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Book Review

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Book Review: The History of Thailand

Another book offering to chronicle the history of Thailand, but finally here is one that lives up to the promise. Co-written by Chris Baker, a teacher of Asian history at Cambridge University, and Pasuk Phongpaichit, a professor of Economics at Chulalongkorn University (ISBN 0-521-01647-9, Cambridge University Press, 2005) they have the credentials needed to produce a book of high caliber. A previous publication in 2004 by this pair was “Thaksin: The Business of Politics in Thailand” which I reviewed last year.

There is nothing superficial about this book and its dissection of the periods in history that have held particular importance to the building of the country now known as Thailand. Page 8 gives a credible explanation of how the country received its original name of Siam. “Ayuttha- ya emerged as the dominant centre in the late fourteenth century. The Chinese called this region Xian, which the Portuguese converted into Siam.”

Every page contains fascinating snippets, as well as important details of the history. For example, the Privy Purse Bureau established the Siam Commercial Bank in the early 1900’s to help prop up failing industries, after private banks went bust attempting to keep the rice industry going. When the previously dominant households could no longer service their loans, the Privy Purse then foreclosed, adding to its own power.

The book is divided into chapters covering the pre-Bangkok era; 1760-1860;
reforms 1850-1910; peasants, merchants and officials 1870-1930;nationalism
1910-1940; the American era 1940-1960; ideologies 1940-1970;globalization and mass society 1970 onwards and politics 1970 and onwards. As can be seen, there is much overlapping in this style of grouping, but it is not such as to become confusing, but rather reinforces previous chapters as you read through.

As you would expect of a scholarly piece of work, at the end of the book is to be found Notes relating to references in the chapters, a glossary of names, suggested readings referring to each chapter and an index. At the front of the book is a list of the illustrations (many of them original archived photographs), maps a list of abbreviations, a glossary and chronology.

That particularly ‘sticky’ period in Thai national politics during WW II is covered dispassionately and I believe shows the true reasons for the vacillations, where Thailand valiantly attempted to make sure that they were on the side of whichever the winners were. Phibun is quoted as having said, “Which side do you think will lose this war? That side is our enemy.”

A serious book, but not written in the stuffy style of a text book. This is one of the definitive books of this genre. This is one that all expat households should have on the shelves. If you are going to live in this country, you should know its history. The History of Thailand will give it to you (and your children) and your spouse, as I have noted that the Thai population is in general abysmally ignorant of their own turbulent history. At B. 895 it is a very worthwhile investment in this country, especially all those who have decided to make Thailand their home.

Mott's CD Reviews:  Supertramp - Crime of the Century

Just Another Night - DVD

Mott the Dog 

4 Stars *****

“Just Another Night” is the second DVD release from Ian Hunter in just over two years. The first was recorded in Oslo Norway - a one off concert put on for DVD. Ian Hunter performed with guitarist Andy York, a put together local band, and a forty piece string section. The set list was carefully worked out to show off Ian Hunter’s songs that would benefit from being played in this environment. Most of it works very well, but in general leaves the viewer with a slight feeling of dissatisfaction, as the whole concert comes across more Manilow than Hunter. With Hunter himself often looking out of place at the front of the stage, with nearly fifty musicians behind him, standing alone in black, no customary guitar slung round his neck, hiding behind his omnipresent shades.

“Just Another Night” is a different matter altogether, Ian Hunter and the Rant Band, featuring long time mate and original lead guitarist from Mott The Hoople, and founding member of Bad Company Mick Ralphs. The previous year’s tour of England had been the first time Hunter and Ralphs had been on a stage together for over thirty years. Ralphs great fear of flying was always a huge burden to him touring internationally or across the America’s. So it was a nice little niche for Ralph’s to team back up with Ian Hunter, for the English leg of his tour to stretch his legs and axe picking fingers on the boards again.

The previous year this had worked with devastating effect with both Hunter and Ralphs blowing up a storm, enjoying playing on the same stage again, spurring each other on to greater heights. The set list was magnificent, running at over two and a half hours, with Ralphs soloing away to his heart’s delight (and the audience’s). Ralphs even grabs the spotlight for a solo run through the old B.B. King Chestnut ‘Hideaway’ which Ralphs tears apart and rips through with great crescendos.

The final encore finishes off with a rockin’ version of Little Richards’ ‘Keep-a Knockin’ which lifts the roof off the gaff. Unfortunately the following year’s tour lacked the complete enthusiasm of the previous tour, especially by the time of the closing date of the tour when this concert was recorded. The set list is a little strange for starters, opening with ‘Rest In Peace’, a number once described by Mott The Hoople’s old bass player Overend Watts as, “A nice quiet little ditty we used to do mid-set to allow us to catch our breath.” So, not the most flash of starts (the last tour had opened with the rock ‘n’ roll ‘One of the Boys’.)

Mick Ralphs himself looks uninspired to take the lead guitar work and only occasionally steps forward to let go, definitely no solo number. Ian Hunter is his usual amiable self throughout, although the old throat is showing definite signs of wear and tear after a long tour. It’s a shame as the wonderful Angel Air had recorded one of the 2002 concerts for release on DVD and CD, at The Opera House Manchester England which caught the band in full flight. I know, as I have a highly prized bootleg of the event (A Night At The Opera House). Unfortunately, due to contractual problems, this was not possible, so Secret records took on the job the following year and this is the result, a great concert, but on its school report would have had “could have done better”. Maybe just recording the final concert of a tour limited their options a little.

After the rather lacklustre opening the band is led by Hunter into the Mott the Hoople standard bearer (from way back in 1969 opening song of side two of Mott The Hoople’s debut album, and played at every Mott The Hoople concert until their untimely demise in 1974) “Rock ‘n’ Roll Queen”. The band immediately get their boots on and come roaring in behind Hunter, and although Ralphs seems a little restrained, the same cannot be said for the rest of the boys. Andy York (Moonlighting from John Cougar Mellencamp’s band) tears into his axe at every opportunity, whilst being given solid support from the boys in the backline. Particular attention should be mentioned for the magnificent drumming skills of long time Ian Hunter band member Steve Holly, a star in his own right. Ian Gibbons (ex-Kinks) puts on a good show on the keyboards whilst allowing the lead guitars to shine; Gus Goad on bass is obviously having the time of his life.

The rest of the concert rushes along in typical Hunter style with some of the best songs to come out of the British Isles, including the poignant “I Wish I Was Your Mother”, most of the Hit Singles from both Mott The Hoople and Ian Hunter’s Solo career, although perhaps not enough songs from Ian Hunter’s last solo album “Rant” (2002). Leaving out “Good Samaritan” is almost a Rock ‘n’ Roll criminal act.

Central to the concert is a massive version of “The Truth, The Whole Truth, Nuthin’ But The Truth” from Ian Hunter’s first solo album (1975), which is as solid a slab of Rock as it gets. In a two hour concert most of the songs that you would expect are here, which is further helped by a great medley of songs, old and new, wrapped inside this band’s version of “The Journey”. But watch out as all through the concert Ian Hunter slips in little snippets of crowd pleasers.

The whole show is brought to a dramatic conclusion when out onto the stage are brought Brian May of Queen fame, and Joe Elliot of Def Leapard. Brian May is delightful, wearing an outrageous wig, and throwing perfect shapes all across the stage, ripping the notes out of “All The Way From Memphis”. This finally gives Mick Ralphs a nudge, too, who gets it on, whilst Andy York goes ape at the side of the stage. This three pronged axe attack is simply devastating.

So all in all a great package (including a lengthy interview with the man himself, plus footage of the band’s sound checking, which is quite amusing). It’s not the greatest concert ever from Mr. Hunter and his merry gang, but certainly worth your attention. If you want a taster, get down to TQ’s famous Friday Rock ‘n’ Roll Happy Hour on Friday’s and ask the DJ to put on “All The Way From Memphis” from this collection to see how Rock ‘n’ Roll should be played.

The Rant Band
Ian Hunter: Vocals, Guitar, and Keyboards
Mick Ralphs: Lead Guitar
Andy York: Lead Guitar
Gus Goad: Bass Guitar
Steve Holly: Drums
Ian Gibbons: Keyboards

Rest In Peace
Rock ‘n’ Roll Queen
Once Bitten Twice Shy
Twisted Steel
I Wish I Was Your Mother
Knees Of My Heart
23A Swan Hill
Irene Wilde
The Truth, The Whole Truth, Nuthin’ But The Truth
Roller Ball
Nightingale Sang In Berkley Square
Roll Away the Stone. Saturday Gigs
All The Young Dudes
The Journey
Dead Man Walkin’
Just Another Night
Cleveland Rocks
Michael Picasso
Standin’ In My Light
All The Way From Memphis

To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]