Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bill Haley's Comets And Black Market Tickets

On a little road in Singapore, way down on the East Coast.

A poster, 'Rock Around The Clock' (1956), like the above was the talk of the town in the late 50's in Singapore when the rock and roll explosion hit the country louder than Chinese New Year firecrackers. The Roxy Cinema was filled to the brim when the movie invaded the theatre near the beaches at the East Coast. (Roxy? The Roxie people know today would probably be the notorious lady in the musical, Chicago.)

When patrons wanted to buy tickets for shows like these, the queue circled round the Roxy building like a snake would round the victim's body. Black market tickets sold for as much as 100% more i.e: a 50 Cents front-seat ticket would cost $1.00 as tough, unruly boys filled the queue much earlier before a show to buy and control tickets.
Seats were cheap then and the cinema hall was divided into four sections i.e: the first 5 rows from the screen cost 50 Cents while the rest were priced from $1.00, $2.00 and $3.00 depending on how far away from the screen the seat was. The circle (upstairs balcony, back rows) was priced at $3.00. Or was it still $2.00?

Can you imagine paying $4.00 for a seat back in the old days? That's more than two day's salary for a school teacher. Black marketeers or should we call them hooligans were making their pile before the police in their Black Marias came to arrest them in later years.
Such was the impact when this music phenomenon rocked Singapore as Bill Haley, the Comets, the Platters and others came to town. So it's not true that Cliff Richard started the rock and roll craze on this island. He started the Shadows' band craze. 

Rock and roll took its roots way before Cliff Richard and Rolling Stones came to Singapore with movies like Bill Haley's with his one kiss-curl (image below) on his forehead. He had the girls screaming to their pony-tails when he appeared with his Comets on stage.
Images: Google.

Alan Freed:

Bill Haley, Chuck Berry, Connie Francis, Little Richard, The Platters were from the 50s rock and roll scene and not the 60's.

Elvis was the King but Alan Freed (the DJ who introduced Bill Haley in the above video), was the Father of Rock n Roll as he deemed himself to be. To him, it was a "river of music that has absorbed many streams, rhythm and blues, jazz, rag time, cowboy songs, country songs, folk songs. All have contributed to the big beat (Wikipedia)."

Watching the two movies by Alan Freed gave a simple idea of what rock and roll were all about. The movies were actually music videos that we find so rampant on TV (before YouTube's arrival) but with thin story lines that pieced the music appearances of the different groups together.

If YouTube (current) got many new singers and musicians started today, Alan Reed's two movies could have got quite a number of artistes on their path of success too.


Anonymous said...

I was lucky enough to get a ticket to watch this film at Roxy Theatre in the late fifities. 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.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for writing. I remember doing the same thing ie watched the show two times and came out refreshed and feeling I had conquered the world.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hey ladies, remember BILL HALEY and his KISS CURL? And the guys too. Every young man was pushing his front locks down to make the curl. Cool. And after parting with their girlfriends, they will announce, "See you later, alligator."🙄

ROSE KHOO said...

Yes Odeon Katong
Palace n Roxy.... walking distance from the school.


Hi Andy,
I was fortunate as a youngie to be taken by my parents to the Badminton Stadium to watch Bill Hayley and the Comets and the Platters in the 50s.

It was a loooooong time ago - only remember having to dress up and listening to the songs we had on 78 rpm (hand-wound gramophone).

A pleasure to share - it was a highlight indeed for this kampong kid to attend an affordable live international concert. I still love attending concerts - though some can be prohibitive for the wallet. I've only got LPs and EPs with me (and cassettes too).

It is a shame about Robinson Petang - such an icon to be lost (hope a committee can overrule the decision soon but hope they dont charge the vendors rent too!

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Again thanks for sharing Edmund. A Bill Haley 78 rpm will cost a fortune today. I have some RUSS HAMILTON 78's bought for two dollars each from Sungei Road, just 3 years ago. They cost much more now. That's why some people are upset when S Road closes next month. No flea market!


Leslie Wilson Joseph
Ann Rowena Lim
Tan Soo Khoon
Alphonso Soosay
Rose Khoo
James B. Wright-Brown
Edmund Arozoo



Tony Curtis is not only a good and very handsome actor but also an art painter.He married Janet Leigh of the Psycho fame.Then he married Christine Kaufman after they finished filming "Taras Bulba"Later he had another girl for the company before he passed away.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

This post has been revived once.

This was in the mid-50's when Jerry Fernandez (The Neu Faces) and Zainal Abidin (The Dukes) were still playing marbles. Cliff Richard too was learning C, F, G7 chords on his guitar. John Cher, of course, was already playing his drums (below). Any nostalgia guys? :-)

MARTIN ONG said...

Great movie I'm still young can't remember much.

ROSE KHOO FB said...

Yes ...Palace, Roxy n Odeon Katong.
I remember we bought pirate tickets once during CNY outing with classmates😊
Also gave ourselves banana splits treats at the dark Wonderland coffee house! My school TKGS just around the corner!


Hi Andy.
Thanks very much for the memories! Went to the Roxy with a friend who gave me a treat. I was 14 yrs old then.

A few years later, when I was 19 or 20 yrs old. I was at the Sea View Hotel for The Dale Carnegie graduation party. I remember being selected to introduce the guest of honour who was the Commandant of The Indian Air Force. How I wish I could go back in a Time Machine.


ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks so much for sharing Stephen (truly a regular), Rose, Martin, John and Ericbronson. Do you still watch movies today, Ericbronson?


Sorry, l forget to answer your question?
Yes, l still watch movies, but only two or three each month, I'm very selective these days n choose carefully what to see!


So your taste is 24 hrs rocking life ...happy rocking Andrew Young ...power 🕺🕺🕺🕺🕺👍👍👍👍👍

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...


John Cher
Koh Sui Pang
Rose Khoo
Jennie Law
Ho Victor
Tin Leong Lim
Jimmy Appudurai-chua
Charlie Yap Locomotion
Ericbronson Wong
Ann Rowena Lim
Roop Singh
Winston Koh