Sunday, July 23, 2017

SSO @ The Botanic Gardens: Jason Lai Conducting ENCORE

Singapore Symphony Orchestra: 22 July 2017 Botanic Gardens
A Personal Experience About Concerts In The Parks:

An SSO Concert at the Botanic Gardens will always be a treat especially if it's a stone's throw away. But if the enthusiast for classical music is driving his car, then don't complain if there are no parking lots; unless the early bird comes at about 4 pm (concert starts at 6).

A friend and I managed to squeeze into the last lot at the sheltered car park at Nassim Gate. It was a Saturday evening gift from above.
The coffee house (image) around the corner served our purpose since the Symphony Lake was another two minutes walk from there. But a fruit juice at the outlet was near $6.00 and a fizzy drink, $3.00. The 2-hour wait was comfortable as we managed 2 seats in air-conditioned comfort. These were the last seats available.

The concert venue itself was fun. Perspiring with T-shirts and track pants on, both of us had no trouble getting grass space as we squatted on the right wing facing the stage. Because we were sitting on a slope, it was a balancing act throughout the show. 

So if you don't have nimble feet and acrobatic skills go further 'upstairs' near where Chopin is sitting with his wife. A better view and you can sit on the more level meadow. No trees behind. The deadly one crashed remember?
It was about 5.30 pm. Sun kept us steaming. But the greens, flora, whispering winds and chirpy birds kept the balance; it wasn't uncomfortable.

The newspapers announced 10,000 persons came. It didn't look that many to me but the figure is possible. 

Sharp at 6 pm, handsome conductor Jason Lai, in a polo-T, jumped on the stage like the gymnast he was as he announced the evening's performance. He looked more like a fitness instructor. Fit as a fiddle? 😊 And sporting a whistle-thin moustache too.

Meanwhile, two jets flew above us, drowning Mr Lai's short introduction. National Day coming mah!
The performance was superb! I came just to listen to excerpts from West Side Story and Ritual Fire Dance. But Morning Mood from Peer Gynt (Greg) just blossomed as the Singapore sun started to set. 

When Brahms was hardly a minute on, my temporary neighbours started chatting and peanut packets were crackling. First Youth had better attention but Maria and Tonight kept everyone hushed. Some Seniors were humming. (full programme below).

Meanwhile the people kept pouring in; in fact, they kept on coming even when the concert was about to end. Puzzling. One of the passers-by was heard shouting on his phone.
"Hey, where are you? I'm here, I'm here!" as he waved his hand in front of the crowd. The music was playing, Home.

It was a short concert but SSO on stage, with all its Botanic Gardens challenges, sweaty T shirts and wet palms, was a joy to listen to.

While walking to our car we bumped into my friend's old buddy. A member of the SSO he is. Pictures and phone numbers were exchanged.

If each one of us had taken along the rubbish we left back there and dumped them in the bins, the workers would have had a happier time the next morning.

Thank you, Jason Lai, SSO, The Straits Times and the Botanic Gardens
22 July 2017 Programme:

Grieg: "Morning Mood" from Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op. 46

Brahms: Third movement (Poco allegretto) from Symphony No. 3 in F major, Op. 90

Bernstein arr. Jack Mason: Selections from West Side Story.

Morricone: Cinema Paradiso: Theme, First Youth, Love Theme

Falla: "Ritual Fire Dance" from El amor brujo

Dick Lee: Home. (Encore)
Images: A Private Collection, Google.
Video above is only temporary and will be replaced after some technicality.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Singapore 70's Brief Music History (2): Michael Bangar

Today is 17.7.17. 

Here's a special posting from Michael Bangar. I would like to thank him again for writing this series.  He's just as good with his essays as he is on his guitar. Thank you, Mike:

While the music revival was going on in the UK, far far away on this little sunny island we call Singapore; brewing in this huge melting pot was our early 60's, bands. 

Getting active were The Quests, The Silver Strings, The Trailers, The Dukes, The Checkmates, The Thunderbirds, Mike and The Mysterians, Sunny Bala and The Moonglows (of which I was in the lineup in Sunny B's last phase of the band, before his passing.) In actuality, there were many other active bands to name.

Along with these bands came other artistes too. The Van Dort brothers Mike and Herb, The Choy Brothers James and Siva, Keith Locke, Wilson David, Paul (Winston) Cheong, Vernon Cornelius, Winston Walters, Brian Neal, Bobby Lambert, Stevie Lorraine, Sakura Teng, Rita Chao and the list go on.

As a school boy, I used to watch all these stars perform at as many of their shows as I could afford at that age.  It meant saving as much of my school cake money to buy the tickets. Concerts were held at the old National Theatre, Victoria Memorial Hall, the Singapore Badminton Hall and even in some school halls.
"Bobby Lambert and the Dukes, featuring Ahmad Murad Bin Sulaiman, Zainal Abidin Bin Sulaiman, Richard Young and Zainal Abidin Bin Akib. Their first record release included titles like First Bend In The River, Rave On, False Alarm and Day Dream, the last two being instrumentals."

For me, these concerts had much influence on my life as a musician. I used to go to watch these shows with eager anticipation and excitement all inside me. I thoroughly enjoyed them.

Then in the late 60's and early 70's, mainly in the UK, there emerged a Blues boom that evolved into Rock (heavy metal music as some would call it). The Jimi Hendrix Experience and a bit later, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple surfaced on the scene.
Over in Singapore the same genre bands took roots: Fried Ice (with Ray Anthony - Singapore's answer to Jimi Hendrix), The Straydogs (with twin axemen L.T. Soon and Jimmy Appadurai), Barb Wire with Chris Vardam, Pest Infested with Alam Shah and Vocalist Ernie Koh and Sweet Charity (who later moved on and pioneered Malay Rock in the Malay Music Market. Black Dog Bone followed). 

The other more renowned bands that need mentioning are The Surfers who later became October Cherries (image below: Richard Khan - drummer), The Western Union Band and The X'periment with Joe Chandran (now known as Joseph Aron) as lead vocalist. Then there was Singapore's premier rock band with the three Jansen Brothers: Heritage. All the bands mentioned bands leant more towards the pop music of the day.
While all this was going on in the UK, in the US another genre of pop music was being created: Jazz Rock which was the merging of Jazz and Pop Rock when brass instruments were added.

There were groups with unlikely names like Blood Sweat And Tears, which actually started this genre. Then there was Chicago Transit Authority (they later shortened their name to Chicago), followed by Chase (with Bill Chase as the band leader but this band perished in an aeroplane crash.
               October Cherries: World Hits 1972 Video from sholimz

Local bands paralleled the trend with The Flybaits (above), Tony Castillo and the Castillians, The X'quisites, The Breed (of which I was with for a short while) and others, too many to name. All these bands worked in most nightclubs in Singapore and abroad.

Later, other bands like Gingerbread and Tokyo Square reared their musical heads in the 1970's. For a while, there was even a jazz outfit called the AJL Trio consisting of star players like Albert Ventura, Jayram Shotam and Louis Soliano Tan (image below). They later added saxophone man Stephen Rufus to their line-up.
Michael Bangar with Rickie Chng, Laurence Lim and Andy Young @ Raffles City in 2017.

During the same period in the late 70's, another jazz trio got together to form JERAMZEE, consisting of Jeremy Monteiro on the keyboard, Ramli Shariff on bass and Tony Zee (former Trailers) on drums (who later moved on to form Jive Talking with its long residency at The Hard Rock Cafe in Orchard Road. This band is still playing there but most of its original members have left the lineup.

Read Part 1 from here:

The article is Copyrights Reserved (Michael Bangar).

Images: A Private Collection and Google.
Drummer extraordinaire Louis Soliano, Andy Young and Richard Khan ('October Cherries' drummer on 16.07.2017)

Monday, July 10, 2017

Rum & Coke: Singapore 60's Favorite Drink

The Dance:
In Singapore 60's, Saturday nights were called golden nights because it was the time when pop bands were playing at most of the night spots in Singapore. My friends and I would meet and proceed to one and since we lived on the East Coast, it was usually the Paya Lebar Airport nightclub with its tiny dance floor or the Ambassador at Meyer Road. The latter had a choice of two dance venues. We would go to listen to the latest songs, to dance and to buy a drink or two. 

There was also a joke running around those years, that boys and girls were hugging each other tightly on the floor rather than dance because the waltz and slow foxtrot were an excuse to do so. Instead of dancing the couples were actually lam-sing (translated lam in a Chinese dialect is to hold or hug). 

So during quieter moments when the band played sentimental melodies the dance floor would be packed. All the more for a squeeze. Cliff Richard's, When The Girl In Your Arms and The Shadows, Midnight would be the favourites. Soft slow, caressing music...

But there was the rhumba, samba, mambo or the cha-cha. Except for the cha-cha and the off-beat version, the other dance-steps didn't make a difference to many of us. 

The Drink:
The ladies would usually have a lemonade or an orange juice with ice. For the men, it's mostly beer or an alcoholic mix.  It was always Bacardi Coke for me. I've heard of Tequila but never touched it. In fact, it was so popular, that like Rum and Coca-Cola, there was a song dedicated to the strong and crazy drink, Tequila by a group called the Champs.

A teetotaller my whole life, I have always stuck to drinking only Barcadi Coke because it was the only drink I knew. Never had a chance to drink other mixes like Gin and lime or Soda and Whisky. Always loved my drink sweet and I was told I could get diabetes if I drank too much Rum n Coke.

I knew the taste so well that there were times when the bartender gave me an adulterated mix of the cheapest rum. But I had always asked for another glass, with the real thing and true brown that is dark rum. But without the slice of lemon.

Invented at the beginning of the 20th Century, this drink became so famous that it is only known as Rum and Coke in the US, UK, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, India and Singapore. In other parts of the world, it's Cuba Libre - not Canta Libre, which is a Neil Diamond song.

The Song:
The drink was so well received by the public in Singapore and the world, that almost every nightclub carried the concoction. In fact, there is even a song by a well-known vocal group called The Andrew Sisters. 

Drinkin' Rum and Coca Cola
Go down Point Koomahnah
Both mother and daughter
Workin' for the Yankee dollar
Oh, beat it, man, beat it...*

It is a very old song with a Calypso beat and composed in 1945 but became popular through the years as the drink would have. Singers like Chubby Checker, Julio Iglesias and Wanda Jackson had recorded it. The original version by the Andrew Sisters had been recorded three times on three different labels, Decca, Capitol and DOT.

This article is an Original Composition.
The Ambassador Hotel at Tanjong Katong by the East Coast beach. It has since been demolished.


Published by
Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
Song Discussions is protected by U.S. Patent 9401941. Other patents pending.
Video from: beyoncetyratina.

When The Girl In Your Arms Is The Girl In Your Heart. Cliff Richard Video by rich963.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Moby Dick The Whale & Sea Life Struggle On

Save The Whales And Sea Creatures: Ban Plastic Bags.

"Thar she blows..."

Coming from Captain Ahab whose leg was bitten off by Moby Dick, the creature was, "an accursed white whale that razeed me made a poor pegging lubber of me for ever and a day (1)."

The book Moby Dick, a classic novel by Herman Melville, has brought to mind the plight of these sea mammals and other ocean creatures, victims again, not of whale hunters like Captain Ahab but by irresponsible people who use the ocean as a huge rubbish dump to discard their garbage. 

Most of these waste matters are placed in plastic bags and swallowed by the poor whales and other forms of marine life. Whales have also been killed for food by some communities. In time they die, like Moby Dick and those in the story, "Oh, lonely death on lonely life! (2)."

Michael Bangar (image right), Singapore guitarist and musician has this comment to make, "Andy, the biggest culprit is mankind, as with a lot of other problems throughout the globe. Rubbish that has been thrown overboard from seafaring vessels over many, many years are swept out to sea from rivers, streams, canals and drains worldwide.  Many countries don't set control laws and throw their waste into the oceans.

It is a huge but unseen problem that needs massive cooperation from all nations to rectify. The poor sea creatures suffer. We just don't know how many more of them have died from this catastrophe. Like the poor innocent whale, thinking that rubbish-filled plastic bags was food. So sad!"
In the song, made popular by Frankie Laine in the mid-fifties, the whale was a symbol of fear: 

Oh Moby Dick was so big and slick
There was never such a whale
He'll take a ship with the slightest whip
Of his mighty, mighty tail...

We know today that the whale is not the aggressor. Man is. Merlin Lim (image below), the former guitarist for pop band Silver Strings, roamed the world in large ships after he decided to work at sea. Here's what he said:

"Andy, I saw the video sometime back and have been thinking about how the whales and other sea life suffered because of the human being's lack of respect for these creatures. 

I recalled the time I served on board ships. All rubbish, food waste, plastics included, were dumped overboard while the ship was at sea. Seagulls would hover over the garbage, pick up bits and pieces of food and debris while the rest sink into the ocean. 

These remains will eventually end up in the stomachs of the bigger fishes as 'food'.  The practice has been going on for years from way back in the early 70's.
Sad to say, I am also guilty of this big mistake we have all made." 

Indeed Michael and Merlin. And as we, "Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool (3),"  we are all guilty as hell.

An Original Article (Copyrights Reserved).

I thank contributions from Michael Bangar and Merlin Lim, both rhythm guitarists from The Silver Strings.
1,2,3: Quotations from Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Images: A Personal Collection; Google.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Elvis Presley? Legacy? Kids Don't Know Who He Is.

Legacy? What Legacy?

I used to watch retired comedians and talk show hosts, Jay Leno and David Letterman on television, perhaps more in Canada than in Singapore. Both were good and had great guest stars on their shows. Leno collects cars as a hobby, Letterman spews fantastic political jokes with tenacity.

*Leno was asked about his own legacy: 

"Nobody cares. I was in Vegas and they were taking down an Elvis Presley exhibit at one of the hotels. 

I said, 'What's going on?' 

They said, 'We're taking this down, the kids don't really know who this is anymore.' 

If you don't know who Elvis is, I don't think my legacy is something you have to worry about."

*From: Go Ahead, Quote Me. SPH Websites Lifestyle - 1.7.2017.
Images: Google.


Jay Leno is right. Elvis Presley, a mega star will soon be forgotten, except in the hearts and minds of those who have actually seen, heard, influenced or read about him. As the years go by, he will just be a name in pop music history. The adage, 'time and tide...' holds true.

What about our local kids? Do they know who our Singapore 60's band boys and girls are? 

First, the tide rushes in
Plants a kiss on the shore 
Then rolls out to sea
And the sea is very still once more...

Song: 'Ebb Tide'
Singer: Frank Sinatra
Writers: Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart.

Elvis Presley Images:

          Elvis 'Burning Love' with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Blog Comments From Professionals and Musicians

These blog comments found at the end of postings through the years were picked at random. I must thank all these friends and readers for their support. It's nice to know that there are people who appreciate my blog and write to tell. Andy Young.

(Random Order Below.)

"This is one of the few blogs I read regularly as it is a treasure trove of memories and information on the golden age of local music." - ADRIAN TAN: Singapore Wind Symphony Conductor.

"You are writing a great blog and I do read that. Keep doing it and try and tell the musical story of Singapore when we were younger!" - DR JOE PETERS: Musicologist, Journalist.
"I don't know if you see this but, if you do, I wouldn't mind being contacted by you. I'm Charles Lazaroo's grandson and, while I may not know my grandfather enough, I'm hoping to be able to provide whatever assistance I can." -CHARLES LAZAROO.
"Terima Kasih banyak Andy. Playing the song brought back many fine memories of visits to my father's employees homes, to visiting my Che'gu (teacher) when he still lived in a kampong, and to the festivities in the kampong at the Turf Club. Many of the lyrics came right back to me." - TRACY RICHARD: From the UK who lived in Singapore in the 60's.
"Stumbled across your blog while researching about Hawker Trade in Singapore. I am a "modern day hawker" myself and my name is Erich-I operate a German Sausage Stall in Chinatown since 2004. I find your blog entry most educational and a superb glimpse back in time. May I ask your permission to link your blog to my FB group-Hawker Trade in Singapore revived.Our fellow members of the group will appreciate your documentation and maybe some are inspired to drive the Hawker Trade forward. For sure you inspired me. Tks and all the best Erich. I also can be reached on FB under Hawker Trade in Singapore revived-and Friends of Erich's Wuerstelstand & Backstube-Chinatown, Singapore." ERICH WUERSTELSTAND.
"OMG. It's nice to see a blog so different and full of nostalgia. Good Job Mr Andy! I was surfing around to find about the old Rex Theatre and came across your blog.  Do you have any fond memories of it and its vicinity? " WOMAD: One Of Andy's First Blog Readers.
"Hi Andy  I just stumbled onto your blog and I must confess that I am more of a 70s music fan (I am slightly younger than most of you:)) but I am quite familiar with 60s music ... Hollies, Tremeloes, Beatles, Letterman, Lulu, Petula Clark, Glen Campbell, Seekers, Cliff Richard and the Shadows (I also remember the local Tit-Bits Talentime winners, October Cherries, Ahmad Daud, P. Ramlee,) etc. This is great memory lane stuff and a wonderful resource for those seeking to indulge in nostalgia or doing some serious research! (I should know... being a professional historian.) Congratulations!" FRANK-MICHAEL CHIARA.
"Keep up the good work. Your blog is something you don't gain overnight with that many views;  I am sure many other chroniclers of Singapore music want to have a blog like yours. Remember, just because we write does not mean we want every Tom, Dick and Harry to be our friend. It's best not to spread ourselves too thinly, like those people in one social media, with more friends than they can manage in a lifetime. I don't like social media for this reason. Who can hang out with 3,000 friends?  Ridiculous to me. If I can have just friends as many as my toes I am happy, friends I can trust, and count on, to respect my privacy... like you and Horace Wee, that is enough for me." GUITARIST from FRIED ICE, MATT TAN, CANADA.
"Keep up the interest of your readers. You have gained many friends in the process through your passion for writing.  Now I am convinced that you have to put it together in a book.  Really again :-) " LEAD GUITAR, THE TREKKERS, HENRI GANN.
Hi, Andy. It's true that I copied many popular songs on textbooks with a pen. I started this very young during my early teen, and my own compiled song books are still with me till today! Well, too bad, during our years we didn't have a computer like today. Yes, you said it correctly, I'd would cut out pictures of pop stars or groups and posted on my own songbooks. The pictures were from the former "Radio Weekly" which was sold for 30 cents a copy in the early sixties. Thanks Andy for your wonderful postings."  ANONYMOUS called, FL.
I was lucky enough to get a ticket to watch this film at Roxy Theatre in the late fifties. The moment Bill Haley appeared and started belting out the song "Rock around the clock" the whole audience stood up, clapped their hands and gyrated to the music of rock and roll. I enjoyed the show so much that I watched it no fewer than 3 times. Thanks Andy for the nostalgia.  ANON.

"Good read. I was still a young kid in Tanglin Halt back then and became aware of this as I grew up there. Thanks for sharing this.  I love reading your articles. That's history right there." LESLIE WILSON JOSEPH.
"This open air theatre belongs to my great grandfather... and I lived on the left side of the picture... as kids, we would stand on the stool - just to take peek at the movies... ha ha ha... life was simpler then: DAVID NEO.
Thanks a million, Andy's so interesting to discover that Singapore has its own musical talents all along ... since the early 1950's ...... anyhow, I learn a lot these days from your blog, Andy. ..always a delight to read your blogs ..keep up with the great work!!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Guess The Names of Our 60's Music Drummers

This quiz has been very popular. Up to 1,000 views so far. Thank you all for participating. Try it out if you haven't - 28.06.2017.


Singapore has many good and accomplished drummers. Below are pictures of 10 of them from the 1960's circuit. Most of my readers can do this quiz blindfolded. Come on, guys. It's too easy.

I must mention that these drummers with their bands are recording artistes and they all would have cut a single or an EP vinyl. If you have been reading this blog, they would have been mentioned using the same pictures.

Do you know who they are and from what bands they were from?

1) One of the earlier percussionists in our 60's scene, he was with the Thunderbirds too. A top drummer-boy.

2) This drummer is a good looker, quiet, and used to wear a mask with his group.  He burns the drumset when he plays.

3) The band name may help in recognising him. One of the earliest in the group. Thanks to Zainal Abidin for the information.

4) With this stylish group from the early 60's to the late 80's, he has since passed on. Thanks to Randy Lee for the information.

5) Another handsome gentleman who's as popular as his solid-sound guitar group. Check him out.

6) The costume is a tell-tale. One of the earliest drummers for the group, he has since passed on. Thanks to Freddie Kang for the information.

7) A friendly guy who is an expert with sound, our drummer is a writer now.
He's on Facebook today.

8) A quiet man but still as active, he lets his drums do the talking. The group name is a definite giveaway.

9) Famous for their picture with a big bird, this group has a drummer who's another heart-breaker with the ladies.

10) It was difficult to separate this top drummer away from his group. He's Drummer Z but definitely not the last. In fact, he's one of the best and still buzzing his drum-sticks.

So there you are readers. Fun and games. Just write your answers on the comment page. I'm also on Facebook under Andy Young 60's Music.

Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri to my Muslim friends and readers.