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Book Review

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Book Review: Bangkok Inside Out

by Lang Reid

Bangkok Inside Out was co-authored by Daniel Ziv (a seasoned peripatetic) and Guy Sharett who has managed to sit still long enough to put down some roots in Bangkok. It was released in 2005 (Equinox Publishing, ISBN 979-97964-6-6) and printed in Thailand.

It is a collection of illustrated essays, arranged alphabetically like a guide book, and that is about as close as it gets to the usual tourist oriented guide to Bangkok. The authors state in their Introduction and Rules of Engagement that “This book isn’t really a guide to Bangkok. There’s no map in here or sections on where to stay and how to get around. Instead, it’s a street level snapshot of a twenty-first century Southeast Asian city bursting at the seams. Our approach is raw and cheeky and irreverent at times, but we think of it as honest and real.”

The bulk of the photography in the book is through the lens of Croatian Sasa Kralj who manages to impart the urgency that is part of Bangkok. A still photography ‘cinema verite’ that I found particularly appealing.

The Contents include such subjects that do make up Thailand and Bangkok, but ignored by the mainstream guidebooks. Comics, Fakes, Fortune tellers, Gambling, Hi-So/Lo-So, Krating Daeng (Red Bull), Motosai, Pollution, 7-Eleven, Soi dogs and even Yaa Baa are featured.

At the back of the book there is an amusing episode called My Grace Hotel Weekend, and whilst it is a humorous interlude, I would have preferred more subjects being dealt with by the authors. Mind you, it is difficult to imagine just what subjects were not covered by the energetic pair of writers!

I was initially a little wary of this book, as the back cover proclaimed, “Bangkok Inside Out is an illuminating pop culture exploration of life in Thailand’s frenzied capital.” Being old enough that the closest I can now get to “pop” culture is being called “Pops” by young Americans (crass creatures), I was prepared to dislike this publication. After only a couple of pages I was looking forward to turning to the next topic, the writing infectiously carrying the reader through one amusing vignette to the next. If this is “pop culture” I am ready to join!

It is probably the most authentic Bangkok book that you will see on the shelves. It is a paperback you can send overseas that will try and explain just why we all live here. The madness, mayhem and melee that makes up Bangkok today. For those of us who can remember Bangkok 30 years ago, we can see what happened in the three decades - the music might be ended but the malady lingers on, brilliantly caught by these two young writers. The book is truly a snapshot of Bangkok, a slice of time, and I know of no better book to give to disbelieving friends who think that your tales of life in the capital are all anecdotal fairy tales. You can now reply, “You see, it’s all true, page 53 even describes Bangkok as a real-life movie set, and I am a bit-player (along with eight million others)!”

Mott's CD Reviews: The Story of Man – Part Two

A half hearted attempt to review the live work of thirty-five years of Welsh Rockers Man on their latest release ‘Man Alive.’

Gathered by Mott The Dog
Reaped by Ella Crew

5 Stars *****

Over the last thirty-five years, the goodly folk of Swansea, Wales, have been trying to let the world know about their favorite sons ‘Man’, which have mostly fallen on deaf ears. That is all the more remarkable as they really are very good. They are never backwards about coming forward or hiding their light under a bushel. Oh yes, there have been other singers and bands from Wales. Tom Jones and Charlotte Church have flexed their mighty Welsh throats to applause from every nook and cranny the world has to offer. That great flying heavy metal thunder of “Budgie” once ruled the waves, whilst “The Stereophonics” and “The Manic Street Preachers” often charged up the charts. But one feels they aren’t quite as truly Welsh as the sons of Mrs. Jones, Leonard, Williams, Ace, Ryan, and all.

Not that these Welsh musical wizards haven’t dashed up the album charts on both sides of the Atlantic themselves, one just feels that perhaps they haven’t really been given the full acclaim that they deserve. Maybe there are some obvious reasons for this quick change of personnel as they definitely make Spinal Tap look like a conservative and stable lineup. All bands have their influences, but Man seem to have absorbed more than most, with sometimes consecutive tracks on one studio album sounding like a totally different band. It is always rock music, but varying from Space/Rock to Heavy Metal.

This collection starts in 1972 with the guitar and vocals of Mick Jones and Deke Leonard joined on stage by bassist Ace Martin and drummer Terry Williams at the Roundhouse in London. It was a benefit concert for the hippie charity group Greasy Truckers in what many would claim to be the ultimate Man track ‘Spunk Rock’. In its original studio incarnation it was six minutes long, but here we get the fully improvised twenty-two minutes. One can only wonder how long this track would have been, had they not been faded out after the song had been going on for quite some time. Wonderful stuff all the same. Deke Leonard and Mick Jones vocals and guitars swoop in and out of the song. The guitar notes fly out like raindrops, either splashing onto the audience with the venom of Thor with his mighty axe, or reaching out with the caress of a kiss. In today’s live set Spunk Rock is normally held back to be given a real dusting up as the encore.

But Man being Man, within a year Leonard and Ace had been unceremoniously dumped out of the band (don’t worry, they will both be back) to be replaced by Phil Ryan on keyboards, Will Youatt on bass, and returning founder member Clive John on guitar. This lineup came up with the classic Man album ‘Be Good to Yourself At Least Once A Day’. The album had only four tracks, but was still over forty minutes long. We get three live versions of these songs on this collection.

‘Life On The Road’ is literally a tale of the woes of life on the road, with its Wishbone Ash dual lead guitar sound and finishing with both guitars wailing away like police sirens. Through the years Man were no strangers to the long arm of the law, but our heroes usually managed to scamper away in time.

You also get the song from the same concert at London’s rainbow theatre ‘C’mon’, which would be a delight to any Pink Floyd fan, and ‘Bananas’, which has to be one of the funniest rock songs ever written. The later two songs are still required hearing at any Man concert today. Even though Deke Leonard was not in at the recording of these classic Man songs, he has been playing them live on and off for thirty years. His unbiased opinion cleverly uttered with the words: “When you go to a restaurant you expect to find your favorite dish on the menu”.

As if to even things up we then jump forward in time to 1999 to finish the first disc of this set with a version of 7171 551 recorded by and released on one of Deke Leonard’s solo albums, “Iceberg”, when he was on one of his sabbaticals from the band in the early seventies. There are only five songs on this first disc, but it still times in at over seventy-two minutes.

Disc two contains ten songs from 1975 to 1999, including three tunes from their triumphant return to the stage for the Glastonbury festival in 1994. It starts off with the two minutes thirty seconds Man boogie ‘Hard Way To Live’, includes the highly charged ‘Romain’, the violent story of a certain officer’s dealing with Martin Ace, and finishes with the ten minutes of Glastonbury set closer, the epic ‘The Ride and The View’.

For anybody wondering what the fuss was about from these boys from the valleys, this set, ‘Man Alive’, makes a marvelous starting point for the ears. For those of you who would like to know a bit more about the origins of Man, look no further than Deke Leonard’s autobiography “Rhinos, Winos, and Lunatics”, the story of a rock ‘n’ roll band. Never has the field of rock ‘n’ roll been so candidly exposed or comically told.

Because of the constantly changing lineup of Man, it is impossible to list all the musicians that played on these two CD sets of recordings. I doubt whether even the players themselves know for sure who was there and who wasn’t, especially in the turbulent seventies. But Mott’s Dream Man Band would be…

Micky Jones - Lead Guitar and Vocals
Deke Leonard - Lead Guitar and Vocals
Martin Ace - Bass and vocals
Phil Ryan – Organ
Terry Williams – Drums
Guest Appearance for Spunk Rock, the late great John Cipollina - Lead Guitar

Disc One
Spunk Rock
Life On The Road
Disc Two
Hard Way To Live
Day And Night
Hard Way To Die
Many Are Called But Few Get Up
Welsh Connection
Even Visionaries Go Blind
Chinese Cut
The Ride And The View

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]