Love Hurts / Beautiful Doll is the 5th and most prominent record by the He6, the frontrunner band of the 1970s golden age of ‘group sound’ bands in Korea. It features the band’s notable funk/psychedelia track ‘Beautiful Doll (Get Ready)’ which was sampled by DJ Shadow in ‘the Number Song’. Also includes ‘You Don’t Know’, the hit number driven by Choi Heon’s soulful vocals, as well as another must-listen He6 original tune, the perky brass rock number ‘I Can’t Tell’. The definitive reissue of the historical 1972 masterpiece of Korean rock!’
Amid the various modes by which pop cultured developed in the various regions of East Asia as they modernized, the path followed by postwar Korea was a very unique one. Due to the outbreak of the Korean War shortly after the peninsula’s liberation from Japan, American pop culture came to hold major sway on Korean pop culture. The conscious/subconscious aspirations and critiques regarding this fact have continually given rise to various layers of subculture in many fields, thus generating an energy that propelled the possibilities of local culture. In particular, the spectacular growth of pop music, which sprang from the peculiar background that was the ‘US 8th Army scene’, was recorded in the form of numerous records since the mid-60s. These include such unique rarities that stand out not only among the history of rock/pop music in Asia but throughout the world, foremost among them the works by Shin Joong-hyeon and the Add 4, Key Boys, and the He5.
To better understand this history takes a closer look into the background and influence of the ‘entertainment scene’ that was formed around the US 8th Army bases at the time. The ASCOM (US Army Support Command) located in Bupyeong was a military complex providing combat support for the USFK, and comprised a sprawling array of facilities whose massive scale and varied functions earned it the nickname ‘ASCOM City’. The entertainment scene that encompassed 12 on-post clubs and the more than 20 clubs that were located off-post served as transmission channels for jazz, standard pop, and rock n’ roll. The multitude of musicians – including Bae Ho, Han Myeong-sook, Yoon Hang-gi, Shin Joong-hyeon, and Kim Hong-tak – conveyed the newest western musical styles such as jazz, blues, country, and soul and played a critical role in introducing them into Korean pop music. American authorities applied tighter quality controls during the roughly 10-year heyday of the ‘8th Army show scene’ since the mid-60s, leading musicians to pick up the newest repertoires even more swiftly. Meanwhile, the sheer diversity of styles and genres as required by the various stages, as well as the rapidly shifting trends in repertoire, encouraged musicians to further hone their chops while also broadening their musical spectrum. The unique facets of ‘adaptation’ and ‘transfiguration’ that arose as musicians from a jazz/big band background took in rock/psychedelic influences ended up being key drivers behind establishing locality.
Into the late 60s, as musical activity was broadened to include ‘general stages’ (intended for the Korean public, as opposed to US servicemen), the development of ‘local music’ was further accelerated. Korean popular music, which had previously been dominated by trot or new folk music, now saw a new age of gayo featuring a greater variety of styles by incorporating elements of westernized musical language. The various festivals that took place around these years, such as the “National Men and Women’s Collegiate Jazz Festival” hosted by TBC TV since 1966 or the 1969 “Playboy Cup Vocal Group Tournament”, where young fans were abuzz with the heated rivalry between the Key Boys and the He5, attest to the possibilities of a budding youth culture and new currents that would give way to a new age of pop music.
Regarding the matter of which band had the most ‘western’ sound, the immediate choice by many fans would’ve been the He5 and He6. Their discography shows us why: in addition to such ‘essential listening’ psychedelic tracks as ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida’, they had also covered Sly & The Family Stone, the Jackson Five, as well as favorites from the musical such as ‘Aquarius’ and ‘Let the Sunshine In’ (presumably drawing on the versions by the 5th Dimension). In doing so, the He6 were able to imbue the tracks with their own distinctive musical feel, and at a level of individual and ensemble musicianship to rival that of any of their western contemporaries. The 1972 release by the He6, , is a masterpiece that captures the unique sound of this band at the absolute top of their game. The greatest distinction between the He5 and He6 would like in the driving groove laid down by drummer Kwon Yong-nam. His soul-influenced rhythm patterns, and the thrilling dynamics between his heavy kick drum and punchy snare, had garnered a quiet following among ‘rare groove’ aficionados even before the Internet age. His beats also came to notice when master break sampler DJ Shadow used them near the end of ‘The Number Song’ off his legendary 1996 work, Endtroducing….. This drum solo segment, which appears on ‘Beautiful Doll’ (an adaptation of ‘Get Ready’ by Rare Earth), features a more relaxed tempo, focused solo playing, narrative development, and dynamic flow compared to the original, thus securing an enduring place in the storied history of drum breaks.
However, bandleader Kim Hong-tak’s departure to the US after the album’s release made it the last de facto work by the He6 as a psychedelic/rock/soul outfit (the album released during the 80s under the He6 name features a different lineup, playing the disco-influenced gayo that gained prominence at the time), and via the vicissitudes of Korea’s modern history – including the proclamation of the Yushin constitution and the Emergency Decree No.9 – the album eventually faded from the public’s memory. Therefore, restoring and remembering this brilliant work, which was robbed of its rightful place in pop culture (or mass culture) will lay the foundations not only for a full understanding of the history and identity behind Korean pop culture but also for movements to bring forth, by building on such understanding, new discourse for the eras to come.