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Book Review: Bangkok A-Go-Go

by Lang Reid

Another long-time expat has been published in Bangkok by Heaven Lake Press. John Hail, an American journalist who has been in SE Asia for 30 plus years, has taken 10 years to write his novel Bangkok A-Go-Go (ISBN 974-91588-3-0), which covers the turbulent 70’s and 80’s. It is fiction, but set in the factual circumstances of the political struggles that were common in Thailand in those days.

The coups were aplenty then, with one of the characters, Floyd, describing them, “So they have a coup. So what? Nothin’ changes man. Just some brass hats playing musical chairs. Hey, last year the prime minister had a coup against himself!” (Certain words used by armed forces, starting with f and referring to procreation have been omitted!)

The skepticism that is always apparent in male banter just keeps rolling through the book, such as Floyd discussing the Communist threat, saying, “See how you like it when the commie tanks come rolling down Sukhumvit.” “Yeah, right,” was the retort. “Like to see them try it at rush hour.”

The story begins in an American owned bar in Patpong, post Vietnam, with flash-back reminiscences even recalling Lam Morrison (one of my favourite guitarists and still (re)living in that era). That era also had the infamous ‘revolution’ at Thammasat University, and the main character, US Army deserter Jerry Norpark, is part of that action. This leads to his being forced to assume the position of being on the ‘other side’ having been tarred with the brush of Communism, as were all the students or anyone who dared criticize the current administration, no matter which one it was that week!

Our man Jerry describes the disintegration of the ‘Leftist’ movement, not being beaten but everyone, other than the hardliners, just becoming slowly disenchanted. However, Jerry Norpark has the misfortune to get on the wrong side of an ambitious mafia warlord and much of the book relates to his continuing battle with the bloodthirsty Satahn, who wants to see Jerry die from lead poisoning, preferably administered by a .38.

Intertwined with this are various other characters, including international newshounds, Kung Fu comrades, various Thai girls, assorted bars, American congressmen, the Cambodian refugees, Vietnamese guerrillas, Bangkok bordellos, flop houses and mansions, tuk-tuks and the orange crush.

This was one helluva book. It held my interest right the way through to the last page. It keeps the reader enthralled because despite the apparent outlandishness on the surface, this novel was a Thailand that anyone who has lived here for some time knows and understands. This is not the ‘exposing the dark underbelly’ type of literature, this was telling life like it really was, or should I say, ‘really is’? An excellent book that deserves its place in Thailand’s expat writing community.

The review copy was sent directly from Heaven Lake Press, and full scale distribution of the book will start early next year, but advance publication copies should become available in major bookstores, with an RRP of 495 baht. Go looking for it. A first class read. I just hope his next one won’t be 10 years in the gestation.


Mott's CD Reviews: Tracie Hunter - Maybe

Pawed by Mott the Dog
re-mastered by Ella Crew

5 Stars *****

Now this is Rock ‘n’ Roll. Tracie Hunter has put together a band so fresh and potent, the sound fair crackles with excitement. As only a three-track disc, it probably will not come near the top of Mott’s albums of the year. I guess you can think of it as what we used to call an E.P. before, and it faces some overwhelming competition from Led Zeppelin with their three disc “How the West Was Won”.

Nonetheless, Tracie Hunter has let the world know that Rock ‘n’ Roll is back with the release of this taster to the album (Race) that will follow hopefully in the early stages of next year, and with Hard Rock music making a big comeback through the likes of ‘The Darkness’ and a rekindled ‘Iron Maiden’, Tracie should ascend to be the new lady of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Rock ‘n’ Roll obviously runs in the genes and black jeans of the Hunter family, as Tracie Hunter is the daughter of the excellent Ian Hunter. Like her father, Tracie not only sings the songs but writes them, too. Another similarity that has been handed down is the ability to pick gifted sidemen to play in the band on this record (Ian Hunter has played with the impeccable Mick Ralphs, the loveable rogue Ariel Bender, and the late lamented Mick Ronson).

The band playing with Tracie is as tight as the England Rugby team’s front three. On lead guitar you have Neil Gabbitas, who also shares writing credits with Tracie on all three songs. He has a very unique guitar sound, very gritty and Rock ‘n’ Roll, which gives the rockers a real edge, whilst his strong playing does not allow the one ballad to become slushy. In the rhythm section there is Neil’s brother Mel on bass, who also takes on production responsibilities, and gives his brother full support with some melodic bass work. Then behind the bins is Steve Washington, who comes from the Keith Moon school of drummers (pun intended), driving each song along, filling out every inch of sound. Steve is obviously the sort of drummer who wants to be heard. Since these songs were recorded, the very talented Matt Pearce, on guitar and BV’s, has been added to the lineup.

But then in front of this lot is singing star Tracie Hunter. Pure Rock ‘n’ Roll is soaked all the way through her voice. Listening to any of these three songs, by the halfway point you cannot help but sing along, such is their catchiness. This girl is a serious talent. The nearest I can come in comparison is a young Elkie Brooks from her Vinegar Joe days or Harpic Bryant. These are not twee bits of music for pre-teens, this is the business end of Rock ‘n’ Roll. This band must be scorching live. The reviews on the band’s website at www.traciehunter.com give every indication I’m right.

Opening up with title track Maybe, Neil Gabbitas’ guitar peels off a few licks before Tracie Hunter’s voice comes in over the top. The sheer emotion and energy that comes with her voice grabs you by the ears and drags you along. This is hard rock music that should be played full blast in your car. To add to the songs riches, Neil Gabbitas nails two screaming guitar solos to add to the excitement. The rest of the band keeps the Rock ‘n’ Roll at “11'’.

Mercury is another rocker, a little heavier, but taken at a slightly slower pace, with a vocal - guitar refrain to bring the song to a climax, which is to die for. Music made for heaven.

Finally we get Lost Inside You. The band switches over to their acoustic gear and allows Tracie to show off her softer side. It’s the sort of song that will have them cuddling in the aisles when the band step up to the spotlight and start playing stadiums.

If you have never heard of Tracie Hunter before, remember you heard it first in Mott’s column. A big thank you to Colin Powell for bringing it to my attention. 2004 will be the year of Tracie Hunter. I personally cannot wait for a full album’s worth of songs. My only complaint about the album is - no picture of Tracie on the cover, as she is one very hot lady. I bet Dad’s proud, too.

Musicians

Tracie Hunter - Vocals

Neil Gabbitas - Guitar

Mel Gabbitas - Bass

Steve Washington - Drums

Darren Oldale - Bv’s

Songs

Maybe, Mercury, Lost Inside You

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