Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Barry Walker: Off-Beat, Multi-Racial Diverse Music Part One

Barry Walker came twice to Singapore recently but because of circumstances we never met. He wrote to me and has been kind enough to share his stories on this blog. Here is episode one of his pop music experience on our little island during the mid 60s:

Barry Walker today
"I first visited Singapore in 1957 as a young boy on my way to Kuala Lumpur with my father who was with the British Intelligence Corps.

I used to listen to as much music as I possibly could via a little speaker on our wall which I believe was called Rediffusion which transmitted one or two hours a day and a station from Australia very early in the morning, on an old valve radio. I was really smitten by The Everly Brothers, Elvis, Ricky Nelson and The Ventures among others.

I lived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaya for four years and returned to the U.K. in 1961.  On my return I finished my schooling and joined the army as a Boy Soldier progressing to Senior Military in 1964, still retaining my musical interests.
Barry Walker and In-Sect at RAF Changi Mess

In 1966 I was posted to Singapore where a friend of mine John Reeves introduced me to The Figures. The original line up was Eugene Kwok - Keyboards, Victor Yeo – Rhythm Guitar, Patrick – Lead Guitar, Albert – Drums and Anthony Ho – Bass Guitar joined by me (image left). We hit it off and started practising really hard in a little government flat where all the local people would come to watch and listen. We cut our first record and started playing all over the island. *Charlie Charles had arrived in Singapore on his first military posting and took over from Albert on drums.
Eventually the hard work paid off as we started playing at most of the Army, Navy and RAF clubs in Singapore regularly before ending with the final line-up. The man responsible for getting our bookings was Fernando Young. The Dukes was a group that I sang with occasionally because when their singer couldn’t make it I would take over.  When they completed their residency at the Princes Garni Hotel, The Figures / In-Sect took over and played for more than a year.  This venue was where tea dances were held on Sundays.

Can play off-beat la?
There used to be a guest band every Sunday so two bands would play from about 2.30/3.00 to 6.00/6.30. The standard of musicianship was always very good and the place used to be packed. The strange thing was, most of the audience always used to ask ,“Can you play off beat lah?"

We never did find out what this meant. Fernando also managed this location. We also played at The Golden Venus with The Straydogs and various other local bands.

On Wednesday evenings there used to be a thing called Vespa Malam in Orchard Road which coincided with Pasar Malam (night market) so many people would stop and watch the various bands playing. We also played at The National Theatre and at The Capitol (the legend of local cinemas) on Sunday mornings. 

There were maybe 10 to 15 different artistes appearing all of whom were totally different. It used to start at 9.00am on the dot so we had to be there at some unearthly hour to set up and were then told roughly what time we would be on.

 Musical Express @ The Capitol Cinema.

All this was after always having played on Saturday evening, finishing around 1.00am, packing up all the equipment, driving back, unloading the equipment and trying to snatch maybe an hour's sleep before starting all over again for The Capitol and when that was finished, clear out and off to the Princes Garni for the Sunday tea dance. I don’t think many of today’s bands could have coped with that.  We must have been mad!

We had a guy, Colin Burnett whom I believe was the original roadie in Singapore who ensured all the equipment got from A to B and also helped us to set up. Some of the amplifers and PA systems were very heavy, especially on some of the stairs we had to negotiate to get to where we were playing. It was tough but very rewarding especially musically. By the way, we also had very demanding day jobs.
Calling for The Straydogs.

I don’t really recall an invasion of Western music. It was fantastic being part of a band that was always very multi-racial without realising, and also the diverse kinds of music each band member liked. I had records that I had bought over from the U.K. but Singapore was a great place to obtain any music you wanted really with a few exceptions."

*Formed in 1977 to promote Ian Dury's album New Boots and Panties on the first Stiff Records tour of the U.K., Charlie Charles was a member of  Ian Dury & The Blockheads. Charles passed on in September, 1990 and Barry was one of his pall-bearers.

For more articles about Barry Walker, his band members and his correspondence click his name under Labels below. Similarly with Eugene Kwok and The Straydogs.

Images and Article: Barry Walker (Copyrights Reserved). No parts to be extracted for use in any publication.

(Excuse the poor paragraphing. Blogger has no control with the template. BlogSpot still hasn't remedied this problem.)


Andy Lim* said...

Cha Cha Cha is a very simple dance that can be learned by anyone in 10 minutes. The music is always 4/4 with the characteristic "cha-cha-cha" drum beat at 3 and 4 of the bar. This social dance can be executed with or without holding. There is no fixed routine, and dancers can perform any step that comes to mind.

*Off-beat cha cha is an interesting variation that is usually danced to Chinese pop songs.

It's got that extra beat on that one single stick-hit on the side-drum where dancers can jiggle a hip or kick that leg.


Check out this site for different dance styles.

The extra bit is from Andy.

Yusnor EF said...

Andy Lim

Thank you for the infor. Great article; some good reading for the young musicians.

Andy Lim* said...

Thanks Yusnor for visiting. Glad you appreciate the posting. Barry Walker's experience with the Capitol morning shows is an interesting read.


Hi Andy- I'm sorry for this late response- Know what- I left my copy in Singapore when I left a long time ago- I ve been trying to have someone send me these songs as I have forgotton how they sound like- Once I hear them I will be able to recollect how they came about- Andy if you have a copy-could you play it?

Andy Lim* said...

Hi Robert, Thanks for reply. Hope you get this. Need to transfer songs to computer. May take a while.

Andy Lim* said...

I have published this a little late but Barry's posting has made me realise that there are a lot of music people out there trying to get in touch with each other for different reasons.

If anyone else can help please write to me on my email address on the right bar of this blog.

TTT has made enquiries and got some information but if you wish you can help out too.

Thank you.


Hi Andy,

Hope you are all well, Had a quick look at the blog & noticed that Barry (good name that! J ) was a “Boy Soldier”! I also joined the Army as a Boy at 15yrs, went to Army Apprentice School Chepstow in 1960 & did 3 yrs training.

Curios as to where Barry trained? Mary & I are going back there this month as it will be 50 yrs since we “Boys” passed out of training, looking forward to seeing some old mates. Maybe you could pass my details onto Barry.

Andy Lim* said...

Hi Barry,
Have passed your message on. Hope he gets in touch.

I am so glad I started this blog. Don't know how many old friends have come together in this ole coffee shop.

JAMES KWOK said...



Hi Andy,

you have recruited me into the RAF instead of The Army !

Very best regards,

Sent from my iPad

Andy Lim* said...

I must apologise to Barry and all my readers for providing the wrong information. Barry Walker was in The Army and not in the RAF.

Andy Lim* said...

Thank you James Kwok for the salutation! And the chat on the phone with all that information about the 60s.


Hi Andy,

It just occurred to me, if you go on YouTube and type in Link Wray 'Unchain My Heart' and also Link Wray 'Midnight Lover' Charlie is shown quite a lot. Brilliant drummer.

Very best regards

Andy Lim* said...

An internationally well-renowned drummer once played with our own band boys in Singapore. Thank you Barry for the reminder.

JIMMY from DECIBELS said...

Hi Andy,

A big thank you to Barry Walker for his contribution to your wonderful blog. I certainly hope this will spur the many local band-boys of the 60's era to contribute their own stories to your blog as well. Btw, I used to frequent the Orchard Road Pasar Malam and would often buy "Arrow Aloha" brand shirts which cost only $2 each! And eating freshly made curry puffs (at 10-cents each) while watching the bands perform at "Vespa Malam".

Best regards.

Barry Walker said...

Thanks for your appreciation Jimmy. It would certainly be good if more band members from th 60s & 70s would contribute to Andy's brilliant blog. Like everything, unless people speak about things they will soon be forgotten and lost forever. The history of Singapore Music is very important.......................

Do any of you remember the GREAT blues harmonica player / singer Junior Wells who played in Singapore ?

Best regards


Andy Lim* said...

Junior Wells and his band of 4 musicians were in Singapore around the 8th of January 1969 to perform for two nights at the Singapore Conference Hall. Their equipment alone weighed 800 pounds.

Barry Walker said...

Our whole band and friends went to the concert, Wells and the band were absolutely brilliant. 800lbs of equipment was a lot for those days. I remember this being a headline in the local press.

Andy Lim* said...

Yes Barry. They were on a tour going to many countries, having performed in some Asian ones before coming to Singapore.

Apparently the tour was sponsored by the U.S. to promote RnB and Soul.

Junior Wells had since passed on, leaving a legacy that's hard to match.

Preston said...

This is cool!