King of Rock and Roll widescreen

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]