Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam
Records with Sonobeat in 1968
One commercial 45 RPM release on Sonobeat Records (1968)
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. Austin's Sonobeat Records 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 French seaside resort of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer). The recording session, lasting just under two hours, in the spacious Embassy Room of The Club Seville in Austin's Crest Motor InnWhen it opens in January 1966, the Crest Motor Inn is known as Wilbur Clark's Crest Hotel. Over the years, through ownership changes, it becomes the Crest Motor Inn, the Crest Sheraton, the Radisson, and, now, The LINE Austin. results in the basic instrumental and vocal tracks for both songs. Although recorded at The Club Seville, no audience is present; during the '60s, Sonobeat has no recording studio of its own, instead hiring out spacious night clubs during "off hours" as makeshift recording venues. The Club Seville's house band, The Michael Stevens IV, provides able instrumental backing, but Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr. wants a richer backing track 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). Richard layers the strings and horns, performed by members of the Austin Symphony Orchestra, over the original tracks, which already include Bach-Yen's vocals, so he must embellish and punctuate the tracks while minding the wide dynamic range of Bach's vocals, which vary from sotto voce to fortissimo. Bach-Yen's Sonobeat single is completed on August 29, 1968, and released two months later.
Bach-Yen, whose full name is Quách Thị Bạch Yến, is born and reared in Sóc Trǎng 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 SaigonSaigon (Sài Gòn in Vietnamese) is known since 1976 as Ho Chi Minh City and is the largest metropolitan area by population in Vietnam 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 acclaimed French chanteuse Edith Piaf) at Jacob's Ladder Music School and in 1963 lands a recording contract with powerhouse European label Polydor, recording three albums and building a large fan base throughout central Europe. She returns to Saigon in 1964.
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, then the top-rated TV variety program in America, 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 year-long tour with Liberace, shooting her "Vietnam" scenes in Georgia and recording her spotlight solo, Le Seine (The River Seine), for the film's soundtrack in Burbank, California. Featured in the film alongside Austin radio and television personality Cactus Pryor, one of John Wayne's close friends, ironically Bach's character is 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 Bach's 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 Trân Quang Hai, returns to her Vietnamese musical roots. Today, at age 81, Bach-Yen continues to perform traditional Vietnamese songs in concerts throughout the world.
Our sound bites in the Listen! section below feature digital transfers from the original analog master tapes, which are recorded "dry", with no reverb. Record pressing plant Sidney J. Wakefield adds reverb during the lacquer mastering process, so there are no "official" release versions of Bach-Yen's recordings on tape in the Sonobeat archives. We offer snippets from the original "dry" versions and from reverb-enhanced versions we make in 2015 that come close to the sound on the vinyl 45 RPM release. In 2020, we begin experimenting with AI-enhanced audio processing techniques as we work to restore and remaster material in the Sonobeat archives. We present a short excerpt below of the instrumental backing track for Magali, which, as we explain above, is actually not a backing track but rather an orchestral overdub on top of a vocal overdub on top of The Michael Stevens IV's original instrumental backing track. AI post-processing makes it possible to separate vocal from instrumental for purposes of rebalancing tracks that are otherwise "set in stone".
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
"A" side: This Is My Song (Charles Chaplin) • 2:54
"B" side: Magali (Robert Nyel) • 2:40
Produced by Bill Josey Sr.
Engineered by Rim Kelley
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
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
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
There are no unreleased recordings by Bach-Yen in the Sonobeat archives
- Magali • original master tape version (1968)
- Magali • 2015 reverb-enhanced recreated release version (1968)
- Magali • 2020 excerpt from instrumental backing track (AI post-processed separation)
- This Is My Song • original master tape version (1968)
- This Is My Song • 2015 reverb-enhanced recreated release version (1968)