Jonny Yen: Stage Struck and Take A Look At My Life (1979)

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Jonny Yen: Stage Struck and Take A Look At My Life (1979)

Do ya ken Jonny Yen?

The other day at a long lunch the discussion was of obscure New Zealand artists and my friend -- who knows the dark corners and strange recesses of New Zealand pop and rock -- was telling me about some remarkable bands of the prog-rock era, most of whom I had never heard of.

However we both knew of Aellian Blade from '79 who were signed to WEA. I recalled that they financed their own album ($5000, a lot of money back then) to record their self-titled -- and sole -- release . . . and a yellowed newspaper clipping I have shoved inside the cover says they sold a farm in the process. They also hired the Auckland Town Hall in May '79 to mount their own show.

I didn't go but heard they had an impressive light show but less impressive crowd figures.

They are reasonably well documented -- they were Rob Chamberlain, Geoff Swier, Neil Stewart, Barry Herredy and Gavin Paton -- but there was more to the story.

The "mystery singer" at their show was Jonny Yen.

He released a five song EP Stage Struck on WEA at the same time (Aellian Blade members were on it) and . . .

Of him I know nothing.

The press release I kept inside the EP speaks of this "fresh and exciting music [which] must surely mark the beginning of a special period in Jonny Yen's career, an immediate broadening of public awareness for this unique performer".

It tells me he had spent 13 years in rock music in Australia and New Zealand and won Harlequin Studio's "best new recording artist of '79" award. The EP was recorded in Auckland's Mandrill.

It's a post-prog type affair (sort of Space Waltz without the glam, drama and guitars) . . . but of course came out when the fires of punk were burning brightly.

Here are the first two songs from his EP. 

So, anyone out there care to enlighten us further about the "mystery singer" Jonny Yen?

And once we've cleared that up we can get all get some sleep again. 

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Fenderboy - Nov 3, 2013

Johnny Yen was a character mentioned in The Ticket That Exploded by William Burrows

Johnny Yen is mentioned in the opening line of Lust For Life by Iggy Pop from 1977

Here comes johnny yen again
With the liquor and drugs
And the flesh machine
He's gonna do another strip tease.
Hey man, where'd ya get that lotion?
I've been hurting since I've bought the gimmick
About something called love
Yeah, something called love.
Well, that's like hypnotizing chickens.

The song's lyrics contain a number of references to William S. Burroughs' experimental novel The Ticket That Exploded, most notably mentions of "Johnny Yen" (described by Burroughs as "The Boy-Girl Other Half strip tease God of sexual frustration") and "hypnotizing chickens".

Jonny Yen EP

LineUp: Jonny Yen - Rob E. Chamberlain - Glen White - Gavin Paton - Jeff Clayton - Neil Stewart.

Jonny Yen I believe was John/Jon Drinkwater who was a drummer in various 70's Auckland bands. Glen White as mentioned above was also in Noazark with Drinkwater in the mid 70's. The others mention in the line up were members of Aellian Blade as you have already said

This page has details on them

I think you will find that Jon Drinkwater as pictured here at the top

seems to have a strong resemblance to Jonny Yen on the cover of the EP

John Drinkwater is still a Krishna devotee, now living in a large commune near Sydney

Fenderboy - Nov 3, 2013

Rob Chamberlain from Aellian Blade is mentioned here as having recorded an album for The Henchmen ex Dum Dum boys in 1982

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