Book Review: At The Bamboo Bar
by Lang Reid
Another book from Morgan McFinn, whose previous titles
include Out of the Loop and All Over the Map, and this new one At the Bamboo
Bar (ISDN 974-8303-68-1) which was published last year and released by Asia
McFinn is known for his pithy descriptive style. Take for
example, those unfortunate people who bring on their own maladies to invoke
sympathy. McFinn describes them as follows, “Make public spectacles of
themselves wallowing in their own miserable, stinking puddles of emotional
puke, self-pity and spiritual nausea. What a joy they are to be around.” What
a joy indeed!
The book revolves around an evening spent at the Bamboo Bar
of the Oriental Hotel, and is a series of vignettes that are brought forward by
the events of the night at the bar, and incidentally, McFinn’s 50th birthday.
Before getting to the bar he starts with his description of Soi Nana in
Bangkok, and being conversant with the area, I could recognise the cobbler cum
key cutter on the corner of Sukhumvit and the open air luggage shop. The Bamboo
Bar area I am not so conversant with, the Oriental being just a tad too
upmarket for the Lang Reid pocketbook.
McFinn slips very easily from episodes regarding the
present, to those cajoled and dredged up from deep recesses of his memory, with
the night in jail after his car was out of its emission testing time-frame
being particularly amusing (and a wonderful view upon current western society
and its priorities and watchdogs), however, most of the action revolves around
the Bamboo Bar.
The review copy was supplied by Bookazine, with the somewhat
peculiar RRP of 389 baht, and should be available at all major bookstores. For
a writer of humour, McFinn is actually eloquent, and uses several words of
several syllables. That, in itself, elevates this book above the general run of
locally published books on “Life in Patpong/Nana/Pattaya/Cowboy” (delete
one or all of the above), written to appeal to the lowest possible denominator,
where phrases such as “juxtaposition of cultural anomalies” would be
considered effete, or more likely, too difficult to spell and incomprehensible.
It is a book that very ably looks at life and its
characters. McFinn is not guilty of dreaming up ‘larger than life’
characters for his book, for me, they were all very plausible, even if they
included a one legged author, an Irish Catholic priest, an American couple from
the Ozarks and a trio of Thai politicians. McFinn’s skill comes in his
abilities in describing their ‘real life’ foibles in a most amusing way. He
was also very masterful in the way he brings most of them together for the
I found this a most enjoyable book, very witty and well worth the B. 389 RRP.
In fact, I would not have complained if it had cost the other 6 baht I expected
to pay. If you enjoy slick characterizations and a good laugh, buy this book.
If you were enthralled with “Hello my big honey” do not get this book, many
of the words will be too difficult for you.
Music CD Reviews: Uriah Heep - Demons and Wizards
by Mott the Dog
***** 5 Stars Rating
Although this actually goes down in chronological order as
Uriah Heep’s fourth album, it could in many respects be put down as their
first. It was the first time the nucleus of the band, vocalist David Byron, lead
guitarist and cheeriest man on the planet Mick Box, plus the man with the
keyboard patent on heavy rock Ken Hensley, had found a compatible duo to fill
the roles of bassist and drummer to form a rock like rhythm section: ‘The Thin
Man’ Gary Thain, and behind the bins the hard livin John Candy look-a-like Lee
Kerslake, who is still in the band today after only a two year break at the end
of the seventies. Something of a clean sheet for a band that have had 6
bassists, 6 vocalists, and 4 keyboard players, and, surprisingly, the present
lineup of Uriah Heep is probably their best, certainly musically, and their most
stable having been together now for sixteen of the band’s thirty-two year
But in the heady days of 1972, although the band had laid
down the template of the Uriah Heep sound with songs from their first three
albums, noticeably “Gypsy” from ‘Very’ Eavy Very’ Umble’ (70),
“Bird Of Prey” and “Lady In Black” from ‘Salisbury’ (71), and the
title track plus the epic “July Morning” from ‘Look At Yourself’ (71).
It was only six months later, after three years of saturation touring and
recording, that this classic hard rock album was released to the public with its
much imitated Roger Dean artwork. This album broke the band worldwide leading to
Uriah Heep selling over 30 million albums globally. “Demons & Wizards”
reached number 20 in the British charts, but, more importantly, was the first of
five consecutive albums to go top 40 in the massive selling American charts.
The music stands up today as well as it did at the time.
Opening song “The Wizard”, with its acoustic opening before stepping up with
rock guitar and keyboards, is the perfect opening for any album. The humour of
the first lyrics leave you knowing that the band have tongue firmly in cheek.
“He was the wizard of a thousand things
And I chanced to meet him one night wondering
He told me tales and he drank my wine
Me and my magic man are kinda feelin fine”
“The Wizard” was actually co-written with Ken Hensley by
Uriah Heep’s previous bassist Marke Clarke, who, though typically only in the
band for three months, has left his impression on the band by writing one of
their classic songs sung by every vocalist who was ever in the band and is still
in the band’s live set today. “Hope the royalties are still pouring in,
Marke”. Marke Clarke went on to play with Colosseum, Tempest, Ritchie
Blackmore’s Rainbow, and Ian Hunter.
Next up is the hard rocker “Traveller In Time” featuring
all the guitars in the band. “Easy Livin’” is a thundering express train
of a song, these days used to bring Heep’s shows to a rousing conclusion, and
it was also a surprise hit single in the States. “Poets Justice” showed off
the amazing vocal range of Heep’s vocalist David Byron (one of the finest
front men this dog has ever witnessed live on stage), from throaty bass rumble
to ear-spilling falsetto - all in full effect.
“Circle of Hands” is the first of the album’s epics,
showing Ken Hensley’s more subtle piano playing until Mick Box’s guitar solo
takes us to a rousing conclusion. “Rainbow Demon” is very reminiscent of
early Atomic Rooster with its dark and gloomy keyboard led riffs, which beat
their way into your brain waves, and perhaps the album’s most memorable track.
After the light relief of the short sharp “All My Life”, the album closes
with two Hensley penned epics in “Paradise” and “The Spell”, both using
all of Uriah Heep’s many assets. “Paradise” is the softer side before
“The Spell” comes rushing in.
Uriah Heep have never been the critics’ darlings. Listen to
the music yourself before you make up your own mind.
Gary Thain - Bass Guitar
Lee Kerslake - Drums and Percussion
Mick Box - Guitars
Ken Hensley - Keyboards, Guitars, Percussion
David Byron - Vocals
All other voices by Uriah Heep
1. The Wizard
2. Traveller In Time
3. Easy Livin’
4. Poet’s Justice
5. Circle Of Hands
6. Rainbow Demon
7. All My Life
9. The Spell
To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]