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Hotdog’s Dennis (left) and Rene Garcia with GMA ace journalist Jay Taruc (center).


It was exactly 40 years ago when the Hotdog band released it’s very first album called “Unang Kagat” in 1974 under Villa Records, officially giving birth to the so-called “Manila Sound” with catchy songs that are now considered timeless OPM classics like “Ikaw Ang Miss Univerese ng Buhay Ko,” “Pers Lab” and “Bitin Sa Iyo.”

Hotdog revolutionized Filipino music, creating danceable pop pieces with a very Pinoy flair like “Bongga Ka ‘Day,” “Beh Bote Nga,” “Manila” and “Annie Batungbakal.”

“They crossed over boundaries. The captured a wide market. Class A-B-C-D-E...up to H for Hotdog,” recalls comedian and fellow musician Joey De Leon.

Four decades later, the band remains active and in demand in the concert scene across the Philippines, as well as overseas with large Pinoy communities.

The band, in fact, will headline a Sept. 21 New Jersey concert (at 3 p.m.) at Breslin Theater, Felician College at 262 South Main St., Lodi, NJ 07644, with OPM icon Joey Albert and the Filharmonic Band as special guests.

Musical director is Lerrick Santos.

GMA’s “I-Witness” host and Hotdog fan Jay Taruc interviewed the band members for the documentary “Hotdog...Mismo!”

Here’s some cool trivia about the legendary group, straight from the members’ themselves.

• Record labels didn’t want them (at first).

“When we started doing the songs, nobody wanted to believe in the kind of music we were making. I was using major seven chords, so it became Western-style but Tagalog as well,” says composer and lead guitarist Rene Garcia.

“We were given the graveyard shift [at the recording studio]. The technician was old and falling asleep. Then [“Ikaw Ang Miss Universe ng Buhay Ko”] became a hit, suddenly everyone wanted us.”

“Nobody supervised us,” he adds.

“We just give them the music after we’re done, take it or leave it. They always take it.”

As for “Ikaw Ang Miss Universe ng Buhay Ko,” there’s a funny story behind that, too.

“We were watching the Miss Universe pageant in Manila, in 1974. We thought, what about the other girls? Kawawa namanyung mga girls na hindi mukhang Miss Universe, hindi sila maka-relate,” says Dennis. And so the song was born.

• “Pers Lab (First Love)” was Dennis’ love song to his wife.

Tuwing kitay nakikita / Akoy natutunaw / Parang ice cream na bilad sa ilalim ng araw.

“It’s not a disco song, it’s a love song that Dennis wrote for his wife,” says vocalist Maso Diez-Rivera.

“I think the nice thing about the love songs of Hotdog is they have beautiful melodies and lyrics.”

At the same time, Hotdog was a pioneer in using the Taglish and slang in popular Filipino music.

• “Manila” is their favorite among their songs.

The so-called mother of all Hotdog songs, “Manila,” is found on their fourth album.

The song’s unique intro features ambient sound from jeepney barkers, which staff captured using a handheld recorder on the actual city streets.

“We decided to write a song about Manila because nobody had written about it at the time,” says Rene.

“Fortunately, it’s the one song that will never be replaced...that’s our pride and joy.”

• “Annie Batungbakal” was inspired by domestic helpers in Hong Kong.

The idea for this song about a working girl-turned-disco diva came to the band while performing in Hong Kong Hilton.

“We saw there were many Filipinas in the audience, and they were all beautiful! But they only came on Sundays. Turns out they were domestic helpers...that’s the inspiration for the song,” say the brothers.

As for the reference to dance club Coco Banana?

“[It’s] similar to my sister’s situation. In the morning, she worked in advertising agency. At night, she was at the Coco Banana. She’d stay up so late then still go to work in the morning,” says Dennis.

• “Bongga Ka ‘Day” was a play on gay slang.

Hotdog took inspiration from many sources.

For example, “Be bote nga” was influenced by Queen and punk rock music.

Meanwhile, the upbeat “Bongga ka ‘Day” was built around a favorite slang term in the 70s gay scene.

• Nora Aunor and Vilma Santos both wanted to star in the Hotdog movie.

What set Hotdog apart from other bands of their time was that they didn’t just record albums.

Their gigs were all-around performances, and they were constantly booked for TV shows like “Superstar” (hosted by Nora).

When a movie for “Annie Batungbakal” was proposed, Nora and Vilma both wanted the lead role.

Nora ended up getting the part, to the joy of Maso.

“It was the best. Noranian ako eh! It was such a dream to work with her,” she recalls.

• They’re still in business.

The members of Hotdog band are now busy with families and businesses.

For example, vocalist Rita Trinidad runs a dessert shop that supplies restaurants; while Rene is one of the founders of Bandang Pinoy Co-Op.

“Most musicians, during their prime, they think it will never end. They don’t save up for the future,” he says.

“Then when the day comes that bars will no longer book them, they don’t know what to do.”

The organization helps aging musicians develop new skills and find work.

(Tickets to Hotdog’s New Jersey concert on Sept. 21 are $58, $48 and $38. Call 917.294.6783, 914.659.9670, 347.738.3025, 646.932.0272, 917.482.6813, 908.265.1430, 914.282.7662 or 908.906.9788 or visit www.groupole.com.)

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Hotdog in the 1970s.

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