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Book Review

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Book Review:Thai Vignettes

by Lang Reid

Steve Rosse is a newspaper columnist cum author, who has put together around 40 of his short stories into “Thai Vignettes, Phuket and Beyond” (ISBN 974-93439-2-1, Bangkok Book House, 2005).

They revolve around some of the flotsam and jetsam of Phuket, with many of the characters being real and named in the introduction, while in others, names have been changed to protect the guilty!

The items are certainly not full of the lavish praise one expects in a travel book, but many do highlight the kind of people who end up on a Thai island, washed up in more ways than one, and after a long period of time, become living legends such as Missionary Mike, an American who had been there for 18 years and lived off his wits, ‘helping’ fellow Americans on their first time to Thailand. We have all met Missionary Mikes!

The behavior of farangs in Thailand is also looked at in one short item called “An Affair to Remember” where Rosse describes the usual press and promotional party. However, it is the behavior of the American promoters who cuddle up with bar girls that is highlighted. “If the suits had expected their little get-together to earn them credibility with the local business community, they can forget it now,” writes Rosse.

Not all are about farangs in Phuket, but many are insightful exposes of life in Phuket (and elsewhere) for a Thai. The final one in the book is a truly heart-rending tale of a young Thai girl having come down on the bus from Nakhon Sawan to show respect to her mother as all dutiful Thai daughters are taught. This is their cultural inheritance. This is their responsibility. This is their duty. But it does not necessarily mean that it is fair, just, or a family time of rejoicing, but it certainly is character building. To be able to withstand this kind of life’s wrong cards, you almost have to be Thai, and author Rosse has done well to ‘change sides’ to write this item. Reading the piece about this young girl, about to become a woman, you can see why the same scenario could be replayed with her own daughters.

The item with the greatest sting in the tail for me was one entitled “What I did for love” which encapsulated the emotions that all visa holders have when sitting in the Immigration Department offices. The unsmiling person behind the counter, perusing your paperwork, has the power to destroy your life with one stamp in your passport. But Steve Rosse found an even more worrisome twist.

It is difficult to know where this book lies. It is certainly no travelogue, nor is it a promotional piece for Phuket, nor is it something to show just how well the farangs are doing in this country, as very few of Rosse’s subjects could be considered “successes”. Perhaps it should just be accepted for what it is – an anthology of short stories written by a very observant and keenly descriptive writer. It entertains, it amuses, it makes you think. Perhaps that is where its real value lies.


Mott's CD Reviews: Caravan

In the Land of Grey and Pink

mott the dog

5 Stars *****

In the early Sixties there was a stir going on musically in the brand new world of Pop and Rock music around the area of the quiet Cathedral City of Canterbury in Kent. The catalyst for all of this, which was to be wittily called “The Canterbury Sound”, stemmed from a band calling themselves The Wilde Flowers (appropriate sixties misspelling like The Beatles and The Byrds). Formed in 1963, the band imploded in 1967, splitting into two major factions, one side, the more avant-garde jazz/rock fusion minded musicians Robert Wyatt, Hugh Hopper and Kevin Ayers, going off to form Soft Machine, which later begat such bands as Gong, Kevin Ayers and The Whole World, Matching Mole, etc., while the other more pop/rock members Richard Coughlan, Pye Hastings, David Sinclair, and his bass playing cousin Richard Sinclair, went off and formed Caravan.

The four members of Caravan went off and did what every self respecting band did in that much beloved era, went into retreat in the country, “To get it together”. After a year camping just outside nearby seaside resort Whitstable, rehearsing every night in a nearby church hall, and fighting off starvation, they became one of the tightest little musical outfits in the British Isles without even playing a gig.

After three years and two previous albums, Caravan released “In the Land of Grey and Pink” (1971). This album has one of the most unique and instantly recognisable sounds in the history of rock, perhaps a little whimsical for some, but then that is a lot of its charm.

On “In the Land of Grey and Pink”, what you actually get is three of Richard Sinclair’s finest ever songs, one from Pye Hastings (according to Pye that was fair enough as he had written most of the first two albums), and then side two of the vinyl album was taken up by the one twenty-two minute opus Nine Feet Underground, which came in five separate movements, with four bridges, and was mainly written by David Sinclair, with the others linking all the parts together, and adding bits here and there.

The album opens with Golf Girl, a wonderful song of love about Richard Sinclair’s future wife (there were no songs of war, hate or politics in the Caravan repertoire, just songs of idealised life that we can all relate to in our happier moments). This song should be played regularly in all of the area’s many golf bars, as no song could improve the atmosphere in a bar more.

Golf Girl is followed by another Richard Sinclair song, Winter Wine, a song of fairytales and dreams which weaves along perfectly with the feeling of well-being laid down by the first song.

Next up is the Pye Hastings’s composition Love To Love You (And Tonight Pigs Will Fly). The lyrics to this very hummable song are extremely naughty, not smutty or crude, just enjoyably naughty.

The title track, another Richard Sinclair number, is a nursery rhyme set to music as if sung to children, including one of the most beautiful piano solos ever put down on tape and lyrics that would soften the most jaded soul’. “Not leaving your Dad out in the rain, those nasty grumbley Grimblies, and cleaning your teeth in the sea,” the song’s final verse, is sung in bubble as you would to sing to a six month old baby; quite delightful.

The album’s epic Nine Feet Underground is a stunning display of exactly how well the members of Caravan had mastered their chosen instruments, including the duel lead vocals of Pye Hastings and Richard Sinclair. Obviously, it is mainly David Sinclair’s keyboards that are in the fore through out, deservedly so as he was on a par with any player of his day. The piano, Hammond organ and the mellotron are all given thorough workouts in the space allowed in Nine Feet Underground’s twenty two minutes, but this does not detract from the jazzy bass work of Richard Sinclair, the melodic lead guitar work from Pye Hastings, or the rock solid drumming of Richard Coughlan. There is also room for Pye’s brother Jimmy Hastings to come in and add some flute and tenor saxophone.

Although the album was not a great commercial success at the time, it has never been taken out of print and sells steadily to this day. Decca has just released a re-mastered version with thirty minutes of extra music, including two tracks that were recorded at the time but had to be left off because of time limitations, demo versions of two of the Richard Sinclair songs, plus an alternative ending to Nine Feet Underground where Caravan proves that they could rock as hard as any of their contemporaries if they wanted to.

The commercial failure of the album was to lead to great internal stresses within Caravan, and David Sinclair was to pack up his keyboards and leave almost immediately, going off to search for his musical ideal with Robert Wyatt in Matching Mole. Cousin Richard lasted one more album, Waterloo Lily (1972) before he cast off to roam afield in the musical world, later forming Hatfield and the North, before joining Camel.

Caravan stumbled on, but was to never match the magnificence of In the Land of Grey and Pink, only reforming for one off gigs in the nineties for financial reasons.

Musicians on In the Land of Grey and Pink
Richard Sinclair: Bass guitar, Acoustic guitar, Vocals, Bubbles
Pye Hastings: Electric and Acoustic guitars, Vocals
David Sinclair: Organ, Piano, Mellotron, Harmony Vocals
Richard Coughlan: Drums and all sorts of Percussion
Jimmy Hastings: Flute, tenor Saxophone, Piccolo
Dave Grinstead: Cannon, Bell, Wind (That’s what it says on the album sleeve)

Songs

Golf Girl
Winter Wine
Love To Love You (And Tonight Pigs Will Fly)
In The Land Of The Grey And The Pink
Nine Feet Underground
Nigel Blows A Tune/Love’s A Friend/Make It 76/Dance Of The Seven Paper Hankies/Hold Granddad By The Nose/Honest I Did/Disassociation/100%

Bonus Tracks

I Don’t Know It’s Name (Alias, The Word)
ristocracy
It’s Likely To Have A Name Next Week (Demo of Winter Wine)
Group Girl (Demo of Golf Girl)
Disassociation/100% (Alternative much longer ending to Nine Feet Underground)

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]
Website: http://www.mott-the-dog.com