A recent Facebook post of a black-and-white photograph of John Lennon and Paul McCartney with two Oriental-looking female fans evoked memories of a past that offered a refreshing respite from pandemic times.
The guy who posted it claimed the photo was taken at the Manila Hotel, where the Beatles were billeted for the duration of two scheduled shows on 4 July 1966 at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium.
But a Google search yielded a colored version, which indicated it was taken when the Beatles flew to Hong Kong for a concert on 9 June 1964. In the photo, George Harrison is in the middle, flanked by McCartney, Lennon, and the two women, who looked very Pinay.
In any case, I remembered my parents telling me that they brought me along to watch the Beatles’ 1964 film A Hard Day’s Night at the Filipinas Theater in Malabon.
“You kept crying,” dad said. I was then just a year old.
Intertwining lives, careers
The 60s were a period when many Filipino youth formed their own bands — initially influenced by the Beatles, Rolling Stones and other British Invasion groups, but later on wrote their own songs and developed a sound that would be called Pinoy Rock.
Two fine examples were the Juan dela Cruz Band (JDLC) and Anak Bayan. These two groups’ members were buddies, their personal lives and careers intertwined. Joey “Pepe” Smith and Edmond Fortuno both had stints in Japan as members of a combo (the popular term for bands back then), before Smith and Mike Hanopol joined Wally Gonzalez in JDLC, and Fortuno, a co-founding member of JDLC, formed Anak Bayan with Vic Naldo, Bing Labrador, Alex Cruz and Sonny Tolentino.
There’s a vintage photo of Smith, Gonzalez and Fortuno in hippie attire, with Fortuno and Gonzalez seated at a table in what seemed like a press conference for an event.
Fortuno’s wife, Emee, said she’s not sure if that was the presscon for a local production of Jesus Christ Superstar at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, held on 3 and 4 September 1971.
As a young journalist covering the local music scene in the late 80s, I would meet Smith and Fortuno, and later on, Gonzalez. I would become a manager of Smith upon his release from jail in 1994. Fortuno died in 2000, and Smith in 2019.
Pinoy Rock Queen
If Smith was regarded as the King of Pinoy Rock, Sampaguita was the Queen.
Known as the fashion model Tessy Alfonso, whose dad, Pete Alfonso, owned and operated Cafe Indonesia on Dewey (now Roxas) Boulevard, Sampaguita was launched as a singer just as Pinoy Rock would reach its zenith in the mid-70s.
The brains behind Sampaguita’s career was her husband, Nilo Santos, who produced her albums, as well as Mike Hanopol’s solo records, under the name Nilsan Productions — the same outfit that mounted the New Moon concerts and Eric Clapton’s 1979 concert at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Santos and Sampaguita union bore a son, Kowboy Santos, who is also now a musician in his own right.
I got hold of a photo of Kowboy as a toddler with his parents. “I was probably three years old,” he said.
It’s a tie
On 21 June 1975, the RC Cola National Battle of the Bands was held in Makati City. Over 200 groups joined, recalled Joey Puyat, whose band Mother Earth made it to the finals, along with the band Destiny.
Mother Earth was composed of Harry Tambuatco, Colby dela Calzada, Gabe Ascalon, Uly Avante, Ed Jose, Cherry Mapua and Puyat.
Destiny’s members were Richie Quirino, Bob Aves, Eggy Moran, Nick Lizares, as well as Dela Calzada and Jose.
“The judges decided it was a tie and called both bands and asked if they would like a ‘face-off’ (perform again to finally decide who wins),” said Puyat.
Mother Earth’s Tambuatco and Destiny’s Quirino decided against the face-off and just split the cash prize of P10,000.
There’s a photo of the two bands gathered onstage after the finals. Most of them went on to become professional musicians, notably Dela Calzada and Puyat, who remain active to this day.
Fun and camaraderie
In 1985, brothers Rodel and Naldy Gonzalez, Mar Dizon, Kelly Badon and Joey Benin formed the band Side A, later on adding Pido Lalimarmo as its sixth member.
The band played at Hyatt Regency Hotel’s Calesa Bar and built a large fan base.
From playing a repertoire of contemporary pop, rock and jazz covers, Side A released original albums and went on to become one of the country’s top bands.
There’s a photo of the band that captures the fun and camaraderie of their early days.
This original lineup of Side A is reuniting for an online benefit concert on 30 January.