PETALING JAYA: Jerry Ventura, Ronnie Felix and Aziz Romeno quibble about what pitch to start on and then in less than 10 seconds break out into the Beatles “You Can’t Do That” without any practice or prior planning.
All three musicians are close to being septuagenarians, and appear to be rather grumpy at the beginning of this interview, but the moment they start playing and singing, you see a boyish glee take over instantaneously.
These are three of six members of one of the first ever lineups of the famous Falcons, a Malaysian boy band from the 1960s which played everything from originals to pop and rock covers from The Beatles, Deep Purple and Jimi Hendrix.
Drummer Jerry Felix, guitarist Frankie Samuel and keyboardist Brian Felix will join them for a reunion performance in March.
The Falcons are part of the star-studded Musicians for Musicians Benefit Concert 2020, a massive 10-hour performance slated for March 15 at the Mines International Exhibition & Convention Centre in Kuala Lumpur.
“We haven’t played together since 1969,” reveals Ventura (fondly called Jet by the rest), adding that the current lineup will be the same that was formed in 1963, when they were still in primary school in La Salle Peel Road.
“These two fellas, Brian and Frankie, were playing campfire songs for the scouts, when I met them. Brian told me that his father was Victor Felix and that he had a show on radio.
I told him ‘if your father is Victor Felix, then my father is Billy Vaughn,” Jet reminisces, laughing.
Turns out Brian was telling the truth. Today Ventura credits Victor as being instrumental in guiding the young band to much success over the years.
“The band is still around because of the efforts of many people, but especially Victor Felix. But back then there were never any glory seekers. They just did it out of love for music.”
Indeed, The Falcons is one of those bands which is the “real deal”, and it still shows. The boys wrote their own music and played their own instruments.
The band’s first EP, an instrumental called Nightmare, was released in 1964 by Life Records and went on to become a number one hit on radio in Malaysia.
Ventura says the band can lay claim to being the first of many things – first to play at the Tin Mine discotheque at the Kuala Lumpur Hilton, first to record at the national TV station, TV Malaysia, when television was first introduced in 1964.
They were also the first to get hauled up for having long hair by the police in Singapore when they played at the Pink Pussycat.
“We played in Stadium Negara before we were 12 years old,” Ventura shares proudly, adding that they opened for numerous international acts like The Hollies and The Dave Clark 5.
The Falcons also had overseas stints, including five months in Vietnam in 1969 during the war and six years in Germany in the 1980s.
Ventura is pleased that the upcoming benefit concert will feature the band’s pre1970s lineup.
“It’s like when you make santan, you know?” he offers. “The first batch is the thickest.”
Frankie, who will be flying in from Germany where he resides since the 1970s, shares: “I have jammed with Jet Ventura a few times in KL when I was on vacation.
But I heard that Brian Felix will also be flying in from Russia for the March show, so I have been really looking forward to sharing the stage with the original line up which is Brian, Jet, Jerry Felix and myself.
We haven’t played together as a four-piece since we were 11 or 12 years old! It’s gonna be a gas!
Another first will be sharing the stage with Ronnie Felix. Ronnie took my place after I left the group, so we never actually played together.
Oh, Aziz Romeno also joined the band after I left, so it will be another first, sharing the stage with him.”
Ronnie, who has played with several other bands including lounge band Sweet Notes, adds that music is in their blood, and it’s like you are among family.
“It literally is playing with family,” Ventura chips in. “Because at one time there were three cousins all playing together – Brian, Ronnie and Jerry Felix.”
Aziz adds that playing back then in those carefree and fun years was just “such a fantastic experience”. One that they are happy to reminisce about.
Indeed the Falcons have many tales to tell, from knocking back a pint with superstar Tom Jones (Ventura) to dancing onstage with infamous shaman Mona Fandey (Ronnie) to playing numerous times for royalty.
The Falcons actually started off as ‘The Blues” but that was just too dull a name to keep.
They are eager to contribute their talents once again to entertain fans of many generations and are looking forward to performing, but in a no-frills, no-fuss manner.
“Two practises cukuplah,” Ventura jokes. “We have played for many years, so you just suggest the songs and we will be okay, don’t worry.
We are playing not to show how good we are, but rather to show we are still alive, that’s all!”
The band’s 20-minute set will be part of the Musicians for Musicians concert, which in total will showcase 30 eclectic acts comprising 100 musicians who performed in the 1970s and 1980s.
Labelled “A Concert to Heal”, the show is in aid of musicians whose once passionate careers have been interrupted by financial difficulties, illnesses and accidents.
This is an initiative of the Persatuan Pemuzik Tempatan Selangor (PPTS), a newly formed not-for-profit association spearheaded by professionals driven by a love for music and a sense of duty and caring.
Tickets are priced at RM100 and available at www.airasiaredtix.com. You can also call Edwin on 012 209 8849 or Raj on 019 229 7156.