Sunday, June 26, 2005

please let go of your hands

we need beyond: a hundred thousand signatures by china fans asking beyond not to breakup

translation by lil_bing on beyondforum

After 20 years, the most popular rock band Beyond announced their official break up this year, the three members are currently doing their farewell world tour to say goodbye to fans around the world. There is one group of fans still wish their idols would change their decision, they have started to gather ten thousand signatures, hoping this will change Beyond's decision on the break-up, until today, there are several thousand signatures already, this moves Beyond too.

The band who has been together for 20 years. Beyond, after hosting their farewell concert in February in Hong Kong, they are now very busy with their world tour, officially saying goodbye to their fans, after that the three members will be working separately. However, their fans still don't want to see the band break up, at the beginning of the year there were some fans faxing to the press threatening Beyond by saying they would kill themselves, there were also fans crying for them to get back together. But Beyond still stick with their decision, Ka Keung even expressed that one of the reasons for the break up is because of their different style of music. Beyond has just finished their tour at Beijing, Shen Yang and Harbin, coming next would be Tian Jin, Cheng Zhou, Chang Sa, and Hunan. A group of China fans are hoping to change Beyond's decision, they have started a partition, they follow Beyond to every farewell concert in China, setup a table outside the venue with a banner to ask fans to adopt their message hoping to change their decision by gathering a billion signatures.

Filled Up the Venue

50,000 Audience in 30,000 Seats

As of right now, the fans have already collected several tens of thousands of signatures, besides collecting signatures outside of the venue, they find their relatives and friends to help out, they also spread the words online to ask fans to go sign the partition, working very hard. However, on the other side, Beyond still didn't change their decision, when they were at the Beijing concert, Paul started the concert by saying "Beyond says breakup, we are breaking up." Fans immediately cried "Don't leave." When Beyond was at Shen Yang, the venue could hold 30,000 people but there were 50,000 people, the sponsor of the concert said that besides the 50,000 people inside the venue, there were more fans who couldn't get in, they just stand outside of the venue to listen. Similar situation happened at Harbin.

In response to the fans' hardwork, KaKeung said on the phone "wow, one hundred thousand?? It sounds more like bacteria. Everyone is so dedicated, actually isn't it better to use their spirit and dedication to support the things I want to do? Even after we break up, Beyond's spirit will not change, we are not expressing our spirit together, but we are doing it separately."

When asked if this group of fans successfully collect one billion signatures would they consider changing their minds, KaKeung replied "Actually having over a hundred thousand signatures is already very good, I am moved already by hearing it, we will talk more if it really happens."

Paul replies "I admire the fans' stubborness in their spirit, being so dedicated for something is good, but isn't it a waste of time? Why not use the time to be a volunteer? If there is really a hundred thousand signatures, I don't even know how I would react, it's kind of scary with such a huge effort, really have to wait till it actually happens to let you know what I think."

Releasing Fairwell DVD in Mid of the Month

Yip Sai Wing says "With a hundred thousand people supporting Beyond to not break up, why not tell these hundred thousand people to support Hong Kong's music industry, support legal music, musicians won't have to work so hard. We will see if there really are one billion signatures, but it's not like I don't know that the fans are putting so much effort in it, I am also moved by it."

On the other hand, Paul was in Beijing for an online interview with, he mentioned: "I feel that I am letting my fans down when I see the banner telling us not to breakup in my room. I hope they will respect our decision. Actually ever since KaKui left, we already felt that we have been broken up, without him, nothing has meanings." An online fan asked whether Beyond will get together for 25th and 30th anniversary? Paul said "Talk about in several years? We don't even know what's going to happen tomorrow, I guess there's a possibility."

After finishing the concert at Harbin, Beyond returned to Hong Kong to personally work on their Hong Kong farewell concert DVD as the last product of Beyond, which is planned to be released in the mid of the month. In addition, today is also Wong Ka Kui's death anniversary, Beyond's three members are currently at Tian Jin preparing for their concert, they have already went to visit KaKui couple of days ago.

- - - -

there have been rumours of breakups circulating for years, from their post tragedy reformation in 1994, to the release of solo albums by the three remaining members while still within the confines of beyond.

if you'd mentioned it to me in 1998 or thereabouts, i'd have screamed in your ear, and berated you for saying such things. one, because they were releasing albums that were expanding my poor musically challenged mind (please let go of your hands and surprise being examples); and two, because i couldn't let go of them either.

being together for more than twenty years, the band is akin to something familiar and comforting.

there's often some person at their concerts with a placard that reads, "i grew up with beyond". it's true for many people, especially those in their mid-twenties and older. in the beginning was beyond and many others, and now they are all that's left of the 80s bands (save for the occasional tat ming pair reunion). nobody else has risen, commercially anyhow, to take their place.

zen could have been it, but they were a bland commercial band, whose popularity peaked with their songs in the 'young and dangerous' movies. the only song i can remember liking was 'i remember you'. (lead singer wong wo hing released his own solo album this year, and the video that keeps playing on tvb makes me block my ears, frankly, when he hits those terrible notes.)

beyond's last full album, goodtime, was released in 1999. the artwork still perplexes me - the three of them stand in the background, whilst mischevious models upstage them with their displays of affection for each other.

the surprising thing from the credits was that they'd ditched their usual producer jim lee and decided to do it all themselves. while paul could probably churn out catchy enough rock songs like the title track in his sleep, the rest of the album just seems to be lacking. the production is muddled, and the songwriting seems uninspired. a rushed job perhaps, to mark the end of their contract and troubled relationship with rock records?

"we have had a goodtime after all", the booklet reads inside. with this, they announced their 'break' after the goodtime concert. fans were already worried that this break would become a breakup, but the band emphasised it was some time off to devote to solo projects.

the three of them have differing musical styles: ka keung's has been described as british influenced and is more pop (just look at his favourite albums of 04); paul's music is inclined towards metal and hard rock; and wing's is somewhere between the two.

maybe the itch to do their own thing and increasing conflict between the members produced that dull album. either ways, paul quickly churned out three albums and an ep (yellow paul wong, black & white,root ep and play it loud) in a similar number of years; ka keung took his time to release brb ('be right back'), pursuing some movie roles and general leisure time; and wing released the beautiful time machine ep before beyond reformed for their 20th anniversary in 2003.

and now we fasttrack to 2005 to bring the closing of the band's story, as they play dates in china up to the end of july, having already performed two sold out farewell concerts in hong kong at the beginning of the year. and the above piece of news.

when making reference to it, a person from the beyondstation mailing list said angrily that fans should 'please let go of your hands', quoting the 1997 album title and song.

there's an image from the video of the same song that i'm reminded of - the three of them walking up a ramp in the rain, with ka keung holding up an umbrella, and wing holding up a balloon. their other free hands are handcuffed to each other.

beyond is what binds them together, but now that they want to create music outside of these confines, there are fans who cannot accept it. some even threatened to commit suicide if it went ahead.

beyond is as much a symbol of endurance as it is living with the pain of the death of a loved one; the latter is a reminder that nothing is permanent. beyond was never meant to last forever, and could have easily ended in 1994 after ka kui's death, if not for the wishes of the fans.

i have to wonder if the breakup upsets these fans so greatly that they sign a petition asking for a reversal of the band's wishes, that beyond's achievements have really come to nothing. because isn't there room for music in their hearts, that maybe beyond has inspired a love of music that isn't just confined to these three people on a stage? why can't these fans throw their support behind sales of legitimate cds (china's piracy is staggering enough for the US to demand action or face trade embargo), and musicians who deserve their support? beyond has tried to encourage the music scene over these many years, but there's only so much you can do when there is no audience.

i have to thank beyond for so many years of good memories, for fighting for what they believed in, and for the music that will never leave me.

as long as they continue to make good music, whether solo or together, i'll continue to listen.

Friday, June 10, 2005

I bought a Beyond cd, but all I got was a lousy recording and a bunch of cards...

'beyond forever' cards. everything looks cheesier as a trading card.

Mention the name Leslie Chan Kinn Tim to a longtime Beyond fan, and they will probably scowl at you. While he was the first to believe in Beyond enough to release records on his own label with his own money, and was instrumental in setting up their later commercial success with Cinepoly, his relationship with the band in more recent times has been sour.

He was the one who spotted the band at a concert, and promptly signed them up on the spot. He saw their potential commercially, signalling an end to their independent days. He also helped to have Cinepoly Records (a subsidiary of Polygram) sign them, which one could say was a fruitful partnership, under which they produced platinum and gold selling albums. The band's signing to Warner Music in 1992 signalled the end of their association. In the Beyond mythology, Leslie Chan himself probably makes a fair representation of the human form of ideals and musical purity vs commericalism and a wider audience.

To Beyond fans such as myself, he remains an enigmatic figure. What are his motivations? What lead Beyond to split with him? What does he value in music, if anything at all past commercialism? There are brief mentions by Beyond in articles to their ex-manager, but as far as I have read (not a lot, mind you, because of my lack of Chinese ability) not much more than denouncements.

I would believe that most of the earlier songs released by Kinn's Music are still owned by him, which leads to periodic re-releases of these otherwise hard to find records. CD, DSD, MD, HDCD - the re-releases have appeared on any number of these formats over the years.

Beyond in the past has asked fans not to purchase these cds, as the band had no rights to these recordings, and seeing them as just yet another attempt by Chan to make money.

Fans lament over the moral dilemma - do I deny this money grubbing manager his profit, or do I deny myself the opportunity to listen to these early recordings unavailable elsewhere?

'beijing concert' and 'the real beyond I' cds.

I am a bit of a sucker for completism, even if my conscience says no, so I have two cds, plus an old cassette. The Beijing concert, dating back to 1988, is probably equivalent to a bootleg, sounding suspiciously mono. It also comes with a packet of "Beyond Forever" cards, with pictures from the time of the Africa charity visit. Somewhere on the sleeve, it suggests if you want more cards, to write to a certain address...

The other cd is one from "The Real Beyond" series from sometime in 1998. There were also CD+VCD versions of these later, in a shrewd but annoying marketing move. But more importantly, these contained unheard early demos with ubiquitous titles like "Southern All Star" (had they been listening to the Japanese band?). Sometimes they were just Ka Kui recording ideas with his acoustic guitar; other times they documented the band playing around with arrangement and suitable vocalists for the song.

The cassette consists of a 1988 concert (simply titled "88 Concert") and a version of the 'Forever Waiting' EP. The title track from the EP is eighteen years old already, but the punk ethos and youthful fervour hasn't changed. One of my favourite tracks is 'Metal Maniac', where double kick bass drums made an appearance before their rehashing in the uber-metal grunge period.

What happened to Leslie Chan after Beyond?

As of 1997, Leslie Chan was running a record label, Red Star, in China. The reportedly successful singer/songwriter Zheng Jun was signed on, but later broke his contract by simply leaving. Chan attempted to sue Zhang. According to Chan, "these practices would never happen in the West, but they can happen in China". As to whether the label is still running, it probably died out a while ago, but I can't discern from the information on the internet.

Recently Beyond secured a publishing deal with Universal, and Kinn's Music is also under the same label, suggesting that the two are closely associated. There may be a process in which Beyond slowly buys back rights to their earlier work. In fact the anniversary song, 'Crossing Twenty Years', originally written by Ka Kui many years ago as a demo without lyrics, had to be bought back before they could use it in the final recording by the band, and in the 20th anniversary concert.

But there continues to be releases of the old Beyond recordings, suggesting Chan may still have the rights for a while yet (and perhaps this might be his only musically related income). Last one I saw was a DSD cd combining the 88 concert plus the soundtrack to the film 'Black Wall', typically characterised by ugly artwork.

If this is the only way to listen to these recordings, what other choice do we have? I would suggest that anybody in posession of these cds group together and offer to bootleg them for other fans, thereby bypassing Leslie Chan altogether. Please leave a message in the comments section! Because after all, it's their music that should live on, not his bank balance.

Friday, June 03, 2005

the great wall

This is a Great Wall and only a great people with a great past could have a great wall and such a great people with such a great wall will surely have a great future.

Richard M. Nixon

taken from the video for 'cheung sing' - shot while they were recording in japan

june the 4th is almost upon us, sixteen years on from tianamen (notice the debate about wikipedia's entry). political arrests are still occuring. right now, beyond is holding concerts in china as part of their farewell tour, but many years ago they were banned from the country because of this song (the link for the mp3 is on the 'music' menu).

i've chosen to write about the beyond song 'great wall' (cheung sing), because i believe as much as it debunks the myth of a great civilisation and a man-made wonder, i believe the underlying meaning is of a government that continues to oppress and deceive its people, continuing the suffering signified by the wall.

the great wall, is of course the great wall of china. it was built and rebuilt over the centuries by several dynasties, starting from 208BC. but the precursor to the modern wall is attributed to the first emperor of china, qin shihuang. my impression was originally that the wall was constructed by a person obsessed with power and paranoid of invaders, and indeed he is often portrayed as a tyrant (but on the other hand in zhang yimou's film 'hero' he is depicted as a admirable man and a patriot).

the wall was intended to keep invaders out from the north, but as it was built in sections, it may have not been so difficult to transgress. and as this traveler notes, it is only more recently that parts have been reconstructed and joined together.

another myth is that the great wall is the only man-made object that can be seen from the moon, which has been revealed to be untrue.

the song 'cheung sing' appeared on the 1992 album 'continue the revolution' as the opening track. the song was composed by wong ka kui, with lyrics by gene lau (lau cheuk fai). i have to wonder if the lyrics were all lau's invention, or if beyond provided the original idea. either way, it was brave to record such a political song. there are three versions of the song: cantonese, mandarin and japanese (i am unsure as to the content of the japanese lyrics).

with thanks to cyrus chiu, here is an english translation of the lyrics (unicode optional):

Great Wall

遙遠的東方 遼闊的邊疆
In the far far east, there is a vastly extensive frontier

And also an ancient ruined wall.

前世的滄桑 後世的風光
With many adversities in the past and a glory for the future,

This wall is closely knitted along a thousand hills.

It encloses an aging country;

It encloses a true story;

It encloses a long history;

圍着慾望與理想 (叫嚷)
It encloses desires and ideals (cries).

迷信的村莊 神秘的中央
Superstitious villages, a mysterious Central

And also a battlefield of yesterday.

皇帝的新衣 熱血的纓槍
The Emperor’s new clothes, the hot-blooded spears,

None was willing to wander around the frontier.

Covering up the ears,

Hear no more the cries of people over there on that day.

Woo Ah-Woo Ah-Ah-Ah

Covering up the eyes,

See once more the scar that we once respected.

Woo Ah-Woo Ah-Ah-Ah

It remains there on the crust of the earth.

無冕的身軀 忘我的思想
A body without a crown, a selfless thought,

And also an illustrious ruined wall.

誰也衝不開 誰也拋不低
None can break through it or leave it behind.

None is willing to lead a vagrant life.

briefly, i believe the 'cries' can refer to the dead workers - it has been said that the wall carries the remains of some of the many labourers who died whilst working on this colossal project, as the sense of urgency was so great that there was no time to stop for the weak, and no time for a burial. do you remember when david copperfield "walked through" the great wall of china? (according to the imdb, it was 1986) i wonder if he saw their bones lining the wall?

the song can also read as a testament to the events that occured in tianamen square in 1989. the government continues to deny that there was ever a crackdown, or reports the casualties as fewer than there actually were ('covering up the ears', 'covering up the eyes').

'body without a crown', 'the emperor's new clothes' and 'the superstitious village' can refer to the time of the qin dynasty and its historically regarded power mad emperor, but can equally be a reference to the communist party.

and more directly, that the great wall of china is not a monument of human achievment, but as a 'scar' upon the civilisation of china that should not be celebrated as glorious ('scar that we once respected'), but as a recognition of the suffering and mistakes of the past.

regarding the mandarin version of the song, as far as i can tell, they have transposed the same phrasing and meaning in the lyrics, which are credited to a different person. the video (made in taiwan for rock records) leaves nothing to the imagination about what beyond are yelling about. imperial guards spear each other, members of the people's liberation army fire at each other. terracotta warriors (a legacy of the qin dynasty) appear in the video, overlaid with the angry faces of the band.

my distaste for the chinese government was growing ever since i had seen those pictures on the news of the tanks in the square (our australian prime minister at the time, bob hawke, even shed tears publicly for the students). i was nine when it happened, but i could never regard china with the cultural naivety of a child looking upon her origins again.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

beyond's history

i had a request for the history of beyond from a reader, but as you may well know, their history is a long one. as much as i would like to put it into my own words (haha), there are several people who have done it already, so i'd probably be rehashing by referring to their dates and events.

a good one is at beyondline.

the other is by edmund gan, posted onto the soc.culture.hongkong.entertainment newsgroup in several parts:

in the beginning
the honeymoon
honeymoon's over, honey
towards independence
the invasion
the accident
a new beginning

will post a writeup about the song 'cheung sing' (great wall) soon.