Saturday, February 28, 2015

Humans Of Singapore: #Time Out For Pioneers

Connecting Seniors To Youths:

I was recently approached by Malvin Chua to participate in a movement called #Timeout4Pioneers. He told me that it started because there is a belief that young people aren't spending enough time with their elders as they would rather spend it on technology and social media. I agreed with his suggestion and met him and Paddy Ong, who is from a popular band called, *Take Two. We chatted over evening tea. 

Below is Mr Chua's letter to Humans of Singapore which was published on its Facebook page: 

"Dear HoS,

I've always believed that in order to pursue music, you need to go overseas, because Singapore can never truly offer you the opportunity to do so. However, I recently met Andy, a #musician from the 60s - alongside Paddy Ong from Take Two - who successfully changed my mind on this.

Andy, who is 74 now, was one of the lead singers in the band The Silver Strings back in the 60s - they even did the opening performance for The Rolling Stones back in 1965.

However, his dreams took a turn for the worse when Andy's principal found out that he was in a band. Music was frowned upon back in the day, and it was better to be an engineer or a civil servant instead.

But in 2008, Andy still maintained his passion for the 60s, and so he decided to start a blog called Singapore 60s Music, in order to relive his memories and pass on his learnings to the next generation.
With Paddy Ong of Band Take Two.
I asked Andy what kept him going all this time, and he told me that it was simply one quote - 'Dreams never die, they're only put on hold.'  It didn't matter to him that he couldn't pursue his dreams. He'd realized that after all this time, it was his sacrifice - and the sacrifice of many others of his generation - that would allow his grandson and many others to pursue arts if they wanted to.

His only hope was that people would recognize that there IS talent and opportunity in Singapore, and that you only need to have an open mind in order to be able to see it - which is what I want to achieve from this post as well.

Apologies for the long write-up, and Gong Xi Fa Cai!


Humans of Singapore ‪#‎Timeout4Pioneers‬."

TAKE TWO: L-R are Jeryl, Paddy, Johnathan, David and Peng Sing
"Contributing members of society by day, indie pop-rock outfit by night - leading a dual life is the name of the game for Take Two. Formed in late 2012, the quintet have since performed at Chiang Mai Music Festival 2014, NOISE Singapore's 2013 showcase, the FEYST 2013 Indie Youth Festival in Kuala Lumpur, and have been featured twice at the Esplanade's "Esplanade Presents" series. They were also part of the roster for SGMUSO's first ever House Party, sharing the stage with notable contemporaries Charlie Lim, The Sam Willows, and Kevin Lester.

Influenced by Brit Rock, Jazz, and Indie Pop (among others), Take Two brings their own blend of guitar-driven musical incarnations, full of crafty chord work and foot-stomping grooves.

Currently working on their debut EP, the band are also participants with this year's Noise Music Mentorship program, with Saiful Idris (The Great Spy Experiment) as their mentor. They will be performing at Music Matters Live 2014 and the EcoPop 2014 in Spain later this year.

Most of their songs are self composed, and I'd like to invite you to listen to their work at the following links:

Take Two (copy/paste):

#Explained in a note to HoSFB that I am no musician but an educator.

Letter and Take Two article by Malvin Chua.
Images by: Malvin Chua, Humans of Singapore, Take Two.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Wilson David With Bassist Alan Poh's Songs

One of the more well- known singers in the sixties Wilson David was a name to contend with. Together with other local pop singers Mr David drew crowds to the shows they performed in. They had fans from all over Singapore and from our neighboring countries like Malaya, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brunei and even Thailand.

Pop concert sponsors and those interested in promoting our talents introduced these young and budding artistes to recording companies. Philips, RCA, Cosdel, EMI and a few other well-known ones took the opportunity to contract them for vinyl releases.

The singers were paired off with local guitar groups and papers were signed and sealed. One of the most respected recording companies, Philips, used the studio at Kinetex Singapore and had David with his backing group The Jets to accompany him singing four songs.
Two of them were covers from the fifties; "Jezebel" by Frankie Laine and "Yours" by Vera Lynn. The other two, originals by Alan Poh (image: 2nd from right) and bassist with the Jets were, "I'll Never Be Mad At You" and "I Love To Be By Your Side." It was necessary by then to have original songs in the repertoire for local releases.

The fact that David was also Singapore's answer to Elvis Presley made the recording and advanced publicity all the more important for its success. Below is the write up on the back sleeve cover of "Wilson David accompanied by The Jets."

Some Sleeves Speak:

"Born on October 4th, 1940, Wilson David started his singing career when he was only sixteen.  Slowly but surely he managed to build himself up to such an extent that for the last three years he has been able to maintain his position as the beat king all over Malaysia. Yes Wilson is undoubtedly the teenage solo singing craze nowadays, for every time he makes a public appearance, it is only with great difficulty that he tears himself away from his screaming, clapping audience.
Wilson's greatest assets are a good mellow voice with an equally good range and style, and a terrific sense of rhythm and showmanship. Wilson is a perfectionist by nature and is never satisfied with his own performance regardless of how well he is received.  He always feels he should have done better since his one aim is to satisfy his listener to the fullest.

From the muscle wrenching glory of the athletic track to the limelight in rhythm and blues to the torrid tempos of the bongos, that's the life of Wilson David, who is currently the undisputed idol of the local teenage pop fans..."

How come today's Singapore boys and girls are not screaming for our own home grown artistes?

Images: Personal Collection.
Article: Original and Back Sleeve Cover Write-up.
You can read more about these artistes by clicking on Labels below.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Huang Qing Yuen (黃清元) Recorded 800+ Songs

Image: From Giam Bistro

A Goat Year Posting:
I am not too enthusiastic about Chinese New Year any more because like Christmas and other festivities it is so commercialised that I immediately leave shopping malls that play CNY songs especially when the number one ear-breaker, Quo Xin Nian or He Xin Nian is heard. No offence meant. 

But reunion dinners and visiting friends are a must.

So blogging during CNY becomes a problem because I don't want to post cliched stories about fire-crackers, reunion dinners or angpows. But I need to feature a Chinese singer especially for surfers who love local Mandarin fare.  I am also thinking of Valentine's Day which was just celebrated by lovers around the globe.

                     Mun Li uploaded by Mr Rainbow64. Thanks Vernon Cheong.

I rummaged through my record collection of Chinese EPs bought at random during these past years at Sungei Road and vinyl shops, wondering who to write about, when I chanced upon this image of a bespectacled gentleman among my dusty records.  He has a clean cut with Tancho greased hair and staring at me with a pleasant half smile.  Ah, a posting at last.

Like Engelbert Humperdinck and Tom Jones our singer from the 60s is a living legend. With his recognizable strong baritone voice he has endeared himself to so many fans from all over South East Asia.  It is common knowledge that telephones at broadcast stations keep ringing as fans call to show loving support for this heart-throb after his songs have been played.
Followed by ladies everywhere he appeared.
Crooner Wong Ching Yian, a veteran on stage and who has recorded about 800 songs, is a pleasant but serious looking gentleman. He looks more like a university professor than a pop singer. His admirers come from a matured age group who would probably be in their 50s  or beyond since he rocketed to fame in the 70s after winning a competition. Wong became one of the Far East Top Ten Singers in 1975 with contemporaries  like Wan Sha Lang, Fung Fei Fei and Jenny Yen.

Youthful Huang Qing Yuen in the 60s
 It has been rumoured that grandparents take their grandchildren to watch him sing at the various venues when he appears on stage.  Huang Qing Yuen  (黃清元) as he is known in Pinyin began his singing at the youthful age of 19 but not before he participated in some contests and talentimes. He remembered his prize for one contest - two large cases of soft drinks.
Stylers accompanied Huang Qing Yuen on his recordings.
It hasn't been a smooth road for Wong. In 1988 a serious heart condition forced him to give up singing but with proper medical care he managed his health and did an encore performance in 1995. Wong explained that he would carry on with his singing for as long as he could because of his fans. He added that he would never retire since singing is his second love. A devoted family man, Wong admits that they are his first love. Talk of Valentine's Day!

His first hits were Man Li and Lu Dao Xiao Ye Chi, the same two songs that he sang during competition.  All these years Wong has been recording and many of his 800+ songs can be found on CDs nowadays.

Some of his songs with translated titles and thematically suitable for 14th February include: Goodbye My Love, Bitter Wine, A Woman's Heart, Forget Me, My Love, Missed Chances, Cheers and many others.  His first hits Man Li (lady's name) and Lu Dao.... (Green Island Song) are Chinese hits and have been recorded by others.

He released his Golden Hits in the late nineties and with modern recording techniques plus newly minted songs he felt that he could go on for some years.  Bands that accompanied him during recordings were well-known guitar groups The Melodians or The Stylers and had cut vinyls for companies like Panda and Cortersions Records.  His songs usually carry the same theme - love.

Maurice Patton and The Melodians.
Because of his fame and popularity Wong had many tribute artistes who impersonated him. One well known performer was Lee Jung Ping who won a Huang Qing Yuen Impersonation contest in 1996. Wong who judged some of these contests was neither concerned nor unhappy that others were copying his style. He felt they had to find their own since mimicry would not take them far in the entertainment business.

A near iPod and one to play Wong's vinyls. Neat.
He used to run a family jewellery and cosmetics business assisted by his wife. He is probably in his mid 60s by now. I understand he used to peform at a hotel along Bukit Timah Road near Raffles Town Club. With more than 40 years of stage and recording experience I wonder if he is still singing today. Anyone?

Happy Lunar New Year and Valentine's Day 2015 to lovers everywhere.

Images: Andy Lim Collection.
Information based on an article by Sharon Wong, July 1997, New Straits Times.

Posting done on Acer A500. My DELL computer went sour on me weeks ago.

Thanks to Erwin Maisch, Malvin Chua, group 'Take Two' member Paddy and my MacPhersonian gang for the publicity on FACEBOOK, comments of which I have published on this posting. Appreciate your support and kindness.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Ramon Rahmat Pop Yeh Yeh Sang In Five Languages

You Tube video from Mr Rainbow65.

 Mr Ramon, pop yeah-yeah veteran, had passed away on 10th February, 2015 according to a Malay newspaper report. He was 69 years young. (This is a third death announcement these two weeks.)

Ramon or M. Rahmat as he was called was a professional in every sense. He was one of a few pop 60s music makers who could both sing and actually entertain. Songs he performed would belong to him that magic moment, as he interpreted them in his own way. I used to watch his stage acts many times both in the nightclubs and at the theaters around Singapore.

Whether it was at the National Theater, the Neptune, the Elizabeth Hotel or at a small charity show in a home for the aged, his act was always absorbing, honest and he gave his all. Most importantly he was entertaining and the audience listened since he could sing in French, Spanish and even Japanese.
M. Rahmat started his music journey with a group called TERUNA and his rendition of GADIS DESA, MANHANA and KASEH TAK BERBALAS became hit parade material. The group was soon invited to sing all over Singapore and Malaysia.

In 1967 he sang with THE BLACKJACKS and became Ramon Rahmat. His popularity mushroomed and Mr Ramon had been to Jakarta, Surabaya, Japan and even Pakistan to perform before returning in 1976. Versatility was the key word for our talented man as he rendered jazz and blues in Malay too. In 1972 he even acted in a Malay movie.

THE CANDIDATES had Ramon in the group where they played to capacity crowds at the Kelong in Cathay Restaurant. Two other 'candidates' i remember were Danny Koh and Leo Fernando.
My family and I used to hear Mr Ramon sing at the Elizabeth Hotel with his wife and they were one of the best acts those years. He could go Nat King Cole or Johnny Mathis and provide smooth ballads for the sentimental evenings at the nightspot and touch hearts with his audience singing Lionel Ritchie's, "Endless Love" as a duet. All all this with only a little cassette tape machine as  full music accompaniment.  He spoke quietly, patiently to his audience so as not to upset the quiet ambience and a sophisticated crowd.

 When I met him again it was only a few years ago at a charity concert as we shared the same stage accompanied by the Silver Strings and together with Max Surin, had much fun singing and talking about old times between appearances and afterwards.

We have lost yet another great musician and another 60s pop culture icon. I have a few of his records. Would be great listening to these vinyls again.  Rest well my friend. You deserve that peace now.

"Any day now, any day now, I shall be released..."

 Images: Personal Collection and Berita Harian by Karim Iskandar.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Mike Ellery: Passionate Promoter of Singapore Pop

Mike Ellery With Millie Small (My Boy Lollipop)
Mike Ellery passed away on 3rd February 2015.


 It is with great heartfelt, and mournful grief, as I write this...

Mike Ellery was the greatest broadcaster Singapore has ever known.  There was, and still is no one who has such great instantaneous abilities - suddenly picking up records and presenting a most interesting 60 minutes show! He was a great add-libber.

He knew his music - always up to date with the latest hits, well-tuned and informed with classic standards, Jazz, Broadway, Operas, Classical   Music and more!

Here was an 'Ang Moh' who was very aggressive and very passionate promoting local music.  He very much loved The Quests and maybe that's why I was hired as a Deejay without even an audition, and he'd hope in March 1969, that I could be styled as the first local personality DJ.  Like those of Capitol Radio, London.

 To me he was a very difficult taskmaster, always demanding of me, and hard to please!  The kicks he gave me were worth it, as it made me the perfectionist I still try to be today.

Lucky the many DJs who went through the "Mike Ellery School of Broadcasting"  They were and are great and different.
Mike Ellery was also instrumental with impressario Donald Moore to bring scores of international pop acts like " The Yardbirds", "Walker Brothers", " Dave Clarke Five" and "Herman's Hermits" to name a few. In addition, some of the biggest names in Classical Music and Ballet World.

 Long after he was my boss I still call him "Mr. Ellery" because he was my teacher and I had great respect for him.

I last spoke to him on the phone a month ago; he was by this time on a wheelchair after a stroke, but he was cheerful as ever, business as usual. To him the 'Show Goes On'.

 Mike Ellery - Pop Pioneer, Founding Father and Giant of Local Broadcasting, Passionate Promoter of Singapore Pop.

Copyrighted: Acknowledge Writer and Blog Owner.

Thanks Vernon for a very sincere, moving and informative piece about Mike Ellery.


Monday, February 02, 2015

Rita Chao And Mike Ellery Have Both Passed On!




                Rita Chao: My Lonely Heart: Thunderbirds Greatest Hit.

When I posted the above news item a few readers wrote in to comment about Ms Chao. Writing to a few friends who had worked with her on stage, I received three replies, one each from Ronnie See of Ronnie and the Burns; Victor Koo, a blogger; Larry Lai, 60s DJ from Rediffusion and Danny Koh, pianist and leader of Danny and The Musicators.

From Ronnie See:

Rita Chao was popular during the 60s; she was singing duet with Sakura Teng during the Musical Express Sunday Morning Show at the then Capitol Theatre. The duo were better known as the a-go-go singers. Rita has a sweeter voice than her partner Sakura.

Both of them are pretty good but Rita has a slight edge over Sakura because she sings both in English and Mandarin. During that time Henry, Soon Yin the Managing Director of local EMI was promoting them.

I was singing with The Stylers then and backed the girls and the late Soo Yin too during the morning show. Tan Swee Leong was the emcee. Rita's manager was none other than her elder sister Mimi Chao. I am not sure if Rita had emigrated but Sakura lives in WC, USA.
                                               The Stylers
From Larry Lai:

I remember Rita Chao as a sweetly innocent girl, but painfully shy and reticent. In all the times we worked together with Sakura, I hardly had more than a few polite words with her.  Her sister Mimi, who was her manager, was the one I negotiated with...  I wish her well.

From Danny Koh:

I did two records with Rita Chao but was not close to her at all. Tony Zee, the Trailers' drummer, had worked with her during recordings too. It has been a long time.

From Victor Koo:

I remember being mesmerised by the young pretty faces, the sweet singing and the suave dance moves of the a-go-go duo Rita Chao and Sakura Teng when I was a kid in the 1960s. 

I was staying in a cramped 4-storey SIT flat in Cheng Yan Place with my parents and 4 growing siblings. Lying down on a bed, I watched their performances from a close distance via our very first black-and-white TV set mounted on the wall next to the bed, much like in the hospitals nowadays. I believe this could be a contributing factor to my developing high myopia from a very young age. 

*As for Mike Ellery, I remember him as a DJ. His voice came through the Rediffusion service which we also subscribed to at $5 per month in those days. Fortunately, there was a limit to how loud the Rediffusion set could be turned on. Hence my hearing was not badly affected by Mike Ellery's music. May Rita and Mike rest in peace.

Image/Video from Google and You Tube.




Monday, January 26, 2015

Singapore Vinyls Share Platform On World Stage

1. Singapore Pop Artistes
2. International Pop Artistes (UK).
Support SG50: Highlighting Memories.
Information for the Young 'Uns Today.

Internal Record Sleeve:

It is common knowledge in the 1960s that Singapore pop artistes and international ones are promoted together on inside sleeve covers (jackets as the Americans call them).

The inside sleeve (image 3) found within the covers of vinyl records is proof enough.  As an example, in the new 7-inch EP/EMI releases for 1968, big stars like Cliff Richard and Lulu (image 2) are featured on the same soft cover with local recording artistes The McCoys and Sugiman Jahuri (image 1).
3: Internal soft sleeve vinyl covers from EMI Records.
Panoramic Record Sleeve:

Similarly, this soft sleeve cover (image 4) shields a record in between. Again the Chinese singers (right), well-known in Asia, are juxtaposed with top world singers like Nat King Cole, Herman's Hermits, Judd Solo and Keith West (left).

4: Advertising Layout on a Double Sheet Soft Sleeve
Single Record Sleeve:

Singles (record with two songs on one vinyl) are stored in colourful sleeves to advertise future releases. The 5th image shows this trend when 4 record covers are displayed attractively on each corner of the sleeve. One picture would feature an Asian star, i.e. Siew Fong Fong's pop Chinese Long Play L.O.V.E. which comes with 3 other LP covers, namely, Bobby Gentry, Glen Campbell and a Hawaiian Favourites selection.

Extended Play Record Cover (Jackets):

Then the promoters get really serious when Extended Play record covers illustrate the same trend. European pop singers like Maria Zamora, Herman van Keeken and Mieke Telkamp share stardom on the front sleeve with Asian/Dutch powerhouse Anneke Gronloh. She sings in Indonesian, English and Dutch, rising to fame with an Indonesian hit Asmara (Love).

No Sleeve, No Cover, No Record:

In today's media exposure, do we still find our local pop stars featured together with international ones under the same banner? I doubt it.  I guess Asian singers have done exceptionally well today and have a niche of their own in the music world. Then again, what's there to advertise?  

                                Kit Chan's iTunes Buy n Downloads

Information's a click away on the website and you just download from iTunes or wherever.  So if you wish to buy Kit Chan songs, just pay through Credit, download and get your songs:

Images: Private collection.
Copyrights Reserved (c).
  Asmara by Anneke Gronloh, Asian hit promoted with European ones.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Laser Discs: Memorabilia Or Rubbish? Keep Or Bin?

It used to be called MPH or Malaya Publishing House, a building along Stamford Road where book lovers and students used to gather to get their fix. Those were the earlier years  and books cost a few dollars. Name the books and MPH would have them in stock. Not all though, because in Singapore some titles were banned remember? Even some classic pieces couldn't be found on the shelves. Well...
                               Old MPH building with a new look.

As the years went by the shop sold other things as well. In the 1990s, after buying a book or two from the ground floor, I would amble to the first floor and target the LDs or Laser Discs on display.  They didn't come cheap and would cost as much as $50 (big money then) or more a piece. 

Since movies were also my concern I would eagle for these shiny and large silver discs.  Take one out from the sleeve and this humongous CD would glitter under the display lights. It was heavy too.

Buying the old Elvis Presley movies was more exciting than buying a new book. But since they cost a bomb I could only purchase one or two pieces each time. Images below show some of the titles I have. 

While doing a CNY spring cleaning recently and looking at my LDs I thought I had spent money on a worthless collection since they are the precursor to DVDs and are obsolete today.
Question: Is an Elvis LD counted as Elvis memorabilia?
But I realised I would never discard them. These LDs are harder to come by as more people are keeping them as memorabilia. There are also companies on the internet that are willing to purchase them for the same price and store them in their Laser Vaults (whatever that means).  With enough space to keep books, records and travel mementos in my home I have decided not to get rid of them.  
As I was surfing the net searching for comments about the status of LDs, I found these gems below:

1. I sold mine for next to nothing and regret it. For the money you'd get, you might as well keep them. 

2. Still have mine and my old player although haven't used it for ages. Not sure what the e-bay market is like, it went through a boom and then collapsed a couple of years ago, not sure if that's changed.
3. Just like vinyl records, the laser disc may have little value, but the cover may end up being worth something, depending on the cover art. 

4. It's the vinyl of the movie world. There is a magical quality to it, and who cares if your kids scoff at it? There's no way I'd give up my vinyl collection, no matter how many million songs you can fit on an iPod. 
A Laser Disc Player @ $450 a piece in the 90s.
5. What galls me is seeing some of the discs I paid $60-$100 for selling for $10 and under. Sigh. Oh well, I enjoyed them at the time.

6. Another vote for hang onto them. You won't get much and laser discs are lovely things to hold.

7. If space isn't a problem I'd say keep them as well...  I agree that Laser Disc packaging looks lovely, so it would a huge shame if you did end up binning... 

8. I've begun collecting laser discs recently, however only movies that are not on retail DVD, so I can convert them to DVD on my own.
Fun Information on LD sleeve covers.
For me? Another good reason why I will keep them. The sleeve notes are fun to read. And informative too. And once you hold them in your hands you wouldn't want to part with them. 

Then again you could store all the songs and movies in a thumb drive?

Silly huh? So how? Keep or throw away? Let me know.
Comments from:
                  You Tube Video: Elvis' Memories by Wanda Harrell.

Elvis Presley Memorabilia:
The novelty retro items and vintage toys produced red in the mid 1950s reap the best value for money and have potential to greatly increase in value. The genuine posthumous Elvis stamps too are collectibles.

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