Pers Lab Atbp, a different way of looking at Manila Sound
Do you know how the Manila Sound came by its name? Once upon a time, one late night in the long ago era of the ’70s, young Vicor music executive Vic del Rosario Jr. was shooting the breeze with the members of the new hot band, Hotdog.
Fronted by the brothers Dennis and Rene Garcia with Assumptionista Ella del Rosario as girl singer, Hotdog had the biggest-selling 45RPM single of the time titled Pers Lab and an album of new originals named Unang Kagat to match.
Hotdog was signed to the Villar label owned by Don Manolo Villar. It had been the leading record company in the country for many years, was the distributor of the big foreign labels and was known as the home of traditional Philippine music. Remember that jingle that used to come out on Christmastime? “Give the lasting gift of Philippine music….” That was from Villar Records. All of a sudden, thanks to Hotdog, the usually staid Villar had acquired rock star chops.
Upstart Vicor was just starting to get itself taken seriously by the local music industry. Headed by Del Rosario and Orly Ilacad, Vicor had some big sellers, Pilita Corrales and Victor Wood were among them and a new label that was supposed to be for the young and hip, named Sunshine. The Juan de la Cruz Band and the Apo Hiking Society were already signed to Sunshine. Now, wouldn’t it be nice if Hotdog could also join the line-up?
Hotdog was not only young and exciting. It also had this, playful, erratic approach to songwriting with simple and pretty melodies that used a mix of English and Tagalog lyrics. Take note, that was a time when Tagalog was baduy and one was not supposed to mix English with it. Assumption girls like Ella was not supposed to speak Tagalog. It was said that Miss Universe Gloria Diaz was quoted as saying she only spoke Tagalog to the help.
But Dennis, a bassist, who at the age of 17 was already working as a copy writer for an ad agency, changed that. He mixed the lyrics, ditched the traditional kundiman arrangements for Filipino songs and for the final touch, he changed the spelling of First Love into the vernacular, Pers Lab. So, shouldn’t something as dynamic as Hotdog also be under contract with a young and exciting label like Sunshine? Thus went Del Rosario’s argument.
It was then that the future entertainment mogul also wondered: Shouldn’t there be a name to the new sound that Hotdog had created? Like Motown of The Sound of Philadelphia (TSOP). The always creative Dennis came up with a quick answer: Why not call it the Manila Sound? And the Manila Sound did the new sound become.
It took Hotdog a few more years before it finally joined Sunshine. That was where the group did the later hits like Manila and Panaginip. Del Rosario though affixed the tag Manila Sound to his Sunshine label, which later became home to Rico Puno, Circus Band, Cinderella, VST&Co. and others.
In no time at all, the Manila Sound was also the name by which the pop music revolution instigated by Hotdog came to be known. Years later, in the wake of the slump that has sent creativity and music production down to an all-time low, the Manila Sound era also came to be known as the Golden Age of Philippine Music. It was indeed golden. We still ask, over 40 years later, will we experience something like that again?
But what about other artists? What do they think of the Manila Sound? Most of all, what do they think of Hotdog and the songs of Dennis Garcia? Dennis, still, very, very creative, asked a few of them to come up with the answer for a one-of-a-kind art/music event. This is Pers Lab Atbp which will feature their interpretation on canvas of the lyrics written by Dennis for Hotdog and other acts.
This means memorable songs like Manila, Pers Lab, Bongga Ka Day, Panaginip, Behh Buti Nga, Careful Careful, Annie Batungbakal, O Lumapit Ka, Ikaw Ang Miss Universe Ng Buhay Ko, Badaf Forever, Sa Isip Ko, Langit Na Naman, Ikaw Pa Rin, Pusong Mamon and others.
These compositions will be interpreted on canvas by maverick artists. These are creative directors in the field of advertising, Nelson Cruz, Bong Pedro, Dennis Magdamo, Dennis himself, who in case you do not know is also a creative director and casting director Myra Mendoza with the internationally-acclaimed Fernando Modesto as special guest.
Check out what they think of the Manila Sound when Pers Lab Atbp opens with cocktails on Oct. 4 at 5:30 p.m. at Art Galileia just across the NBC Tent in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig. The Pers Lab Atbp exhibit is made possible by Don Papa Rum, Doc Martens, PDI, Rex Bookstore and Viva Entertainment and will run until Oct. 14.
As per Dennis’ specifications, the artworks will be like the sorely missed LP covers of the ’70s. This means uncomplicated, well-thought out, visually exciting and worth collecting. These will later be collected in a coffeetable book.
Here’s a sneak preview of some of the featured pieces…