By Nicholas Stoodley
There weren't even convenience stores in Manila in the mid 70's. It was hard back then. Couldn't get anything much. Something to do with Import Controls imposed by the Marcos Government. I mean there was everybody's ultimate status symbol as in, "Yes I got it from the PX at the Base!" Wow, big time. American bases. That was a thing then. But that's another story. There was Cartimar of course where you could get smuggled food but it was all in cans and packets and jars. It wasn't REAL food! I remember I almost wept when I first saw an apple for sale. A real apple that grew on a real tree and not some amorphous invention of a chemist that worked for a "food" company.
But now we have the so called convenience of the MINI STOP. They're everywhere. Like 7/11. Better than 9/11. Just. Only just. It's like everything "over here", in Manila, is being repackaged as fast as possible to "over there". Twenty first Century man. Manila can do it. Really?
So needing convenience I slipped unobtrusively into a MINI STOP last night under cover of darkness to buy an ice cream to alleviate a hot tropical night. The ubiquitous musak sounded familiar. Holy Shit….it was DISCO FEVER which was originally done by VST and Company way back then in the throbbing disco decade. But this wasn't throbbing. It was decidedly flaccid. And it was Bossa Nova. The only thing I can say is that it was appropriate to the setting: plastic, limp and packaged to appeal to a dead mind with little or no imagination. Manila has changed.
I remember VST and Company well. I should; I did their clothes once…a raucous blend of wild color and satin and braid. A bit Sergeant Pepper meets Earth, Wind and Fire. But they were good, this group. I mean VERY good. There's this thing in Manila that you get accolades if you can actually be as good as a big name in America or Europe and then, hey man, you MADE it. Please. VST and Company were better than that. They were World Class and nobody seemed to really know that. If they'd been nice white boys and released Disco Fever in the States they'd have been big, as in BIG. These guys had real talent. And cliché as it is, those really were the days. The disco decade. Who can forget Donna Summer's LET IT BE MAGIC as Marijuana fumes drifted up from the mini forest (that was then there in the center of Remedios Circle) as soon to be dancers in skin tight jeans and Cuban heels prepared to go to Coco Banana – a frenzied mix of socialites, call boys, the odd European Film Star, transvestites and LIFE. Yes it was alive. Very alive. Last night, in MINI STOP, it was the night of the living dead. VST and Company we NEED you. Not the limp Bossa Nova version please. Manila changed.
More VST & Company: VST & Company Photo Album, VST & Company Exclusive Interview Part 1
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