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Book Review: Thailand Joy

Thailand Joy (ISBN 974-243-104-3), published by DK Books, is the latest book from David Young, whose previous credits include The Scribe. I was interested at once in this book, being in some ways looking like a modern day version of the book reviewed last week (The Prostitute) which had been written 65 years previously.

The similarity began with the tale of an impoverished girl from the North. A chilling start to the book was in the quote from the heroine Mantana, “When did poverty end? Mantana knew the answer. Poverty never ended, at least not honestly.”

The books are actually similar in content, country girl in the city gets tricked and goes downwards in society from there on, but totally different in the way the story is presented. Thailand Joy is very much written in today’s style - descriptive and racy with some of the hallmarks of a thriller. Thailand Joy also looks beyond the trappings of prostitution, the lipsticks, powder and vodka and drugs.

Mantana begins in a department store where she is attacked by her employer. Running away she finds work in a cabaret restaurant where the salary is so small that she has to find a second job, just to make ends meet. From there the slippery slide begins, ending up with a kidnapping and acceptance of a job in a new bar in Pattaya, because by that stage there was nowhere else to go - or to do.

The bar scene in Pattaya (or what used to be the bar scene in Pattaya, before the MOI crackdown) is described, with Mantana, the central character, watching with wide-open amazed eyes as training classes were held for the balloon dart ladies. It might not be an art form, but there is a certain level of technical expertise required! It was also somewhat chilling to read the conversation between two girls, about to become “working girls” for the first time, where one was exhorting the other not to spend her last night alone, or she could change her mind about joining the oldest profession. “What’s wrong with changing my mind?” said Mantana. “Nothing. If you can afford to change it,” was the reply. Those of us with choices should remember this.

The review copy came from Bookazine with an RRP is 280 baht, which makes it a very inexpensive read these days, and should be available at all good bookstores. The subject matter is one that has been dealt with by numerous authors, viewing from all sides of the spectrum. I liked this book as it was non-judgmental, but informative enough for the reader to make his or her own judgments. Author Young shows a more than superficial knowledge of the innermost workings of the country girl in the big city. This is no gloss-over or pseudo-romantic imagery, but a much more down to earth example of real life. You may not like to read something that is much closer to the truth than that put forward by the pulp press. It may destroy your own ‘romantic’ notions. Don’t be blinded by the bright neon lights. Read this book.


Music CD Reviews: Argent - Live In Concert

by Mott the Dog

*** 3 Stars Rating

Rising like a Phoenix from the Ashes, so did Argent arise from the demise of the fabulous Zombies, who split up amongst great acrimony in 1967. Formed in 1969, Rod Argent, although obviously the focal point of the band with his penchant for throwing his keyboards around, minor keys, haunting organ solos, and unfortunately calf length purple suede boots, did not dominate circumstances just for the sake of it, he pulled around him some of the finest musicians of the times.

His new recruits rose to the occasion and matched the exacting demands of their leader and justified Argent’s faith in rejecting calls to reform his former band. Bassist John Rodford, with thirteen years experience under his belt in various combos, underpinned Argent’s sound with rich strongly defined rhythms, whilst drummer Bob Henritt hit the bins with remarkable strength and accuracy (for a sticks man). Russ Ballard (the man always with the shades on - very reminiscent of Ian Hunter) had cut his musical teeth as a member of Adam Faiths Roulettes. Ballard was in fact a real find, possessing a strong bluesy voice, a crystal clear, distinctive guitar sound and a commercial flair for song writing (he later went on to write hits for Rainbow, Uriah Heep, etc). It was indeed Ballard who gave the band much needed exposure early on, when his song “Liar” was covered by Three Dog Night and climbed into the U.S. top 10 in 1971.

What you get for your buck here are eleven tracks in all, covering the band’s commercial successful years from 1972 to their demise in 1974. First up is an entire short concert recorded for the B.B.C at the Paris Theatre, which has most of the songs from their new album at the time “Altogether Now”. It shows off the many varied talents of Argent from Folk Rock, Jazz Rock, Pop Rock and Rock ‘n’ Roll. Opener “Be My Lover, Be My Friend” is a typical Argent song covering all spectrums of music in six short minutes. Therein was the problem Argent suffered, trying to appeal to all. They became Jack of all trades, but master of none. But saying that, when the band rock out on the final two numbers of this set, hit single “Hold Your Head Up” and “He’s A Dynamo” (in which they blatantly rip off the guitar riff from Nut Bush City limits; great riff, why not?) the band really cook, blending power with precision.

After this we get two healthy dollops of Russ Ballard Stadium Rock including the gloriously dumb ode to the fans “God Gave Rock ‘n’ Roll To You”, which includes the immortal lines “Don’t step on snails, don’t climb in trees, love Cliff Richard, but please don’t Tease”. Kiss later covered this turning it into a huge hit single in the U.S.A, and used to close their live show with it in a blaze of cigarette lighters held aloft by the crowd. Stirring stuff.

Sighting musical differences, Ballard then left the band to concentrate on his writing skills, and by the time the band got to mid 1974 they had gone off in a very Spinal Tap influenced Jazz direction. Two guitarists had been added to replace Ballard (John Grinaldi and John Verity), but it really was a completely different bottle of Mellotrons as the last two tracks show here. Definitely the point to turn off the player. Brilliant at their best, overindulgent and far too twiddly at their worst.

Argent were a good band, but unfortunately other people did it better.

Musicians

Russ Ballard - Guitar, piano & vocals

Rod Argent - Organ & vocals

Jim Rodford - Bass

Bob Henritt - Drums

Track Listing

1. Be My Lover, Be My Friend

2. Sweet Mary

3. Tragedy

4. Dance Of Ages

5. The Fakir

6. Hold Your Head Up

7. He’s A Dynamo

8. God Gave Rock ‘n’ Roll To You

9. It’s Only Money

10. Gonna Meet My Maker

11. Music From The Spheres

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]