MANILA — Isn’t it cool when something turning 60 years old is deemed to be cool by someone half the world away?
“I thought it was a prank,” admitted Ramon Jacinto Jr. or “RJ Jr.” for short.
His father’s band’s second album, RJ and the Riots, was originally released way back in 1964 when his father and his bandmates were graduating seniors at the Ateneo de Manila College. That record which has gotten its second wind on vinyl as put out by Spanish label Guerssen Records for old as well as a new generation of fans.
“Apparently, the people at Guerssen saw and heard my old songs on YouTube and they got in touch with me,” added RJ himself.
Guerssen Records’ Alex Carretero, who was the one who contacted RJ and oversaw its reissue, spoke of the reason why they picked up this classic record.
“We’re a record label focused on reissues of rare albums from the 60s-70s,” explained Carretero. “Along with bands from Europe, USA and UK, we’re also interested in groups from non-Western countries, as sometimes they offer a raw, sincere and refreshing take on Occidental rock music.”
“In the case of RJ & The Riots, I think the first time I knew about them and their LP was thanks to seeing the album cover in the ‘Record Collector Dreams’ books by Austrian collector Hans Pokora. Thanks to YouTube and Spotify, I was able to listen to some of the music. I thought it was pretty cool so I contacted RJ straight away. Sadly, the original masters were lost but RJ had been able to transfer and restore the music from original vinyl and tape copies.”
When Carretero spoke to Jacinto, the latter was shocked, “Why do you want to re-release my music?”
“Because we think it’s cool,” said Carretero.
As for that book by Pokora, it features rare and obscure records from the 1960s and 1970s. Aside from RJ and the Riots, the only other record with any Filipino roots was the one and only album from San Francisco, USA Filipino-American band, Dakila (that was heavily inspired by Santana and the psychedelic and Latin rock of the late 1960s and early 1970s).
Maybe RJ and the Riots were obscure to the world at large. But in Manila… they were stars.
They made their first public performance during the Christmas Program of the Ateneo High School in 1960. The student body went nuts. They had their very own rock and roll band albeit an instrumental one greatly influenced by first Johnny and the Hurricanes and then the Ventures.
The following year, as college freshmen, they first released a seven-inch single of an original composition “Weightless” that raced to the top of the charts.
“We were just fooling around; really having a good time,” recalled Jacinto. “We had no idea if it would be well received. We were just doing what we wanted.”
Flush with success, RJ and the Riots released their debut album, The Teenage Touch of RJ and the Riots under Rajah Records. That album was 12 songs of guitar instrumentals that became a staple of every party and dance floor in the nation.
“We had our performances, but we never collected any fees because we were all students. And my father forbade it.”
Three years later, the combo released their second album under J Records as graduating seniors from the Ateneo.
“It was like our thesis,” joked Jacinto of the self-titled album that featured the first song ever written about Manila titled “Trip to Manila.” It also featured a song that became popular among advertising professionals – “Advertising Man.”
They covered the Beach Boys’ classic “Little Ronda” as well as Buddy Holly’s “Rave On” among others. The highlight though were their original compositions that numbered more than half of the record’s tracks.
The second album was an even bigger hit than their first one. However, about a year and a half later, the band called it quits as RJ went to work for the family business while Austria became the station manager of Jacinto-owned DZRJ.
“It took a while for me to be coaxed back into doing music,” said RJ. “I thought it was just something I would do as a teenager then hang it up afterwards. But music – it was in my blood.”
Jacinto went on to record many more albums and gained even greater fame afterwards.
But the Riots? They’ll go down in Filipino music history as arguably the first big rock band that put out two acclaimed and best-selling albums and 32 singles that sold just as well.
“I am quite happy that the album has been reissued for a new generation,” summed up Jacinto. “This year, 2023, is the 60th anniversary of the release of “Trip to Manila” (the album itself turns 60 this 2024). How many albums get to celebrate their 60th anniversary? I am just thankful for it. And I do hope that young Filipino fans discover the music and understand why Guerssen decided to put it out again.”
The reissued record of RJ and the Riots will be launched at Bistro RJ this coming July. The album will be made available for fans.