Thursday, January 03, 2013

"Tunes That Crept Into My Consciousness" Singapore 50s With John Harper: Part One

John Harper
John Harper resides in York, England, plays bass guitar and lived in Singapore in the late 50s.   I met him recently with wife Ann where he recalled the times he spent on our sunny island.  When I asked him if he could share his music memories specially for this blog he agreed. Thank you John.

Part One:

The people we are today is the sum of all the influences on our life before today. Tomorrow we will be slightly different people because we have to add in today's influence. But, the difference will not be very much, because those influences of the past have already moulded and shaped us significantly along the way. Some of the influences that play a big part in moulding you include: your mother and father, where you have lived, the people you have met and the food, music and art you have experienced during that time.

"Killed him a b'ar when he was only three"
Probably the most crucial years are the years from the age of about 10 to 20 years of age. For me, two of those crucial years were spent in Singapore between the ages of 10 and 12 years old, arriving in Singapore in April 1957 and returning to the UK in July 1959. In this short series I'll be looking at the years just prior to our move to Singapore as Part 1, our time in Singapore as Part 2 and for the third part what was happening in the UK in the first few months of our return.

"Will we have rainbows day after day"
I had probably started to notice popular music in films and on the radio only a couple of years before we went to Singapore. This was possibly initiated by my mother taking my brothers and I to see films like “Davy Crockett”, “The Dambusters”, “The man Who Knew Too Much”, and probably that most influential of films for popular music that forever changed the mould; “Rock Around The Clock”.

By this time we were also listening to Radio Luxembourg which started the evening with a fifteen minute slot of "Dan Dare - Pilot Of The Future" fighting the evil green alien “The Mekon” before starting the evenings output of popular music. We were allowed to listen to Dan Dare and then to the music until it was time for bed.

The films introduced me to a variety of interesting music from the brand new thumping beat of “Rock Around The Clock”, to the gentler Doris Day number from “The Man Who Knew Too Much” “Que Sera, Sera” or whatever will be, will be.

"Put your glad rags on and join me hon"
When the Davy Crockett film came out everybody at school was singing the “Ballad of Davy Crockett” and some even wore Davy Crockett hats with the raccoon tail hanging down. Our aunt in Canada even sent us some printed Davy Crockett T shirts. I did not want to be different to all my class mates in those days and as they did not have T shirts like them I did not want to wear them publicly and actually kicked up such a fuss that they were put away. Somehow when they resurfaced when we got to Singapore and shirts with colourful patterns were the norm after school they were unpacked and worn with minimal fuss.
"Saying who can that fool be"
To this eclectic mix was added the theme from the "Dambusters" which had not really made much of an impact on me until my friend started playing it on a recorder and taught me how to play the first few bars. Further spicing the mix were a few tunes from the radio that had crept into my consciousness, "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White" played by the man with the golden trumpet a title Eddie Calvert justly deserved by following it up with another all time favourites of mine “Zambesi”. A few years later Zambesi reappeared in the superb format of a Hank Marvin arrangement for guitar by the Shadows, I think it was on about their third LP (On You Tube video below). 

"Branches of the two trees were intertwined"
Three songs popular in the UK before we left became popular in Singapore just about at the time that we arrived. They were Ann Shelton's “Lay Down Your Arms”, Eddie Fisher's “Cindy, Oh Cindy” and Johnnie Ray's “Walking In The Rain”. Because of the delay between songs being released in the UK and being released in Singapore and Australia releases wereabout six to twelve weeks behind what was popular in the UK. So, with these three songs we got to enjoy them all over again.
One song that I think was an exception to this sequence was “A Pub With no Beer” by Slim Dusty, recorded in Australia and distributed from Australia first. The flip side of it was an even folkier number called “Once When I Was Mustering”. More on this later.
"Nothing so lonesome, morbid or drear"

As you can see, my tastes are becoming wide and varied from the smooth hot brassy tones of Eddie Calvert, through the dulcet tones of Doris Day to the folksy nasal tones of Slim Dusty and I have barely started on the influences of the music I heard in Singapore.

The next article will cover 1957 and 1958.

CONNECT HERE for both:

Original article: John Harper Copyrights Reserved.
Images: Google.
Captions: from song lyrics.

John contributes to Buzz:


dino martin peters said...

Very interesting memories being shared....thanks for sharing them.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hey DMP,
Thanks for the visit and support. Readers should check out his blog about Dean Martin. It's been on since 2006.


John Harper's introductory note on email:

Hi Andy,

I was planning to do this as one piece thinking it would be fairly simple. But of course, like most of these things, as soon as you make a start it triggers memories and the list gets longer and the text grows with the list. So, I ended up breaking it into three parts.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

My email reply to John's contribution:

Dear John,

"Oh how I hate to write, dear John I must let you know tonight :-). "

Again thanks for the New Year gift of written pleasure. It's such a joy to read and a treasure to keep.

Please keep in touch. Until then...

Warm Regards.


Hey pallie,

You are most welcome Andy. As far as puttin' the columns in the book...gettin' all the rights to pallies' reflections and all those amazin' Dino-pixs woulda likes be totally totally impossible for a poor guy like me...but likes thanks for the great encouragement my Dino-devoted pallie!

Keeps lovin' our Dino!

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

'A Pub With No Beer' is the title of a humorous country song made famous by country singers Slim Dusty (in Australia and the USA) and Bobbejaan Schoepen (in Belgium, Holland, Germany and Austria).

The song was adapted by Gordon Parsons from the original poem 'A Pub Without Beer' by Dan Sheahan of Ingham, North Queensland (originally from Newmarket, Ireland).

The lyrics hold copyrights but I am publishing it so others can enjoy it together with the You Tube video. If there's objection please let me know and I shall delete it.

Pub With No Bear

Oh it's-a lonesome away from your kindred and all
By the campfire at night we'll hear the wild dingoes call
But there's-a nothing so lonesome, morbid or drear
Than to stand in the bar of a pub with no beer

Now the publican's anxious for the quota to come
And there's a far away look on the face of the bum
The maid's gone all cranky and the cook's acting queer
Oh what a terrible place is a pub with no beer

Then the stockman rides up with his dry dusty throat
He breasts up to the bar and pulls a wad from his coat
But the smile on his face quickly turns to a sneer
As the barman says sadly the pub's got no beer

Then the swaggie comes in smothered in dust and flies
He throws down his roll and rubs the sweat from his eyes
But when he is told, he says what's this I hear
I've trudged fifty flamin' miles to a pub with no beer

Now there's a dog on the v'randa, for his master he waits
But the boss is inside drinking wine with his mates
He hurries for cover and he cringes in fear
It's no place for a dog 'round a pub with no beer

And old Billy the blacksmith, the first time in his life
Why he's gone home cold sober to his darling wife
He walks in the kitchen, she says you're early Bill dear
But then he breaks down and tells her the pub's got no beer

Oh it's hard to believe that there's customers still
But the money's still tinkling in the old ancient till
The wine buffs are happy and I know they're sincere
When they say they don't care if the pub's got no beer

So it's-a lonesome away from your kindred and all
By the campfire at night we'll hear the wild dingoes call
But there's-a nothing so lonesome, morbid or drear

yo said...

Eddie Calvert

I had always wanted to meet him in England but alas he died of a heart attack in south Afrika in the late 70's. Reason being as a child in the late 50's and 60's? no exact date, Eddie had travelled and toured Malaysia and whilst in BP he appeared in the local cinema and I was to be a volunteer on stage for him to perform a 'magic trick' to the audience. That incident has remained in my conciousness for all that time.


ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Meeting Eddie Calvert

Hi Yo,

Wow I didn't even know Eddie Calvert had visited Malaysia in the late 50s and 60s.

Our long term memory always serves us well. Your experience to help him perform a trick on stage will definitely live on in your consciousness.

Thank you for writing. It's such a thrill to know that Eddie Calvert had touched your heart so many years ago.

Please visit this blog again if you have the time.


Hello Andy,

Wishing that you are blessed with all that you desire in the year ahead. Happy New Year 2013!

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi Alphonso,

Thank you very much. Season's Greetings to you and family too.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

"When I recommended Larry to watch the show below he passed it on to other friends, including George Favacho. Here's his reply.

Greetings Larry & Andy for 2013,

Thanks ever so much for forwarding me the opportunity of watching "The Kennedy Centre Honors (2012) - Full Show" on You Tube.

OMG what a Production! The Americans certainly know how to Turn It On ... Wonderful to see how they recognise and pay Tribute to their Best in the Industry.

The Finale "Stairway To Heaven" was indeed a Rock N Roll ANTHEM!

Will most certainly be watching this You Tube again ... Volume on Full and a Bottle of Wine by my side!

Yum Seng ..."

So to the rest of you guys out there, if you haven't seen it yet...

George Favacho - Perth

JT CHEN said...

Hi Larry,

The highlight is the segment on Led Zeppelin, especially the jaw-dropping rendition by Heart... oooooh... I'm going to take out all
my CDs and DVDs and start playing them again.

Stairway to heaven... If YOU have not seen it yet, DO IT! You won't regret it.

Andy, this is the best one you've shared with us!

LARRY LAI said...

I just spent a most pleasant 1 and a half hours watching this again.
Truly a superb show!

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

So again. If you haven't watched it check it out. You're missing a gem.

As John Harper puts it, this show will definitely creep into your consciousness.