Vol. III No. 4 - Saturday January 24 - January 30 2004
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Book-Movies-Music
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Book Review

Music CD Reviews

Book Review: Sleepless in Bangkok

by Lang Reid

Advertised as an erotic thriller, Sleepless in Bangkok (ISBN 974-88460-0-8, Asia Books) was written by Ian Quartermaine, an itinerant journalist who has spent some time in Thailand and SE Asia, and was reviewed a couple of years ago, and this re-review is bringing the original up to date.

Since 2001, author Quartermaine has revamped the book, now reprinted as a ‘Special Edition’, claiming that the much publicized ‘war on drugs’ has allowed him to update and an extra chapter has been written. However, 111 minus 108 equals 3, so in my book there are 3 new chapters! Quartermaine remains a good writer but apparently mathematically challenged.

Set in this region, the opening chapters drop little pointers such as the phoney war in Laos and the (in)famous Air America. The back cover does also state that the book is based on actual events. “Only the names have been changed to protect the guilty.”

The plot revolves around a once discredited British SAS Major and a Thai agent in the guise of a beautiful Eurasian girl. While this combination looks a little like a Hollywood action tale of drugs and drugs lords, it is now apparently being adapted for the big screen.

The language used is forthright and you are left in no doubt as to the sexual proclivities of the principal characters. For example, “Confirming yet again that the way to the top is through the bottom, Rupert had served his time as a closet queen and an officer in Her Majesty’s armed forces.”

The chapters are generally very short (there are 111 in a 309 page book) and have interesting footnotes, lending the ‘reality’ to the tale. Quartermaine also shows his age and nationality with such footnotes describing the founders of the famous Goon Show for example, or even for knowing the word ‘charabang’ (sic) let alone making it a footnote (even if he does still spell it incorrectly. It ends with a ‘c’ not a ‘g’ Mr. Quartermaine!).

The short, snappy chapters, some are only one page, do keep the narrative going at a breakneck pace and is a good device for maintaining the speed and immediacy of the action at the same time.

Quartermaine does manage to exploit the inscrutability of the oriental races, and adds this to the natural inability of man to understand woman, irrespective of race. That this is even more difficult between different races is well established.

The heterosexual sex scenes are indeed very graphic, but I felt a little repetitive at times. Descriptions of homosexual sex that 90% of the readers would have had no prior knowledge of are also dealt with in the same forthright manner.

The review copy was made available by Asia Books. It is a fast paced yarn, and it is a thriller. It is also a highly erotic book, with a Nota Bene on the back cover advising that “Sleepless in Bangkok contains a considerable amount of expletives and the most explicit scenes of sex and violence. Do not purchase if you are of sensitive disposition or emanate from a sheltered personal background.” I would agree.


Mott's CD Reviews: Flash

Pawed by Mott the Dog
re-mastered by Ella Crew

5 Stars *****

Peter Banks was relieved of his position as lead guitarist with the formative “Yes” after two albums. Not because of his abilities, but because of a penchant for rather overdoing the Rock ‘n’ Roll lifestyle and tending to have a bit too much of a good time, unlike some of his more studious band mates.

When Steve Howe replaced Banks he had to firstly learn how to play Banks’ parts, and like all “Yes” guitarists, had to play in that style to this day. However, Steve Howe throws a terrible wobbly if Banks’ name is even mentioned in his hearing, scotching any chance of any further collaboration between Banks and any of his old colleagues.

That is pretty ironic considering that over the years everybody in the band has left and re-joined at some point, an exception being bass player Chris Squire, who seemed to have managed the devious waters of being in a band rather well.

Bill Bruford, acknowledged as the drummer’s drummer, left out of sheer boredom. Rick Wakeman, the keyboard wizard and champion of the draughts table and skittles, was once fired for eating his curry and chips dinner washed down with a few pints of Kilkenny, while still playing the more tedious parts of the extremely overblown epic “Tales from a Topographic Ocean” in front of a packed Wembley Stadium.

When lead vocalist Jon Anderson and Wakeman (again) left in 1980, they simply incorporated pop duo The Buggles (Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes, famous for their one hit wonder “Video killed the Radio Star”, which was eventually to lead to Howe and Downes clearing off to form the money spinning “Asia”) into their ranks.

Perhaps at this stage “Yes” should of been known as “Yuggles”, but to be fair the record buying public never seemed to mind buying each new release as long as the name “Yes” was on it and a nice Roger Dean designed cover, so the album looked good nonchalantly lying on the coffee table.

So what did the bad boy of Progressive Rock do after leaving “Yes”? Form a Punk band? Well, not quite, but certainly as close as Punk Rock ever came to Progressive Rock. “Flash” was the name of the band, a name thought up over cold pie and chips with a couple of warm lagers after their first rehearsals. Flash by name, Flash by nature.

Peter Banks had found himself the perfect line-up to replace his old colleagues, but thereby hangs a tale as by the time they got into the studio, Peter’s old drinking buddy from “Yes”, Tony Kaye, had also been tossed aside as the others coveted the multitalented skills of Mr. Rick Wakeman and his many assorted keyboards. They were whisked from those laid back folks with ‘The Strawbs’ and positioned in all their glory taking up the whole left hand side of the stage at every “Yes” concert. Far more prestigious than Tony Kaye’s simple Hammond organ.

More is not necessarily better. So Tony Kaye was rushed out of one door straight into the door marked Flash. Tony Kaye never actually toured with the band although his playing here is nothing short of stunning. This was always going to be Peter Banks’ band. To be fair to Tony Kaye, he had been rather caught on the rebound and decided to take a bit of a break from playing in a band before forming his own. He did so later and formed the keyboard oriented fabulous “Badger”, which suited his playing.

On lead vocals was Colin Carter, who looked like an action man doll with long curly blonde hair, and with a talent for singing Peter’s songs and smashing tambourines at the end of each song. Indeed, he sounded a lot like Peter Banks’ previous singer, but didn’t insist upon singing his own non-functional lyrics.

On bass guitar was Ray Bennett, one of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s most inventive bassist, running out fluid bass lines that not only underpinned all of Banks’ solos, but laid down their own stories as well.

One listen to opening track “Small Beginnings” will leave you gasping as his bass is all over the song, while not taking anything away from the lead guitars or keyboards. He was also the owner of a very clear pair of pipes enabling the band to incorporate soaring harmonies amidst even the heaviest sections of the music, and, as in the second song on this collection, take over on lead vocals to leave Carter to his tambourine smashing.

Next we have the gentleman with the sticks in his hands behind the drum kit, Mike Hough, an exponent of his skills of rare talent and violence, probably the find of the band. His live drum solos, though thankfully brief, used to leave audiences gasping.

There are five songs on this debut album and they come in two varieties; two relatively short ballads (about five minutes each) and three longer, well-structured pieces with room for each element of the band to show off their skills. The pick of which has to be “Dreams of Heaven”. (Actually the gem of an idea for a song that Peter Banks had in his last days with “Yes”. They changed it into “Perpetual Change”, but here you get it in its full rocked out glory.)

“Dreams of Heaven” clocks in at just under thirteen minutes; however, it often used to be stretched out to thirty minutes when they used it as a closure to their live sets. The music is fast and furious, edgy, and seldom relaxed. They often played ten chords when three would have done. What the heck. If you’ve got it, flaunt it. But they could never be accused of being clich้, gauche, or mediocre.

After touring all over the world for two years, three albums by the band, a solo album from Peter Banks, a disinterested management, a confused record label, tempers shortening, and morale dropping, the band imploded in true Spinal Tap fashion after a show in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It really is a shame.

Despite all the usual accusations of pomposity and self indulgence levelled at Progressive Rock, “Flash” had a vibrancy and optimism that transcended all the stereotypes of seventies rock music. They really loved their music and it always showed.

Definitely some of the classiest music to come out of the early seventies and a great addition to any CD collection. Even cooler, it has an album cover anybody would like to have draped across their coffee table, but it definitely isn’t by Roger Dean.

They were Flash - their life was short, but burned bright. They came and went in a Flash.

NOTE: This album has just been re-released as a two for one CD with Flash’s third album “Out Of Our Hands” … excellent value.

Musicians

Peter Banks - Guitars, Electric, Acoustic, and Spanish, Ole’, Hooter A.R.P. Synthesizer, and even a little backing vocals

Tony Kaye - Organ, A.R.P. Synthesizer, Piano

Colin Carter - Tambourine smashing and lead vocals

Mike Hough - Drums, Hard Knocks and Badinage

Ray Bennett - Bass Guitar, backing vocals, lead vocals on ‘Morning Haze’

Songs

Small Beginnings

Morning Haze

Children of the Universe

Dreams of Heaven

The Time it Takes

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]



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