Speed, Glue & Shinki

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One of Japan's most iconic purveyors of early-‘70s heavy/blues/psych rock, Speed, Glue & Shinki was composed of three uncommonly talented, freakishly tall (six-foot-plus!), and exceptionally wasted…
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One of Japan's most iconic purveyors of early-‘70s heavy/blues/psych rock, Speed, Glue & Shinki was composed of three uncommonly talented, freakishly tall (six-foot-plus!), and exceptionally wasted longhairs of mixed descent; Shinki was half Chinese, "Glue" half-French, "Speed" a Filipino, and, yes, their drugs of choice inspired the group's moniker. As is often the case, the group's legend was established primarily posthumously, but the improbable nature of their very existence and the retrospectively appreciated uniqueness of their spare musical output totally warrants it.

Speed, Glue & Shinki started out as the brainchild of Atlantic Records impresario Ikuzo Orita and guitar hero Shinki Chen, who was just 21 but already deemed the "Japanese Hendrix," thanks to a résumé boasting stints with Brit-blues purveyors Powerhouse, Super Session emulators Foodbrain, and the house band for Japan's own production of the musical Hair, to name just his most then-recent exploits. However, rather than settling on faceless no-names to support Shinki's genius, the duo sought his instrumental and charismatic equals in highly respected bassist Masayoshi "Glue" Kabe -- himself a veteran of Group Sounds staples the Golden Cups, among others, including Shinki's first pro band years earlier -- and the comparatively inexperienced, Filipino-born singing drummer Joey "Speed" Smith (aka Pepe), whose larger-than-life persona, pharmaceutical fixations, and songs to match helped define the group's radical musical vision. Ironically, and despite its shared instrumental pedigree, when the band unveiled their 1971 debut album, Eve, it was distinguished by astonishingly raw, loose, and at times even clumsy extrapolations on the era's reigning heavy blues and acid rock templates. Even more astonishing was how its abject commercial failure to chart on Japan's still very buttoned up hit parade actually surprised all involved, expediting Speed, Glue & Shinki's dissolution when the easily distracted Kabe took to vanishing after just a few scattered public band performances. The far more driven Joey did manage to coax a chronically unmotivated Shinki back into the studio, alongside former Zero History bassist Mike Hanopol, but the band's sprawling eponymous sophomore double album, literally lost the plot in a maze of proto-metal/art-rock chaos and indulgence. The LP was pretty much dead on arrival upon release in early 1972, and it wasn't long before Joey and Hanopol both gave up the fight and moved back to Manilla, where they founded a new power trio named, oddly, Juan de la Cruz. Shinki Chen proceeded to squander his six-string gifts by forming an organ-dominated outfit named Orange before fading away into session work, while the free-spirited Kabe resumed his itinerant lifestyle, whereabouts unknown (just kidding: he settled down in old age, but where's the romance in that?). Speed, Glue & Shinki duly graduated to cult band status, and yet, for a brief moment, in a flash of light, this ragged trio forced the rock & roll firmament to its bended knees and carved a monument to primal guitar rock for the ages.