Never a dull moment in Shanghai is there? Between Western and Chinese holidays it seems like there is some celebration every damn week. Throw in some important world summits and life threatening smog days then you got yourself non-stop action all year long. Dragon-Boat Weekend is not necessarily the biggest but hey, we got one of those sticky rice treats and a day off. It’s during these more Chinese-centric holidays that I like to dig in the crates for some of the best Psych Rock, Disco, Funk, Freak Folk, and other awesome songs in Mandarin or Cantonese from the 60s and 70s. Last February for Chinese New Year I laid down the first Far Out East article and that guy went wild on the ‘ole blogosphere with no less than five reposts!
Today I’m back with another helping of those 60s and 70s treats that keep my Ayi shaking her dust feather all around my apartment from 2pm to 4pm on Mondays. I’m going to skip my weekend rants (damn you Captain Rooster for closing on a holiday) and get straight into the rare grooves. Enjoy!
After last February’s article I got a lot of request for higher quality vinyl rips of the songs. Many of the albums are in poor condition or are vinyl copies of a copy so getting pristine original versions is not an easy task. Luckily one of my close friends Robert Yang aka Robot Hustle from the Honey Sound System crew in San Francisco is also into vintage Chinese vinyl scores. American born with Taiwanese roots, Robert has traveled all the main hot spots in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan picking up the best of those early records.
Recently Mr. Hustle showcased some of his Chinese records on Tim Sweeney’s infamous Beats in Space radio show. You can check out that full hour mix right here. However, there is no track listing so start studying up on your 70s Cantonese funk. Robert cleaned up and re-released two of his favorite artists that were also featured in my February article -- Chen Qion Mei and Sum Sum + Pan Pan. You can download those high quality WAV files for free below [VPN Required]:
Chen Qiong Mei - Sounds of Chen Qiong Mei (Robot Hustle Mix)
Sum Sum + Pan Pan - Legend of Phoenix Sound Track (Robot Hustle Mix)
Lara & The Trailers (櫻櫻和特麗樂隊)
One of the most famous singers slinging that 60s psych in Mandarin went by the name Lara. Backed by her band the Trailers, they churned out some of the best pop rock of the day. Covering famous acts like the Clovers and Beatles, Lara and the Trailers also laid down originals that were famous throughout Southeast Asia. You can just feel those Singapore clubs jumping to The Trailers' organ heavy chords with wall to wall go-go dancers. Let’s kick things off with "Run for Your Life" followed by a Mandarin cover of "Love Potion Number 9."
Lara & The Trailers – "Run for Your Life"
Lara & The Trailers – "Love Potion Number 9"
Xi Xiu Lan (奚秀蘭)
Born in 1950 in Anhui province, Xiu Lan moved to Hong Kong during middle school. Coming up through local Hong Kong singing competitions she won a major contest in 1967 that helped her land a record deal. She remained a key figure in the music scene by participating in numerous singing television shows throughout the 1970s. Upon marrying one of Hong Kong’s richest men in 1979, Xiu Lan retired from the boob tube music shows but continued putting out albums through the 80s. Proving you can’t stop old Chinese ladies from grooving, Xiu Lan hosted a big concert here in Shanghai just a few years ago. The first song is one of the heaviest psych songs I’ve heard in Mandarin, titled "Mom Sent Me" from 1969, followed by a lighter early 70s pop songs track titled "Flower of Love."
Xi Xiu Lan (奚秀蘭) – "Mom Sent Me( 媽媽送我)"
Xi Xiu Lan (奚秀蘭) - "Flower of Love (梨山痴情花)"
Rita Chao (凌雲)
While Hong Kong has some of the best disco and funk acts I’m going to have to give it up for Singapore for laying down some solid garage bands. Rita Chao was one such artist with her backing band The Quests. Bringing hard hitting back-beats with a fast tempo, Chao & the Quests covered all the greats and even gained popularity in Japan. I’m sure the mini-skirts and her ability to effortlessly switch between Mandarin and English made her a favorite for the Asian version of EMI records. Out of all the artists today Rita has the biggest back catalog, so if you dig that 60s Chinese sound then hit her up on Youtube or Baidu. My two choices to share are a Mandarin cover of "Wooly Bully" and the song "Shake, Shake, Shake."
Rita Chao & the Quests (凌雲) - "Wooly Bully"
Rita Chao & the Quests – "Shake, Shake, Shake"
Margaret Miu (苗嘉麗)
Native born Hong Kong singer Margaret Miu got her start singing in the clubs of Kowloon in 1966 and eventually became a major player in the Hong Kong movie industry. Known for loving the nightlife she was featured in local papers in socialite sections. Finally Miu ended up in San Francisco where she remains today. For my last song, I’m going to share one of my favorite covers of the enduring "Sounds of Silence" folk song, written by my two main men Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. Maggie Miu does a great job on this eerie Cantonese version…
Margaret Miu (苗嘉麗 ) - "Sounds of Silence (指水盟心愛義長)"
Well thanks for coming along with me on another voyage of all things 60s/70s in Mandarin & Cantonese. There is still a ton more to discover so expect another Far Out East article whenever lanterns are being lit or tombs are being swept.
If you’re hungry for another cleaned up mix of Chinese psych funk check out this 15 minute piece from San Francisco producer Spaziale, who specializes in mostly vintage porn sound tracks.
Spaziale - 午夜香吻 (Midnight Kiss)
My record store Uptown will have a big booth at this weekend’s DAFF market. We just got a shipment of sweet suitcase record players in, come pick up yours and start the vinyl countdown…