By Hans Ebert

Back in the day- and these days, more and more of us are going back to those days because, well, it was where everything that actually meant anything, especially music- Rock fans couldn’t wait to get their hands on the latest issue of Rolling Stone. There was Crawdaddy, Creem and the Village Voice, but when in 1967 Jann Wenner published Rolling Stone working out of a warehouse in San Francisco, it took journalism- Rock journalism up a notch. If the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, then Rolling Stone was the bible.

Writers like Dave Marsh, Greil Marcus, Ben Fong-Torres, Lester Bangs, PJ O’Rourke, Timothy White, a very young Cameron Crowe, who went on to write and direct the autobiographical “Almost Famous”, and the great and incredibly knowledgeable Ralph Gleason, not only wrote about music and interviewed musicians, they hung out with them all- Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Lennon, Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Clapton etc. Those Rolling Stone covers photographed by the brilliant Annie Leibovitz have become collectors items. Dr Hook even wrote about what it meant to be on the cover of the magazine.

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By Hans Ebert

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By Hans Ebert

“Aiiyah, I know Mr Hans. Not like before. Very much boring.” It was a longtime staffer at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Hong Kong agreeing with me when I told him I had to flee the hotel’s Champagne Bar after suffering from an acute attack of terminal boredom coupled with major depression to see what was such a popular meeting place with a loyal group of regulars become more like Le Rue Morgue and shunned with everyone looking for greener pastures. But these days, greener pastures almost everywhere in the world are more of a whiter shade of pale. And listening to all the reminiscing about the “good old days” is as maudlin as hearing Mary Hopkin sing how “Those Were The Days”. What the hell happened to Mary Hopkin, anyway? And the good old days? What happened to just about everything that made living easy and the cotton high?

Was it really that long ago that the Champagne Bar was the meeting place for Hong Kong’s movers and shakers with a few of the usual fakers? It was also an inviting neighbour to suite 1616 where, after my divorce from the only woman I will probably ever love after she couldn’t take the serial philandering that had become an addiction never addressed, I lived at the neighbouring service apartments called Convention Plaza. The comings and goings there would have made the Wolf Of Wall Street blush. Frankly, it was Five Hundred Shades Of Grey, and it all went into feeding an obsessive personality and an enormous ego. It was nothing to be proud about. But when everything seemed to come too easily, you ride that train even when you know it’s going off the rails and you with it.

For a kid whose family had to leave Ceylon when the island stopped being a British colony and became Sri Lanka, and was too embarrassed to tell friends in kindergarten that we were leaving for this funny place that rhymed with King Kong, and not Melbourne like most of the other burghers, a mix of Dutch, Portuguese and the local inhabitants, this was living a life in a city I never thought I’d be part of. In Ceylon, the only Chinese we saw rode bicycles selling noodles while kids would taunt them with, “Chin chin Chinaman, why don’t you go home”. And now I was being taken to their home, because most of my father’s family had already moved to Hong Kong.

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By Hans Ebert

It’s the technique not the idea. It’s something my mentor in advertising- Keith Reinhard- used to make all his creative directors understand, especially during a time when when the art director was more interested in how “beautiful” a print ad should look like and the copywriter was asked to shorten the headline to fit the layout. It was also the time when there was an almost overnight generation of commercials directors and editors who, so influenced by MTV, wanted television commercials to look like music videos.

The combination of a “celebrity” director- and they all had some movie in the works, or so they said, and usually for Steven Spielberg, or so we were told- and editor known for their frenetic editing of footage, were a formidable and intimidating combination to the creative director who had come up with the concept. Who could dare argue with Cool and working with the most in-demand combination of commercials director and editor?

Deep down, however, many schooled in being wordsmiths, and sticklers for proper briefs and following a strategy agreed by all concerned probably went home and banged their head against the wall for allowing their simple idea to be turned into a twelve humped camel through creative by committee.

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(Courtesy of www.fasttrack.hk)

Each new racing season, the HKJC’s successful Happy Wednesday brand that comes alive at Happy Valley Racecourse in Hong Kong keeps evolving. This season will be no exception with a new song especially composed and recorded for these Happy Wednesday nights. But this new track is different in that it was recorded in Melbourne and features session singer and recent contestant on The Voice Australia Jimmy Cupples, pictured below.

Written and produced by music executive Hans Ebert, and part of the Happy Wednesday creative and marketing team, the reason for recording in Melbourne was quite simple: “Though Hong Kong has some technically good musicians and a handful of good performers, there’s not really an abundance of original recording talent”, explains Ebert, below in the studios with Cupples and producer/engineer Trevor “The Wizard” Carter.

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By Hans Ebert

It’s just not happening, is it? The more you leave Hong Kong and the more you get out there and meet and listen to bands and artists in places like Scandinavia, Melbourne, even in Singapore, one realises just what a music wasteland there is here- a so-called “scene” comprising the usual suspects and a pocketful of mumbles that are way too often known as mediocrity. It’s come to a point where it’s so hard to to stomach this pandemic of mediocrity and copycats and ageing musicians with no direction of home that there’s a need to let it all out like one long belch to get rid of the frustrations.

You listen to Kaleo from Iceland, the always interesting Mew from Denmark, and the no frills conversational confessional songs of Jack White and the frustration intensifies along with wondering whether The Donald has secretly built some wall to keep out the inspiration and talent to create music that is a million miles away from vapid, formulaic Canto Shlock and a dumbass attempt quite recently to create an Asian version of the Spice Girls. Hell, even the Spice Women probably cringe at the thought of the Spice Girls.

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By Hans Ebert

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By Hans Ebert

As with anything it doesn’t understand, the Hong Kong government either ignores it, or else places various stumbling blocks to ensure that it’s silenced. And music should never ever be silenced. But unless it’s classical music or Canto Pop or one of those “nostalgia” concerts by someone from the Sixties singing the hits of Elvis, Herman’s Hermits and others from that era, those in the government given the power to issue all those various licenses needed to have music seen, heard and enjoyed, turn a deaf ear to it all. They’ve never heard of Dylan’s line, “Don’t criticise what you can’t understand”.

Let’s not forget that Hong Kong must have been one of the only countries that never accepted the sex, drugs and Rock and Roll of the Woodstock generation, Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and the Beatles when they tripped out, grew moustaches and beards, and recorded the equally trippy Revolver.

Let’s also not forget that Commercial Radio in Hong Kong actually refused to play music from those times, preferring to promote the start of Canto Pop, which the various executives in local music companies, radio and television had a vested interest in- financially. It was a commercial dictatorship and this narrow minded thinking continues today under different guises.

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By Hans Ebert

It’s just not good enough. Nothing’s any longer good enough. Even most women are no longer good enough. Neither is anything around us. What’s made us take this backward step? Has technology made things better? Or have we allowed it to take us wherever it wanted to that we now want to turn everything around and start all over again because we realise that new isn’t better and we have no idea where we are and what we’re doing?

Recently, and not so recently, friends have been saying that we’re bloody fortunate to have grown up when we did. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, but it was the time of our lives. It wasn’t because of the lack of creativity. If anything, it was because of an avalanche of everything creative everywhere we looked. And as Sir Van sang, She stoned me. We sailed into the mystic wanting to rock her gypsy soul singing that her name was G-L-O-R-I-A.

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By Hans Ebert

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