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Book Review: Bangkok Angel

by Lang Reid

My colleague, the delightful Ms. Hillary, should have asked me to review the book Bangkok Angel, (ISBN - 1898754233 and published by Asia Books) written by Englishman Mike Smith a couple of years ago. Hillary would enjoy this book, because it is one concerning the relationship between a foreigner and a Thai lady that (surprisingly?) has a happy ending. With so many of the cries for help published in Hillary’s column, she needs someone to show her that the coin does indeed have another side to it.

The book relates the trials and tribulations of the author Mike Smith, who finds himself in that well known mid-life crisis of divorce and loneliness. Despite pets and Parents Without Partners, he was not having much fun in his newly found bachelor status. It was at this time that he chanced across an offer from an overseas introduction agency that promised him that he would meet the girl of his dreams in Thailand.

He traveled here and did meet the girl of his dreams - but not through the introduction agency. On his last night in Bangkok, he falls hopelessly in love with a lady (Whisky) whom he meets in a restaurant. The book then describes the pitfalls, highs (and lows) of any relationship between any man and a woman, exacerbated by the fact that the two main characters live on the other side of the earth, have to converse in a foreign language (for Whisky) and try to understand a deeply rooted foreign culture (for Mike).

This is a book that any male will understand, and any male who is having, or has had, a relationship with a Thai lady will immediately relate to - every subtle nuance as well as the assaults from what Mike calls the Phantom Bangkok Bum Biter! Such gems as Mike asking Whisky why she had not written to him, one month after she had promised she would, to be met with the response that she was writing to him, she just hadn’t finished it yet!

Waiting at the Embassy to see if they will be granted a visa for Whisky is another experience that many others have gone through, but not many would have had the delight of seeing their three year old stepson pee on the Embassy waiting room floor!

The book is like Mike himself, humorous, self effacing and so truthful it hurts. It is a wonderful look at the human experience and all its frailties and ends with the ‘family’ safely in the UK, but leaves you wondering whether the idyllic state continued.

I was lucky enough to have dinner with Mike, Whisky and Kevin on their recent trip to Thailand, and can vouch from first hand experience that the happy ending is still going on. They make a delightful couple and Kevin, now 11 years old is a typical irrepressible pre-teen, who (touchingly) refers to Mike as “Dad”.

The book is available from Asia Books and other bookstores with an RRP of B. 380, or you can order directly from the website Get this book! You will enjoy it.

Mott's CD Reviews: Genesis - Live

Pawed by Mott the Dog
re-mastered by Ella Crew

5 Stars

Genesis were formed in early 1967 out of a couple of bands that met at Public School, Charterhouse. (In England, the posh expensive Schools are called Public Schools, which has always puzzled this dog. They certainly were not public as they all cost a fortune to attend). They recorded their first album “Genesis To Revelation” and released it in 1969. That was before the band had even played before a live audience. That by itself is an amazingly long incubation period. They also had already a change of drummers by that time, Chris Stewart left and John Silver (great name for a drummer) came in. This album hardly caused a ripple in record stores around the country, and is unrecognizable as anything Genesis were to do after this point.

A re-think was in order. It was decided that drummer Silver was unsuitable. Out with him and in came John Mayhew. They all de-camped to a conveniently empty cottage just outside Dorking to work on their sound and a possible stage show. Eventually Tony Stratton Smith signed them to his new Charisma label, which on the strength of watching one dodgy rehearsal, and one badly recorded demo tape, must be one of the most inspired signings in the history of Rock ‘n’ Roll. The album “Trespass” was recorded and the band began to gig. However, before the album was released disaster struck.

Anthony Phillips, original lead guitarist with the band and instrumental in defining the guitar sound that stayed with the band through all of their career, decided that the Rock ‘n’ Roll lifestyle within a band was not for him. At the same time the three remaining original members decided that John Mayhew was not the man to be sitting on the drum stool (scratch deep enough all bands have had their Spinal Tap moments). Replacing Anthony Phillips was not going to be easy, but finally Steve Hackett was found. He was a very earnest and intense young man, whose character was in keeping with his guitar playing.

The drum stool was the next problem. After fourteen drummers had a go, a certain young chap by the name of Phil Collins answered a Melody Maker small ad and was drafted into the Genesis ranks straight away. As a child actor Phil Collins had been in several T.V. and stage shows including the part of the artful Dodger in the Londoner West End production of “Oliver”. After “Oliver” he drummed in several bands, the last of which had been a group called “Flaming Youth”. They were just rapping up in the aftermath of some ill advised and unsuccessful publicity, so Phil Collins was glad to get the gig with Genesis. But I am sure the other four did not realize what a useful little chap their new drummer was going to be in years to come.

So by early 1971 the re-shaped Genesis was finally gathering some real momentum with growing approval from the press and a steadily increasing hard core fan base. Each album they released outstripped the last (“Nursery Cryme” in 1971 and British breakthrough album “Foxtrot”, which followed in 1972). By now they were out on the road almost consistently wowing their fans with their unique blend of rock music, dexterous skills, and groundbreaking stage show. A quite remarkable sight on stage they were, too. Steve Hackett would play his blistering solos from a seat on the left hand of the stage, while multi-instrumentalist Mike Rutherfood would wander the stage with his twin necked guitar enabling him to play the bass and twelve string guitar at the same time.

Tony Banks would be on the right hand side of the stage, almost invisible from the audience as he was completely surrounded by his multi collection of keyboards. But the wonderful wall of sound that became the trademark of Genesis left you in no mind that he was there.

Then of course, out the front, was charismatic lead singer Peter Gabriel, who would often go through eight costume changes per concert in an effort to better put across the story of each song. Not for Genesis to play short sharp little songs; most clocked in at over eight minutes. The only single that Genesis had released at this point was “The Knife”. To accommodate it into the single formula it had literally been cut in two with side ‘A’ being “The Knife - part one” and Side ‘B’ being ‘’The Knife - part two”. That didn’t exactly endear them to radio play. So Gabriel’s role was crucial in “Genesis” to keep the audience’s attention. His flute playing also gave the band an extra dimension.

While the band was on the tour promoting “Foxtrot”, several of the concerts were recorded to give the fans something while they came off the road to record their next album. (“Selling England By The Pound” 1973 became their worldwide breakthrough album for them.)

Five songs were selected for “Genesis Live”, which rocketed into the charts in Britain reaching #9. What you got were five epics all clocking in at over eight minutes, in all forty five minutes. A lot for the days of vinyl. And although not a whole concert, the running order of the songs worked very well.

First we have two songs off the “Foxtrot” album, but no problem there as the band had quickly adapted the songs for the road, beefing them up quite considerably. In the case of opener ‘Watcher of the Skies’ Tony Banks had added an awe inspiring opening played on the Mellotrone and the Moog Syntersizer. By the time Phil Collins comes thundering in showing the chops on the drums that would soon have him rated as one of the best drummers in rock music (this was way before anybody had thought about putting him out front to sing), you are already caught up in the web Genesis set out to catch you. Tony Bank’s keyboards rather dominate the opener, using the guitars to keep up a strong but slightly slower beat than on the studio album.

Then Peter Gabriel takes over on ‘Get’em Out By Friday’, a tirade against despicable landlords. Gabriel plays all the roles in different voices. With the amount of energy this must have taken up, it is no real surprise that two years later he stunned the rock world by leaving Genesis when they were on the crest of the wave. ‘The Return Of The Giant Hogweed’ was always a favorite of Genesis fans and was probably as close to actual Rock ‘n’ Roll that Genesis would ever get to; something to actually bang your head to - heavy metal style. ‘The Return of the Giant Hogweed’ was one of two from “Nursery Crymes”, the other one being ‘The Musical Box’. This is the centerpiece of this album and shows all the light and dark that the band put into their music. The mid section features a guitar solo from Steve Hackett that would lay the template for all progressive rock guitarists to follow. The final climax to this epic as the band hammer their way home with Gabriel wailing over the top of them all, has often been imitated but never bettered.

After ‘The Musical Box’ has left you exhausted, the band carries on with a track from ‘Trespass’, ‘The Knife’. You can tell by the audience reaction to Gabriel’s announcement of what the band intended to play next that this was another crowd favorite. Expectations were running high. But the band gave an interpretation that exceeded the studio version in astonishing fashion. This must be partly due to the relative new inclusions of Phil Collins and Steve Hackett into the band. Phil Collin’s drums gave the song a much crisper definition, while Hackett’s guitar work reached new heights. A dramatic conclusion to a fine album.


Watcher of the Skies, Get’em out by Friday, The Return of the Giant Hogweed, Musical Box, The Knife


Peter Gabriel - Vocals, Flute, Tony Banks - Keyboards, Phil Collins - Drums, Steve Hackett - Lead guitar, Michael Rutherford - Bass and Twelve sting Guitar

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