[HOT TRACK]Take trip back with a pioneer -- and outlaw -- of rockEveryone knows the feeling you get when you riffle through a box of old albums. You can't believe that the designs were modern for their time. Going through old Korean LPs, you see Chinese characters in gaudy fonts, Korean script that spells out English phrases like "classic sound" and silly photos. Korean record collectors put at the top of their lists the vinyl of Shin Jung-hyun, a versatile musician and a pioneer of rock music on the peninsula ?and a survivor.
With 56 years in the business, Shin has a lengthy discography, but his early works are hard to find. Recently, some of Shin's works from the 1970s came out on CDs as the Shin Jung-hyun Masterpiece Series. The cover art was true to the old-fashioned style, saying "Shin Jung-hyun Ssaundeu."
Orphaned during the Korean War, Shin took to American rock, and started playing guitar at 16. Later, he played clubs frequented by U.S. soldiers. For high officers, he played country, for commissioned officers jazz and for privates rock and roll. Eventually he formed Korea's first rock band, Add 4, modeled after the Beatles. He broke up the band a few years later and started another, the Donkeys, which featured female guest vocalists, and gained popularity. But with success came trouble: He was asked to write a song praising President Park Chung Hee, and refused. Right away his music was banned as obscene. To make matters worse, he was arrested for possession of marijuana and jailed for four months. He said the marijuana was just a gift from his U.S. soldier friends.
Now, Shin is rereleasing on disk two Donkeys albums from the early 1970s. Shin says that the albums didn't get the attention they deserved: "That the albums with the best music didn't get proper treatment is my biggest regret." A 1972 album, featuring Lee Jeong-hwa on vocals, has a typical rock sound a la the Beatles, but the compositions are simpler while the presentations are more emotional. The best cut is "Ma-eum" (Heart), which has an avant-garde guitar solo between the vocal bits.
The other album is 1973's "Baram" (Wind), with the vocalist Kim Jeong-mi, a better and more experimental collection. "Areumdaun Gangsan" (Beautiful Land), an up-tempo cut, has always been popular.
Best of all, both disks are packaged like old LPs, and retain the original cover designs.
by Chun Su-jin