Wednesday, February 10, 2010

dagTunes: 신중현 (Shin Jung Hyeon) Godfather of ROK'n'Roll

Shin Jung Hyeon's songs are thrilling mixtures of garage, psychedelic, and folk rock. He began his career playing on US military bases in the late 50s. While his reputation as a guitarist grew, he entertained military personnel as Jackie Shin. (Don't get me started. Anyway....) Shin claims Korean rock was born in military clubs: explains the varied American influences I hear when listening to Korean rock, certainly, but does not explain the genius things Korean musicians did with the music.

The first song below is "Beautiful Rivers and Mountains". It represents the pinnacle of his work during 1970s, the song is from '75, and quite possibly of his career. It's a wonderful, near ten minute, psychedelic track. Shin was widely revered for his knack at psychedelic rock and folk. A finer example of his genius doesn't exist. It's Korean Psychedelic Folk Rock at its best.

Well, some might argue with me because his cover of Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" is legendary. But I prefer this tune, quite frankly, and the backstory makes it the lead in my post.

In 1972, Park Chung Hee--the totalitarian who ran Korea from 1961 until his assassination in 1979--asked Shin to record a song praising him and his work. Shin declined and is said to have written this song "아름다운강산" instead ("ah-leum da-un jang-san"= "Beautiful Rivers and Mountains"). Imagine if President Bush had asked Bruce Springsteen to write a song about The Bush Presidency. That's about the only way I can think of putting this request in perspective. But imagine Bush had the power to make you disappear without anybody asking questions.

I love it:

I'm sure denying the dictator the privilege of his talents was one of the reasons that around the time of the above recording, Shin came under criticism for loud and vulgar music and was arrested for smoking pot. He was banned from public performances until Park's assasination.

Here's a clip from the 1975 film, 미인 (mee-in, "beautiful woman"). It's not the complete song, but it helps illustrate the popular fashion and style with groups like Shin Jung Hyeon & The Yup Juns:

Eleven years earlier, in 1964, Shin fronted The Add4, a garage and surf act. The next song, "늦은면 큰일나요" (If You're late, You're in Big Trouble), is a good example of the garage & surf rock popular in the late fifties and early sixties before Korean rock musicians submerged themselves in psychedelic & progressive rock and acid folk. Here's 늦은면 큰일나요 from the album 빗속의 (In the Beat--tell me if I have that title wrong, but I think it's right.)

English language links for 신중현:

Korean Rock dot com
Korean Psyche & Acid Folk

1 comment:

Ponder And Dream said...

Where did you get your data on Shin Joong Hyun? I need details for a competition speech.