Category Archives: India

Calcutta-16

Calcutta-16 HMV NE 1003 Ballad of the Purple InnAs far as I can tell, Calcutta-16 only released this one 45, but what a record it is. Ed Nadorozny has the record and provided the music and scans here. When I heard Calcutta-16’s “Ballad of the Purple Inn” I asked Ed if I could cover it on Garage Hangover and he kindly said yesCalcutta-16 HMV 45 Ballad of the Purple Inn  

I love everything about the song: Brinnand’s insolent delivery of the lyrics, the full bass line, the excellent sounds they get out of the guitars and echo, the drumming, all of it.

The flip “One Eyed Woman” has a great break halfway through with a pounding snare drum that just gets louder, war whoops, and a solo the segues so nicely back into the song. The bassist and the sound of the group in general remind me somewhat of the Great Society.

The band were:

John Brinnand – lead vocals (spelled John Brinand on the labels)
Peter Yeti – lead guitar
Romit Bhattaharya – rhythm guitar
Devdan Sen – bass guitar
Nondon Bagchi – drums

Devdan Sen and John Brinand “wrote the lyrics and composed and arranged the music” according to the notes on the back cover.Calcutta-16 HMV 45 One Eyed Woman

Dubby Bhagat of the Junior Statesmen produced the record and wrote the notes, and J.P. Sen engineered it. The record was released on His Master’s Voice NE. 1003 in 1969.

Dubby’s notes on the back also thank the band’s manager Jimmy Chaudhuri and “Colonel Bose of the ‘Living Sound’ Studio and his daughters Rita and Mita, who first recorded the group. Jack Dantes who christened the group. Sumit Bhattacharya and Rangam Mitra who gave time and equipment aplenty. The Surayas for their quiet but wholehearted support. Mr. Rafiq and Mr. A.C. Sen of H.M.V., who gave the boys this chance. Desmond Doig of the Junior Statesmen who encouraged the project. And Ananda Mitter and Jonathan Mason without who the group would never have got to Dum Dum for the recording!”

Next up from Ed will be a couple tracks from a very rare early EP by the Savages, better known for their Black Scorpio LP.

Calcutta-16 HMV NE 1003 Ballad of the Purple Inn

The Frustrations Amalgamated

Frustrations Amalgamated at the 1972 Simla Beat Contest in Bombay
Frustrations Amalgamated at the 1972 Simla Beat Contest in Bombay

Frustrations Amalgamated flyerPreviously I’ve written about Simla Beat in regards to the 1970 and 1971 contests and the records released at that time. Shyam Sunder Damoda of the Frustrations Amalgamated wrote to me about the group’s participation in the 1972 Simla Beat Contest, and sent the photos seen here.

I was the lead singer from the Frustrations Amalgamated from Madras, which won the All India Simla Beat Contest Award in 1972 at Shanmukhananda Hall, Bombay. We won the Best Group Award, the Best Singer Award and the Best Own Composition Award that year! Jaya Bhaduri gave the awards to us. On winning the Simla Beat Contest we did do a recording at the Royal Gems studio, but nothing came out of it.

Manu (Manohar Roberts, our lead guitarist) is in Chennai and still plays a mean lead guitar and is still in music. Ramji, our drummer was with the Abhaswaram and is in Chennai, still very much into music. Dumbu, our bass guitarist is in the U.S.A. and we are trying to get into contact again. Lawrence, our rhythm guitarist, is in Singapore and I believe, still in music.

I am presently in Bangalore and very much in music. I had a group called the West Wind here but am presently singing with my keyboard accompaniments and MIDIs, along with a good guitarist Dominic.

Shyam Sunder

 Frustrations Amalgamated at the Bristol Beat Contest in Madras
Frustrations Amalgamated at the Bristol Beat Contest in Madras
 Jaya Bhaduri presents an award at Simla Beat '72
Jaya Bhaduri presents an award at Simla Beat ’72
The Purple Flower from Ahmedabad and the Crimson Fire of Bombay. Vispi was judged best drummer, and Clifford from Crimson Fire voted best lead guitarist. Other groups included the Rolling Beat from Goa, the Gauls from Delhi, and the Living Dead from Gauhati
The article above has additional info about that years contest:
The Purple Flower from Ahmedabad and the Crimson Fire of Bombay were sensational.
The Purple Flower’s drummer Vispi (sp?) was judged best drummer, and Clifford from Crimson Fire voted best lead guitarist.
Other groups included the Rolling Beat from Goa, the Guals (sp?) from Delhi, and the Living Dead from Gauhati.

The Era of the Beat Groups in Bombay 1962-1968

Photo courtesy Ardeshir B. Damania of the Gnats

Ardeshir Damania writes about his band the Gnats and the history of the Bombay beat scene in the 1960s:

Although my awareness of western pop music started with the receipt in the mail of a 45 rpm record of Elvis’s “Jailhouse Rock” in December 1957, the era of the Beat Groups in India did not start until the arrival of the British groups on the pop charts like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Animals, Gerry & the Pacemakers, the Who, etc.

The first Beatle’s single “Love Me Do” hit the charts in late 1962, and nothing was the same anymore. 45 rpm discs of the song were released in India on the Parlophone label and sold like hot cakes. Soon hits by other groups from the same genre followed such as “My Generation” by The Who, and “Route 66” by The Rolling Stones. Soon my friends at school were having their hair styled like the Beatles!

The Indian government had imposed a strict non-import policy and it was very very difficult to purchase electric guitars, amplifiers, or any other items needed to start a rock group. Beatlemania was considered “foreign” affliction of an imperialistic power that should be shunned. Nevertheless, I ordered an electric guitar to be handmade by a shop at Gol Mandir Dhobi Talao. The Catholic guitar-maker and violin repairer was always boozed up and took weeks and weeks to make the guitar. Finally, one day when it was ready to be picked up my friend and I picked it up on his father’s BSA motorcycle. All the way from Dhobi Talao to Dadar-Matunga where we stayed people were pointing at us since we had the guitar in hand and looked like the Beatles. The scene in Bombay was ready to explode.

Soon there were rock groups, such as The Trojans, The Brief Encounter, The Jets, The Savages, etc., were mushrooming everywhere. The Jets were playing in 1963 at the Greens Hotel next to the old Taj Mahal Hotel. The Greens was pulled down a few years later and in it place stand the new Taj. Beat concerts were organized on regular basis at the newly-opened Shanmukhnanda Hall at King’s Circle in Matunga since it had a very large capacity and had the best acoustics for that time. Groups like The Trojans, The Savages, and others played covers of the Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Fortunes. They all used locally-made instruments and fabricated amps and speaker modules that just did not sound right and did no justice to the Indian talent.

It was around 1965 that time that we began to think about a name for our group and were leaning towards “The Gnats”. The name was derived from a jet fighter of the same name that served the Indian Air Force well in the India-Pakistan war of 1965 and in addition we were remaining true to color by naming our band after an insect as The Beatles had done! The Gnats were constituted one fine day on the entrance steps on Captain House on Vincent Road in the Dadar-Matunga area of Bombay comprising of Adil Battiwala on drums and keyboard, myself Ardeshir Damania on lead guitar, Keki Patel bass guitar, and Walter Noronha on rhythm guitar. I had got rid of my black and white badly-made guitar and purchased a new one from a shop, Sardarflute, opposite the Chitra Cinema at Dadar. The Sikh instrument maker at least had some knowledge about electric guitar-making and had supplied Hawaiian guitars to such Indian maestroes such as Van Shipley, Hazara Singh and his son Charanjit Singh. Adil Battiwalla used to borrow the Premier drum set from Earuch Sethna, who used to play the drums in his mother’s professional Nelly & Her Band. Keki Patel had a locally made bass guitar which was passable, and Walter Noronha played rhythm guitar with an electronic pick-up fitted over an normal acoustic 6-string guitar. We used the call Walter “Mr Confidence”. This was because whenever we faltered while playing on stage for one reason or the other, Walter would at once cover up the mistakes with his excellent and flawless guitar work.

There was an electronics expert at Kabutarkhana close to BB Dadar Station called Edwin D’souza. Edwin used to make amplifiers using original Mullard circuits. The amps, all valve type, were great but did not have the special effects of imported ones like reverb, tremolo, and echo. Someone had brought a simple echo unit for The Gnats that had a piece of regular open reel ¼” tape that went round and round. The tape had to be replaced after every gig. Apart from that our instruments and electrification lacked sophistication and held us back. This was the case with almost all beat groups until the arrival of The Reaction.

Ken Gnanakan was an accomplished musician and used to be a part of “The Trojans”. The band known at that time as “the Indian Beatles” kept Bangalore, Calcutta and Bombay swinging in the early sixties and included Biddu a prominent pop musician to later left for a solo career. Ken Gnanakan is widely connected all over the world with academic and social programs.

In 1966 at yet another beat concert at the Shanmukhnanda Hall a new group The Reaction (who had been formed abroad comprising of kids of some Indian professionals and diplomats posted in Europe) arrived on the scene. I was there. A couple of local groups opened the concert. And then The Reaction came on. They had set up their instruments behind the curtains and when the curtains finally opened the audience, yours truly included, let out a gasp! They played a cover of the 1965 Fortunes’ hit “You’ve Got Your Troubles” and Rolling Stones’ “The Last Time”. The Reaction had arrived from Germany with the latest guitars by Vox and Fender and had all the lovely and much craved for professional equipment, especially the Vox amplifiers and speakers with reverb, echo and all the special effects which the local groups, incl. ours The Gnats, did not possess. The effect was nothing short of stunning. With the striking of the first chord the crowd went in to raptures as The Reaction brought the house down!

Thanks to the beat concerts, rock groups were in demand all over Bombay. The colleges in Bombay had their annual day around February or March just before the end of the scholastic year and rock groups were invited to play for a few hundred rupees or only conveyance, or not even that sometimes. The Gnats played the the Annual Day of the Khalsa College at Matunga in 1965 and in 1966 at the Annual Day of the Nair Dental College at Bombay Central. The JB Vatcha School invited The Gnats to play at their fund-raiser for a new gym building and we obliged. That is when an excellent photo of the group was taken by scout-master Jal Khan. This photo has since been lost and is untraceable.

We had made one 7″ Stereo tape recording of the group at my home in Matunga (Five Gardens) area in Bombay using my AKAI M-6 tape-recorder at 7.5 ips speed using two AKAI microphones for brilliant stereo separation. The tape was temporarily left with one of our group’s lead guitarist called Bannerjee. Bannerjee died soon after wards of some rare disease compounded by misdiagnosis at the hospital. He was hardly 18 years old. I did go on a condolence visit to his house but did not have the heart to ask his parents for the tape. Now I wish I had. After 45 years I am almost certain the tape reel is long gone.

Later on, after 1968, I decided to take my studies a little more seriously and sold my guitar to a college friend, Samson from Shivaji Park and stopped playing. Walter soon migrated to England, and Adil after playing at one last gig with The Reaction on keyboard (he played the organ on the cover of The Doors’ “Light My Fire”), left for Iran to play the piano at 5 star hotels and The Gnats disbanded. Most of the boys of our generation grew up and had to earn a living which was not possible in India through playing in rock bands. However, some managed to make a success of it, like Ananda Shankar, and Biddu of the Biddu Orchestra. Biddu separated himself from The Trojans and for some time played the night club scene in Bombay as “The Lone Trojan” before making his way to England in 1973, earning his passage by playing as he went. He had some successes in England writing music scores and even produced an album that was on the charts in 1974-75.

The Jets, who will reunite for a one-night-only concert on March 7 this year, ruled the jam session scene in Mumbai in the mid-1960s. Ralph Pais, bassist of The Savages, another popular band from the era, vouched that among beat groups (as the rock bands of the time were called) the Jets were “at the top of the pile”. Said Pais, “There wasn’t any fiddling and farting and noises happening, which happened even 15-20 years after The Jets wound up. One, two, three, four – bang! They were on. They sounded very tight.”

The Jets with their lead guitarist Michael “Mike” Kirby, rhythm guitarist Malcolm “Muzzie” Mazumdar, bassist Suresh “Bhoj” Bhojwani, three teenagers who met while at Campion school at Cooperage, and drummer Napoleon “Nap” Braganza, a St Mary’s alumni, were pioneers of sorts. They weren’t just one of the first Mumbai bands to play the songs of The Shadows and The Ventures, they were also among the earliest Indian groups to have a look as hip as their sound. Old pictures and newspaper clips show the members clad in matching polo necks (all the rage then with Benlon material), suits and skinny ties.

On the other hand, The Savages, the Jets’ alter ego, had Hemant Rao on lead guitar, Bashir Sheikh on drums, Prabhakar Muzumdar on the electric organ, the evergreen Ralph Pais on bass guitar, and Russel Pereira playinmg the rhythm guitar as well as doing the vocals. I guess Russel played the same role as Walter Noronha did for our “Gnats”, that of an anchor when minor mistakes were made and quickly got the performance under control. I am attaching a photo of the Polydor stereo album by the The Savages that I possess. The album is titled “Live” but the applause sounds the same after every number which makes me think it was a canned applause and the cover numbers like “Proud Mary”, “Venus”, “Soul Finger” etc., were never recorded “Live”. For The Jets, making music was never about making money or becoming famous, but simply about having fun. “It was more the excitement of our idols of the time,” Bhojwani said. Their signature tune was ‘The Savage’ [originally by The Shadows] with which they opened every concert.” The Savages also later began to play some original compositions by Remo Fernandes who arrived from Goa to join the group. They merged with The Brief Encounter and in 1974 formed The Savage Encounter.

Some of the last beat group gigs that I personally witnessed were in the early 1970s around 1970-1971 when the disco “Blow Up” at the old Taj was the rage in Bombay. My good friend Burjis Khursetji used to play the organ as well as his Framus electric guitar (similar to the one used by Trini Lopez) with a couple of go-go girls dancing on the side of the stage. Burjis was killed tragically by a stone that was hurled from the Police Chawls that hit his skull as he was driving in his Fiat on Worli Sea Face during the police riots.

Today we are all in our mid or late 60s. Our hairs are gray if not white, and our gait is much slower than when we were prancing around the stages with electric guitars and straps and banging out pulsating songs on our poorly made local instruments.

Ardeshir (“Adi”) B. Damania
University of California, Davis

Websites to see:

http://sierra.mmic.net/malcolm.htm

http://www.timeoutmumbai.net/music/music_details.asp?code=93&source=1

http://www.campion-calls.com/Pages/page-0jets-memory.htm

http://indianbandshub.blogspot.com/2010/09/savages.html

Regarding the photo at top of article:

Neville Stanley’s shop Stanley & Sons was on Arthur Bunder Road, Bombay. The same road where there was a disco called The Slipped Disc where the band Led Zeppelin once played. Neville Stanley had a very big collection of rock albums from the 1960s and 70s and he used to help us by making tape recording of them. I have several tapes made by Neville Stanley with me here in California. It is a pleasure to hear them on my open reel tape decks. Neville died around 1986 from diabetes. His sister tried to run his video and record library but without success. – Ardeshir Damania

The Mustangs (India)

Mustangs EMI PS  "Love Is Blue", 'Lies", "Nina's Theme" and "Summer Wine"
Mustangs EMI PS “Love Is Blue”, ‘Lies”, “Nina’s Theme” and “Summer Wine”

Joseph C. Pereira, author of Legends of the Golden Venus, will be contributing rare oddities to Garage Hangover from time to time. I haven’t heard this EP that he describes as “supper club music”, but there seem to be so few real ’60s beat groups from India that we’ll include it in the hopes we can learn more about the music scene at that time.

I have attached a picture of a band from Madras called Mustangs. Must have been a Mustangs from every country in the world.

I spent time in Chennai visiting second hand book stores and a few shops selling old vinyl, which is where I got this Mustangs single.

The record was released in 1968 I guess because “Love Is Blue” is present. The line up is Derek Norris (sax), Kittu Rufus (lead), Darryl Cordeiro (rhythm), Haroon Mohamed (bass), S. P. Ananth (drums).

The songs are “Love Is Blue”, ‘Lies”, “Nina’s Theme” and “Summer Wine”. The style though is restrained supper club music. Maybe they were told to record in that manner by the record company executives.

Derek Norris looks like a Anglo Indian given his Caucasian features. The rest of the band are Indians and includes a Muslim, a Hindu and two Christians.

Joseph C. Pereira

Simla Beat

 

This is about as obscure as garage rock gets. For two years, 1970 and 1971, a cigarette company in India sponsored a battle-of-the-bands competition, with the winners going to Calcutta to record for compilations called Simla Beat.

Each year an album was released with no info about the bands other than their hometown. Also issued was this 45 with two of the better tracks and some silly liner notes on the back of the sleeve (detail here).

Some people think this is a hoax, or that the recordings came from somewhere other than India. It’s true that some bands have a similar sound, though this could be from sharing a studio and perhaps instruments as well. Also, the bands lean heavily on American rock of the time and show very little British influence.

The Confusions from Madras cut this amazing original, “Voice from the Inner Soul”. It has a tough, heavy sound with a rudimentary beat, sharp bluesy guitar fills, and an organ sound right out of 1966.

The Dinosaurs, from Bangalore, contribute a fine cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Sinister Purpose”, giving Fogerty writing credit, somewhat surprisingly given the usual global practice of song appropriation. This one has nice fuzz guitar and gravely vocals. I’d say it surpasses the original.

All my research so far turns up no other information about the groups on these releases. Hopefully someone associated with this project will come forward and fill us in on the story behind Simla Beat.