Just as it did 30 years ago, Hawaii’s economy thrives largely on tourism, so it’s no surprise that many of the musicians I’ve mentioned were/are also entertainers. It’s hard work entertaining people 7 nights a week (see: Phase 7), because for vacationers in paradise every night’s a Friday night, right?
Vic Malo is no exception here. His handsome voice filled the now-closed Golden Dragon Lounge at the Hilton Hawaiian Village almost every night of the week (I’m guessing) for several years—during the mid/late 1970s through the mid 1980s. Those lucky enough to hear him in person were no doubt captivated by his performances. For those like me who weren’t around (or alive) back then, we have a live performance captured on cassette, circa 1985 (as evidenced by his cover of Lionel Richie’s “Hello”).
This cassette was probably distributed by Vic himself to the fans and friends he made at the Golden Dragon. I don’t think this was for sale in stores, though I could be wrong. Unlike his studio album, which was professionally recorded, this minimally designed, 25 year old cassette suffers from poor audio quality. But despite the setbacks, Vic’s gorgeous voice still shines with each song.
Beyond the standard fare targeted at visitors (“To You Sweetheart, Aloha”, “Little Grass Shack”, “Red Sails in the Sunset”) Vic’s humorous wit (“The Tourist”) and love for the islands (“Turtle Bay”) are his best. “The Tourist” is my favorite, with its clever lyrics that match the political sensibility of “Ode to Waiaihole & Waikane Valley“. I can’t verify whether these two are originals, although I know that “I Don’t Want to Leave the Islands”, a farewell for an unhappy departure, was his own.
“I Don’t Want to Leave the Islands”
You can hear glasses clinking during several songs, stirring images of a low-key night for lovers absorbed in Vic’s seductive voice. Without a doubt, he stole every woman’s attention away from her date and toward the stage. Below is an account by someone who knew Vic and had seen him perform many times.
Each night we would go out and do some tourist type thing and when we came back as we walked through the hotel we could hear this voice. My mom and her friend would stop and listen, looking through the slotted wall from the hallway. I can remember them saying, “Boy, I wish I could take him home in my suitcase”…
Vic’s singing drew folks to the door to listen and a lot would then come in…especially the women…
Vic was a very personable, nice guy and, as you can tell from his voice and picture, pretty sexy. Women of all ages were drawn to him and I think guys liked him too because of his charm. He would always talk to the people in the lounge, the typical “Where are you from?” He would tell stories about himself (one of 51 children, I believe), joke around, etc.
He used some kind of synthesizer/drum machine to accompany him during these performances, probably because he wanted to minimize distractions of live instruments and other musicians on set (plus it was more cost effective). Some songs feature the same drum beat, although I wonder whether he played a guitar live… I’m guessing he pre-recorded everything so that just he and his voice were the show.
This is just what I hoped for with the inception of Aloha Got Soul—the discovery of a rare recording which documents a time now past in Hawaii’s contemporary music history. This cassette offers a unique look into a world I know so little about. So consider this a relic rather than an must-have for audiophiles. I did my best to preserve optimal audio quality while removing as much noise as possible. I also created a CD/LP version of the cassette artwork for visuals’ sake. Looks pretty good, yeah?
Mahalo to those who helped bring this music to a wider audience. I don’t know all the exact details about Vic’s story at the Golden Dragon, so please send any corrections/additions via email or by leaving a comment here.