Wednesday, May 06, 2009

1965: Amber Mansion: Andy n Silver Strings

The image is of Amber Mansions, at the entrance of Orchard Road (left), where guitar groups played in the mid 1960s during Tea Dances at The Celestial Room on the floor above. Art galleries, quaint decor outlets, coffee houses and restaurants are terraced on the floors below. It was a place where the young nineteen sixties crowd would want to be seen at.

The Silver Strings was the guest band for many months at the Celestial and we had a taste of what tea dances were like when we performed there. It was a baptism of fire because it was the first time when the band had a regular weekend stint. We started off as a band that took over the resident one in between sets of 45 minute sessions. Sometimes there were as many as five sets per night.

The band's repertoire consisted of song hits like Apache, Kontiki and slow dance music like, Wonderful Land and I would take over with, When The Girl in Your Arms but heat up the Room with I Saw Her Standing There. The music would always be a mix of Cliff, Shdows, Beatles and Elvis, if we can manage. About twelve songs or more.

I first introduced a song that was popular in the living room at home. It became a hit when the TV  series Fireball XL5, a sci-fi marionette-based show, became popular with Singaporeans. The title song became our calling card for some time and fans were asking for "Fireball" when we came on stage.
The lead guitar was DAVE CHAN and not Dickie Tan (above).
The music was fast, the dancing was fast and so was the business. The brisk and efficient club ran for a while raking in some for the boss. He just knew what to do with his band of boys and with this novelty T dance craze.

The person in charge of Celestial Room was Mr Quek Sin Bock, a rather robust business man, frank and full of good cheer. He loved the band and I remember we turned resident and acquired more and more gigs from other nightspots. We were known as "Andy and The Silver Strings" and performed at the venue in the mid 60s, way before other bands did.

The building has since been replaced by Dhoby Ghaut MRT. 

Images: From The National Heritage Board Archives and Personal Collection.

Do not copy my posting.

Follow this Singapore 60's music trail.


Joanna Chan said...

Hi, just read your blog and it's very interesting! I would like to find out more about Amber Mansion. Is there any way I can contact you via email? I would really appreciate it.

Andy Lim* said...

Thanks Joanna, please write again and leave me your email address but this time I shall not publish your comment.

I shall write to you and connect you to the right people regarding your enquiry.

Amber Mansion said...

Hi Joanna.
Above website will be very helpful. Check it out.

VICTOR KOO said...

2a. My blogger friend Andy's post about his 1960s experience in performing at tea dances with the Silver Strings in the Celestial Room located on one of the upper floors of Amber Mansions.

Andy Lim* said...

Thanks for connection Victor. Your post reminds me of the shops at Amber Mansion that I have forgotten.

jean said...

Hello Andy.
I know I'm a bit late with this post as I came across your blog while looking up Amber Mansion's Celestial Room. My late mother(who was an Eurasian from Katong in Singapore) often talked about the tea dances there and how jovial & classy they were. Everyone made an effort to dress smartly for a soirée back then. Elnett sprays for girls and Brylcreem or Tancho for the boys were de rigueur.
Thanks for the picture. It gave my search an added identity to my Mum's anecdotes about her teen years in her beloved Singapore in the 50/60s. She was so proud to have come from a rich multiracial society that was/is Singapore. Such solidarity is illustrious and unseen elsewhere in the world.
Cheers Andy!

Andy Lim* said...

Hi Jean,
Thanks for the beautiful tale about your late mother. She must have been quite a 'cool cat' those years.

Glad to hear about Elnett, Brylcreem and Singapore's multi-racial face. You are right about solidarity being "unseen elsewhere in the world."

Appreciate your visit. I went to your profile but could not link to your blog...

jean said...

Hi Andy,
Excuse me for the late reply due to heavy workload.
I have no blog yet. I meant to seriously open one about my passion for Egyptian & Greek archeology but just never got round to it yet LOL. No time lah. One day soon I hope.

I go through your fabulous blog whenever I get the chance. Its a comfort zone for nostalgia buffs like me. Thank goodness for the Internet that's changed almost everyone's lives in creating a global village with communication at the touch of our fingers.
Cheers Andy!

Andy Lim* said...

Hi Jean,

What a coincidence. I had meant to leave for Egypt for a 13 day tour but couldn't manage cause of personal reasons and it isn't the first time i postponed the trip since the Arab Spring problems.

Thanks so much for your huge support. It's letters like yours that keep me going.

Let me know when you start your blog.