Friday, September 23, 2016

Sunglasses Turn To Moonglasses In Singapore

                                Dark Dark Sunglasses by The Kittens. Video: Roger Hansson

Shades On Stage


Sunglasses have been fashion accessory since the 1940's but others believe that these spectacles with dark coloured lenses have existed since the 1920's. 

Some people thought they were invented because film stars needed them to protect their eyes from the extremely powerful arc lights on movie sets; others felt that sun glasses were invented for the beach.

Simply, it's just a pair of dark glasses to protect your eyes from the glare of the blinding sun. Then came the UV ray and computer professional theories and later the LASIK operation which hyped the wearing of this fashion trend. 

Sunglasses has a history in itself. A long time ago, in the US, they were commonly known as shades and Marlon Brando (image on bike) had them for his 1954 movie On The Waterfront and Elvis Presley (right) wore them while jamming in a scene for his 1970 bio movie, That's The Way It Is. These dark-lens spectacles were known to have dated way back when into Roman times and 12th Century China.

Pop stars known to wear sunglasses included, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Freddie Mercury, John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Boy George, James Dean, Bob Marley, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. An endless list?

Except for Yoko Ono and a few other lady singers, most female stars do not put on dark glasses for obvious reasons.

Call them what you may, sunglasses were identified differently in various countries. Known as glares in India; speckies in Australia; sunnies in Africa, UK and NZ. The Scots called them glecks and the Middle East, cooling glasses.

In Singapore they were ordinarily known as sun glasses, shades, black specs, sun specs or simply dark glasses. 

Our Singapore band boys wore them constantly. And featured images were our own pop stars from The Quests, The Jets and The Stylers. Know them?

There were different types too; Aviator, Oversized, Shutter Shades, Tea Shades, Wayfarer and Wrap Around. The more starry-eyed youngsters in the 1960's, to show off their expensive taste, called them Ray Ban.

Cursing first, "Damn sun." Then, "Alamak, I left my Ray Ban Aviator at home!" 


What surprised me was in the early 1960's when everyone was rock n rollin' on the ballroom floor at Paya Lebar Airport night club I saw a dancing couple wearing a pair of sunglasses. No difference actually because they were ordinary shades worn at night. 

It could have started because of Roy Orbison's (left) iconic glasses. There was a cult following when our Only The Lonely pop star made night sunglasses a cool habit among singers. 

Because of his own experience with prescription glasses in 1963, he ended on stage one evening wearing a pair. The idea must have caught on. And they called them, moonglasses?

There were singers who needed to wear them permanently, even at night. They were: Jose Feliciano, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Ronny Milsap and Roy Orbison.

Like cats we copied, and soon the band boys were wearing moonglasses on stage at night. Their excuse was simple; the glare of the stage lights were blinding. So moonglasses were in vogue for a while during Singapore's 60's music craze (images below show *Malay singer Ismail Haron and *Chinese guitar group The Bees). 

Walking the evening streets in Singapore in the 1960's it was easily noticeable that the trend had caught on like wildfire. As the Pokemon phenomenon is today, just imagine a whole lot of youngsters walking around in the middle of the night, with dark glasses on their faces, shading themselves from the moon glare?

I remember one evening when a group of us, some with moonglasses, had to walk to a makeshift carpark (not many beautiful carparks like they have today). It was after a performance at a Changi beach club.

There was a loud thud and we saw our drummer boy fall on the sandy shore. He had bumped into a coconut tree in the dark of night. His pair of moonglasses was still dangling on one ear when we went to 'rescue' him.

Are moonglasses still popular today? Of course but not so spectacular as it was yesterday. You can still see Silver Strings Michael Bangar wearing them during performance, day and night.

Do you have stories to tell about your shades?

*Singers and bands are versatile. Ismail Haron, who had passed on, was a Malay and The Bees was basically a Chinese guitar group but they sang and played western music as well.

Images from: A Personal Collection and Google.

Article is original and some information from Wikipedia and Internet sites.

Roy Orbison and Moonglasses. Click to read:

                                         Ooh, here's a nasty one!



Very comprehensive coverage. Nostalgic n memorable. Well done!


Well I think famous singers wear sunglasses to look cool and different from others.


It's a trademark and there are some celebrities who claim they are sensitive to bright lights like Bono of U2, he doesn't like camera flashes.

I think it's a bit strange and as a performer it's better in most cases for people to be able to see your face rather than hide behind a pair of glasses. But then I guess a lot of classic artists also wore them like Roy Orbison, Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles etc. I think they helped make glasses more acceptable but Wonder and Charles wore them because they were blind not to look cool onstage.

JOURDY said...

Yeah mostly to look cool and make some sort of fashion statement. Then again if you've ever been on stage it can be insanely bright at times and I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be a pretty scene if the paparazi caught you making a weird squinty face the whole performance :)


Fashions have no boundaries. It's just a passing fad. What about the 'drain pip trousers' period. What about the 'Tony Curtis' hair style. Not long ago being bald was trendy and macho.

Each era has its own history, so moonglasses was a fad, nothing wrong, nothing silly but it was the fashion of the day.


FRET NO MORE said...

Sunglasses make other people uncomfortable, keeping them on while talking to someone makes you look suspicious or arrogant, it's like avoiding eye contact. Which probably is confused with acting cool when it's really just being a bit insensitive to social cues. But maybe this is what you want on stage, looking aloof and cut off from the rabble in the audience.

KMONK said...

If you are playing outdoors on a sunny day, there is nothing wrong with wearing sunglasses. If you are playing indoors or playing outdoors at night, there is no reason to wear them.

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My sunglasses/moon glasses reason: I had eye surgery and adviced by eye specialist to wear them when sunny and bright. Since then it's become a habit. Shades! Same reason - UV rays in the day and in the night, glare of the lights when playing on stage.

I like the looking COOL part too. Making old geezers like me look a bit stylo mylo.



I was at the Roy Orbison Concert and my wife too. It was definitely a memorable experience to see Roy Orbison in Concert.
The other artiste who gave terrific concerts that I remember very well were the Everly Bros and the Gipsy Kings.

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