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Book Review

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Book Review: Patpong Road

by Lang Reid

This week’s book review covers a truly Thai production. A Thailand subject, written in English by a Thai lawyer and printed and published in Bangkok this year, Patpong Road (ISBN 974-92367-2-6) was authored by Adul Tinaphong and is new on the shelves at my local Bookazine.

Patpong Road in Bangkok is, these days, a world-wide icon of what is meant by hedonism. However, the book immediately caught my interest because it covers much more than the a-go-go and sex scene, but more of the history, where it got its name, and why it became notorious. Being written by a Thai I also felt that there might be something deeper than the obvious and tawdry side of Patpong.

The road is named after Luang Patpongpanich, a Chinese immigrant from Yunnan, who at age 12, in the usual Chinese fashion, began his daily toil. He was a successful businessman, who ended up buying a house and land where Patpong Road is today for 59,000 baht.

The area was further developed by his sons, who introduced a new renting system for their shophouses, whereby there was no key-money up front, making it possible for anyone to set up in business. When a hotel was built to cater for the American servicemen, other businesses gravitated there to cater to the demand for entertainment, and so the early seeds of Patpong were sown.

Author Adul has done a journeyman’s job in bringing out all the different aspects and industries in Patpong, even down to differentiating the different types of bars that are available. He also mentions the different cuisines available - Thai, Chinese, Lao, Japanese, Italian, British, American, French and Mexican, and mentions the various restaurants, including my least favorite, the Tien-Tien, which charged me 900 baht for a fish two years ago, and it still rankles!

Parts of the book deal with the different people working there, from hostesses to lady-boys, DJ’s, bartenders, bartendees, maids, cleaners, touts, pimps, photographers, flower sellers, peddlers, beggars and a very interesting group called the Freelance men. Much use is made of anecdotal word images, interspersed with some interviews with people still working in Patpong Road, it being their home as well as work.

Activities in the (in)famous street are covered, including the more obvious sexual themes, but not limited to those. Beauty contests, sports, religious ceremonies and even political rallies, where hopefuls campaign up and down Patpong.

The English does tend to be decidedly ‘quaint’, and there are numerous spelling errors throughout the book. Author Adul should have been advised to get a native English sub-editor slash proof reader to go through the manuscript before publication, but a little late at this stage. Perhaps if it goes to a second imprint?

At B. 350 it is not an expensive read. I did find it interesting and there were several insights into the characters of the people who work on Patpong Road, which otherwise you would be lucky to find. Unfortunately, the very aspect that allows a Thai to show us something a little deeper also brings with it the jarring prose and even more annoying typos.

Mott's CD Reviews: Hanoi Rocks - Two Steps From The Move

Pawed by Mott the Dog
Re-chewed by Ella Crew

 5 Stars *****

Hanoi Rocks should of been huge. At the beginning of the eighties Motley Crue, Poison, and not even Guns and Roses were hip enough to look over the top of Hanoi Rocks platform boots.

The band, founded in 1980, consisted of Michael Munroe (real name Matti Fagenholm), the impossibly good looking, blond lead singer; Andy McCoy (real name Antti Hulkeho); Nasty Suicide (real name Jans Stenfas), between this pair of guitar slingers a more raunchy sound has never been developed; bassist Sam Jaffa (real name Saki Takamki); and drummer Gypsy Casino (real name Jespo Sparse). Yes, if you haven’t quite figured it out yet, these young guys were the cream of young musicians from Finland. However, after the release of their first album ‘Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, and Hanoi Rocks’ in their native land didn’t coerce much response, it was decided to cross over the water and move lock, stock, and smokin’ guitar case to London’s fair city, where they were welcomed with open arms. That is apart from poor old Gypsy, who was ousted from his drum kit by a certain Nicholas (Razzle) Dingby. Razzle was so besotted by the band on first sight that he had to join one way or another. It’s not the first time in rock ‘n’ roll history that a drummer has been replaced by someone not with more ability, but more enthusiasm and spirit.

With the line-up complete they soon had a successful 6 date tour of England with Wishbone Ash in their pocket. What the rather staid Ash fans must have made of this bunch of ragamuffins I have no idea, but, most importantly, the British music press was behind them, every man, woman and child. (Sounds wrote of their new prot้g้es “Born to be Superstars, Hanoi Rocks will soon be bigger than Coca-Cola and Big Mac’s”.)

The new album ‘Oriental Beat’ (1982) was recorded and released to fanatical reviews, but only moderate sales recorded in the British Isles. Although to be fair, things were a little better in the rest of the world. They had become huge stars in Japan just on their looks alone. Concert sales were not a problem, though hysterical scenes following the band wherever they played.

Buoyed by the live buzz and critical acclaim, they went back into the studio to come out with their third album ‘Back to Mystery City’. One listen was all it took to realize the boys had perhaps been reading too much of their own hype. It was a flop, peaking at number 87 in the British charts, and the band was savaged by press and fans alike.

Fortunately the record company did not panic. After a quick groundbreaking tour of the United States of America, press reports were good again, although ‘Back to Mystery City’ was hidden from prying American ears. On arrival back in England the band was put back in the studio, this time with the guiding hand of producer Bob Ezrin. Moreover, and just to make sure there were no more slip ups, Ian Hunter of Mott the Hoople fame was brought in to help with the writing and arranging of several songs. The record company even persuaded our little ‘tearaways’ to record a cover of Credence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Up Around The Bend’, which was released before the album came out as a little taster. It was rushing up the charts with a bullet.

‘Two Steps From The Move’ was released in 1983, to mass critical acclaim and the ‘Back to Mystery City’ debacle was forgiven. The boys set out to conquer the world, first by flying out to prepare to tour America. Tragically on 9th November, while the band were partying with Motley Crue, Razzle accepted a lift from the drunken lead singer of Motley Crue, Vince Neil, who lost control of the car and the band’s beloved drummer Razzle was dead. Vince Neil was convicted of vehicular manslaughter and served 30 days in jail. Hanoi Rocks never recovered. Oh, they pressed on till 1985, but the heart of the band had gone.

Michael Munroe later did a great solo album called ‘Not Fakin’ It’ and McCoy, Suicide, and Monroe got together for an album called ‘Demolition 23’ in 1990. That really tore up the rock ‘n’ roll discos. But one listen to ‘Two Steps From The Move’ will prove what should have been. R.I.P. Razzle.

Hanoi Rocks were
Michael Munroe - Lead Vocals and Sax
Andy McCoy - Lead Guitar and Vocals
Nasty Suicide - Guitars and Vocals
Sam Yaffa - Bass and Vocals
Razzle - Drums

Track Listing

Up Around The Bend
High School
I Can’t Get It
Underwater World
Don’t You Ever Leave Me
Million Miles way
Boulevard Of Broken Dreams
Cutting Corners

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]