PASS THE SRIRACHA: BITS N’ PIECES

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Ethnocentrist as I am, I originally got the idea to do an “Asian diaspora” mix a couple of years back. I got as far to actually draft up a complete playlist – all that was really left was to mix the sucker together – but I left it out on the vine for a bit. Then, the other month, I asked folks what they wanted and much to my surprise, the idea of an “Asian mix” scored highest out of the possible choices so I went back to the prospective tracks but then paused.

Look: I don’t claim to have a collection to rival DJ Muro’s and if I’m going to step to the plate with a mix of shit-you-probably-haven’t-heard-before, I at least want to have the confidence that either 1) this is all top shelf or 2) I’m putting it together creatively enough as a mix. And frankly, Rooster Sauce (my tentative title) just didn’t pass that test. Especially in the past year, with really interesting music from Thailand and Indonesia being comped and the like, I felt like what I had wasn’t strong enough. And again, it doesn’t have to be mega-obscure, but if I’m going to put down 20 songs in a mix, I want to know that, “no matter what, these are completely kick ass” and I couldn’t quite say that. The conceit had seduced me but I hadn’t reciprocated enough in kind.

This is all a long-winded way of explaining why Rooster Sauce is getting shelved back to “work in progress” status. That’s the bad news.

The good news? I decided to just post up a slew of the songs I was planning to use; no sense in letting them go to waste!

Let’s begin with what I considered to be one of the crown jewels of Asian diasporic soul/funk:
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Bits N’ Pieces: Music Maker
Tanga Goo Bonk
Sparkling in the Sand
From Only the Beginning (Dyna, 1970?)

This is one of my top fire-crate albums.1 Cool Chris introduced the LP to me before I left the Bay, knowing of my interest in both 1) records with cover songs and 2) records by Asian folk. A few months before moving to L.A., he needed to raise some capital and offered me the LP. Couldn’t refuse the opportunity, especially since this thing turns up so rarely, it’s damn near un-googleable 2. It is mentioned in the Pokora psych guide but other than that, it just doesn’t pop up on the online radar. I’m not saying this to brag – I just find that extraordinary since I’m used to everything being online somewhere.

What extra strange is that while there’s very little info about the album…the group itself actually has a strong internet presence. The original incarnation of Bits N’ Pieces was founded in Manila in the mid 1960s and the group was part of what’s now called the Pinoy Classic Rock scene. Band members included lead guitarist Jun Raymundo, keyboard player Danny Bornilla, drummer Boyet Pigao and vocalists Alex Bernardo and Larry Briones (the latter also played rhythm guitar). Buddy Medina directed the band.

Though this LP – from what I can tell, their only – was recorded in the Philippines on Dyna/Parlophone, it’s pretty obvious that the group had a definite U.S. connection, especially to California. All the songs are covers, over half of which came from California-based groups. The most unexpected cover was “Music Maker,” by the Bay Area’s Abel.

Also to my surprise and delight is the cover of the Nite-Liters’ “Tanga Goo Bonk.” It was one of the group’s more modest hits though most bands cover “K-Jee”. 3 And yes, I threw this on Deep Covers 2.

The third cover – and my personal favorite – is their take on Tower of Power’s “Sparkling in the Sand”. I put it on They Call Me Mr. Lonely and as far as rock ballads from 1970 go, pretty hard to mess with (though I’m also partial to Three Dog Night’s “Easy To Be Hard”), also covered – as it were – by another “Asian diasporic band,” the Impossibles. 4

Bits N’ Pieces are still around, though they’re now based in the U.S> and in the “third generation” of their line-up. One of their original members (though strangely, not credited on this album), drummer Jay Husfelt, maintains a few different sites dedicated to the group. I also discovered a short documentary about the group that’s now on youtube.

  1. I originally mentioned this concept back in 2006: the fire crate, whether real or theoretical, would a crate of records you would grab to protect in case your house was on fire. Could be that they’re worth the most. Or are the most obscure. Or have the greatest sentimental value. In the case of Only the Beginning, it’s all three.
  2. What you can find on google is something I wrote about them!
  3. The only other cover of this song I know of comes from the infamous Chilean LP by Xingu.
  4. Rounding the album out: two Earth, Wind and Fire covers – “Love Is Life” and “I Think About Loving You,” Chicago’s “Poem For the People” and Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy.”

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