How a Japanese debut album in 1971 influenced Juan dela Cruz Band

Rick Olivares

Posted at Jun 04 2021 03:43 PM | Updated as of Jun 04 2021 03:58 PM

How a Japanese debut album in 1971 influenced Juan dela Cruz Band 1

How does an album released in Japan in 1971 come to have an impact on Pinoy rock?

In 1971, the album "Eve" by Speed, Glue & Shinki was released on Atlantic Records in Japan.

The band was formed by Japan’s then-equivalent of Jimi Hendrix in guitarist Shinki Chen and music producer Ikuzo Orita.

Writer Julian Cope, in his book "Japrock Sampler," recounted the fateful formation of the band when Shinki called Orita, who had just taken over the Japanese subsidiary of Atlantic Records and was looking to sign a band with a heavy sound.

The American record label had scored a massive hit when they signed Led Zeppelin that released three albums from 1968-70 that were all commercially successful with their amalgam of blues, psychedelia, English folk music, and heavy riffs that helped lay down the template for heavy metal music. 

And Orita was looking for something similar back in Japan. 

“Hey, Orita,” Cope quoted Chen when he called the record executive. “We found a good one and his song and drums are superb.”

Shinki had seen Joey "Pepe" Smith performing with some other Filipino expatriates in a band called Zero History in the Astro shopping mall in Yokohama. Smith had flair and pounded a mean beat. 

“I grew up learning to play the guitar because I wanted to be John Lennon,” Smith told this writer back in 2017. “But I had seen John Bonham with Led Zep, Ginger Baker with Cream, and John Densmore with the Doors, and I knew that is what I wanted to be – a drummer.”

Still raw and awkward on drums, Smith learned to play when he met Edmund “Bosyo” Fortuno, an incident also corroborated by Cope in his book. 

Recounted Emee Fortuno, the wife of Bosyo, her husband and Smith became acquainted with each other while performing overseas: “They had met earlier in Saigon (and later once more in Hong Kong) with their respective bands. D’Swooners played there with Bosyo and met Pepe when he was with the Downbeats.”

Both bands were in Vietnam to play in USO (United Service Organizations) shows for American and Allied troops. By the time Smith had relocated to Japan, he was pretty good at pounding the skins.

Cope describes Orita’s feelings when Chen discovered Smith as “a moment of destiny.”

In his book, Cope wrote of Orita: “(He) was mesmerized by the manner in which the singing drummer slowed down songs in order to emphasize his vocal hooks, standing up during important passages, and even pretending to burn himself when pouring fuel over his cymbals and setting them alight.”

Orita had informed Shinki that finding Smith (along with bassist Masayoshi Kabe) would make the band international stars. 

Their debut album, "Eve," was released in 1971. 

Unfortunately for the album and the band, it didn’t do as well as they thought it would. It didn’t help that music critics weren’t overly impressed. And with Smith’s wild drug habit making him unpredictable, the band soon broke up. 

A second album was released the next year featuring tracks that were left out from "Eve" including songs recorded prior to the breakup. Those songs went on to be make a two-record self-titled set that also included Mike Hanopol on bass, vocals, and keyboards; Hiroshi Oguchi on drums; and Shigeki Watanabe on keyboards. 

Soon after the break-up of Speed, Glue & Shinki, Smith and Hanopol went back to the Philippines. 

In that 2017 interview with Smith where we specifically talked about Speed, Glue & Shinki, he said those days are a blur. The one thing that Smith did say was “working the studio with Shinki and Masa taught me the ins and outs of proper recording.”

The techniques he learned in the studio, Smith, along with Hanopol, brought during their recording sessions with Wally Gonzales as they formed their own version of the power trio in the Juan dela Cruz Band. 

In fact, if you didn’t know both bands and remove the songs by the Juan dela Cruz Band that are sung in Tagalog, you’d think they were by one and the same artist.

Both "Eve" and the self-titled second album has been the subject of counterfeit released through the years for fans of Smith, Filipinos, or music connoisseurs. 

Thankfully, in 2019, Atlantic Records officially reissued the self-titled second album although "Eve" has yet to receive the same treatment.

The collective experiences of Smith, Hanopol, Fortuno, and all the other Filipino musicians performing abroad during the 1960s up to the early 1970s coalesced into a movement called Pinoy rock. Along with the Manila Sound of the 1970s, Original Pilipino Music became alive and to this day, continues to grow unabated.

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