Andy Best is certainly a plotter of the Shanghai rock scene. He has documented the indie rock scene in Shanghai standing quietly at the middle of the small crowds in front of the few live rock stages in our city. His blog Kungfuology.com is a favorite of followers of Shanghai’s music trip, and his clever vision is appreciated by musicians and writers. We suspect he is thinking of going for a bigger literary project related to Shanghai indie rock and if he’s not, he should consider it.
He grew up in Liverpool, UK, influenced by musicians, socialists, good books, and arty types, and spent most of his time playing guitar in bands and acting in the theatre. After getting a degree in playwriting, he decided to blow it all off in favour of traveling. Ten years later he still hasn’t gone home. He can mainly be found at Shanghai rock gigs (usually YuYinTang).
Andy’s playlist is one I am especially excited for: this is the first full rock playlist we are publishing and it’s a very good one.
1. Iron Maiden “The Prowler”
I started on the electric guitar at around thirteen years old and hadn’t really formed any strong opinions about music at that point. The instrument naturally took me into rock and then heavy metal – purely for the guitar playing. Iron Maiden was later identified with spandex tights, long hair and arena shows but this song from their first album came before that. As soon as the intro wah-wah riff kicks in there’s only one daft thought in my mind: “Rock guitar is awesome.”
2. Ozzy Osbourne “Mr Crowley”
Randy Rhodes is one of the most influential guitarists in hard rock, but this song captures Ozzy’s creative vision much more than just the playing. As the metal scene was kicking off in the early eighties, Ozzy had already quit Black Sabbath and would use his solo career to explore many styles and themes. He was so ahead of the curve. In this tribute to British mystic Aleister Crowley, he uses gothic sounds and a mix of rock riffs and classical inspired breaks. Wrap all that around the haunting lyrics and you have one of the defining metal classics. This coming while the rest of the scene was barely getting started.
3. Operation Ivy “Unity”
I’d always liked the idea of punk but something about it just didn’t sit well with me. The British scene seemed to have a fair smattering of chauvinism and homophobia. It seemed all shock and of limited substance. It morphed into hardcore in the early eighties and I didn’t like that much more. Then one day I popped the latest H-street Skateboarding promo into my VCR and heard Operation Ivy. My generation of punk had begun.
4. The Mr. T Experience “Even Hitler Had A Girlfriend”
The other side of this new wave of punk was the intelligent and self-depreciating humour. I always thought NOFX had the perfect balance but this track seems to represent the whole idea to me. The first time I heard Dr. Frank strum his guitar and sing “Nixon had his puppy, Charles Manson had his clan, but god forbid that I get a girlfriend” I nearly died laughing … really, I have asthma.
5. The Levellers “One Way”
I had avoided the Levellers for a couple of years because all non-rock fans I knew wouldn’t stop going on about them. They were huge in the UK. However, after hearing their song about the Battle of the Beanfield I realized that here was a group of intelligent artists with views similar to mine, and I made a musical exception for them. This led to me softening up in general when it came to different types of music. I think modern Shanghai (ex-pat) writers would think of them as the ultimate indie-rock band as they place a lot of importance on including some local folk flavour.
6. Faith No More “We Care A Lot”
Another big thing during my muso period was bands, or more usually singles, termed “crossover.” A metal band would do a half rock/half rap song or what have you. Most people think of “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith/Run DMC as the ultimate example. For me though, Faith No More were much more interesting both musically and intellectually. This song is a real original.
7. Third Eye Blind “Semi Charmed Life”
I was over in Canada and this song was all over the radio. My girlfriend at the time’s little brother would sing the chorus line to himself in the car and play the CD in the house all the time. It seemed very commercial to me but one day I sat down and listened to the words. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it was an explicit song about a drug addict hitting rock bottom and realizing they would have to leave their friends and loves behind to get out.
8. Phantom Planet “California”
When punk got stolen and subverted by the mainstream (burn, burn, No Doubt, Sum 41, Avril, and the lot of you) it was indie rock that matured into something more rewarding. This may be a terrible example in some minds, but this track has a certain sound to it that pops to mind whenever anyone talks about modern indie rock. It’s mainly known as the sound track for the show “The O.C.” Have you watched the pilot for that show? It could have been so good … could have. Anyway, this song and that show set the new standard for hip shows on TV that had a never ending stream of precious indie rock hits for soundtracks.
9. MC HotDog “1030”
I came to Shanghai in 2001. I had not discovered the local rock scene yet. Indeed, it barely existed at that point and I had no idea that Yangpu district even existed. Everywhere, Mandarin language music seemed to be just a step above mall music. The only people I knew were my co-workers, and conversations with them were not far off from listening to muzak either. Then one day I picked up this MC HotDog CD and popped it in the CD player and the whole façade was shattered. I don’t want to ruin it for you so I hope you can understand the language.
10. The Subs “Down”
I like a whole range of local bands and write my blog about the scene. The first time I saw The Subs, just after they recorded their Subs Life CD, I wasn’t very impressed but people were very excited by them. A couple of years later Kang Mao had developed her performance into something great and the band and songs had tightened up. Seeing them live at Windows Tembo last year was something akin to a religious experience.