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Book Review

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Book Review: Sukhumvit Road

by Lang Reid

David Young has written Sukhumvit Road, his fourth book based on life in Thailand (and in Sukhumvit Road in particular). Published this year in Bangkok (ISBN 974-92636-8-5, Hostage Press International), it is a larger and more weighty book than his previous three (The Scribe, Thailand Joy, Fast Eddies Lucky 7 a-go-go).

The book encompasses the lives of many people living (and working) in Bangkok over the period December 22 through to Xmas Day. Those people include three hit-men from the US, an ex-minister of religion, an alcoholic writer, a demented doctor complete with scheming henchmen and a determined daughter, a love-sick swain, a psychopath who doubles as the devil and the obligatory bar girl, Bami. There are also a few other characters thrown in for good measure, including the abducted daughter of a politician, a deserted ex-girlfriend cum-cured drug addict, and a junkie hanging from the overhead fan.

In the three days leading up to Xmas, author Young takes the reader on a guided tour of various bars, hotels and hangouts, including the legendary Thermae, a haunt decried loudly by all those who have never been there. (It is just as ‘sad’ as David Young portrays.)

The three hit-men are the more central characters in the thriller, and author David Young has done well to show their different characters. Even hit-men can have their softer sides. They have been brought over to assist a shady doctor who ostensibly wants his head-strong daughter to marry an American and go to the USA to study. The adage that there is no honour among thieves describes the interaction between the Americans and the Thai doctor and his henchmen.

The love-sick young man hooks up with the alcoholic writer, who takes him on another tour of even seedier (and sadder areas), ending up being a cathartic experience for both of them, with Bami being the one who gains from it.

The book was certainly not another about a prostitute in Bangkok, sent there by unfeeling parents from darkest Isaan, and attempting to define all the why’s and wherefores. This book was about a bunch of people who were all in Bangkok one weekend for the sake of money, not just Bami, the ‘professional’ used to string the disparate parts together to make the whole.

Having reviewed the previous three novels from David Young, Sukhumvit Road came across as somewhat of a melange of all three, but with a different slant. This author can write, which can sometimes be novel for those writing novels in this country! His description of being in Thermae going, “The night was one big dirty bedsheet.”

Being a thriller, rather than a filler, it is worth the read. The format is such that it is easy to pick up and put down, even if you have to turn backwards for a couple of pages, just to see where you are (generally Sukhumvit Road), and to re-acquaint yourself with who is doing what to whom.

At B. 395, for 400 plus pages, this is a good value read; however, I must admit that I preferred Fast Eddie to Frank Russo.

Mott's CD Reviews: From Luther Grosvenor to Ariel Bender and Beyond

The Story of a Five Star Rock ‘n’ Roll Star - part three

Mott the Hoople
Ella Crew

Success was assured after a four year search for fame and fortune

After Mott the Hoople’s collaboration with David Bowie of ‘All The Young Dudes’ (June 1972) reached number three in Britain, and a modest thirty-seven on the American Billboard chart, the follow-up, Ian Hunter written ‘Honaloochie Boogie’ (May 1973) reaching the upper regions of both charts either side of the Atlantic, and a brand new album already in the can ready for release mid tour, ‘Mott’ (July 1973), Mick Ralphs, lead guitarist and founder member decides to hand in his notice halfway through Mott the Hoople’s groundbreaking first headlining American tour.

Mick Ralphs had some ludicrous idea of forming some sort of musical beat combo with his old mates from Free, Paul Rogers and Simon Kirke. Sounds like bad company to me.

To say this caused slight ripples of concern within the Hoople camp would be a major understatement. Mick Ralphs agreed to play the first half of the tour, until the 2-week tour break; for the remaining concerts the band would have to carry on with a new axe slinger. So the problem was manifold. The replacement had to be good, in fact, very good. Mick Ralphs left big foot prints to follow. He or she had to look the business, this was after all 1973 and looks were the in thing. He or she had to get on with the rest of the band, have stage presence, a passport, and of course - most importantly - be available to move lock, stock, and barrel to Mott the Hoople’s side, like yesterday.

After one last emotional plea for Ralphs to stay (Ian Hunter offered Mick Ralphs half of all Hunter’s songwriting royalties if he stayed) was unsuccessful, the remaining members of the band, lead singer, guitarist, and main songwriter Ian Hunter (songwriting was the main reason for Ralphs departure. Hunter had such a purple patch with the pen that there was no room for Ralphs’ songs); bass player Overend Watts; drummer Dale Griffin; keyboard player Morgan Fisher; and longtime mate and road manger Stan Tippins sat down to discuss options. Ian Hunter mentioned Luther Grosvenor from old record label mates at Island, Spooky Tooth. He fitted the requirements. It was decided that if he said yes, that was it. No auditions. No second thoughts. Heads to the wall and go for it.

Stan Tippins got the required telephone number and Ian Hunter booked the call person to person from New York to London. With the time difference it was 6 o’clock in the morning when an unsuspecting guitarist got a ringing in his ears and was awakened from his slumber. Ian Hunter, surrounded on the phone by his band mates, dropped the big question. Luther Grosvenor, not one to let a mate down, answered in the affirmative, and the band was whole again.

Flights are quickly arranged and the band flew back to London. Luther Grosvenor had two weeks to learn the entire Mott the Hoople repertoire, and Mott the Hoople had two weeks to get used to having a new ace up their sleeves. Rehearsals are frantic and chaotic. The band discovered that unlike their previous guitarist who used to belt out the licks from the back of the stage, shaking his mane of hair but stationary, the new guy liked to move and needed one side of the stage to rush about so that nobody was safe. The band even managed to squeeze in a spot on Top of the Pop’s with everybody in the crowd trying to work out who the new guitarist was who ran amok while the band mimed their way through the new single ‘All The Way From Memphis’ (August 1973, 10 U.K., Top 30 in U.S.A.).

With this air of mystery as to the identity of the new Hoople member, Ian Hunter decided a change of name for his new recruit would be a laugh. So Lindsey de Paul, the beautiful English singer, came up with the name of Ariel Bender, and Ariel Bender it was.

The band flew back to continue the tour of the States in a high state of apprehension. The new album was rushing up the charts and the rest of the tour was already sold out. Plus with the fast spreading success of their support act Queen, it was all a bit daunting. (In their entire career Queen only supported one band and that was Mott the Hoople. Two tours of U.S.A. and one of U.K. Oh! Anything for a time machine.) Would the loyal Mott the Hoople fans take to their new guitarist?

The first gig was at the Hollywood Palladium on August 5, 1973. With a fair bit of Dutch courage under their belts they hit the stage. As soon as opening song ‘Drivin’ Sister’ was finished, the band knew they had struck gold. Sure, they missed Mick, but the new guy, Ariel Bender, gave Mott the Hoople that extra cutting edge they needed to push them over the top.

The fans loved him. Ariel Bender would arrive on stage with impossibly high stack heeled boots, which never slowed him down at all as he rushed around the stage, ripping out licks from his guitar, sparkly spandex strides, an assortment of fluorescent tops, enough slap to put the shares of Max Factor up on the stock exchange, long black hair flowing with glitter, all topped off by some glorious head wear. Sound outrageous? You bet.

A tour of Britain was organized at the Hammersmith Odeon, ending a day short of Ariel Bender’s birthday, with two gigs on the same day, which were recorded for a live album and were attended by Jagger and Bowie. Another headline tour of the States was penciled in for the following year with a record breaking seven day run at the Uris theatre on Broadway. Things were definitely on the up.

As his 27th Birthday loomed at Christmas 1973, the young boy from Evesham found himself in the hottest band of the year, a date book that was full, a new identity, fame, fortune, all laid out within his grasp. Top of the world, what a difference a year makes.

Mott the Hoople
Ian Hunter - Lead Vocals/Guitar
Ariel Bender - Lead Guitar
Overand Watts - Bass
Dale Griffin - Drums
Morgan Fisher - Piano

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]