Shin Joong Hyun and The Yup Juns (신중현과 엽전들) – Vol. 1 (1974)
Shin Joong Hyun’s music on the last couple of years, began to be very widespread across the western world, thanks (once again) to Light In The Attic who even brought him to play its first show on American soil! Re-discovered and re-launched by Lion Productions, this is their last effort on the 70’s Korean musical scene.
With only two albums recorded, and its dissolution in 1975, the Yup Juns didn’t succeed at the time, much caused by military repression and boycott, that would last until the turn of the decade. With the coming 80’s Shin returned with other projects and began its upswing again. Its versatility and influence throughout decades assure him as a Korean answer to Hendrix or Brian Wilson’s work, as the godfather of Korean rock (K-Rock), we will return its biography along with other posts and records!
Let’s go to our artist:
Korea. Born in Seoul in 1938, Shin spent several years living with his father and stepmother in both Japan and Manchuria. After becoming orphaned at age 15, he returned to its birth city and slowly began plotting a career in rock and roll.
It was in 1957, at the spring variety show at the 8th US Army base in Seoul, that Shin Joong Hyun gave his first public performance. The 19-year-old had lived through Japanese rule, the subsequent division of Korea into two warring states, and the US police action that followed. The Harmony guitar he strummed had been paid for by many hours toil at a relative’s pharmaceutical factory! At the variety show, as girl dancers gyrated for the entertainment of American GLS, Shin played standards and showed tunes, a tame material for a boy who worshiped Elvis and Charlie Parker.
Shortly after, he became the first rock star South Korea had ever seen, and its first prominent band, Add 4, was the first native rock band. The following year, Shin cast his first records, covers of Korean pop, beat, and garage. His own tastes remained attuned to the west, however. He pioneered style after style for Korean-speaking audiences, embodying the rebellious rock and roll attitude, too. The year, 1964.
Shin: ‘I remember the first time I heard the Beatles. I was mesmerized by their sound: it was blissful. I tried to mimic them with my four-piece, Add 4‘
AFKN (American Forces Korea Network) had also guided him into psychedelic sounds, then emanating live from the US, such as Jefferson Airplane:
Shin: ‘I mimicked their music, visuals, and sounds without fully understanding what it was. Later, I was playing a psychedelic song and some American hippies – antiwar protesters – came to listen. I became friends with them, and they taught me what psychedelic music really was. They also gave me LSD.’
In 1972, at the height of his career, the South Korean government requested him to pen an ode to (infamous) President Park Chung-Hee and his ruling Republican Party (sic). Shin refused the dictatorship’s request; soon, he was blacklisted within South Korea’s music industry and his songs banned. The final descent happened some years later, arrested for possession of marijuana in 1975, he then was tortured in prison and incarcerated in a psychiatric hospital (check Kim Choo Ja post). (!)
Shin: ‘It was all, ‘Let’s work hard’ and ‘Let’s be happy’ kind of stuff. It was completely physical, with no spirit, no mentality, no humanity. That trend has carried over all the way to today. When I was arrested, I was so miserable, had any motivation to continue, that time I really reached rock bottom.’
Let’s go to our record:
Originally recorded in 1974 as a very limited-edition, intended only for radio stations, the record failed to catch fire at its release, Shin’s Korean record label (Jigu Records) dropped it, and the band had to re-cut the whole material. The original version was, until now, almost impossible to find in both the East and the West.
Shin earned renown for his guitar playing, he is only the sixth guitarist in history to earn recognition from the Fender guitar company’s Custom Shop Tribute Series. His performance pushes ahead of the beat and then lags behind it, creating suspense, urgency, and at times, reggae-style upbeat emphasis, in such unique flow!
Shin: ‘In the spring of 1974, I named my 3-piece group Shin Joong Hyun & Yupjuns. We got a room at the Tower Hotel and started writing songs. We wanted to write and create a Korean style rock album. It took us six months to write 10 songs and Beautiful Woman was one of them, this song became extremely popular.
In Korean, yupjun literally means a brass coin, however, during that time it was used as slang to describe a sense of unpleasantness and dislike. Since I was so unpleasant and dissatisfied (in my career), I told myself, Ok, fine, I am just a yupjun!’
This is without the slightest doubt its best work, my favorite too, a truly Korean rock masterpiece, with psychedelic, hard, soul and groove influences that permeate the album. Kim Jung Mi’s 1975 Lp has a similar mood, probably Shin’s collaboration too.
The ‘IM’ highlights are: Think, a fuzzy bullet with a swinging pace and short time length, but do not underestimate it, Shin’s voice catches and invites you to sing all along! And The Rising Sun, the only instrumental one, with a very laid back feeling, this improvisation got brilliant guitar solos, sound effects, and an eerie atmosphere.
A1 Beautiful Woman
A3 I Think There Was Someone Else
A4 Long, Long Night
A5 I Love You
B3 I’ve Got Nothing To Say
B4 I Do Not Know
B5 The Rising Sun (Instrumental)
Vocals, Guitar, Composer, and Arrangements: Shin Joong Hyun
Bass: Lee Nam-Yi
Drums: Kim Ho-Sik
Produced: King Park
Jigu – JLS-120891