Sunday, April 13, 2014

Fun Fifties: When Bash Street Kids Meet Be-Bop-A-Lula

Dennis The Menace from Beano
Many people would remark that I really had bad taste! My mum did.  Desperate Dan, The Two-Gun Man. This was my reading fare in the 1950s and as a school boy I was focused on buying every comic book that was hanging on clothes-pegs at the corner Indian shop near my home.  My mother was furious and put on a frown whenever I came back with a copy.
Desperate Dan from Dandy
"Today, Beano. Yesterday Dandy..." she remarked sarcastically. "Tomorrow what? Batman! The comic books are dirty. They are made from the cheapest paper! And your hands turn black with printing-ink and since you don't wash them, they make you sick. You get sniffles all the time gluing yourself to the comics. You better stop reading them! They smell after a while!  Some are already starting to disintegrate in our weather."
Plastic Man. Whatever happened to him?
But I ignored her, piling up my new ones on top of maybe 10 or 15 stacks of the greatest comic collection this side of the world.  Smelly or otherwise, I had them all and I kept them under the study table in my bedroom.  
Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling!
I would consume these comics as I would a plate of chee cheong fun, spending the afternoons and evenings at home filling away the hours as I followed the antics and adventures of these exceptionally naughty kids and super humans.  They thrilled me beyond words!
Lord Snooty
Minnie The Minx

There were the DC Comics heroes.  Now these comics had attractively glossy covers and promoted Batman, Superman, Captain Marvel (alter ego of Billy Batson), Green Lantern and Plastic Man at their heroic best.

Then there were the funnies like Beano and Dandy comics which consisted Dennis the Menace, Bash Street Kids, Desperate Dan and if I remember correctly, Roger the Dodger.  There were also Minnie the Minx, Lord Snooty and the very popular Biffo the Bear. These characters were the ultimate in comedy and mayhem and kept me in stitches!

The Bash Street Kids - Ultimate in Mayhem
But wait a minute. What had all these characters and reading of comics got to do with pop music?  Well the melodies came in the background because as I read my favorite cartoon, I had Frankie Laine singing High Noon.  Then Vic Damone would come on air with, Stranger In Paradise. After that  Gale Storm with Dark Moon and a radio song-requester asked for an earlier hit, Billie Holiday's Pennies From Heaven.  Good choice.
Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps - First Singer In Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.
There was Gene Vincent too with his echo-chamber revolution, Be-Bop-A-Lula and Little Richard screaming, Rip It Up.  Many of them sounded squeaky on 78s and over the radio but they were great. Yes, I heard them all from my dad's PYE radio before Rediffusion even established a line of cable in Singapore.
Billie Holiday - Squeaky On 78s.
My mother was irked. "How can you be reading The Beano and yet appreciate Gale Storm and Billie Holiday..." she would question. I kept my mouth shut and smiled. The worst taste in comic strips and music choice?  Perhaps.  But this period I call the Fun Fifties as I lived my teen life.

Today children spend their time going for tuition classes and modern dads pay a fortune per session. Those days, I learned my English from comic books and pop music.  No iPads nor Tablets. And no Singlish too because many of these comics come from England and the US.  Hooray for Beano, Dandy and Billie.  These tokens of joy during my teenage years were truly pennies from heaven.

             Pennies from Heaven - Billie Holiday - You Tube video by direfranchement

Every time it rains, it rains pennies from heaven
Don't you know each cloud contains pennies from heaven?
You'll find your fortune's fallin' all over the town
Be sure that your umbrella is upside down


Trade them for a package of sunshine and flowers
If you want the things you love, you must have showers
So, when you hear it thunder, don't run under a tree
There'll be pennies from heaven for you and me...

Shazam! Boom!
Captain Marvel (Alter Ego Billy Batson)
Roger The Dodger.
So as I conclude this short story here's a thought. What about Singapore school girls?  What do they read in the 50s?  Ah, they read School Girls Picture Library.  But that's another tale.


1. Song from You Tube: Pennies from Heaven (1936),
American pop by Arthur Johnston and Johnny Burke.

2. Images from: Google, DC Comics, Beano, Dandy.

3. An Original Article.



Hi Andy

The comics that girls read were different: Nancy and Sluggo, Classic Comics etc.
But we also read what the boys were reading: War comics, Tarzan ... so we got to learn also to say "Schweinhund!" "Achtung! You Engleesh peeg!"

D x

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you D. for the visit and comment. I remember reading the same stuff too except for War Comics.


Dear Andy,

In the late 1940s and early 1950s I sometimes read Beano, Dandy, and Slick Fun. In the early 1950s I read Eagle, Topper, Captain Marvel, Superman, John Wayne, Lash LaRue, Archie, Jughead, Sun, Comet, Knockout, Film Fun, Radio Fun, Oor Wullie and The Broons (which were both featured in the Fun Section of the Scottish newspaper, The Sunday Post). Not too much high culture there, my friend!

Best wisheS.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi Allan,

I haven't heard of Knockout, Oor Wullie and The Broons but have seen the rest somewhere. Lash LaRue sounds familiar but I must look up that one. It was some kind of culture but not a high one. Ha, ha.
Thanks for visiting and the reply. It's hard to maintain a blog without Facebook nowadays.

chakap chakap said...

The Beano is a long running British children's comic which first appeared weekly in 1938. During World War II, The Beano and The Dandy were published on alternating weeks because of paper and ink rationing but supplies were fully restored shortly after the end of hostilities and weekly publication of The Beano and The Dandy resumed in 1949. In September 2009, The Beano's 3,500th issue was published.

The Beano comic takes its name from the English word 'beano' meaning 'a good time'.

There were frequent fictional crossovers between Dandy characters and Beano as most of the characters lived in the fictional Dandytown or Beanotown. Many of the comic strips are drawn by the same artists, and crossovers between the two comics occur occasionally.



"With few exceptions, every major pop singer in the US during her generation has been touched in some way by her genius. It is Billie Holiday who was, and still remains, the greatest single musical influence on me."

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

He was the first inductee into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame upon its formation in 1997. The following year he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2012, his band, the Blue Caps, were also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


Hi Andy,

I mentioned to you sometime ago regarding the above hits of the fifties.
I managed to find the song "If I Cry" sung by Joyce Taylor. Do you
remember this song? I am sure you are familar with the other "A Bunch
of Bananas" by Jose Ferrer and Rosemary Clooney.


ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi Chor Seng,

Thanks for the memory, the images and your support. Yes, I remember the songs. I shall put up your email under comment because I am sure others will want to remember them too.


JAMES KWOK said...

Hullo, Andy

What do you mean by "when you were in your youth..."?
I am still in my youth!

And whenever I find any Beano or Dandy Annual in second-hand bookshops or Thrift Shops, it's like finding gold.

These comics were my primary schooldays buddies. I didn't have the foresight to retain them each time I moved, but they remain in my memory.
I love all their characters, but particularly "Jimmy and His Magic Patch" and
"Red Rory of the Eagles."
I did not know then why Jimmy and Red Rory were my special favourites, but now
I believe that these two were free to go wherever they wish, while I was a rather
sickly home-bound kid, a product of absentee parents, chained to the prison called
home, oppressed by so-called"care-givers" who were truly sadistic pain-dispensers.
With his Magic Patch, Jimmy could go back in time to meet historical characters,
even adding to historical events his personal participation (which, of course,
historians miss, but we know better!) And Red Rory's eagles could transport him
across the hills and vales of Scotland, helping his Scottish heroes against their
English foes. In my imagination I was free to fly (eagle-enabled) like Rory, free to
time-travel (Patch-powered) like Jimmy, especially to win personal righteous victories
against evil oppressors.
Into my adolescence, imagination and daydreams had to give way to preparation
for adulthood, but now in my senior years I am doing my part to encourage my
own grandchildren and other juniors to nurture their power to imagine, to liberate
and not to suppress their imagination.

Regarding the importance of imagination, just think of this quote published in an
interview in “The Saturday Evening Post” in 1929:

“I am enough of the artist to draw freely upon my imagination.

Imagination is more important than knowledge.

Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

And who was the interviewee?

It might come as a surprise to many that the one being interviewed was none other
than the great man of scientific knowledge, Albert Einstein.

And Albert Einstein also said

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music.

I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.”


ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi James,

You are one Senior friend who inspires me time and again. Your essay about how important imagination is has prompted me to explain to my grandchildren the significance of the content of your email.

I remember 'Red Rory of the Eagles' too but not very clearly. Now I can understand why he was so popular those years.

Thank you again for visiting and especially sharing with my readers.


JENN M. GOH said...

Hi Andy


Sorry for not writing sooner. I am still very much on snail mode.

Well, about comics, i didnt really read comics except Archie and Superman and those in the papers. When I was in primary school, my class teacher used to frown upon those who indulged in comics. She emphasized on novels and probably dismissed comics as second or third grade reading material. Guess she missed out on the subtle wit and sarcasm in some good comics, and lived her life devoid of fun and fantasies. As I write this, I can see her face , framed with her iconic thick dark glasses and the boyish crop, right before me. She was like Mother Superior in an elite convent!!!

I am thinking of writing columns or whatever... Guess i do miss rambling my unscrambled thoughts.

Anyway, enjoy your week, Andy and stay awesome.


ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi Jenn,

It's been a while but thanks again for spending some time to visit and reply. I have always appreciated what time you can spare to write your thoughts down and send me a copy.

I guess your teacher meant well but not realizing that one of her students has now become a distinguished lecturer at an elite university.

Do keep in touch.

CYL said...

Ya, beano, dandy, archie. Not sure if the following were comic books but remember going crazy after tarzan and jane, popeye and olive oyl, nancy and sluggo, and a character called *sadie hawkins (American, I think) and there was a day in the year named after her -Sadie Hawkins Day when a girl could take the initiative to make a marriage proposal to a guy.

*Sadie Hawkins was with L'l Abner

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks YL. Didn't know you're also into comics. Always thought you only read 'Jane Eyre' and 'Northanger Abbey'. But many from your group of characters and comic strips could have come from the local dailies like The Straits Times, Sunday Times, The Free Press and Singapore Standard.

Appreciate you taking your time and commenting on this posting.

LARRY LAI said...

Looks like we grew up reading the same comics.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Great minds think alike, fools...

Thanks for visiting with the Season's Pass intact.


Dear Andy,

I loved your feature on comics and I'm glad so many people responded. You obviously struck a nostalgic nerve in all of us. I have a few anecdotes relating to comics/magazines when I was in Singapore in the 1960s.
When I was stationed at RAF Changi I used to buy paperbacks from the second-hand book stalls in Changi village and Orchard Road, but I don't recall any of them selling comics. There were several book shops in Bras Basah Road and I occasionally bought textbooks and hardbacks there. I remember calling at one of those shops on my way to the Capitol cinema and seeing a huge pile of Dandy and Beano comics from the 1940s and 1950s on top of the glass counter...

(To read the full story check postings after the Easter ones.)

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks Allan for your support without which this blog will never be as successful.

Readers can mouse the new posting about Bawdy Songs and Porn Books by Allan and myself after the Easter songs.

bantal silikon said...

this is good post...

i like this...

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you bantal silikon for you visit and sincere comment.


Andy Young
Comics, comics, comics. Now the kids grow up with internet gaming. Yesterday it was Captain Marvel, Beano and Dandy. Did you read these comics? Do write in.

Stephen Han
I was a comic bookworm and bought lots of comic books usually from Rex Book Store and the second-hand ones from various book shops at Bras Basah Rd. However, I did not preserve them otherwise I’ll be quite rich. By the way, Gene Vincent’s recording of Be Bop A Lula” is my fav.

Andy Young
The pages are made of newsprint Stephen and difficult to preserve. Unless like wine, you keep them in special storage containers. Thanks for the feedback. Appreciate.

Angela Leow
Loved Dandy and Beano. Still do actually. 😁😃💕

Andy Young
Hi Angel, yes. Great book readers usually read comics too. Still keeping up with your latest I know? Books, I mean...

Angela Leow
My latest, SONNETS FROM THE SINGLISH (2014 Literature prize SG)

Ah Angela,
that's very adventurous. Despite the big hoo-ha about Singlish, you're delving into its heart. Sonnets? Wow!

Freda Hanum
Feel really so enjoyable and fun reading about your comics article, rest of my comments in your blog. Have a nice day.👍😊

Andy Young
Hi Freda, thanks again for being such a supportive reader of the blog. I am very appreciative.