In memory of rock band Pinoy Frictions
When we talk about Pinoy rock, especially from the 1970s, we hear the names of the group Juan Dela Cruz, Anakbayan, Maria Cafra, Sampaguita, etc.
However, at that time, some of the best bands in the country went mostly unnoticed. Today, perhaps among a privileged few of the music scene of the 1970s and 1980s, somewhat forgotten. Consigned to a footnote and a holy grail among record lovers.
Indeed, these groups mainly plied their trade in the lucrative clubs and bars surrounding the former US naval base at Subic Bay in Olongapo for nearly two decades. With virtually no media attention on the “Gapo” music scene, these groups toiled in relative anonymity.
These groups got their due somewhat when Ace Records released two compilation albums, “Gapo Vol.1” and “Gapo Vol.2” featuring bands such as Frictions, Soul Jugglers, Hangmen, Splitends, and Brown Sugar, among others. .
The original albums, released in 1978 via Ace Records, were popular releases. In today’s counter-seller market, an original copy can range from 5,000 to 10,000 pesos. As the disc was in high demand, Vicor reissued the first volume two months ago.
Of all the bands featured in these compilation albums, perhaps the most popular was Frictions.
The original line-up included Romy Clemente on keyboards, Manny Cordero and Jose Ferrero on guitars, Carlito Mendoza on vocals and guitars, Benny Quintana on drums, Rodolfo Deniega on piano, and Rodolfo Acol on vocals.
The Frictions had a number one chart song in the 1970s with “Perwisyo sa Lipunan”.
This song ironically resulted from a jam session between Cordero and Quintana on a riff. The band was just having fun and didn’t realize that someone had recorded the song.
On Valentine’s Day 1978, the band arrived in Manila to perform at a rock concert at the Araneta Coliseum when producer Danny Subido approached them for an original song that would be included in the compilation Gapo Vol.1 .
“Naalala namin na meron kaming kanta na na-record – ‘yung ‘Perwisyo Sa Lipunan’ and ‘yun ang na record namin for Gapo,” he said.
Other recorded songs that have been officially released on vinyl include “Salamat Kaibigan”, which was the reverse of “Perwiso sa Lipunan” on seven-inch vinyl, and “Hoy Kumpare” which appeared on “Gapo Vol.2” .
Songs like “Ang Tunog” and “Bahay Kubo” as well as the aforementioned songs were compiled, pirated and became huge sellers among Filipino communities in the Middle East.
“Do you navigate from lang kami na meron mga tapes ng mga kanta namin,” Quintana admitted.
For a band that didn’t have the repertoire of the Juan dela Cruz Band or even Sampaguita, the Frictions were very popular.
In fact, they were the first band to perform at the Folk Arts Theater and even headlined a show at the Araneta Coliseum. Additionally, the Frictions were a staple of Shakey’s live music (Malate and Cubao) later in the 1980s.
Originally known as “The Intimates”, their American promoter in South Vietnam asked them to change their name to something more up-to-date.
“Dapat ‘yung pangalan ng banda est parang the Temptations, Fifth Dimension ‘yung style,” narrated Quintana who to this day still resides in Olongapo.
“Someone mentioned ‘Frictions’ and nagustuhan ng Amerikano,” guitarist Manny Cordero added.
The name stuck, and the Frictions made their professional debut in Saigon in 1969 (they also stayed in Hong Kong for a time) to perform for American troops stationed in what was then the capital of South Vietnam.
The group would stay in the country for three to four months, then return to the Philippines to rest, and then return for another long stay in South Vietnam.
At first, the group played covers of popular songs of the time. “We learned to adapt to the audience,” Cordero recounted. “Minsan rhythm and blues, minsan standards, minsan rock and roll. Depends on its audience. Later, na kami naging rock.
In 1973, the band knew the war was not going so well for the beleaguered country that they decided not to return.
“If we had returned, baka kasama kami on the rooftops of the last days of the Amerikano in Vietnam,” joked Quintana. “Dahil malawak ‘yung war zone, every day can kwento tungkol sa gera.”
When the group returned to Olongapo, they became the house band of Sierra Club (and later, Genesis).
“The scene in Gapo nung time na ‘yun has a bar, puro Pink Floyd ‘yung tugtugan. Another bar, Led Zeppelin,” Cordero shared. “Kami nagsimula na varied ‘yung musika. Then nagkaroon na kami ng mga originals na in Tagalog.
“Meron pa nga kami comedy na sketch,” Quintana launched.
Friction too predating Tito, Vic & Joey.
“Need to adjust the tape to an entire audience,” Cordero explained.
How popular were the Sierra Club and Frictions?
Cordero burst out laughing. “Let me say that every night some 600 cases of beer were consumed.”
As for Frictions, bars on Magsaysay Boulevard in Olongapo, they eventually started playing more shows in Manila. And at some point he became a regular performer at Shakey’s Malate and Cubao (back when they still had live music).
By then some of the original band members (such as Cordero who moved to Bahrain where he became a music teacher) had left and a second generation version of the band was performing.
The second generation band lasted until the 1990s before making a career out of it.
Today, a third generation version of Friction performs at Street Corner Blues Bar in Angeles City, Pampanga. Cordero still plays a mean guitar.
The only other living member of the original Frictions lineup – Benny Quintana – hung up his drumsticks as recently as 2017.
“When I think back to those days, those were fun, happy times. Young men play music for a living. Rocking bars and clubs in the Philippines and Southeast Asia,” Cordero said “It was an awesome experience. I am who I am today because of that.
Quintana concluded in vernacular: “The experiences we have had are invaluable. If we’ve done something for Original Pilipino Music, then we’re happy. If we have inspired others, then thank you. And it’s certainly nice to be reminded.