1910 Fruit Gum Company. Video by rwells47.
Records @ Two Dollars Each:
When Sungei Road was at its peak not too many years ago I would visit the unique place at least once a month to buy old vinyl records from a guy called George. A tough, fierce looking man with thick, long wavy locks George would be selling both LP's (Long Play records) and EP's (Extended Play records) at two dollars a piece. Whether they had torn covers, new covers, scratched and dirty surfaces or shiny and clean ones don't matter. They all cost two Singapore dollars each.
In his collection you can find an array of English songs, Chinese songs, Indian songs and the collectors' Malay EPs available. Whatever you need and if you are lucky enough you may get them. I would sit on a stool and choose the records I wanted.Amidst the deluge of piring hitam (Malay language: black plates) I realised they were a bargain. At first I would look for the genuine pressings but later found that the pirated ones were more interesting and unusual. With their pimples, sores and imperfections, I fancy they could be collectors items soon. So here you are looking at only a few from my collection which I started in 2010.
Unless both records and covers are in your hands it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between an original copy and a pirated version. Let's have some fun.
Record Sleeve Image 1 and 2:
It is obvious which record above is the genuine one i.e. the real McCoy and which is the fake or bootleg version. The first record cover is from Buddha Records while the second one is from a local syndicate called Oscar Record.
The clarity of print, quality graphics and professional artwork show the way to a beautiful illustration that befits a record sleeve. These attributes the reader will notice in the first picture.
In the second picture, the give-aways include the wrongly spelt, Congratulation, different print colour to indicate the group's original song and three songs that are not by the bubblegum band. Poor design and cheap printing was the order of the day. Worse, the vinyls themselves are of poorer quality, thick and easily scratched.
In case the reader is not from the same generation, A Man Without Love and Call On Me are by singer Engelbert Humperdinck, and Congratulations sung by Cliff Richard. Only Simon Says is by the group 1910 Fruitgum Company.
This second pair is not too obvious, or is it? The RCA logo could never be a fake but the R Record might. It is doubtful if pirates would dare to gamble and use the famous trademark when they can produce their own. So which is the real thing? Strange but true, the first sleeve is the bootleg version.
Yes, this time around could you guess the truth i.e. which is the diamond and which is the cut-glass? Look carefully. Why would the pirates want to sketch the faces when they can get the real photographs for free.
And, by the way, one of the above E.P. has these songs in place, Theme From The Monkees; Let's Dance On; Last Train To Clarksville and This Just Doesn't Seem To Be My Day. They are all Monkees hits. So there!
Bootleg or pirate vinyls were common in Singapore in the 1960's when recording studios were fully utilized to press all kinds of songs that were at the top of the pop parade. As long as they made their money, nothing else mattered.
These bootleg records were massed produced by the thousands. I remember Henry Suriya (brother of Robert Suriya from Naomi and The Boys) telling me once that when his fans came up to him to ask for autographs they were handing pirated copies of his records, not the original ones. But he signed them.
Bootlegs were popular because the buyer got four top hits of the season on one disc for the same price of an original EP, which would probably have one hit. Surprisingly, according to local recording artistes from the 60's, these bootleg copies flooded the market earlier than the originals.
The 6th image above shows four hit songs one one vinyl disc for about S$2.80 cents. There's Elton John with Your Song, Too Young To Be Married (Hollies), She's A Lady (Tom Jones) and Rose Garden (Lynn Anderson). Buying them on singles would cost about S$1.80 per piece with an unknown B-Side. Four songs would cost nearly $8.00.
BTW George is still at Sungei Road and if you haven't been there lately, *Robinson Petang (Robinson's In The Evening) occupies a much smaller area now. But he hardly sells records anymore.
*Sungei Road is also called Thieves' Market. It used to be a tourist attraction but many people from other countries still come today to buy up both Asian and local records.
Images: A Private Collection.