Over the years Finnish rockers Hanoi Rocks have been remembered for, if not all, then some of the wrong reasons. The well documented death in a car accident of their drummer Nicholas ‘Razzle’ Dingley perhaps being the most famous, alongside assorted drug issues, record company troubles and so on.

This has been at the expense of some seminal albums recorded during their original run. Not least of all, their second album: Oriental Beat.

Formed by vocalist Michael Monroe and guitarist Andy McCoy in 1979, Hanoi Rocks appeared on the scene looking like a cross between early Japan and the New York Dolls, but with a sound that leaned closer to a more musically capable Dolls than the former. By 1980 they had released their debut single, I Want You and were soon working on their debut album Bangkok Shocks, Saigon Shakes, Hanoi Rocks which was then released only in their homeland of Finland in 1981. Before too long ripples of interest began appearing internationally, beginning in the U.K., with that country’s Kerrang! magazine being an early champion of the band.

It has to be stated that Hanoi Rocks were somewhat ahead of their time in both the image and sound department, coming some years ahead of the glam movement that would soon make mega stars of bands like Guns ‘n’ Roses. In late 1981 the band travelled to London to record the now highly regarded follow up album Oriental Beat (originally released in 1982) at Advision Studios (home to Elton John, The Yardbirds, Yes and David Bowie among others). And here we are, just a shade over forty years later and we have something of a dream come true for the members of Hanoi Rocks – and their fans. Let me explain: it seemed that almost from its release the members of Hanoi Rocks, particularly McCoy and Monroe, were more than a tad disgruntled with the sound of the record. In fact, as early as 1985 bassist Sam Yaffa referred to the album in an interview as a ‘piece of shit’. Which was a shame, as the album actually featured some great tunes. To this day, the band insists the blame rests squarely with the choice of producer/engineer, one Peter Wooliscroft. Apparently, Oriental Beat was his first production job, having previously engineered sessions for artists such as Talk Talk and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, among others. Over the ensuing years the members of Hanoi Rocks had talked of wanting to remix the album, but were unable to do so due to the original multitrack tapes being lost.

Fast forward to 2020 when the tapes were located by a Universal Music employee in a warehouse – and the band wasted no time finally getting around to their long-desired remix.

And here it is.

If, like me, you heard the original album on release you’d most likely have to agree that the sound was, well, pretty naff. A flat production and weak mix, robbing the band of dynamics, rawness and punch, all elements that would be present on their following albums. With this version of Oriental Beat, the remaining members of Hanoi Rocks themselves were involved in the remixing process, and they got it right. Oriental Beat – 40th Anniversary Re(al)Mix – the reissue’s full title – shows just how good the original album should have sounded.

It’s sonically a pleasure to listen to. The songs emerge from their previous existence as flat and struggling to break through a sonic straitjacket, to three-dimensional rip snorting bastards, all snarling guitars (I always suspected they were there!) with everybody present and (loudly) accounted for. Along with the remix the band also addressed the track listing order – one which does
indeed flow better now – leading with the title track. Refreshingly, this is not a ‘kitchen sink’ approach to a reissue; apart from the vastly improved sound and altered track listing, there are no ‘demo versions’, ‘recently discovered outtakes’ or previously unreleased ‘gems’ thrown in for the sake of sales. I may sound cynical but often songs and extra takes are discarded ‘coz they don’t make it in the first place. We don’t need to hear them tacked onto the end of an otherwise well-balanced work. It’s not always true, but often enough the case. Songs such as Motorvatin’, Teenangels Outsiders and Visitor now have the swagger and kiss-my-ass attitude ripping through loud and clear as intended, and similarly, all the other tracks have a kick like a triple shot of Jaeger.

And that’s rock ‘n’ roll, right?

So, Hanoi Rocks have brought Oriental Beat back from the dead.

And that’s a resurrection that was long overdue. And well worth the wait.

Oriental Beat (40th Anniversary Re(al)Mix) releases on March 17th.