In second year high school at my all-boys school, we formed a band and called ourselves Subdivision of Thought. We got the name thanks to our English teacher who explained that this was one of the reasons to indent a paragraph. Of course we thought it would be a cool band name.
Primarily, we played surf-rock guitar instrumentals by The Ventures or The Shadows because those were the first tunes our dads and uncles taught us. Plus, we didn’t have a vocalist. We had 2 guitarists, bass, keyboards and drums. And a lot of guts and panache.
But somewhere between performing for our parents and performing at the school fair, we figured we better have someone sing. And since no one wanted to give it a stab, I volunteered. Despite being the drummer.
That decision soon led me to compose a bunch of original songs that built up on the fact that we had 2 guitarists — i.e. give them a space for solos!
“Araw at Yelo” (literally “Sun and Ice”) was one of those upbeat compositions. It gave our guitar virtuosos space to cut loose, and expressed the sheer joy of youthful infatuation.
Inspired by a Pop Songstress
This was one of two specific original songs inspired by seeing Philippine pop singer Zsa Zsa Padilla live for the first time at our university fair. I was smitten long before that but seeing her energy onstage was a dream come true.
I had a massive crush on her for a long time, back when she was more singer than actress. Her voice was liquid gold to me. Plus, she was beautiful. I wore out the cassette tape of her third album Ikaw Lamang from having it on repeat all throughout high school AND college.
And to this day, when I hear a beautiful string arrangement on a pop song, I think “Is this as good as the strings on Zsa Zsa’s album?” Usually the answer is no.
Melting Under the Sun
The song’s main image was lyrically taken from the opening lines of the Hotdog band’s 1975 pop tune “Pers Lab.” Those opening lines were:
Hotdog was a huge band in Manila in the ’70s because they captured the sentiment of the time in a cross between high musicality and lowbrow lyrics.
And ironically, after reading Zsa Zsa’s Wikipedia entry, I just discovered that she started her musical journey as part of the band Hotdog!
Everything comes full circle.
Getting an Email from Zsa Zsa
As an aside, in 1999 I posted a fan article about my crush on Zsa Zsa on my ancient Tripod blog – one of my earliest outings as an Internet blogger.
And one day I got an email saying “I like your article, can I repost it on my website?” The email was from Zsa Zsa Padilla… supposedly? Except I thought that was highly improbable. At the time, not many people were online in Manila. And I thought Zsa Zsa would probably not be one of them.
So I replied with “Hahahahahahaha!”
I mean, it had to be a fraud. Right?
Turned out she was one of the first musical artists to be truly active online not just in email but also on forums. Or so I found out 4 or 5 years later when I started working for a music news website.
What a wasted opportunity! Zsa Zsa, if you ever read this, apologies for that email!
Anyway, here’s the song:
Note: if you hover your mouse over the Filipino lyrics, you’ll see an English translation.
Words and music: Lionel Zivan Valdellon