The way they wereBy Pocholo Concepcion
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Joey Albert, Pat Castillo, Jacqui Magno, Ding Mercado and Eugene Villaluz, who are teaming up for yet another repeat of their hit show, now titled “’70s and ’80s Relived” on June 29 and July 6 at the Music Museum—had an e-mail chat with the Inquirer on their generation’s music and its relevance to and influence on their lives.
What musical styles of your era had a profound effect on you?
Joey Albert (JA): The combined influences of disco (Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor, Van McCoy), pop (The Osmonds, Carpenters), soft rock (Eagles, Neil Young, Seals and Crofts), smooth jazz (Bobby Womack, George Benson), Motown (Jackson 5, Temptations) and bossa nova (Sergio Mendes) was a phenomenal influence on my music … I would say all of these can be experienced not only in the interpretation of my own songs, but in each one of my live performances up to this day, as well.
Pat Castillo (PC): In my tween years, I was enamored with Cliff Richard, Elvis Presley and Timi Yuro—this is quite revealing of my age! In high school it was the Beatles, the Supremes, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick and Barbra Streisand. By the ’70s, it was Carole King and I imitated her. However, it was R&B that really influenced my phrasing and notes, and by that time I was with the Circus Band.
Jacqui Magno (JM): My influences early in that period were folk (Joni Mitchell, Carole King, James Taylor), rock (Janis Joplin); and then, in later years, jazz (Flora Purim, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Sergio Mendes, etc). Subconsciously, it seemed my mom planted the seeds of my jazz roots. As a kid, she would let me sing from her collection of jazz songbooks of George Gershwin and the like. I guess, after not wanting to sound like anyone else, I strove to find my own identity and jazz seemed to be the best genre for me to express myself and my art.
Ding Mercado (DM): It was my involvement in the church and school choirs, and then the De La Salle Chorale, that exposed me to stage performances at the Philam Life Theater and the CCP. I joined the Bayanihan Dance Company and Dance Arts Philippines, as well as productions of Repertory Philippines, The Manila Symphony Society and a few local Broadway musicals. But my heart was really into singing—from pop, standards, theater musicals, to Motown, The Sound of Philadelphia, and so on.
Eugene Villaluz (EV): Soul and R&B emerging from the Motown sound were very prominent on my list. Since I was with The New Minstrels, I loved listening to the harmony groups of the era, such as Earth Wind and Fire, Temptations, Friends of Distinction, Fifth Dimension, Singers Unlimited, Hugo Montenegro Singers, Carpenters, even the earlier Mamas and Papas and the Beach Boys from the ’60s. When I started my solo career in the late ’70s, those were the groups that were noticeably present in my repertoire.
Who was your greatest musical idol, and why?
JA: That is always a difficult question to answer. I am a product of many genres—my dad’s music collection (old standards) and my older sibling’s (the ’60s) and my mom’s (classical). But as for my personal preferences, it will have to be Sergio Mendes and Carpenters.
PC: I constantly listened to Aretha Franklin and Dionne Warwick to give me ideas on how to approach a song, and also Barbra Streisand on how to phrase the lyrics, so that it comes out almost conversational.
JM: I’m not one to idolize but I do admire those whose music touched my very core. Those I mentioned earlier were some of them.
DM: Barbra Streisand. She embodied the heart of a singer with her interpretations of different genres of songs.
EV: I guess no solo singer of that time would deny that Barbra Streisand revolutionized the interpretations of songs (and continues to do so until now). Anyone who can sustain a career and be the best at it for five decades is worthy of emulation. For the male singers, I pretty much liked Johnny Mathis and Jack Jones.
What is the relevance of the ’70s to your life today?
JA: I always go back to ’70s music in every concert that I do today. Most of the time, it is my primary link to the audience. After singing a ’70s song, the connection is made. And in my personal life, the ’70s will always serve as my compass, bringing me back to where I came from.
PC: Every time I listen to a tune from that era, I discover nuances that I missed out on while imitating the singers. The melodic lines were simpler then, the vocal ad libs were not over the top. That’s a lot more sincere I would say, in comparison with the way singers of today — theirs is a style I call “vocal exercise,” which tends to ignore the meaning behind the lyrics.
JM: The ’70s were a rather tumultuous, fun and enlightening time of my life! It has molded me into the person that I’ve become, and I have no regrets.
DM: I consider myself very blessed to be a part of that golden era. What I am today is mainly because of my involvement as a performer then.
EV: I have always lived my life with music as a strong influencing factor … I have so much to look back on with my life experiences in the ’70s and ’80s because these were the years that I gathered all the significant events that molded me into what I am today.
Did you also experiment with drugs, and what did you learn from the experience?
JA: Actually, no. I would just drink beer and sangria with family and friends … Tried some Champion cigarettes in high school, but I was fortunate to never have experienced any form of substance abuse in my life.
PC: I tried drugs, first to make me stay up for exams and then to enjoy them and “have a trip.” But I gave up taking uppers since it did not help me remember the answers to the exam questions anyway! Also, I was losing so much weight from lack of sleep. With marijuana, I ended up hyperventilating and eating so much. So that went out the window, too. Besides I felt that I was singing another song and was never in [tempo] when I was on pot. Lesson learned: If you really want to be good at what you do, the very act of doing it is a natural high.
JM: Oh yes, curiosity and peer pressure got me to try whatever was being offered! But thanks to common sense and, perhaps, my inclination towards yoga and spirituality, the drugs didn’t get the best of me.
DM: I never indulged in any kind of drugs, then or now. Even smoking cigars or cigarettes never appealed to me. I did try to smoke pot just to experience the “high,” but honestly I didn’t like it at all.
EV: The farthest I have gone is take a puff on a joint that was being passed around. I have never tried doing it when I’m alone, though, and with my friends, it’s all just reaching a high that would make you feel happy—an endless laughing trip. I never tried doing it while working, either, because I would forget all the lyrics of my song. Drinking beer and brandy (depends on one’s financial status) was commonplace during gatherings and parties. And yes, I smoked cigarettes at that time, didn’t we all? I haven’t smoked a single stick for 25 years.
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