Side A through the years, forevermore!
FUNFARE - Ricky Lo () - October 3, 2008 - 12:00am

Even if two of the members, guitarists Joey Benin and Kelly Badon, have bidden the quintet goodbye, Side A has beautifully retained its “distinct sound” that has made it one of the — if not the — most durable bands in the country, which is no mean feat in a field where dozens of upstarts crop up (much like mushrooms) and fade out just as quickly without even the public missing them at all.

“Joey has decided to settle down with his family in Silay, Negros Occidental, where he raises bangus,” volunteered Joey Generoso, the group’s vocalist who sometimes performs by his lonesome without losing his Side A “identity.” “He tends a big farm planted to vegetables. Kelly is now based in the States with his family.”

Actually, the two new members have been with Side A for quite a while, except that they will be heard for the first time with the three “veterans” (including keyboardist Naldy Gonzalez and drummer Ernie Severino, also married and have their own families) in the group’s new album (by MCA Music, Inc., its new label) which marks their return to the recording scene after a long time. Leevon Cailao (on lead guitars) was taken in four years ago and Ned Esguerra (bass guitarist) more than a year ago.

It was Leevon (formerly with Pido with Take One) who wrote Die Just a Little, the album’s carrier single and Side A’s first original track in six years.

“The song is a tragic ballad about a guy trying to cope with a broken heart,” said Leevon. “What he’s trying to tell everyone is that it’s okay to feel bad, but just give me my moment and I’ll be fine afterward.”

Die Just a Little is an exclusive digital single which fans may soon download through Fliptunes (www.fliptunes.net), the country’s leading OPM distributor.

The song no doubt reverberates with the haunting melodies of such well-loved Side A hits as Forevermore (composed by Joey G. and usually sung at weddings), Until Then (a balm for the lovelorn), Will I Ever Be, Hold On, All I Need, Tell Me and So Many Questions, songs that, as Joey aptly described them, “beat the passionate lyrics and gently cresting melodies” that have become the trademark of the band since it took a bow on the music scene in the early ’90s.

They have awards to show for it, among them the 1993 Best Ballad Recording and Best Performance by a Group (for So Many Questions) from Awit Awards and the 1995 Song of the Year (for Forevermore) also from Awit Awards.

Contrary to some suspicions, Side A never broke up.

“We’re just around,” said Joey G. “Andyan lang kami, sa mga gigs both here and abroad. We lay low only in the recording scene.”

Aside from the love for crafting heartwarming songs, what keeps the group going (even with the slight change in membership) is true friendship (Joey Benin and Kelly Badon are still with the group, maybe not physically but “spiritually”). Other groups, to paraphrase Side A’s new single, die not just a little but die a sudden death when a member develops an illusion of grandeur, bids the group goodbye and embarks on a solo career (often unsuccessfully).

“Intrigues among us?” asked Joey G., “we are too old for that. Kung noon wala, ngayon pa?”

They observe the “all for one, one for all” policy especially in their choice of songs.

“We collaborate,” said Joey G. “If one of us comes up with an idea, we would discuss it and the others give their input. Then, we do a demo tape and play it during our gigs in clubs. If the audience feedback is positive, we include it in our album.”

And what Side A song means so much to each of them?

Naldy: “Time To Let Go. It has a basic lesson for everyone — you know, sometime somehow, you just have to let go no matter how painful it may be.”

Ernie: “Hold On. It’s the Side A’s first hit noong kasali na ako. There’s a beautiful story behind that song.”

Joey G.: “Forevermore, of course! It opened a lot of doors for Side A. That song was an answered prayer. Wyngard (Tracy, a veteran talent manager, retired), told us that after Tuloy Pa Rin and Hold On, we should come up with another hit kasi ang tagal na wala kaming hit. We never expected Forevermore to be such a big hit. Ang daming trabahong naibigay sa amin ng song na ‘yan, up to now.”

Leevon: “Only You. It’s all about God and Him being around.”

Ned: “Forevermore. I’ve always looked up to Joey G. as my idol and my inspiration. It has a nice melody and a nice message.”

(E-mail reactions at rickylo@philstar.net.ph or at entphilstar@yahoo.com)

AWIT AWARDS DIE JUST HOLD ON JOEY JOEY BENIN AND KELLY BADON JOEY G SIDE SIDE A
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