06. Korean Rock’s Journey from Group Sound to Indie Punk

PIL HO KIM


1. Key Boys, “Haebyŏnŭro Kayo” (Let’s Hit the Beach)

From: Vocal Number 1 Key Boys T’ŭksŏn Ijip, Universal K-APPLE가20, 1970, 33⅓ rpm.

Chang Yŏng: bass; Pak Myŏng-su: guitar; Cho Yŏng-jo: guitar; Kim Pok-san: drums; O Chŏng-so: organ.

Lyrics

Discogs

Billed as the “Korea’s Beatles” in their 1964 debut, actually the Key Boys were much more like the Beach Boys in the sense that they played a lot of surf-rock style music and  popularized this perennial Korean summertime anthem. The song was written and composed by Kim Hŭi-gap, a legendary musician and bandleader from the U.S. military camp show scene where Korean rock’s origin story begins.


2. Songolmae, “Ŏtchŏda Majuch’in Kŭdae”

From: Live performance at the Kayo Taesang Award Ceremony, KBS (Korea Broadcasting System), 1982.

Ku Ch’ang-mo: vocals; Pae Ch’ŏl-su: guitar; Kim Chŏng-sŏn: guitar; Kim Sang-bok: bass; Yi Pong-hwan: keyboards; O Sŭng-dong: drums.

Lyrics

Discogs

As a supergroup coming out of the campus group sound scene, Songolmae was one of the earliest “idol” boy bands who captured the hearts and minds of young teenage schoolgirls. Written and composed by lead singer and frontman Ku Ch’ang-mo, this song first appeared in “Songolmae II” Jigu, JLS-1201684, 1982, 33⅓ rpm.


3. Puhwal (Boohwal; Born Again), “Hŭiya” (Dear Hŭi)

From: Rock Will Never Die: Puhwal Vol. 1, Seoul Records SRD-5-007, 1986, 33⅓ rpm.

Kim T’ae-wŏn: guitar, vocals; Yi Sŭng-ch’ŏl: vocals; Yi Chi-ung: guitar; Kim Pyŏng-ch’an: bass; Hwang T’ae-sun: drums.

Lyrics

The title refers to a Korean female name Hŭi. This power ballad showcased Yi Sŭng-ch’ŏl’s unconventionally “pretty” voice for a heavy metal vocalist, which helped launch his solo career soon afterwards. The song was written and composed by Yang Hong-sŏp.


4. Sinch’on Blues, “Kolmoggil” (Alleyway)

From: Sinch’on Blues II, Tong’a Kihoek VIP-20074, 33⅓ rpm.

Yi Chŏng-sŏn: guitar, vocals; Ŏm In-ho: guitar, vocals; Kim Hyŏn-sik: vocals; Chŏng Sŏ-yong: vocals.

Lyrics

The song was written, composed, and first recorded by Ŏm In-ho, who had been experimenting with reggae rhythm and blues rock since the early 1980’s. This Sinch’on Blues version of “Kolmoggil” features the late Kim Hyŏn-sik as lead vocalist, who makes the song really come alive with his trademark gusto.


5. Crying Nut, “Mal Talija” (Let’s Horse Ride)

From: An official Youtube music video of a live performance uploaded by the band.

Pak Yun-sik: vocals; Yi Sang-myŏn: guitar: Han Kyŏng-rok: bass; Yi Sang-hyŏk: drums.

Lyrics

Discogs

This popular Do-It-Yourself punk anthem came out of the legendary punk club Drug in the late 1990’s. It was written and composed by Yi Sang-hyŏk, and first appeared in the split album with Yellow Kitchen, Our Nation Vol. 1, Drug Records 326-3085, 1997.


6. Deli Spice, “Ch’au Ch’au”

From: Deli Spice, Music Design DNC-1018, 1997, CD

Kim Min-gyu: vocals, guitar; Yun Chun-ho: bass, vocals; O In-rok: drums; Yi Sŭng-gi: keyboards.

Lyrics

Discogs

Written and composed by Kim Min-gyu, the song is included in Deli Spice’s eponymous debut LP. Its layered guitar sound and hauntingly beautiful refrain (with lyrics meaning “I can hear your voice”) proved that Korean indie rock of the 1990’s had more to offer than heavy, harsh aggressiveness of grunge and punk.


7. Galaxy Express, “Jungle the Black”

From: Live perfomance at Space Konggam, EBS (Educational Broadcasting System), 2012.

Yi Chu-hyŏn: vocals, bass; Pak Chong-hyŏn: guitar, vocals; Yun Hong-gu: drums.

Lyrics

In a live performance review, the New York Times says, Galaxy Express “harked back to the crashing, rolling protopunk psychedelia of the MC5, slamming away with conviction.” The songwriting credit goes to the entire band. It was first released in their first LP, Ramble Around, Rubysalon RUBY-7001, 2007.


8. Chang Kiha, “Ssaguryŏ K’ŏp’i” (Cheap Coffee)

From: Ssaguryŏ K’ŏp’i, BGBG Records no.09, 2008, CDEP

Chang Kiha: vocals, all instruments.

Lyrics

Chang did everything from writing and arranging to performing in this small-batch DIY release; the next year he formed a full band (Kiha and the Faces) and expanded it to a full-length debut LP. In the song and the entire album, he channels the frustration of the current youth facing high unemployment and dim job prospects, while making clever references to the Korean rock and modern folk styles of the 1960-70’s.