BACH-YEN

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam

Records with Sonobeat in 1968
One commercial 45 RPM release on Sonobeat Records (1968)
Listen to more below
Bach-Yen's single is recorded in January 1968 but will sit for more than six months until Sonobeat sweetens the tracks with a string and horn arrangement
Bach-Yen returns in later summer 1968 for encore performances at The Club Seville in Austin
Bach-Yen continues to perform throughout the U.S. for years beyond her original intended two-week visit; this ad is from the November 3, 1972, issue of the Arizona Republic newspaper, Phoenix, Arizona

It's a rainy Thursday afternoon, January 18, 1968, in Austin, Texas. Sonobeat is beginning its recording session with international singing sensation Bach-Yen, who performs This Is My Song (composed by silent film star Charlie Chaplin) and the French-language Magali (the story of a guy wooing a young woman named Magali at the seaside resort of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, France). The two-hour recording session at the swanky Club Seville at Austin's Sheraton Crest Inn (now The LINE Hotel) results in the basic instrumental and vocal tracks for both songs. Although The Club Seville's house band, The Michael Stevens IV, provides able instrumental backing, it seems too thin to Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr., who wants a richer production to accompany Bach-Yen's clear and strong voice. Shelved for months, until Bach-Yen appears (as the only female) in the hit John Wayne feature film The Green Berets, released on the 4th of July 1968, Bill Sr. finally decides to complete and release the single with an overdubbed string and horn arrangement by Richard Green (who also provides the string arrangement on Sonobeat's first single by Lavender Hill Express). The strings and horns, performed by members of the Austin Symphony Orchestra, are layered over the original tracks, which already include Bach-Yen's vocals, so Richard must merely embellish and punctuate the tracks. Bach's Sonobeat single is completed on August 29, 1968, and released two months later.

Bach-Yen is born and reared in the former French colony of Vietnam, thus influencing her choice of Magali, by noted French artiste Robert Nyel, for the "B" side of her Sonobeat single. As a teen Bach performs in Saigon nightclubs and records several singles for local labels. Naturally fluent in French as well as Vietnamese, in 1961 she moves to Paris to study the "continental touch" singing style (exemplified by Edith Piaf) at Jacob's Ladder Music School and in 1963 lands a recording contract with European powerhouse Polydor, recording three albums and building a large fan base throughout central Europe. She returns to Saigon in 1964.

[Lt. Glenn] Craig and I had great respect and sympathy for the people of South Vietnam and their cause, and we thought they deserved all the support the United States could give them. It seemed to us that if the Americans at home could get to know the Vietnamese people a little better, American support would be more solid. We considered a number of Vietnamese singers and then, early in 1964, we read about Bach Yen, who had just returned from France and was opening a singing engagement at one of Saigon's big clubs, the Dai Kim Do.
Lt. L. Lamont Phemister, quoted in Lou Phillips' article Cinderella From Saigon in Stars and Stripes (Vol. 9, No. 37, December 12, 1965)

In 1965, Bach-Yen treks to the U.S. specifically for a performance on America's favorite Sunday night TV variety program, The Ed Sullivan Show. Bach's trip to America is the brainchild of two Navy lieutenants stationed in Saigon during the Vietnam conflict. A months-long search leads the officers to Bach-Yen, but it takes a lot of convincing to get her to agree to come to the U.S. and still more convincing to get backers to finance the trip. Finally, Bob Precht, a producer of The Ed Sullivan Show, agrees to pay to bring Bach to New York to appear on the program. Bach's performance on Sullivan's show, the top-rated variety program on U.S. TV, is sensational, and she's immediately booked into guest slots on other TV variety shows, including The Bob Hope Show, The Joey Bishop Show, and Shindig. Before you know it, Bach's two-week U.S. visit turns into a non-stop 12-year tour of 46 states, Canada, Mexico, and South America. When Bach is cast in The Green Berets, she gets a welcome break from an intense yearlong tour with Liberace, shooting her "Vietnam" scenes in Georgia and recording her spotlight solo, Le Seine (The River Seine), in Burbank, California, for the film's soundtrack. Featured in the film alongside Austin radio and television personality Cactus Pryor, one of Wayne's close friends, Bach somewhat ironically plays a night club singer in a Saigon bar. Impressed with Bach during production of the film, Cactus suggests she should extend her tour to Austin, then enlists his friend Don Dean, manager of The Club Seville, to provide the venue and backing band. In turn, Don, who records Sonobeat's third 45 RPM single release in 1967, introduces Bach to Sonobeat co-founder and producer Bill Josey Sr., leading to her recording session at The Club Seville.

Bach-Yen's Sonobeat single adds a bit of international intrigue to the label's rapidly diversifying catalog. Don arranges to sell copies of the single at The Club Seville's coat check stand, helping boost sales considerably. However, Sonobeat is discouraged when neither Billboard nor Cash Box reviews the single.

Bach-Yen returns to Paris in 1977 and then, influenced by her future husband TrĂ¢n Quang Hai,  returns to her Vietnamese musical roots. Today, Bach-Yen continues to perform traditional Vietnamese songs in concerts throughout the world.

Sonobeat Tags

Bach-Yen personnel

Bach-Yen: vocals
The Michael Stevens IV (a/k/a The Kings IV): backing band
   Mark Chaney: bass violin
   Ike Ramirez: trumpet
   Michael Stevens: piano and vibes
   Billy West: drums
Unidentified members of the Austin Symphony Orchestra: string and horn sections; arranged and conducted by Richard Green

Sonobeat stereo 45 RPM release PV-s109 (1968)

"A" side: This Is My Song (Charles Chaplin) • 2:54
"B" side: Magali (Robert Nyel) • 2:40

Released week of October 6, 1968* • PV-s109
Produced by Bill Josey Sr.
Engineered by Rim Kelley
Generic sleeve
Basic instrumental tracks and vocal overdubs recorded at The Club Seville at the Sheraton Crest Inn, Austin, Texas, on January 18, 1968
String and horn arrangement by Richard Green overdubbed at Sonobeat's Western Hills Drive studio, Austin, Texas, on August 29,1968
Recording equipment: ElectroVoice 665 microphones, ElectroVoice Slimair 636 microphones, Ampex 350 and 354 quarter-inch 2-track tape decks, custom 10-channel portable mixer, 3M (Scotch) 202 tape stock
Vinyl collector information for PV-s109

Between 1,000 and 1,500 copies pressed; approximately 50-75 copies rubber stamped "PROMO COPY"
Lacquers mastered and vinyl copies pressed by Sidney J. Wakefield & Company, Phoenix, Arizona
Generic sleeve
Label blanks printed by Powell Offset Services, Austin, Texas
In the dead wax:
   This Is My Song: PV-S109A and SJW-10895
   Magali: PV-S109B and SJW-10895

Unreleased Sonobeat recordings

There are no unreleased recordings by Bach-Yen in the Sonobeat archives

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Coda

Sonobeat records Bach-Yen at The Club Seville, a popular dinner and dance club occupying the second floor of the Sheraton Crest Inn (now The LINE Hotel) in downtown Austin, Texas. The Club Seville's carpeting, draperies, and acoustic tile ceiling intentionally absorb sound, so Sonobeat's master recordings of Bach-Yen have a distinctively "dry" sound, lacking any natural room reverberation. At the time Sonobeat records Bach-Yen, Sonobeat has no artificial reverb system, so reverb is added by Sidney J. Wakefield & Company during its mastering of the lacquers used to manufacture the phonograph record pressing plates. Therefore, there are no tape recordings of the reverb-enhanced version of Bach-Yen's single in the Sonobeat archives. The sound bites we present above are of the dry versions of Bach-Yen's recordings, as sent to Wakefield for mastering, and our 2015 reverb-enhanced re-creations.
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Finally, more than six months after the instrumental backing and Bach-Yen's vocal overdubs are recorded, Sonobeat completes her single with a string and horn overdub
A publicity photo used in dozens of newspaper ads for Bach-Yen appearances across the U.S.