Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Singapore 60's Covers Sell Better Than Originals

            Sixteen Candles - Rita Chao and The Quests Video by Alvin Tan

Songs I Love:

In the 1960's when the craze among our youth was to buy local records (i.e. Singapore vinyl), they were more familiar with the covers of Western pops sung by our own artistes than the original ones.  In fact, some record buyers were not even aware of the versions by our British or American counterparts.

I have listed five hit songs below that fit into this category. The original version comes first and the Singapore copy-cat beside it. Most were songs from the late 1950's and recorded in the 60's. 

The Singapore artistes were the top stars those years and, if it's true of what I've been told, each recording would have produced at least 20,000 copies. They were the dominant players in the recording industry then. Some of these records would have been reprinted if sales were good. Let's take a look at them.
1) Mr. Twister: Connie Francis (original)
    Mr Twister: The Crescendos (cover)
    No details on date and composer
Although Connie Francis was a multi-hit maker in the 60's with her songs like, Who's Sorry Now, Stupid Cupid and Where the Boys Are, her song Mr Twister was not as popular in Singapore.   Instead the local vocal group The Crescendos hit the air waves with the same song and made it a sell-out on the island. The late Susan Lim sang it.

2) Happy Happy Birthday BabyThe Tune Weavers (Original)
    Happy Happy Birthday BabyNaomi and The Boys (cover)
    Margo Sylvia, Gilbert Lopez - 1957

Many fans thought that Happy Happy Birthday Baby was an original song by Naomi and The Boys. In fact it was recorded in the US by a group called The Weavers. Another Naomi hit song, I Know which is a Boys original was thought to be a western hit. Naomi's Happy Birthday became so popular that many pirated copies were on sale in the market.               
 3) Sixteen Candles: The Crests (Original).
     Sixteen Candles: Rita Chao (Cover).
     Luther Dixon Allyson R. - 1958.

Similarly the late Rita Chao's version of Sixteen Candles was more popular than The Crests.  Many local listeners had never even heard of The Crests. Rita Chao's, together with top pop guitar twangers The Quests' version was heard all over the country. 

Our cute and petite lady was Queen of Pops those years and did a Chinese version of the same song. Even good friend Sakura Teng could not outshine her.
4)  Don't Play That Song: Ben. E. King (Original)
    Don't Play That Song: Keith Locke and The Quests (Cover)
    Ahmed Ertegun, Betty Nelson - 1960

One of the most popular songs when it was around in the mid-sixties, this number was performed all the time whenever Keith Locke and his team-mates came on stage during variety shows, charity shows, theatre shows and during night club acts. 

Keith Locke was a sensation and made a name for himself. Everyone in the audience could chorus, "You lied, you lied, you lied. Yeah, yeah, yeah..."  The Ben King version was over shadowed a thousand times over.

 5) Silver Threads And Golden Needles: Skeeter Davis (Original).
     Silver Threads And Golden Needles: The Crescendos (Cover).
     Jack Rhodes, Dick Reynolds - 1956.

A classic, the song by our local group did not hit the headlines but was part of an EP with three other songs. The Crescendos EP's usually sold well and the vocal group was on an uphill curve with the vinyl records they pressed. 

It was very impressive indeed and they were the first artistes from Singapore to have recorded with an international company like Philips.  Skeeter Davis came earlier with her version but this was a hit song by any means.
                           Mr Twister Crescendos: Video by eosyeo

A very strong support group for our local bands and singers uplifted the record sales. It was a novelty then, the only time in Singapore's history when our own boys and girls could hit the pop song parade together with international stars.

Credit must be given to the fledgling music industry in the 1960's. The incentives activated a new vehicle to promote it, local music producers like Reggie Verghese and composers like, Robert Suriya, Henry Chua and Harvey Fitzgerald. This new and exciting onslaught of local hits flooded the market. But that's another tale.

Comment anyone?

Images: A Personal Collection and Google.
You Tube Videos: Alvin Tan and eosyeo.

Copyrights reserved: Don't copy.

The article is my own personal view. Information may vary according to sources.



These particular cover songs outsold the originals because they were in our minds just as good as the originals, if not better. Many factors collided to bring about this, including the quality of the female lead singers, the presence of international recording companies and astute local producers.


Hi Andy,

Firstly, congratulations on the huge success of your blog, what with readership reaching far and wide as evidenced by the stats.

Well done bro'... thumbs up :)


You're really passionate about these things! Congrats. Salute.

chakap chakap said...

Rita Chao, A-Go-Go Queen, died in July 2014 of colon cancer, her mother revealed on Feb 2. She was 64. A pop singer in the 1960's and 1970's, she also sang with bands like The Quests in both English and Chinese.

She did many covers of English songs in Chinese and sang in Japanese. One of her first and greatest hits is 'Shake, Shake, Shake'.

She was also known for her cover of English song 'Sixteen Candles' and handled both quick tempo songs and ballads.

Read more about her by clicking to 'Labels' below this posting.

hsia lin (you tube) said...

This is the only true version of Rita Chao's Sixteen Candles. Thanks for posting!

goldbullions you tube said...

Nostalgic and brings back memories of the good old days of the late 1960's and 1970's. Both Sakura and Rita were then very popular among Singaporeans. Often sang as a duet. Sakura was said to be the 'yang' and Rita was the 'ying'.

Rumour has it that Sakura now lives in NYC while Rita is staying in Singapore. We had recently seen Sakura in S'pore. But Rita seems to adopt a low profile & had never been seen for decades. Perhaps better for us to remember her at her peak, then young & pretty. Yes / no ?

sleepybread said...

Hi Mr. Andrew Lim,

I'm PL, an ex student of yours from .... from some 20 years ago. Heard from EG (another ex student of yours) that he bumped into you sometime back & saw you on TV, much to my disbelief. And so, I embarked on this google search for the TV program you went on and came upon this blog.

I seriously had zero idea you were a celebrity, just that you love to sing a few verses here and there during classes.

I'm not doing any researches nor planning to interview you on your vast knowledge on music. But would you have time for tea with me when you're free?

Best Regards,



Love them! For me these memories are precious. From the RTS Talentime days when I participated and when T.F. Tan was the winner up to the Crescendos, Tid-Bits and those T Dance days where you had The Quests, Moonglows and Silver Strings, McCoys, Impian Batek and Thunderbirds...

Those hit songs were really great too.


The Silver Strings did provide back up music for quite a number of singers. I don't remember their names but the one I can still acknowledge is Wang Sar and Ye Fung. How well the records sold I don't know.

Of course we backed Shirley Nair and Mike n Herb for all their vinyl recordings.

FL said...

Agree with Oliver's comments. Also, during those years (50s/60s), very few local people heard of the original singers of those mentioned songs, myself included. We have no internet access to do a search, unlike today. Anyway, our local singers were popular artistes then, and the covered versions were also backed by popular guitar bands. That's made the difference !

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you all for taking time to make comments. It is true about not getting proper information like we do now. The only newspaper or tabloid available was the RADIO WEEKLY which wrote about local pop music and those from abroad.

The replies I get are from the blog's regular visitors like Oliver B, Jimmy Chng, Happy Tay, John Cher, Merlin Lim and FL., truly a precious lot of readers, supporters and friends who have been providing feedback many, many times without which this blog would have no soul.

I wish other readers will write in too.


Andy Young ..thank you for the beautiful song...have a great year...Rita sang's a great pity...she's no longer with rita. ..thank u for the beautiful song.