Monday, January 21, 2013

John Harper's Singapore 50s Music Trail: Part Two

"For this second part, I'll be looking at the influences I encountered on the journey to Singapore and during our time there between 1957 and 1959.

During 1957 to mid 1958 we would go for family meals in Changi Village to either Tong Sing's Restaurant or next door to the air conditioned Milk Bar. The Milk Bar had a juke box and my father would often get up and put some money in and choose a few records. Most embarrasing, even to this day was Max Bygraves singing about those blue and pink toothbrushes. He thought he was putting something amusing on for my brothers an me. Fortunately he realised after only a few times that we were not amused.

1950s Changi Village, Singapore
His other choices always included Harry Belafonte, "Banana Boat Song" and his all time favourite "Island In The Sun". I think "Island In The Sun" was a favourite of the whole family because it more or less summed up our pleasure of being on a beautiful island in the sun that we all loved. Two others I remember from that juke box were "Tequila" and "Yakkety Yak".
A 50's juke-box playing vinyl records

This is where saxophones are beginning to raise their voices and I start to hear them and become interested in the saxophone, never did get round to learning to play one though! However my niece Deborah is a brilliant saxophonist, she actually played the saxaphone as she came down the aisle when she got married!

My own favoured instrument is the guitar and I have played bass guitar in a beat group (mid 60s term there) and played rhythm guitar in a few folk scenarios. With electric guitars I like a nice clean but twangy sound with bags of echo but do enjoy the sound of a good acoustic guitar played in a folky style. I think the twangy sound hit me when I first heard Duane Eddy playing "Rebel Rouser", it also has some evocative saxaphone working away contrapuntaly. Listening to it today it strikes me how it has a lot of amplitude tremolo and bags of echo.
Young Connie Francis
It was at this time that I became aware of vocal harmonies though I probably could not have described how it was done, my understanding of chords was to come a couple of years later from a school music lesson and when I took up playing the guitar. Liking of folky and country styles of music probably came from hearing Slim Dusty, mentioned in part one.

*Probably the greatest exponents of vocal harmony were the Everly brothers with "Bye Bye Love", "Wake Up Little Susie" and "Bird Dog". On the female front there are some nice harmonies going on on some of Connie Francis' records. I don't know whether this is another person singing with Connie or whether it is a second part sung by Connie and dubbed, However it was done, the effect is melodic and provides a warm richness to the music. Notable hits of this time, to me, were "Stupid Cupid" and "Who's Sorry Now".
Tommy Steele - British Pops late 1950s
Elvis appeared on the scene during these years and some of the favourite songs to sing on the bus to school along with the Everly Brothers "Bye Bye Love" were "Teddy Bear" and "Wear My Ring Around Your Neck". Also in there was Tommy Steele's "Singing The Blues". I think Sam Cooke's "Only Sixteen" was released just before we left to return back to the UK but might have been after we arrived back in England.
The Everly Brothers recorded album in mid 1966 but it didn't sell well.
In the third part I'll be looking at the rest of 1957 covering August to December which is the time we arrived back in England, just before the August Bank Holiday, our time in a transit hotel in Blackpool and our moving to Yorkshire."

Original article: John Harper Copyrights Reserved.
Same Cooke
(*It was at this time of the decade when vocal duets like The Blue Diamonds from Holland, The Cyclones comprising Siva and James Choy hit the Singapore stage with their own rendition of songs in harmony. Following the popular trend there were a few ladies who were called the "Connie Francis of Singapore". Up to this day no one really knows who owns the title or if there was ever such a singing competition honouring this singer with the clear diction and powerhouse vocals. Andy Lim.)

Images: from Google.


DOC LEE YS said...

Hi Andy,

Someone has requested for a Karaoke of Russ Hamilton's "We Will make Love". I have decided to put it on utube. Hope you like it.
All the Best and a Happy New Year!

KARAOKE said...

In line with the theme of this posting and an original You Tube contribution by Dr Lee YS from Penang, Malaysia, here's the connection to Russ Hamilton's 'We Will Make Love.'

Enjoy, but don't forget to come back to this blog.

YGBLOG4 said...

"Changi Village in the old days had its fair share of haves and have-nots. I belonged to the have-nots because my father worked for the RAF and was a fitter.

At first we stayed in the protected area - up on the hill next to the huge building where the British soldiers stayed. The quarters were terraced quarters and very small.

There were four families in each of the two terraced quarters. Each comprised only one room and we had a common toilet and bathroom some distance away from the quarters. My family stayed there till 1955 before we moved to another set of quarters just behind the Changi Village shophouses..."

To read more about Changi Village you can visit YG's blog.


I remember rotis (was that what they were called) wrapped in leaves and a hot drink in a milo tin with the lid squeezed back and dangling from a piece of raffia. I also recall buying shirts off the market, the sleeves wouldn't go over my elbows.

Haircuts were always an ordeal as the guy would insist on giving you a back massage with a quick introductory blow between the shoulder blades...

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

I have put up a few connections for those of you who wish to read about Changi Village. They are not music connections to melodies of the past.


THIS IS SUCH A COOL POST!!! i love how you're bridging the past and the present here.. :D

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you DJ for the comment and visit. Been a while since you wrote to this blog.

find.din3 said...

Dear Andy and Vincent, my music professor is interested in getting to know more information about music in the 60s and would like to meet up with both of you (separately if preferred) over coffee or lunch. Please let me know if both of you are able to meet up with him. We are both music enthusiasts and my professor has done many research in the music field and would like to expand his knowledge of music in the 1960s.

Please email me at and I will leave his contact if the meet up is possible. Thank you so much in advance. :) cheers to furthering music education in singapore!

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi Din,

Meeting up is not a problem but I don't know Vincent personally nor do I have his email address because he is a reader of this blog and has only written once about his father Maurice Patton (you read his letter).

I can only help you with my own short experience as a 'singer' (read my profile) but I can bring along a friend to help out. Relating my experience is fine but
I have a post graduate degree in Linguistics and a degree in English Literature rather than music studies. Music is a love, a hobby that keeps me happily busy.

Let me know how I can be of help to you and your professor so we can discuss the place and time to meet.


(I have written to Din via his email address).

FL said...

Hi, Andy, the old photo of Changi Village shops jolts my memory back to Jalan Kayu during my full NS. It was in 1971 when I was posted to Seletar East Camp after passing out at a recruit. The photo looks pretty much like those wooden shophouse along Jalan Kayu where the British use to shop there, too, I remember I had my first taste of fish & chips at one one the shophouses back then.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi FL,
Thanks again for the visit. Yes, I remember Jalan Kayu. And fish n chips. Were they wrapped up in a newspaper like how they sell them in the UK? One of my favourite dishes actually.

Please browse again when you are free. Next week Byrt Mallanyk, who lives in Sydney Australia now, talks about his stint as a singer at the Lost Horizon fronting his band called The Sundowners.

FL said...

Andy, I can't recall much, but I do remember the fish & chips were packed in paper and not boxes. I did not eat at the shop, but we bought the foods as takeaways (ta pow) when my comrades and I did our NS guard duty that night. From our guardroom to the fish & chip shop was a short walking distance.I also, remember there was a George's Tailor along Jalan Kayu where we brought our army uniforms for alterations ! For a fee, of course !

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

FL, I remember this Fish n Chips franchise from the UK which opened at Kallang Park in the 90s or later? Can't remember the name. I think it closed down after a while. The dish is not so popular with locals. I may be wrong here.

I do remember there's a novelty song about fish and chips, even a band too, named after this simple dish?

Thanks for visit.