Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Singapore 60s Bands Sing About Their Ladies

Whether it's Mary Lou or Corrina, Judy or Diana, pop music has many song titles with ladies' names since most of the songs have romantic themes. From A in Amanda by Rod Stewart to Z in Zelda by Pete Townshend, female names are targeted and the numbers can go up to many hundreds.  

Similarly with our local band boys and their recordings on vinyls. Checking a personal library there was Henry Suriya who recorded DONNA, The Christones had AURA LEE, our teacher star across the causeway, Frankie Chia sang about his CHERYL MOANA MARIE and the Dukes with their popular original instrumental, SELINA.  

The selection made for this posting is hardly sufficient to prove any statistical endeavour but here are five detailed samplings of local pops classics with ladies' names on their titles.

The Checkmates:
Recorded at Kinetex Studios in Singapore, lead guitar Benny Chan, with Hann Hussein (rhythmist), Laurence Lee (bassist) and Amir Samsudin (drums), produced four original instrumentals on their EP with one piece bearing a lady's name. Called SYLVIA, it was composed by Lee and Chan. Anyone heard of Sylvia? Beautiful song. And lady too?

I have listened to Checkmates many times when we were in shows together in the past.  Like other bands they used to play Shadows and other 60's instrumental hits on stage. Their music was always solid, tight and more importantly on this vinyl, original. 

Lead Benny Chan was in Singapore recently and had just appeared at the Esplanade this month of November with the group. Just wondering if Sylvia came to watch the show. 

Coming from the Philippines, d'Starlights boys were so familiar with Singaporean audiences that they were gladly accepted as belonging to the local community. Famous for their appearances in the El Amigo Nightclub at The New World Amusement Park, they were associated with quality control music. 

On this EP called, IT'S SOUL MAN, the five boys sang and played, LOUIE, LOUIE. Written by Richard Berry way back in 1955, it was about a Jamaican sailor returning to his island to see his lady love.  With this group in control the song is one beautiful and hot soul beat dedication to Ms Louie. And for this lady, at least, we know who she was.

NB: d'Starlights were known to have exhibited their karate prowess on stage before their performances. Some of their members had passed away these few years.  One or two from the group had written on this blog to make these announcements.
The Quests:
A group that needs no introduction is The Quests. Because they were so popular in the South East Asian region, EMI Columbia allowed them to record current covers. So in 1969, they produced four songs for another one of their EPs without any original.

The particular vinyl had a note from the group on its back sleeve cover since they were coming home to Singapore that year from their stint in Hong Kong. Together with three other international hits The Quests included PROUD MARY. 

This fast, hot John Fogerty lady had become such a classic that nearly every Singapore band had performed this Creedence Clearwater Revival hit on stage. 
The lyrics explained that Mary was born in the Bayou and worked as a washerwoman. 

CCR made it number one, Tina Turner gyrated with the number, exhibiting her sensual legs, wearing the shortest skirt ever and Elvis Presley wowed every fan with his version. There was a long line of artistes who wooed Proud Mary.

In case some readers are not aware, two of the Quests had passed on i.e. Reggie Verghese and Jap Chong. Lim Wee Guan and Henry Chua are still as active with their drums and sold guitars. 

Chua had his SHANTY played by our Wind Symphonic recently (please read another posting).  I meet Jimmy Chan for kopi at Tiong Bahru Market. He's a pianist and still at Marina Mandarin. A very nice guy.
The Surfers:
Before the October Cherries, they were called The Surfers and had cut four tracks with EMI. This particular vinyl was so popular the producers could have made thousands of copies. You can get it anywhere today if you look hard enough. 

Titled HOORAY FOR HAZEL,  we have another hit to add to our short list of lady-named songs recorded in Singapore. This vinyl was done at MacDonald House, Orchard Road. Hazel belonged to Tommy Roe and the song gossiped about a woman who could win the hearts of all men but later mistreated them.

Again, their popularity guaranteed (and sales of course), I remember this group had a large fan base both locally and overseas when they became October Cherries. Imagine competing with Roe on the hit parade charts. Hooray for Surfers. 
The Trailers:

The Trailers were another household name in the 1960's. With their stronghold at the Palace Cinema in East Coast Katong, the T-Dance became a phenomenon because of Benny and The Trailers. 

So when the group was up and soaring in our oriental skies, they produced four melodies that were favourites with the locals. Two of them were from the West. Together with PHOENIX THEME, ALI SAN and the U.S. hit DING DONG SONG, The Trailers added their tim-sum mix with another lady's name called LARA'S THEME, a big hit in 1967.

The specially Chinese PHOENIX THEME glued the four songs air-tight.  All melodies were already separate hits singly but as Trailers instrumentals, this record was one of the most sought after during Chinese New Year 1967. Even our Malay and Indian friends knew the song as , Kwoh Sin Nien.

The concoction did the trick and this EP was one of the top best selling vinyls produced.  With Victor Woo on lead guitar, Maurice Jarre's LARA'S THEME went off-beat a-go-go and boy friend Doctor Zhivago went wild. 

Lady Lara was one foreign attraction.  Set in Russia, the movie told of a KGB Lieutenant General searching for Lara Antipova, the daughter of his half brother. She must be SOMEWHERE MY LOVE.

Victor Woo is still playing lead with his New Trailers today.  PHOENIX THEME was played during a Channel News Asia television documentary in 2014 discussing Singapore's Treasure Hunt.  It was hosted by pretty Anita Kapoor and archaeologist Lim Chen Sian. I was a guest.

So Sylvia, Louie, Mary, Hazel and Lara, where are you all?

Comments please.
The record covers are from a private collection;
You Tube Video: lvlalaysiaboleh.


Linda said...

Hi Andy!

Your posts are so exciting, and I learn about some music that I don't know much about. I live in Montreal, Canada and was born here as well, but I absolutely love vintage...from the 1930's to the 60's, and I love to reminisce about days gone by. Thank you so much for sharing, your blog is such a fun place. :)

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi Linda,
Thank you for the inspirational comment and visit. I am glad to have spread Singapore's music to someone like you in Montreal Canada. I hope you will tell your friends about our lively scene here. The French Quarter Notes jazz happenings in Montreal are fabulous too and so are the food and beverage.

JOEY KOH said...

Wow, Singapore is so happening in the past!


Morning brother Andy. The CheckMates was a good band. The Group had a very unique sound in total.

I had my experiences performing with them along with my very own bands namely - The Idols and J and D'Peddlers as a guest band during the T-Dance at the Golden Venus in the 60's (just note that we were in school back then).

During that time the the vocals were from The Cyclones and Bryan Neale . It was R and B music and was good. That's my take based on my personal experiences.

Cheers and God Bless.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks again for the quick response Joey and Jerry. Your vast experience in our music scene Jerry has opened a new vista for readers unfamiliar with Singapore's 60's music landscape. Jerry Fernandez is still singing and DJs all over the island to help out in many social and music functions.

Appreciate both your comments.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you all from FB for the support especially:
Little Ong,
Slight Return,
Foo Jong Fook,
Linda Tan,
Dick Yip,
Angela Leow,
James Seah.

This posting appears ON FACEBOOK under:

chakap chakap said...

Postings are written in fun and frolic and not meant to advertise or promote bands, music friends and products.

This blog is to encourage music lovers from anywhere to read and write about the scene, but for proper media conduct these comments will be edited if the information provided is private or if it puts others in an embarrassing position or if rough language has been used.

LITTLE ONG said...

Hi Andy, pleasure to meet you here. I had a good time reading your articles on the Singapore 60's scene.

FACEBOOK said...

Thanks to Bas Linders and Alphonso Soosay for liking article.


Hi How are you doing?

Bird Dog said...

In the early 70s Baal records came out with an original catchy bubblegum single[which I still have] called Cu Cu Cu Choo by a mystery duo called Jade & Pepper. When it first came out no one had any idea who they were but the credited songwriters were Jayram & Pete. As a young fan of the Surfers at that time, I could recognised their voices belonged to Jay Shotam & Peter Diaz.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

To Little Ong:
Thanks for reading Little Ong. Appreciate the time you took. Glad you had a good time. Visit the blog again I hope?

To Victoria Khan:
I'm fine. How are you doing? Write in again if you can.

To Bird Dog:
You are absolutely right Bird Dog; they are from the Surfers and later October Cherries. COFFEE TOFFEE SQUARES is another EP vinyl they have, with some LPs either from OC or JnP.
Thanks for the visit, informative feedback and help you've given this blog with your knowledge of our local music.


Thanks to Denyse Tessensohn for sharing this post on FACEBOOK and
Rosz Ng,
Melissa Villamil,
Christina Khoo,
Todd Leslie,

for support.

fFurious said...

Nice one! Thanks Andy :-)

LITTLE ONG said...

It's fascinating to read an era of music in Singapore that was so active and vibrant. Alas, I was born in 1970, wished I had stories of the 60's I could contribute. I'm contented to read about your stories and hunt down the music hopefully online, to listen to.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thanks again to all especially Denyse for sharing post and friends. Todd Leslie too and fFurious, Little Ong. Appreciate comments and revelation.

FL said...

Hi, Andy, thanks for featuring some 60s local bands. It brings back sweet memories. Back in the 60s in my secondary school days, my brother & I used to share costs to buy the RADIO WEEKLY (local tabloid)every weeks ! It featured music scenes,pop charts, local bands and international artistes from Britain, US,etc. with pictures. That's how we got to know many of them.

BLUECOOL (click here to read) said...

About the TIDBITS (60's girl vocal group same cohort with Checkmates, Trailers, etc):

Yes, I remember snippets of that very first Talentime, and do agree with Lam Chun See when he said that it was "a little controversial". "The Titbits" if I recall correctly is what the name of the singing trio was at the time (they later changed their name to "The Tidbits") were good, but I was among those who expected T.F. Tan to win with his rendition of "I'm Coming Home" by Tom Jones. And the most talked about topic during the heats was the performance of "My Bonnie" by an Ah Kua, whose name I cannot recall.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

1) Yes FL, you are absolutely right about RADIO WEEKLY. I used to buy the tabloid quite often, reading the many articles and admiring the photos found inside.

It's a pity that it is not archived on the Internet like the Straits Times is today. An interested reader needs to go all the way to the main National Library to read the collection and pay $1 for each photo-copied page.

Again thanks for your contribution and visit. It's important to have readers like you who keep the postings alive and vibrant with your comments and knowledge.

2) Thanks to BLUECOOL too for your comment on TIDBITS on another posting.

Bird Dog said...

Hi FL, I remembered buying the Radio Weekly back in 1968 as I was just about to get interested in pop music. It was cheap at 30 cents each but informative. It was printed on newsprint & the photos were grainy but I was not that fussy then. A year or so later it disappeared & Fanfare appeared. It was refreshing with better quality paper & cost 40 cents a copy. Most importantly, many of their photos were in colour. One thing that pissed me off was it censored the long hair of males until they looked awful. But I would use colour pencils to add the missing hair back. I used to cut the photos to stick them to my handwritten song book.