Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Rex Goh: Singapore to Madison Square Garden, NY

Thanks to friends and readers for support.

This Blog's 8th Anniversary Special Story about a Singapore guitar hero:

Even before Stephanie Sun and JJ Lin stepped into the limelight and stardust of the international arena, we have a music maker who has made a name for himself beyond our shores way back when in the 1970's.

You must know Air Supply?  Well, let's find out who was the Singapore guitar hero accompanying the Australian group from July 1977.   Here's drummer and this blog's regular contributor John Cher, on this anniversary special posting, to tell us about another of his music buddies.

Rex Goh: Crossroads - Eric Clapton Tribute - Steppin' Out - (Uploaded on Jun 11, 2011, Enmore Theatre, Sydney, 11th June 2011.)

Rex Goh was the first Singaporean to join the ranks of rock music superstars.  Without a shadow of a doubt,  the best known pop guitarist that Singapore has ever produced. 
During secondary school days, my buddy Henry Tay, used to have a band and we played together occasionally.  Rex was playing for Henry's band for a few months.  Of course, he just blew everyone away whenever he played.  Even as a teenage musician, he was head and shoulders above everyone else!  It wasn't long before he graduated to playing commercially. 
One of the first places he played at was;  The Pub, a disco at Hotel Malaysia, later to become Marco Polo Hotel. The band's name was 1 2 3.   Another local guitar hero,  the late Reggie Verghese (lead guitar: The Quests) praised Rex and said that, " he was very good and that his guitar had that certain sound". 

Rex migrated to Australia at aged 21. All for love and for music!  At a point in history when even Bruce Lee had to face racial discrimination it is not hard to imagine the challenges that Rex had to face to break into the music scene in a white man's world.  

But he not only broke into it, he made it to the peak and performed with the best in the  business. In 1973 Rex was voted the bet guitarist in South Australia - a title which brought him much deserved recognition.
He auditioned and became the lead guitarist of Air Supply. The group toured the entire length and breath of Australia. But the real big, dream break came when Air Supply toured the U.S. and was the supporting act for Rod Stewart. 

Among other venues, Air Supply played at Madison Square Garden. On opening night, Rex said his legs were shaking.   Playing to a cheering crowd of about 80,000 people. It was a fantasy come true. It really couldn't get bigger than Madison Square Garden. They did 52 concerts in America.
Rex left Air Supply after the tour.  During this time he studied jazz music, five days a week  for two years. But while he studied jazz music, his real  interest was to play pop music.  It wasn't long before  Graham Russell called and invited Rex to rejoin for a second tour. By now Lost in Love was huge in America.  The band was invited to appear on Solid Gold, a premier prime-time music show which was hosted by Dionne Warwick.  

The show was telecast in Singapore, generating a great sense  of pride among musicians and music lovers here. It was truly a  dream realized for a young man. It was everybody's favourite story, about the local boy who made good!  The parallel to this would be Bruce Lee making it big in America with The Green Hornet.
Rex Goh's family used to live in Seletar.  He fondly remembers his mom giving him a ukelele when he was 8 years old.  He enjoyed playing the uke but no one in his wildest imagination would have anticipated the distance he would go. He eventually took to playing rhythm guitar. 

A neighbour and well known local musician, Benny Chan, encouraged him to do so. (Benny used to be with The Checkmates, Richard Ortega and The Ortegas, which played at the Tiara Supper Club at The Shangri-la Hotel, Singapore).   

For two years he just played the rhythm guitar before eventually taking up the lead guitar.  As a young guitarist he was heavily influenced by Hank Marvin followed by Eric Clapton. Two great guitarists with totally different styles of playing.  
Besides Air Supply, Rex has played for Glen Campbell, Savage Garden, Tom Jones, The Supremes, Randy Crawford, Temptations, Soul Decision, Eurogliders, Renee Geyer, Tommy Emmanuel and  Wes Carr. The list goes on.

The last time Rex was in Singapore was in April 2015.  He performed at  D'Marquee, Downtown East with his old band The Flybaits.  Rex's brother, Steven, a guitarist as well, used to have a band in Singapore known as The Formations.

Rex Goh is still living his Rock and Roll life and loving every moment of it!  It sure beats selling shoes at Victoria Market!

Thanks for your music Rex.  You are influencing people whom you will never meet nor ever know.  However, one day in the not so distant future,  another superlative guitarist would appear and say, my greatest mentor and my greatest guitar hero was, REX GOH!

All the very best Rex!

Write-up by John Cher (right).
Copyrights Reserved.

Images: A personal collection and Google.

You Tube Video by Colin Hay: 'Rock From The Crowd".  Uploaded on June 11 in 2011, @ Enmore Theatre, Sydney, Aus.

This post is a birthday present from John Cher. Thanks very much sir for the gift. And to Rex Goh for agreeing to the publication of this posting.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Letter To All My Friends, Contributors, Readers

Why This Blog:

My profile page explains it all. 

"This blog is written to (a) relive my missing music years, (b) keep interested seniors posted about our local music scene, (c) encourage music stories from them and (d) keep our younger generation, especially my *3J's, aware of our pop music heritage. 

Although I have lived the age and participated in the music I am neither a music guru nor historian. No showing off past glories."

Today is November 22nd and this blog will be into its eighth year. My eldest grandson First Jay is nine and I remember he was two years young when I first thought about writing a blog. And it all started at Vivo City.

That was when I went on stage to offer a non-professional voice backing to the Silver Strings on 8th November 2008 and First Jay was there with my folks. Although he was still so young, I felt he was enthralled by the event, definitely by the loud guitar noise.

Friends And Readers Who Assisted With Blog:

Here is my list of friends who started me off with the blog:
1. Roger Poh
2. Victor Koo
3. Friends of Yesteryear (FOYERS) Group, Singapore
4. Larry Lai

Very kind blog readers contributed their stories to help boost its authenticity. The list includes writers, photographers and their country of residence:

1.   Allan Thompson: Norfolk England UK
2.   Barry Walker: England UK
3.   John Harper: York England UK
4.   Dino Martin Peters: USA
5.   Happy Tay: Vancouver BC Canada
6.   Matt Tan: Montreal Quebec Canada   
7.   Byrt Mallanyk: Sydney Australia
8.   Mag Jnne: Kuala Lumpur Malaysia
9.   Peter Chan: Singapore
10. CYLin: Singapore
11. Mun Chor Seng: Singapore
12. John Cher: Singapore.

Regular Commentators from Singapore include:
1.   FL 
2.   Ronnie See 
3.   Rickie Chng
4.   Audie Ng
5.   Jerry Fernandez
6.   Merlin Lim 
7.   Dato Dr YS Lee: Penang  Malaysia.
8.   Jimmy Chng
9.   Randy Lee
10. Erwin Maisch
11. James Seah
12. Dino Martin Peters: USA
13. BC Teoh: KL Malaysia
14. Dr Steven Farram: Charles Darwin University, Darwin Australia.

Translators for Mandarin:
1. Lim Kuan Min 
2. SPYeo.

Observations on Pop Yeh Yeh and Malay cultural matters:
1. Yusnor Ef.

Media for introducing the blog:
1. Majorie Chiew: STAR newspaper Malaysia
2. Brigitte Rozario: 3age Malaysia Website
3. Christopher Toh: TODAY newspaper
4. Singapore Chinese newspapers

Media Corp Singapore for telecast documentaries about blog and local pops:
1. Channel News Asia
2. Channel 5
3. Octo Channel

There are many regular contributors, so excuse me if I have not included your name. It is a long list and more will be added as the days go by. Apologies.

Helping Tertiary Students And Lost Friends:

Glad this blog has kept its pace and, most importantly, helped students at tertiary level who need to write papers about our 1960's music heritage for their media studies. Still meeting them at a Mall for interviews.

This blog has also got long lost band members and friends together. Some of them have either migrated to far off lands or had never been in touch since their last band practice :-) Glad this blog has put some folks together again.

With other books, blogs available in the market and websites, our youth have easier access to information about Singapore's Golden Years of Music and its western influence.

Thank you all for support.

Yours Sincerely,


Appreciate if I could get help to make this blog into a book.  If you are keen, do write in...

*3 grandchildren.

Images: Google.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Singapore 60s Bands Sing About Their Ladies

Whether it's Mary Lou or Corrina, Judy or Diana, pop music has many song titles with ladies' names since most of the songs have romantic themes. From A in Amanda by Rod Stewart to Z in Zelda by Pete Townshend, female names are targeted and the numbers can go up to many hundreds.  

Similarly with our local band boys and their recordings on vinyls. Checking a personal library there was Henry Suriya who recorded DONNA, The Christones had AURA LEE, our teacher star across the causeway, Frankie Chia sang about his CHERYL MOANA MARIE and the Dukes with their popular original instrumental, SELINA.  

The selection made for this posting is hardly sufficient to prove any statistical endeavour but here are five detailed samplings of local pops classics with ladies' names on their titles.

The Checkmates:
Recorded at Kinetex Studios in Singapore, lead guitar Benny Chan, with Hann Hussein (rhythmist), Laurence Lee (bassist) and Amir Samsudin (drums), produced four original instrumentals on their EP with one piece bearing a lady's name. Called SYLVIA, it was composed by Lee and Chan. Anyone heard of Sylvia? Beautiful song. And lady too?

I have listened to Checkmates many times when we were in shows together in the past.  Like other bands they used to play Shadows and other 60's instrumental hits on stage. Their music was always solid, tight and more importantly on this vinyl, original. 

Lead Benny Chan was in Singapore recently and had just appeared at the Esplanade this month of November with the group. Just wondering if Sylvia came to watch the show. 

Coming from the Philippines, d'Starlights boys were so familiar with Singaporean audiences that they were gladly accepted as belonging to the local community. Famous for their appearances in the El Amigo Nightclub at The New World Amusement Park, they were associated with quality control music. 

On this EP called, IT'S SOUL MAN, the five boys sang and played, LOUIE, LOUIE. Written by Richard Berry way back in 1955, it was about a Jamaican sailor returning to his island to see his lady love.  With this group in control the song is one beautiful and hot soul beat dedication to Ms Louie. And for this lady, at least, we know who she was.

NB: d'Starlights were known to have exhibited their karate prowess on stage before their performances. Some of their members had passed away these few years.  One or two from the group had written on this blog to make these announcements.
The Quests:
A group that needs no introduction is The Quests. Because they were so popular in the South East Asian region, EMI Columbia allowed them to record current covers. So in 1969, they produced four songs for another one of their EPs without any original.

The particular vinyl had a note from the group on its back sleeve cover since they were coming home to Singapore that year from their stint in Hong Kong. Together with three other international hits The Quests included PROUD MARY. 

This fast, hot John Fogerty lady had become such a classic that nearly every Singapore band had performed this Creedence Clearwater Revival hit on stage. 
The lyrics explained that Mary was born in the Bayou and worked as a washerwoman. 

CCR made it number one, Tina Turner gyrated with the number, exhibiting her sensual legs, wearing the shortest skirt ever and Elvis Presley wowed every fan with his version. There was a long line of artistes who wooed Proud Mary.

In case some readers are not aware, two of the Quests had passed on i.e. Reggie Verghese and Jap Chong. Lim Wee Guan and Henry Chua are still as active with their drums and sold guitars. 

Chua had his SHANTY played by our Wind Symphonic recently (please read another posting).  I meet Jimmy Chan for kopi at Tiong Bahru Market. He's a pianist and still at Marina Mandarin. A very nice guy.
The Surfers:
Before the October Cherries, they were called The Surfers and had cut four tracks with EMI. This particular vinyl was so popular the producers could have made thousands of copies. You can get it anywhere today if you look hard enough. 

Titled HOORAY FOR HAZEL,  we have another hit to add to our short list of lady-named songs recorded in Singapore. This vinyl was done at MacDonald House, Orchard Road. Hazel belonged to Tommy Roe and the song gossiped about a woman who could win the hearts of all men but later mistreated them.

Again, their popularity guaranteed (and sales of course), I remember this group had a large fan base both locally and overseas when they became October Cherries. Imagine competing with Roe on the hit parade charts. Hooray for Surfers. 

Listening to them and having met singer/guitarist Peter Diaz (an October Cherries anchor man) recently in a short chat, I would say The Surfers were one of the better groups this side of the Pacific.
The Trailers:

The Trailers were another household name in the 1960's. With their stronghold at the Palace Cinema in East Coast Katong, the T-Dance became a phenomena because of Benny and The Trailers. 

So when the group was up and soaring in our oriental skies, they produced four melodies that were favourites with the locals. Two of them were from the West. Together with PHOENIX THEME, ALI SAN and the U.S. hit DING DONG SONG, The Trailers added their tim-sum mix with another lady's name called LARA'S THEME, a big hit in 1967.

The specially Chinese PHOENIX THEME glued the four songs air-tight.  All melodies were already separate hits singly but as Trailers instrumentals, this record was one of the most sought after during Chinese New Year 1967. Even our Malay and Indian friends knew the song as , Kwoh Sin Nien.

The concoction did the trick and this EP was one of the top best selling vinyls produced.  With Victor Woo on lead guitar, Maurice Jarre's LARA'S THEME went off-beat a-go-go and boy friend Doctor Zhivago went wild. 

Lady Lara was one foreign attraction.  Set in Russia, the movie told of a KGB Lieutenant General searching for Lara Antipova, the daughter of his half brother. She must be SOMEWHERE MY LOVE.

Victor Woo is still playing lead with his New Trailers today.  PHOENIX THEME was played during a Channel News Asia television documentary in 2014 discussing Singapore's Treasure Hunt.  It was hosted by pretty Anita Kapoor and archaeologist Lim Chen Sian. I was a guest.

So Sylvia, Louie, Mary, Hazel and Lara, where are you all?

Comments please.
The record covers are from a private collection;
You Tube Video: lvlalaysiaboleh.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Jack Neo More Popular Than Mozart: Story One

A True Story
12th November, 2015
Thomson Plaza

I went into a DVD shop today wanting to buy a movie based on a play about Mozart.  Called AMADEUS, I have seen this Academy Award show long ago and could not find it on You Tube

I asked the Chinese lady in charge, "You got the movie AMADEUS?"

She replied without hesitation, "Yes!"

I was so excited since I had been searching long for a copy.

She came back from the shelves and handed me a copy of ARMY DAZE.

Images: Google.
You Tube Falco Rock Me Amadeus. Video:
Specially for Adrian Tan (Wind Symphony Director)

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Meeting Pop Star Edison Lighthouse' Wally Scott

If you're lucky, they say, you'll have stars showering down on you, like glittering objects off a Christmas tree. Otherwise you'll just see them from afar. Here's another interesting story about meeting pop stars. 

Allan Thompson, who hails from the UK and who contributes regularly to this blog, met a member of Edison Lighthouse, a group that was well-known for their UK Chart Pop Hit, Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes).

Read his note:
                                You Tube Video by john amers.
Dear Andy, 

This is Edison Lighthouse (above) from the 1970's. This guitarist playing the red Gretsch and wearing white slacks and a dark floral shirt is Wal Scott whom I got to know in the Channel Island of Jersey in 1985 when I was on holiday there. 

He is still a musician and I have been in touch with him in recent times. Before Edison Lighthouse he was in a rhythm and blues band called The Bad Boys who made a few records in the 1960's.

Good wishes,

Andy's reply:
Thank you Allan. The only time I got to meet pop singers were when they performed on stage.  These artistes included, Xavier Cugat, Abbe Lane, Cliff Richard, Anne Murray, Engelbert Humperdinck, Tony Bennett and The Vienna Boys Choir.

Oh yes, backstage with Rick Astley, when he was here a couple of months ago appearing in Media Corps Channel 5 pop programme, Rolling Good Times. Quiet he was, and busy. But we managed a shot.

Trouble is I never got in touch with them ever again afterwards... (sigh).

Have you met pop stars along the way? Tell us.

Andy Locke, David Kerr-Clemenson (bass guitar), Eddie Richards (drums) and Wally Scott (guitar).

The second version of Edison Lighthouse barely made the UK Top 50 with the single, It's Up to You, Petula. The next single was What's Happening?, and flip Take a Little Time, which was written by the band. They then went on to tour Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, and Africa.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Meeting Teresa Teng And Mother @ Kuala Lumpur Part 1

The band leader of the Silver Strings, Audie Ng sent me an SMS revealing his meeting with Teresa Teng and her mother. When I contacted him on the telephone he revealed that:

He used to service hotels all over S. E. Asia in the late 1960's and early 70's by supplying them with Filipino pop bands. He would fly from Singapore and visit these places regularly to either sign a contract with the hotel management for his bands to perform, or to check on the welfare of his musicians. 

It was usual that during some of his business visits he would meet singers and musicians. On one of these occasions he met the late diva, *Teresa Teng and her mother. 

He remembers that when he met her she was still very young and that she could have already cut some records with a company then. He confirmed the year to be around the early 70's.
Ms Teng's mother was a friend of one Mr Gan Ngoh who was the owner of the Mayflower Night Club at the Fortuna Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He cannot describe Mr Gan but he can still recall the club where he saw her for the first time; Ms Teng would jam with the hotel band by singing with them during the afternoons' leisurely breaks.

In the meantime, he would join in the mahjong games at one of the tables in the nightclub. Seated at the table was Ms Teng's mother. So they both became mahjong friendly. 
Even at the time that Audie knew Teresa Teng he realised she had the potential to be a successful singer because she was very pretty and had such a pleasant voice. A professor of cultural theory once remarked that it was the sweetness of her voice that made her famous.

During one of his chats Mrs Teng had jokingly asked that he managed her daughter but since he was not familiar with Chinese singers and the Taiwanese music market, he declined the proposal. 
He exclaimed that he fell in love with her voice and pretty face, otherwise he would probably be rich and famous managing her. As he chuckled over the phone I sensed the tone of humour, "I was also married la..." 

During his time in show business since the 1970's he had the opportunity of meeting and chatting close-up with four South East Asian divas, Anita Sarawak from Singapore and Malaysia; Francis Yip from Hong Kong; Irene Ryder from the Philippines but based in Hong Kong and of course Teresa Teng from Taiwan.
*Teresa Teng (January 29, 1953 – May 8, 1995) was a Taiwanese pop singer and well know for her romantic ballads and folk numbers.  These songs have become so familiar that The Moon Represents My Heart and When Will You Return have become evergreens, even among the non-Chinese.

She had recorded songs in Mandarin, Taiwanese, Hokkien, Cantonese, Japanese, Indonesian and English.   At 42 she passed on in 1995 from a severe respiratory attack while on holiday in Thailand.

Images: A personal collection; Google.

The tale above is by Audie Ng, leader and bass player of Singapore's pop 60's band The Silver Strings

Disclaimer: Blog owner cannot ascertain as to the authenticity of the story.

                Teresa Teng Full Album of Hits from Candy Channel.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Sound Of Music: Comment From Yi Peng Li

(You Tube Video: *The Quests from Singapore with 'The Sound of Music')

An article from this blog on Sunday, May 17th, 2009 about The Sound of Music drew this comment from a reader, Yi Peng Li:

"I chanced upon your Sound of Music post very much by accident. Please might I share a few things with you? It's fitting that I should be saying them in the year when the film of the musical marks its golden anniversary, just like our beloved Republic of Singapore just did.

As with many successful film musicals based on stage shows, most people don't realise that The Sound of Music originally started out as a stage musical before it became a successful film. Rodgers and Hammerstein originally wrote it in 1959 for Mary Martin, who created the role of Maria in the original Broadway production opposite the late Theodore Bikel as Captain von Trapp (image 1 below). 

It had been successful as a Broadway show even before it became a film. It ran for 1,443 performances, opening at the Lunt-Fontanne theatre on November 16, 1959. The original stage musical had two songs that were subsequently cut from the film, though, technically, Irwin Kostal used the song How Can Love Survive as an instrumental background in the film when the Baroness enters the ballroom after seeing Maria pack. 

There's a special fact that I would like to share with you. Captain von Trapp's beautiful song Edelweiss was the very last song that Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II wrote together (image 2 below). 

Hammerstein was dying of a terminal illness when he wrote the words. Rodgers composed this song to cater to the unique folk-singing talents of Theodore Bikel and to give the character of the Captain a chance to say goodbye to his occupied homeland in song. 
In the original stage show, we only hear Edelweiss at the festival concert, while Ernest Lehman, the screenplay writer, slotted in an extra scene early on where the Captain sings it with his children. In any case, I can't help thinking that Oscar Hammerstein viewed Edelweiss as his song saying goodbye just as Captain von Trapp did."

I'm wondering if you've heard any of the recordings of the stage musical, starting with the 1959 Broadway recording with Mary Martin. Though HMV has closed now, I think you might be able to hear this on Apple Music, Spotify or YouTube. 
I've got a unique collection of Sound of Music recordings at home, including the 1998 Broadway revival version with Rebecca Luker (image 3 above)  and the 1999 Australian revival with Lisa McCune, based on the 1998 revival. 

It's interesting that you mention the 80's blockbuster mega-musicals like Cats, Les Miserables or Phantom of The Opera. I've had a thought that these big film musicals of the 50's and 60's were like mega-musicals too. The film studios spared no expense in making these films and promoting them. The films of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals (and many others as well) were like extravaganzas in the cinema."

Thank you very much Peng Li for your contribution.
The original article:

Images: Google.

You Tube: The Quests, The Sound of Music. Video by Billy Ong (August 12th, 2015).

Slip Note:

A Long Play vinyl by EMI SE Asia and recorded at McDonald House Singapore has The Best of The Quests instrumental rendition of 12 of the most traditional, local and popular songs on one album.

The numbers are: Pop In Theme, Mustapha, Gallopin, Hava Nagila, SOUND OF MUSIC, Lengang2 Kangkong on Side One. Teabreak Ding Dong Twist, Man From Madrid, Shanty Champagne, Hur Pi Tzu Shau Hsiang are on Side Two.

Monday, October 19, 2015

SG First Pop Group: Fender, Hofner, Roger, Picnics

Part One with The Mates

1960 - 1970 中国器乐吉他乐队

Was it picnic music and family get-together that this group was trying to encourage in the 1960's on the cover of their EP?

With a pleasantly luscious lawn setting here's a brief write-up of the first local group called The Mates playing Instrumental Music as indicated on the front cover.

"During the heyday of the recording industry in the entertainment world while many local artiste and music groups were joining this flourishing profession, a local six-man  music band group calling themselves, The Mates was formed. It was the first local electronic guitar band formed in Singapore.
The band leader, Simon Toh himself, was a talented electronic organ player. Michael Chua, the lead  guitarist, was the most adept and experienced veteran. Although this group performed as an accompanying music group in the talentime contests organized by the Community Centres, they also performed in the night clubs and theatres.

The group was spotted by the owner of the Super Star Records Company 震星 who appreciated their talents. They were then commissioned to compose some songs for production.  Their first original debut piece entitled, ‘’马车夫之恋‘’  was excellently composed. Its music  was melodious and soothing to the ears."

[The above passage is a translation of the back sleeve cover (image 2) by a good friend who wishes to remain anonymous. Thank you YSP.]
Part Two With The Family

Thousands of Chinese-recorded vinyls by Singapore bands had been sold during the 1960's and 1970's. These bands would be using less expensive Hofner guitars (image on record sleeve) and drum-sets like Pearl or Olympic so budget could be minimised, although there were groups that used the more sophisticated Fender guits and Roger drums. 

There were also different models of amplifiers used like the higher end Vox, Marshall, Fender series but inexpensive ones were seen too. The mass market was the target and profit the final achievement for the record producers who employ these bands.
The 12 to 15 minute recordings were popular and the price of each vinyl, usually with four songs, was less than S$3.00. Extended Playing (EP) vinyls were compact and less than half the size of a twelve inch Long Playing (LP) record which could cost much more for the average teenager. To seal the deal there were attractive, colourful cover pictures on the Mini LPs.

Like their counterparts in the West where many dance records were also sold in Long Playing (LP) size with an average of about 12 songs, our local copy-cat industry did the same with Chinese ones. For both sides A and B the music would last for at least 40 minutes.
Chinese recordings would have been the best sellers bought by locals and instrumental ones were purchased for its music value as these melodies were needed for picnics, small dance parties and friendly get-together (Images 3 n 4). A portable record player was used to play these discs.

Hey come on guys, tell me about your first portable record player and picnics in the 60's.

Don't tell me about the ants!

Images: A Private Collection; Google; You Tube
Images: Black/White
Chinese 60's Bands: Planets; Travellers; Silver Stones; Tones.