Philippine music scene circa ’80s

Journalist Jing Garcia wrote an interesting liner note for an upcoming album about the Pinoy underground music in the 1980s. Sadly, his liner note never made it to the album. But here’s an excerpt. You can find the rest in his blog.


There was a place at 18 Anonas St. Project 2 called A2Z records (relocated from Kamias). It was a record bar and at that time, had everything that wasn’t available elsewhere (at least in 80s Manila)– New Order, Joy Division, The Smiths, The Cure, Dead Kennedys, Psychic TV, The Jam, Stiff Little Fingers were some of the music artists on the A2Z vinyl record rack. It was the coolest joint to hang out in.

And we did, from Dominic Gamboa (Betrayed) and Binky Lampano (Dean’s December); spending late afternoons individually discussing the meaning – or the lack of it – of life. Dina, the soul behind the A2Z desk, with the help of Sonia (later the lady) tried to maintain order and make sure the Recto punks wouldn’t steal the latest British copy of Punk and Disorderly.

The scene at A2Z at that time was straight out of that John Cusack starrer, High Fidelity – complete with blasting music, non-stop babble about the obscurest music trivia, as well as the bragging and sniping. The place, owned by my editor at Jingle Chordbook Magazine, Ces Rodriguez and her beau Leslie David, was a sanctuary for music of every kind because they did have Miles Davis and The Modern Jazz Quartet and Johnny Cash and The Band and George Gershwin and early Stones on their racks. So I hung, deeming that I had the right as a music journalist and record everything that needed to be heard, and partake of Leslie’s cooking. That was a sign I was “in,” to have access to the basement kitchen and sleeping quarters.

Back in the 1980s, the scene in Baguio City was quite different. While there were already some bands playing gigs in several “folk houses” (yes they were called that before)…we never had a taste of the punk New Wave scene there (not much IMO). We had folk rock and country (and disco music). So it was quite interesting to note how Manila was circa 80s.

The 80s was my formative years in music. I was exposed to new local and foreign artists, which eventually convinced me to make music and join bands (and copy Corey Hart’s hairstyle). The music scene was vibrant from that decade on to the late 90s in Baguio City, where bands like the Revelation eventually broke out and made a dent in the hard rocking crowd of our time. That was also the time I discovered the Pinoy underground scene.

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Erwin Oliva

Putting a dent on the universe one day at a time