Julian Cope presents JAPROCKSAMPLER.COM


Cris Solano – vocals, bass
Charlie Cajilig – guitar
Ernie Espiritu - organ
Ronnie Parina - trumpets
Eddie Fortuno – drums

Known in some quarters as The Swooners, this full-on Philipino quintet first formed in 1963, playing old time rock’n’roll and doo wop to Manila audiences who demanded as much entertainment from them as their counterparts on Hamburg’s Reeperbahn demanded of the Merseybeat groups. Biding their time until 1965, D’Swooners then made for Hong Kong, where they had a big hit for the Diamond Records label with their waltz-driven key-changing weepy ‘50s styled ‘Sonata Of Love’ – billed as D’Swooners Featuring Cris Solano - and opened prestigious shows for both The Kinks and Manfred Mann. The Japanese singer, guitar slinger and heartthrob actor Yuzo Kayama was at the Manfred Mann concert with his wife, and used his contacts to get the band on Japanese TV. On their arrival in Tokyo, in 1967, to perform on the pop TV show R&B PARADISE, the meek Japanese audiences considered D’Swooners’ shows extremely wild. And when the band decided to stay on in Japan, they could not at first get a record deal. Worse still, drummer Eddie Fortuno was hanging out with fellow Philipino Joey Smith of Speed Glue & Shinki when he was done for possession of cannabis and thrown in jail. However, the band eventually signed to the Philips label, whereupon their first single for the label, their wonderfully rowdy clatterthon version of Smokey Robinson’s ‘Mickey’s Monkey’ was released on the same day as their first LP R&B GOLDEN HITS, the B-side being their old hit ‘Sonata Of Love’. Both records were big hits, as was their syrupy follow up 45 ‘Wonderful World Of Love’. Far better and of real interest to readers of this book is ‘Please Please, Trina’, with its rowdy, sexy organ riffing stomp, lead vocal is the style of Blue Cheer’s Dickie Peterson, and an insistent ‘You Really Got Me’ rhythm. Excellent. D’Swooners made use of wah-wah guitar and a real fire engine siren for their disturbingly damaged proto-Jose Feliciano version of The Doors’ ‘Light My Fire’, the song rendered even more mysterious by the strange vocal inflections and Hispanic pronunciations of singer Cris Solano. Even more mysterious to the Japanese was their uncanny accuracy when performing Jimi Hendrix songs, for the guitarist’s style remained something of an unlockable mystery to many of the musicians. D’Swooners capitalized on this with their version of ‘Stone Free’, but also performed a Sam The Sham-style version of The Doors’ ’Hello, I Love You’, plus berserk versions of older songs such as James Brown’s ‘It’s a Man’s Man’s World’, Percy Sledge’s ‘When A Man Loves A Woman’ and Sam & Dave’s hoary ‘Hold On, I’m Coming’, sung in a humorous baritone manner. Soon after their second album PORTRAIT OF D’SWOONERS was released, they replaced organist Ernie Espiritu with Japanese musician Jun Batilaran, while trumpeter Butch Tigno took Ronnie Parina’s place. However, D’Swooners’s days were numbered and they split up shortly afterwards without recording anything with the new line up. Eddie Fortuno went on to play drums with Foodbrain, whenever Hiro Tsunoda was out of town with his jazz quintet!

Julian Cope
  • RHYTHM & BLUES GOLDEN HITS (Philips, 1968)
  • PORTRAIT OF D'SWOONERS (Philips, 1969)

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