Thursday, January 26, 2012

DECIBELS 65: A Band In The Making Part One

A sincere and humble member of pop group Decibels writes from his heart. Thanks very much Jimmy Chng for taking us into your world.

"For each renowned local pop band of the 60's, there must have been at least a dozen or more lesser known ones. Allow me to introduce myself and let you in on one of the lesser known pop bands of that era.

My name is Jimmy and the band I was in was called Decibels. Our 4-member group comprised Steven Lo (lead), Patrick Lian (rhythm), Charles Yip (bassist) and myself on drums. I must mention that my former school and Singapore Polytechnic classmate Douglas Cheng was the catalyst for the formation of a ad-hoc pop band which eventually led to the birth of Decibels.

The organisers for Singapore Polytechnic's 1965 Orientation Night were looking for a band for the occasion but were unable to find one. Now, Douglas could play rhythm guitar whilst another Poly classmate Steven Lo, could play lead. Douglas managed to get a drummer and a bassist friend to help out.

Together with some borrowed guitar amplifiers and only one or two practice sessions, this ad-hoc band was ready for the Orientation Nite gig! Thankfully, there was a last minute guest band - I can't remember the name - that the organisers managed to hire that "saved" the nite. Reason was that the ad-hoc band's repertoire was pretty limited.

All this while, my involvement was like that of a stage-crew - viz. helping out in setting up the guitar amplifiers, microphones, power extensions, etc. This one-off event sparked my interest in forming/joining a pop band. I had never learnt how to play the guitar nor the drums though.

Steven had a friend Patrick, who could play the guitar and I had a neighbour, Charles, who also could play the guitar. My late dad was an electronics engineer and he knew how to build amplifiers. Here we have 3 guys who could play the guitar so if I wanted to be part of the action, then I had to learn to play the drums!

I promptly bought a pair of drumsticks from Swee Lee or was it TMA? With some guidance from Patrick who had some rudimentary drumming skills, I started practising like hell... on table tops or whatever surfaces deemed practical.

Soon enough, my dad bought a set of second-hand drum set and that was the beginning of the band. The band's name Decibels was suggested by my dad. It is an electronic term used in measuring the loudness of sound. It seemed apt for a band's name and sounded nice too. Hence we adopted that name and in mid 1965, Decibels was born."


Image/Original article: Jimmy Chng Copyrights Reserved.


FL said...

Thanks Andy for the article of the band "The Decibels". I used to buy " The Radio Weekly" (RW) in the 1960s. I remember every week,RW would feature one or two new Singapore pop guitar groups in the the tabloid papers. I couldn't recall, but I think The Decibels was also featured in the RW. Perhaps, Jimmy (band member) could confirm it.Those were the wonderful years when we had many local pop bands,although many of them were not well-known like the Quests or The Trailers.

Anonymous said...

Dear Andy,

Thanks for posting the Decibels story on your blog.

I'll certainly spread the good news to the rest of the Decibels members whom I still have contact with.

I'm sure they will be as thrilled and honoured as I am that Decibels is featured in your blog! :)

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi FL,
You are always one of the first to comment on my blog. Thanks.

Yes I do remember that 'Radio Weekly' writes news about less well-known pop bands too.

In fact most of the books published in Singapore recently about our local bands and singers use the Radio Weekly as a source of information for the articles in their books.

In later years, 'Fanfare' which had pages in colour,
replaced 'Radio Weekly' for its pop music and entertainment information.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...


1. What had DECIBELS to do with 60s comedians Phil Silvers and Zero Mostel?

2. What happened to DECIBELS at the 'Battle Of Guitars' competition at the National Theatre Singapore?

3. In which bar at Anson Road, Singapore did DECIBELS perform?

4. What had Maidenform ladies wear to do with DECIBELS?


Jimmy said...

Hi Andy,

You are most welcome. Thank you very much for posting the "Decibels" story on your wonderful blog.

In answer to FL's comment on whether the Decibels was featured in the RW, I'm afraid that my memory fails me here. I can concur with FL though that the 60's were indeed wonderful years!


ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks again Jimmy.

After three years with this blog, I have now a 60s guitar group member who is willing to answer questions and comments.

Please feel free to ask them as Jimmy, FL and myself will try to deal with these queries from a personal pov.

The point is this. We were in the heat of things and not by-standers who will relate stories as an outsider looking in.

The (dance) floor is open...

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi Jimmy,
I have posted your letter so I can thank you publicly for agreeing to have Decibels' story published.

Your article is a detailed one and explains the trials and tribulations many bands experienced in the 60s.

Although it was tough going for some, the excitement and fun overide the difficulties and frustration guitar groups went through.

Lam Chun See said...

Thanks. I enjoyed this story. Even though I never knew any 'band boys' when I was young, interesting that 4 decades later, I am friends with not 1 but 2 such guys.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

First guy must be Peter Chan and the second?

Thanks for visiting.

FL said...

I thank Jimmy for his response.He also mentioned the two shops, Swee Lee and TMA. They were very popular for the sales of guitars (e.g Fender), drums, amplifiers,etc. Even my elder brother wanted to be a musician then. He bought a "Congress" guitar at Swee Lee for about $30 (a big sum in the sixties)! I still keep the guitar catalogues of the two shops till today ! BTW, Andy, I really have difficulties answering your questions, really.SOS!

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi FL,
Our family used to patronise Aurora, a departmental store at the corner of High Street and North Bridge Road.

Across the road from Aurora was TMA the music shop. There were not too many of them around then. Swee Lee was another.

Actually the teaser I put up about DECIBELS is a prelude to Part II which I hope to post later.
So please wait for it as the answers will be in it.

Interesting to note that you collect the shops' guitar catalogue. Yes, thirty dollars was a huge amount those days.

You and your brother must be guitar enthusiasts and play the instrument well?

Thanks again FL. Your knowledge about the 60s is incredible.

More importantly, your willingness to share your experiences and information goes to show your generouos nature.

DJCarlito: said...

(Commenting on Ervinna, Indonesian Singer):

Wow! she still looks great!! One of my favorite singers from the Singapore/HK disco era! thanks for the info Andy!

What Ervinna Postings said...

How are you DJ Carlito? It's been a while since you visited this blog. Thanks again.

Readers can check Ervinna's profile by clicking her name above and check three postings about her.

Andy Lim.