Melvis, real name Tsui Kam-kong, 68, is gone and long live the King of Lan Kwai Fong. Those of us who have made Hong Kong home know Melvis from his performances throughout most of the Central district of this city for the past three decades.
I would always run into him when having dinner at what still remains one of the best restaurants Hong Kong ever had- Bistro Manchu. That wonderful restaurant managed by the always honest Tom- “No order any more, Mister Hans. This enough”- and with a menu that included the best pan fried dumplings anywhere and the brilliant Cumin Lamb, closed its doors over a year ago along with many other restaurants in Elgin Street.
We didn’t know it at the time, but in our own small way, we were game changers in the makeup of what was growing up to be Hong Kong.
The secondary school that is KGV- King George V School- in Tin Kwong Road, Kowloon was a unique melting pot of nationalities that came together at a very important time in Hong Kong’s then present without even knowing it. In doing so, we were part of creating the heady gumbo mix that was to become so integral to the cosmopolitan personality Hong Kong.
Looking back, perhaps our parents learned much from us- like how kids from very different backgrounds could form a rainbow coalition long before this term became a meaningless hashtag.
Inspiration is in short supply these days, and why, often, many of us go looking for it. I know I do and it isn’t necessarily the solution to the problem or the key to the inspiration highway.
Especially during these long days journey into night that often lead nowhere, we still jump on board. There’s always the thinking that this time things might be different.
Forgotten are those potholes in life that one has stepped into knowing they’re just not right- wrong love, toxicity, business with the wrong players, marriages of convenience, and wrong ideas at the wrong time.
More often than not, despite having survived the wars, that burst of inspiration is still missing in action. One possibly needs to have gone through this eureka moment sometime before to know when it knocks on your door again.
For some reason, I always thought “Ram” was Paul McCartney’s second solo record though it did feature wife Linda and a few sidemen some of whom ended up in Wings. Apparently, I missed the synth pop of “McCartney 2” somewhere along the way though familiar with the singles “Coming Up” and the cult hit “Temporary Secretary” which continues to be sampled by DJs.
Though friends and music critics thought it to be “scattered”, “Ram”, at least to me, was brilliant. I can still feel the texture of the album cover whereas many of the tracks remain favourites- not for their studio perfection and trying to boldly move Pop music’s chess pieces across the board- but for doing exactly the opposite. Like bringing this Beatles fan back to terra firma. One can’t be up there on Blue Jay Way with Lucy in the Sky forever.
It’s almost become predictable and somewhat “uncool” to say that “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” is, if not the best, then the most adventurous and creative Rock record ever produced and released.
Some might argue that this honour goes to “Revolver”, maybe “Dark Side Of The Moon”, Stevie Wonder’s “Talking Book”, any of the early work of The Mothers Of Invention, or Brian Wilson/Beach Boys “Pet Sounds”. But when one thinks of the packaging and design work alone that went into conceptualising the recorded music, it wasn’t just a trip, it was a magical mystery tour of its own.
Designers and pop artists Peter Blake and Jann Haworth were tremendously important in ensuring that the famous album cover was and remains as vital and interesting as the music and the concept behind the music.
If it’s not one thing, it’s another. While some railed against it, many in America are doing everything possible to stay safe during this Thanksgiving weekend by being masked, and practising social distancing.
Early this week saw Covid-19 Fever enter a dance salon/nightclub in Hong Kong where one wonders how many were practicing social distancing on the dance floor and attack almost everyone there. Not even Stephen King could have come up with this script.
This wasn’t just another club with a DJ and sweaty bodies jumping up and down and losing themselves in the, well, ecstasy of pumping House, Trance and other beats.
No, this was a well-known private club to some in a more upmarket area of Wanchai. This venue caters to what are known as “tai tais”- extremely rich, well manicured, mature, and mainly married or divorced Chinese ladies needing to feel young again on the magical carpet ride of the dance floor.
He added an extra chorus to the songs through all the riffs, hooks, and whatever you wanna call them to the songs. Think of the guitar intros to “I Feel Fine”, “Daytripper”, “Ticket To Ride”, “And Your Bird Can Sing”, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “You Can’t Do That”, that singularly wake up call of the chord that opened “Hard Days Night”.
Then there were his creatively minimal guitar solos that might have been copied by many, but never bettered- those melodic solos on “I Should Have Known Better”, “Taxman”, “I’m Only Sleeping”, “Let It Be” and every little big thing he played throughout his great love song to then wife Patti on “Something”.
Reading the rather confusing piece above in Rolling Stone about parts of Asia being new markets for some artists from the West and mentioning the recent success (on Spotify) in the Philippines of a singer-songwriter from Denmark named Maximillian and his song “Beautiful Scars” had me thinking.
It made me think just how much the music world has changed so quickly and in every possible way. I also wondered if I had gone back in time with Doc to the early 2000’s when making that tough call to leave the behemoth that was Universal Music Asia and join the struggling Regional Office of EMI Music in the as Executive Director.
There’s old fashioned, there’s new fashioned, and then there’s just flailing about hoping like hell no one will see the truth- how that despite all the smokescreens, algorithms and views and followers, there’s nothing there.
It’s no different to what’s being played out for far greater stakes in the minds of the Donald and his enablers taking advantage of someone who has completely lost his marbles. While he’s bunkered down and going through terminal Loser Denial, his team has planted so many seeds of doubt into minds that nothing any side says or does is no longer believable.
CNN, Fox News, Spotify numbers, YouTube views, Facebook “likes”, Instagram numbers, Rolling Stone reportage, the Washington Post etc etc, nothing adds up.
There’s not much to show for it, is there? There never is when there’s no substance to anything being done- and done for reasons that are from Rue Shallowness.
It’s like much of the sounds being made today- and those responsible for churning out these fatuous sausages sold with hundreds of hashtags and aided and abetted by “followers” and “likes” purchased for a price. Is this a good business model? Will it show a return on investment?
Music is something very subjective. It has to be. It’s something personal. And maybe this Instagram “version” of the art form mentioned above is right for these times. Maybe. Maybe it’s escapism from having to deal with the harsh realities of life.