Visitors to this wondrous Thai megalopolis often wax ecstatic about the food, shopping and entertainment. Much of this praise is well deserved as Bangkok does have much to offer. In fact, it can be argued there is something here for everyone, provided they look hard enough.
Except for vintage Rock & Roll.
Some might dispute this statement, pointing out that a few of the bars on Soi 4, for example, feature this retro music. But alas, not on any regular basis. It is certainly true you can on rare occasions catch whiffs of The Who, Stones or some 1970s genre pop on this street as you weave your way around the streetwalkers. But by the time you’ve entered the bar, settled in, and are halfway through your first drink, Roger Daltrey is but a distant memory. In his place are some angry-sounding black guys spitting out f-word expletives.
What about the live bands? No shortage of them in this city, and if you don’t mind hearing a spirited group of Filipinos mangle the lyrics of a golden oldie, you can have a reasonably good time. But performing a credible version of Behind Blue Eyes, to cite but one example, is a level or two beyond their talent. Then when they retire backstage for a break, at least one establishment — Check Inn 99 — plays hip hop. Maybe this is to ensure the band receives an enthusiastic welcome upon their return.
This leaves the go-gos as a last refuge for the rock-deprived oldster. It is a daunting scene. As best as I can determine, there’s a city ordinance prohibiting them from featuring rock, pop, heavy metal, or even grunge. In other words, anything that might contain even a whiff of a melody. Ambling around Nana Plaza at night, with nothing but electronic thumping emanating from every open door, is the auditory equivalent of a mugging. Little wonder that the tiny pharmacy across the street is always out of Excederin and Advil.
There is one notable exception to this: Pretty Lady located on the left side of Nana Plaza’s ground floor. Rock & Roll is not played all night, but at least there’s a fighting chance of reliving one’s musical adolescence. Unfortunately, the place is at present undergoing yet another renovation. Or maybe the Bangkok Hip Hop Preservation Police are attempting to shut it down.
At my favorite pool hall down on Sukhumvit (Sports Academy), the floor above is being completely remodeled. Even into the late afternoon there is sometimes heavy, deafening drilling that causes the hostesses to cover their ears, as if this racket is somehow more offensive than the hip hop that is too often inflicted upon the customers. The good news is that the remodeling will soon be finished and the fellow making all that loathsome noise with the drill will begin a new career as a go-go DJ.