Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Catching Musicals: Singapore To London: Part One

        Happy Talk: Juanita Hall: South Pacific (Rodgers/Hammerstein)

Watching Musicals from 1950's to 1990's

I enjoy watching musicals both from the screen and on stage. As a younger person and going to the movies in Singapore 50's, catching these shows was an exciting part of my life. I was in my early teens and it was easy to take a straight bus from St. Andrew's School to the cinema near Prinsep Street.

The Cathay Cinema was the usual venue for musicals to be screened. I remember Brigadoon, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Oklahoma, Kismet, The Student Prince, Paint Your Wagon and the unforgettable South Pacific. The movies were all in Technicolor and watched on the large screen in Cinemascope or Superscope grandeur, topped with stereophonic sound.

Happy talk, keep talking happy talk
Talk about things you like to do
You gotta have a dream, if you don't have a dream
How you gonna have a dream come true...*

Those were wonderful years visiting the rojak man at Waterloo Street after the afternoon show. And I usually go alone because many of my classmates were either playing football or cycling around their own kampong. They would never have heard of Mario Lanza or Juanita Hall.

Then came the 60's and The King and I, West Side Story, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Camelot and a host of other musicals came along.  With a little bit more money I had nasi padang (local Malay dishes eaten with rice) at the Rendezvous Restaurant near Bencoolen Street. It was a small coffee shop then fronted by the Malay rice stall.

In with the 70's and its disco musical like Grease and Saturday Night Fever. I was too busy with studies, work and left  Singapore for New Zealand where I managed to catch our university production of rock musical, Hair and the Australian production of, Jesus Christ Superstar in Sydney.
                         West End, London where the theatres are

London, England
It was only in the 80's and 90's when I started visiting London to actually patronize the theatres at the West End that made loving musicals all the more thrilling.  My first stage performance wasn't a musical but a long-running play called, The Mousetrap

If I remember correctly, I had stayed at a hotel near the St. Martin's Theatre and was invited by the smiling and persuasive concierge to buy a 20 pound ticket to watch the show. Twenty English Pounds was a lot of money in the 80's, about $160.

"Last ticket for to-night," he told me.  I bought the ticket but to my chagrin I had a seat at the corner end of the second row from the particularly high stage. The whole night I was looking at shoes, socks, legs, pants and furniture bottoms on stage, and could hardly understand the play at all because I was so furious as perceptions became distorted. My seat and viewing distance bothered me a lot.
                                   St Martins Theatre showing The Mousetrap

My return to the hotel to look for the concierge cheat that night proved fruitless because he was off duty. When I left the next morning, I found out he was on leave. There was no point making a complaint because I was leaving for Aberdeen, Scotland and wasn't returning to the capital. A bad experience indeed. Bottom line, never trust a hotel concierge too much! 

Within a ten year period I managed to fly back and forth to London about six times, either with tour groups to on the way to Europe or as a couple with my wife when we travelled privately. 
       Jellicle Cats: Cats Musical: (Andrew Lloyd Webber /T. S. Eliot.)

These were enjoyable trips and we had always managed to catch musicals on stage like Cats, Phantom of The Opera, Miss Saigon, Song and Dance, Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Les Miserables and the truly fab Starlight Express. We also learnt that theatre tickets were cheap at Leicester Square if we queued up for them much earlier in the day. We wanted to but never did. 

Are you blind when you're born? Can you see in the dark?
Dare you look at a king? Would you sit on his throne?
Can you say of your bite that it's worse than your bark?
Are you cock of the walk when you're walking alone?**

I even caught one in Vancouver, Canada when I was there in the 90's. Those were fun years. But that's another story.

Do you love musicals? Pray tell.

(This post is dedicated to Jan Cheong and CYLin who both love musicals.)
My Favourite Song From A Musical
Not in any order:

Stranger In Paradise
Baubles, Bangles And Beads

Paint Your Wagon:
I Talk To The Trees
Wand'ring Star

Almost Like Being In Love

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers:
Bless Your Beautiful Hide

Oh What A Beautiful Morning

South Pacific:
Happy Talk
Some Enchanted Evening
Bali Ha'i
There Is Nothing Like A Dame

Images: Google and A Personal Collection;
Lyrics: *Happy Talk (Rodgers and Hammerstein); **Jellicle Cats (Andrew Lloyd Webber /T. S. Eliot.)
London, England in the 1990's before the smart phone.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Cherrio Cefiro, Changing Car, Current COE n CD's

                                Drive My Car - The Beatles Video by: DrHooty911

Saying Hello, Goodbye to the Car:

Cuboid Cefiro

This car of mine
No slow poke now
I never want to part with her you see
This little car means a heck of a lot to me*

After 10 years exactly, at the end of May 2016, my faithful 2300 cc steed will finally be silenced in the scrapyard. Can you imagine a beautiful Japanese Cefiro built in 2006, complete with the latest features that only some cars have today, being towed away to be crunched and crushed into cuboid? 

I know I shouldn't be writing about cars but I am totally devastated that I have to lose $14,000 (scrap value) and pay another $25,000 (current prevailing COE price) to use my own car for another 5 years. $40,000 is a lot of gas. And the Cefiro has done only 90,000 kilometers. It hasn't seen its day yet.
CD Changer

Having taken the bus, taxi and MRT I find it truly convenient to take public transport but only if it is during retirees' hours from about 11am to 3pmTry taking a bus outside those hours and you're done for.  

Also during a rain-storm at the bus-stop without an umbrella.  Or try to queue for a taxi at Orchard Road on a week-end. Or ride the train, which can be squeezy. I'm missing the car already.

And missing the music with it. The stereo set in the car is a simple one. Nifty though with four fabulous speakers and two twitters near the windscreen. There's a ten-piece CD changer in the boot and a GPS screen in front. 

Children's Choice

While driving I am only interested in listening to music from the 50's, 60's and 70's.  And the radio station is stuck at 90.5FM. Reminder for Brian Richmond. And I know you read my blog often :>).

So here goes. When my grand children were between the ages of 4 to 8, they love songs by The Blue Diamonds like Bebek Angsa and Summer Holiday. Then Ob-La-Di-Ob-La-Da by The Marmalade and Don Spencer's Fireball XL5.  

Paul Anka's Diana was a must with The Beatles' Hello, Goodbye and Joseph and His Technicolor Dreamcoat with emphasis on, Any Dream Will Do. The youngest enjoyed Fraulein and Little Dutch Girl.

Strange but true; never once did they fall asleep listening to the selection. They remember the track number of each song and the efficient Kenwood stereo never missed its cue playing CD's that the kids pushed into its mouth. We hardly used the changer.

Creditable CD's

For my own driving entertainment, The Eagles Greatest Hits, Queen with Jewels, Neil Diamond's Gold Selection, Johnny Lion and The Jumping Jewels CD Selection and a mixed bag of choice 60's Indonesian guitar group instrumentals from Larry Lai. 

The song change occurs only on occasions when CD's are replaced with a new selection. Then my son's dIREsTRAITS Money For Nothing with Sultans Of Swing sticks in the player for months.

Lately experienced rhythm guitarist, Michael Bangar gave members of the group a CD called, Elvis Presley: Artist of the Century with a BMG/GSM/RCA label. Disc One has Presley's usual hits. 

Disc Two was a surprise. Songs like: Like A baby, That's Someone You Never Forget, Down In The Alley, Run On, Tomorrow Is A Long Time, Stranger In My Own Home Town and After Loving You. Thank you Mike for the CDBet readers never heard the songs?

Cherrio Car

So good bye dear car. Had wonderful and comfortable rides these ten years, providing much space for the kids to topsy-turvy in the back seat and scream with Elvis in the front.

Want readers to know Singaporeans' heartaches with their cars. And balancing the mind with songs in their hearts, every driving day, to keep the sanity intact.

You drive don't you. Stories to tell?

*This Car of Mine: The Beach Boys.
Drive My Car - The Beatles Video by: DrHooty911

Images: A Private Collection

There are 100's of car songs. Below is the longest list I've seen: 

Thursday, May 12, 2016


'Runaway' w vocalist/keyboardist Nick. Videos by Fabian Foo.

14th May, 2016
Compered by Justin Ang and Vernon A.
With Andy, Audie, Nick, John, Rickie, Vernon A., Justin Ang, Peter n Michael.
Lead Guitarist Rickie Chng, Vocalist Andy Young

Screen Grab of Dancing Crowd
Rickie, Bass Guitarist Audie Ng and Vocalist Peter Chua

Audie, John with Rhythm Guitarist and Vocalist Michael Bangar
Drummer John Cher
Keyboardist, Vocalist Nicholas Stravens
The Silver Strings with a good crowd of enthusiasts 
"Impian Semalam"
Lady doing the ronggeng.
You Tube: 'I Saw Her Standing There' w Michael Bangar.

"I Saw Her Standing There"
"Proud Mary"
"Midnight In Malaya"

You Tube: 'To Love Somebody' w vocalist Peter Chua.

Posting below: Before the show


Learn the ronggeng:

Read above article from:

Images from: A Private Collection, Google and Laurence Lim (image right). Thank you Mr Lim for taking the pictures.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Donald Trump's Pop Music: Rolling Stone Magazine

When I am not blogging it's CNN on HD for me. Fox News comes in the way only if the news pieces are interesting enough, otherwise the non HD channel has images so hazy and blurred from the Singapore telecast that I'd rather not watch the programmes on 702.  In fact watching the goggle box these days is near impossible without High Definition. I am spoilt.

So what do I watch on these channels. The big man on the small screen these days is The Donald. Watching Donald Trump on television has become second nature these past few months. I find him an enigma. Love him or hate him, the Trump is on the *POTUS campaign trail and I was following his Race for the White House. Since I am no #politikus, I would not like to discuss the subject on this blog , so this posting is just about the kind of music Mr Trump appreciates. Nothing more.
When I found him on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine on a You Tube video, it featured a taped interview about his favourite pop artistes. Being a television celebrity himself, Trump has many top gun friends that he mentions on the video.

According to his brief chat, Trump has been reading Rolling Stone for a long time and respects the talent of the Beatles, Elton John and other pop singers. He has many friends in the popular music field and mentions Aerosmith with Steven Tyler as people he appreciates. He is a big fan of the group and noticed that Tyler attended one of his debates recently.

Another fan of his is Bon Jovi and acknowledges the famous tenor Luciano Pavarotti. Another mega star that he used to keep in touch with was Michael Jackson (1958 - 2009). According to Trump, the singer who had passed away used to live at Trump Towers and the billionaire believes that MJ lost confidence in himself for different reasons.  
Paul McCartney, according to Trump, is another star he knows. McCartney is often seen in New York City and feels that the former Beatle is a terrific guy. Trump has also spoken well of Neil Young saying that the singer's voice is, perfect and haunting.  

Young's song, Rocking In The Free World (1989) was used by Trump in his presidential candidacy announcement.  Trump also used The Rolling Stones, Brown Sugar (1971) and Twisted Sister's, We're Not Gonna Take It (1984) during his rallies.  Apparently he is familiar with the members of these groups although they took objection to his using these songs. 
The billionaire has been attending Broadway shows often, mentioning that the place is one of the great things about New York. Going to Broadway is one of his reliefs since he was himself in a tough business.

Two of Trump's favourite musicals are, Chicago (1975)  and Evita (1976). He has seen the Andrew Lloyd and Tim Rice extravaganza Evita at least six times and said the show was riveting. Don't Cry For Me Argentina, a truly beautiful composition, gripped the musical world when Elaine Paige sang it. Madonna came on with a movie version and the song has been covered by multiple artistes.

Trump loved the darkly cynical musical, Chicago too. The hit became a 2002 Oscar winning movie that starred, Richard Gere, Renee Zelwegger and Catherine Zeta Jones. 
I found this musical entertaining and gripping. It is the second longest running show in Broadway today. My favourite piece is, All That Jazz.

"Wall Street may be tough but the theatre business is tougher.  Making it to Broadway is no easy feat," said Donald Trump.

But even in show biz the real estate mogul has no problem.  In Los Angeles, this side of the US, The Donald has a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame in L.A. and it shines the brightest  among the thousands of stars on the well-renowned walk area. In fact his has become a major tourist attraction.

Some of his fans, who frequent the area near the Chinese Theatre, remarked that it was sometimes decorated with graffiti, "They either love it, or they hate it." 

^Come on babe, we're gonna brush the sky
I bet you Lucky Lindy never flew so high
Cause in the stratosphere
How could he lend an ear
To all that jazz...

So what do you say dear readers?

*POTUS: President Of The United States
#An Indonesian term for a political being.
^Lyrics/Music: All That Jazz: John Kander/Fred Ebb.
Images and interview taken from You Tube:

Monday, May 02, 2016

What's Genuine And What's Not? Help! Pirates!

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 pirated 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. 
Record Sleeve Image 3 and 4:

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 pirated 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!
Record Sleeve Image 5 and 6:

Pirated 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 pirated 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. 

They 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 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. 
The 7th image above is another pirated record of Cliff Richard (poor Mr Richard who was so popular in the 60's, had himself recorded so many times by pirates that they are richer than him!) There are only three songs on this Apache fly-by -night trade mark together with Cliff's number Flying Machine. The other two songs include Soldier's Prayer (Oscar Harris) and Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep (Middle of the Road). The sleeve cover is just a sheet of writing paper, easily crumpled.

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.

Monday, April 25, 2016

US Troops From Vietnam Plays Motown On Jukebox

It has been a while since Allan Thompson wrote his tales of intrigue and suspense. Below is another, more thrilling than ever, as he takes us on his own trip down memory lane to investigate the juke-box joints in *decadent Singapore. We're back in the 60's now as we join him hunting down military establishments with his ang-moh kakis.

It is an exciting trip and what you're about to read is true. Thanks again Allan. 
Dear Andy,  

I seem to recall that juke boxes were not permitted in bars of other public places in Singapore during the 1960's.  I was told at the time that this was because of protection rackets over the supply of the machines and records.  (This was part of the plot of the Jayne Mansfield film, The Girl Can't Help It).  

Maybe you have *more information on this?  However, military establishments were allowed to have juke boxes, and I know they were installed in the NAAFI, the Chalet Club, and the Malcolm Club at RAF Changi.  

The Chalet Club also had a Scopitone film juke box which cost 50 cents for each play, which was more expensive than the normal record juke box.  There was also a delay between songs because the films apparently had to rewind after each number.  

The favourite selections on the Chalet Club machine were Robot by The Tornados, who were filmed in woodland wearing cheaply made helmets and dancing with girls while miming to the record;  Francoise Hardy on a swingboat, miming to one of her songs while her skirt blew up every time the swingboat swung;  and I've Got The World On A String which featured voluptuous bikini-clad American girls dancing on a beach while the lucky cameraman took some interesting and provocative overhead cleavage shots! 
Because of the juke box ban, many Singapore bars played music on record-players, tape recorders or the radio.  I remember one occasion when some friends and I went into a bar near Raffles Place and were met with the sound of loud Motown music on the record-player while six tall black American sailors in their white uniforms danced in a line in the middle of the room in the style of the Four Tops (image below).  

It was an unforgettable sight.  In those days many American servicemen used to visit Singapore while on leave from Vietnam, that terrible, pointless war which devastated that beautiful country and maimed and killed so many innocent people.   
If only the United States had let 'Uncle' Ho Chi Min run the country for the benefit of the Vietnamese people instead of flexing their muscles and causing so much destruction.  I think it says a lot for the dignity of the Vietnamese that they are so forgiving of those who oppressed them for so many years.  There ends my sermon for today!

Good wishes, 


(1) On 8th June, 1959, the newly elected PAP government launched a campaign against yellow culture (Chinese: huangse wenhua = decadent behaviour). Although there were attempts to eradicate it earlier, the campaign was a sustained and extensive enterprise, easing only in the 1980's. 

Spear-headed by the Culture Ministry, the authorities launched a nationwide clamp-down on Western culture seen as promoting anti-social life. So pornographic publications and films, strip shows, jukebox dens, pin-table saloons, rock music as well as long hair on men were banned. It promoted instead healthy cultural activities that focused on forging a common Malayan culture. 

From: HistorySG, an online resource guide.
                  'I've Got The World On A String' - A Scopitone Film Juke-Box

(2) Scopitone was a 1960's type of jukebox featuring a 16 mm film component. Scopitone films were a forerunner of modern music videos. The first Scopitones were made in France. 

*written tongue-in-cheek.
Images and Videos from Google and You Tube.

Kick-start words:
Vietnam War, Rest and Recreation, US soldiers, army