Friday, June 09, 2017

When Vespa Scooters And Talentimes Were In Vogue

Vespa scooters were a rage in the 1960's world. At the movies, Audrey Hepburn rode a Vespa in Roman Holiday, Rock Hudson and Gina Lollobrigida were on a Lambretta in Come September and Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee did the same.

Similarly, in Singapore; these exquisite and sexy contraptions outshone the motorcycles for a while. I had one too, breezing along from my home in the East to the College at Paterson, on a blue Vespa. Roads then were not as congested.
The Vespa Club Singapore at Siglap Road in the East Coast, was a social club for, obviously, Vespa scooter owners, since the Lambretta, a well-known competitor, was also trying to take a stake on Singapore roads. Both two-wheelers were from Italy.

The club had a Talentime or singing competition on the 17th of December, 1961 and Aminah Aziz (above) won the title of Vespa Club Talentime Champion, when she sang, I Love You More Than I Can Say.
Aminah won from five other finalists at the Contest held during the weekend. Taking the second spot was me, (image above in the Radio
Weekly pix, while the other finalists were George Ho, Baby Razak, Peter Hayko and Paddy Nyer.

Talentimes were popular in the 50's and 60's. They were held by nearly every commercial, social or private club. Youth who love to sing would participate because the exposure was good and the chance of gaining some experience of public singing was an attraction.
Remember there was no karaoke those days and the only way that a singer could be backed by a band was to participate in Talentime. Many bands and singers that played at nightclubs and cinema halls were usually winners of such singing talent contests. The Trekkers, The Jets and The Decibels, were some of the bands that could have either participated or won in such competitions.

Image 1: Google.
Image 2: Radio Weekly, Singapore (music tabloid).
Image 3: Henri Gann, Trekkers.
YouTube Video: Videoclips Roman Holiday.
Original article: Andy Lim.


mai said...

Good day, sir. Love the nostalgic flavour of your blog, which makes me wish I had already existed in the 60s!
I am currently conducting a research on Geylang Serai, so I was wondering if you would be interested in sharing some of your personal stories on the space. How may I reach you?


Not forgetting the Honda Cub.Regarding talentime I remembered watching the one held at the National Theatre in which Eunice Sim was the winner in the late 60's

ROSE KHOO said...

Just like to mention esp the year The Tidbits won; I lost contact with my Friend Bernadette D'Souza...would appreciate if someone knows how I can contact her! I think she is now residing in Australia

ROSE KHOO said...

Tks Andy
I remembered Bernie works for SQ ...but retired already

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Hi Mai,
Write to me again as you have done and provide your email address (I shall not reveal it) and I will get back to you asap.

You may include your mobile number too (confidentially).


Remember a talentime winner called T F Tan who sang like Tom Jones


Tan Tin Fook or TF Tan once owned Carol Inn


And how can one forget our Larry Adler of SG Gabriel Klynne the chromatic harmonica player


I remembered watching Larry Adler performed at the Victoria Memorial Hall for $1 when I was a Student many years ago


Here we are talking about Gabriel Klynne with regards to Andy Young Talentime Days... Cheers


... and there was Faridah Dollah too.

ROSE KHOO said...

And not forgeting Mel n Joe


C Chia, Cynthia Lau, Dusky La Goma, Douglas Lyford, Carol Harrop and the list goes on and on...

Dusky La Goma aka Douglas Gomes was the Black and White Minstrel singer and Douglas Lyford is the father of Alan Lyford also a member of The Thunderbirds.

Thank you so much Andy my buddy


Last and not least,we must not forget the man who coined the word,Talentime.Well he was none other than Kingsley Morando

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you, Freddie, Stephen and Rose. Without your comments, this blog may just be one quiet post.


I rode one but without a licence.


Hey Andy, that's your time but I was 12 years old and still remember Vespa racing along Old Airport Road that was not official. :-)


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Irene Hoe


No, Andy, I did not have a scooter. Wish I had one. I did look around at the Vespa models in the open concept showroom of East Asiatic Company (agent), somewhere near Tanglin Shopping Centre. I think it cost around $400.

Having a Vespa scooter in the 60's means you are an attractive proposition to your girl friends... because you are transport-ready.

Remember the public transport system (like STC) in the 60's were so chaotic. So scootering around was stylish and convenient as symbolised in the Hollywood movies.

Today when you ride a scooter, this symbolism is no more... I think.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you, Patrick, for a concise but informative comment loaded with enticing and juicy facts. You are a very good writer.

In fact, I bought the Vespa from the same showroom you mentioned, about $400 to $600 each. They were also selling Fiat 600 cars there. A very convincing Malay salesperson Mr Azhari sold me one. We became friends after that. Great guy and a great bike.

I was earning $200 a month as a teacher, saved my salary for a year, put a downpayment, reserved the scooter and bought it with the year's saving. No cheque, cash card. Just cold hard cash.

It was heartache, but the scooter kept me going until I crashed into a big monsoon drain behind my house. But that's another story.


No, I didn't but I had a Honda. "You meet the nicest people on a Honda."


Sure I had both Vespa and later Lambretta scooter and those days we used to race to Tanah Merah Coast Road.

SUNNY ONG said...

Had a Lambretta scooter whilst working 1960 first job Borneo Motors they had the agency for this scooter.

Bought at staff price.


Of course, I had started with Vespa, then Lambretta following by the Norton Manx, a huge monster. Ha, Ha.

FL said...

Yes, I remember Vespa and Lambretta scooters were seen on our roads in 1960s/1970s. I first sat on a scooter (as a pillion rider) around 1962/63. The scooter belonged to one of our kampong neighbours. Ha, ha, no need to wear helmets then. Singapore traffic was not heavy during those years.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Yes, you are right FL. We didn't have to wear helmets then. I forgot about it altogether.
Fun-time it was. Even for pillion-riders, some girls just sit on one side of the back seat. Nowadays pillion-riders must sit bestride.

Thanks for the memories FL. You have always been a helpful and informative reader.

And thanks to all other readers who have contributed to this rather popular posting. All these comments came within 2 days of publication.

henri gann said...

The Little Scooter - Great Invention !
I always wanted one.
By the time I got to LA, it was the Little Honda ...
Here's the 60s Beach Boys Hit on Little Honda:
"I'm gonna wake you up early
Cause I'm gonna take a ride with you
We're going down to the Honda shop
I'll tell you what we're gonna do
Put on a ragged sweatshirt
I'll take you anywhere you want me to

First gear (Honda Honda) it's alright (faster faster)
Second gear (little Honda Honda) I lean right (faster faster)
Third gear (Honda Honda) hang on tight (faster faster)
Faster it's alright

It's not a big motorcycle
Just a groovy little motorbike
It's more fun that a barrel of monkeys
That two wheel bike
We'll ride on out of the town
To any place I know you like ..."
p/s I can't believe you actually put the Trekkers picture w Audrey Hepburn in the article. A Wow ! What an honor ...

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

It's an honour to have a lead guitarist of The Trekkers being mentioned by the lead guitarist of The Trailers as the only band that could outshine The Quests.

henri gann said...

Thanks Andy ! That's a " Pai Say " comment :) ...


i enjoy that vespa article. audrey hepburn is my all time favorite gal.. as a photographer, she is like the goddess of fashion photographers..
richard avedon's work of her and most of all the portrait of audrey by the world's greatest portrait photographer, Yousouf Karsh..
whom i met on my first day in Ottawa after graduating from NYI. i moved to Ottawa to freelance . and everyone was too busy to bother
...until i went to Chateau Laurier for lunch, and one of the waitresses told me, Karsh is here!
his office. i said, the bunch of nobodies tell me to go away , they're too busy, why would Karsh want to see me?

surprises, he sat me down, "calm down, young man, sit and rest awhile, and tell me why you came up to see me?"
then i showed him my portfolio. this great man, like Jeff Beck, spend half an hour with me.

MAI said...

Dear Mr Young

Thank you so much for getting in touch with me – I cannot express how elated I am.

I am currently in the midst of conducting a research on Geylang Serai. Having read your blog, particularly on the Hari Raya visit post, I thought that your stories and memories of Geylang Serai would add more perspectives to our research.

I hope that the above makes things a lot clearer now as to why we would like to get in touch with you.

Thank you very much.

P.S: I love, love, love Roman Holiday! J

Anonymous said...

re talentime in vogue in those days, .. lol, it sure reveals our age doesn't it?
remember how we used to sit by the rediffusion , or for me personally the armed force radio (listening to brain matthew's totps, which was where i got to be ahead of the local music with being in time with raymond anthony when he came back surprised that i was playing cream, hendrix, rory gallagher,etc. )..
we had talentimes at rediffusion (my first on the air, singing please don't tease, with ray and steve 's band backing me up last minute as they too were taking part playing shadows)..and talentime in st patrick's school ( my very first contest, i took 2nd place in the junior contest singing you you are the only one backed by johnny choo , again, last minute asking him after he sang a ricky nelson tune too. johnny took 1st place in the senior singing travelling man)..

we had to diligently work out by ear how to play the tunes.
today? LOL.. every tom dick and harry gets to sit down and play note for note with their face in the book of How to play xxx by xxx, how to play like jimi hendrix, how to play like woody woodpecker,etc.. flushing out like a parrot.

even worse, they actually have talent contest of who plays the best air guitar or mime to led zeppelin, andre bocelli.. and before that, you have the boom box sampling tunes .

whatever happened to the acknowledgement of virtuoso??? no one knows how to play like joe pass or jimi hendrix or miles davis . iow, improvise over the tune, varation on a theme. it's not the copycat that is great. it's how you understand the music, and navigate the theme, the colours of the chords , the choices of a minor, major, diminished, aug, half diminished,etc.. are carefully play to reflect a feeling. copy cat books don't teach you that.
which is why nobody know how to play like jimi hendrix, but jimi hendrix..or matt tan does not play like jimi hendrix, nor wishes to.

yes, talentimes have changed. we don't make musicians like we used to do.
or maybe i am getting old, and becoming more demanding with my music, and myself.,.
maybe i too am waving my flag .. and like jimi says (if 6 was 9).. i got my own way to live.. i DON'T HAVE TO COPY YOU!

kids, don't copy... play the music, feel it. don't regurgitate.
mean ole man.. the guitar magician from canada !!! LOL