I just want to share with the blog readers, my version of how the British music invasion of the 1960's forever changed Rock & Roll and Pop Music throughout the world.
It was the 1950's, and most of us were probably in school. Those who owned Radiograms (Hi-Fi Sets in today's terms: image 3 right) were quite well off. Most of us grew up listening to the radio, and the radio stations were Radio Singapore & Radio Malaya, broadcasting in our four languages. Some even owned Rediffusion sets (if you recall those cute rectangular shaped black audio-box sets with a speaker built-in: image 2 left). Rediffusion had The Silver Network in English (few hours in the morning were allotted daily for the Malay listeners) and The Golden Network in Chinese (few hours were also allotted daily for the Indian listeners).
TV only arrived on our shores in 1962! The music that came out of those music contraptions played by the DJ's from that period, would mostly be classified as Standards today. Songs by artiste such as Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, Perry Como, Johnny Ray, Andy Williams, Vic Damone, Frankie Lane, etc. and female artistes like Doris Day, Rosemary Clooney, Debbie Reynolds, Jo Stafford, Cleo Laine, Kaye Starr and even Marilyn Monroe.
Then in the year 1955, a new kind of Beat Music was slowly sweeping across the USA. It took the youngsters by storm and they were all dancing to the beat. A young DJ named Allan Freed was watching all this action. He dreamt the phrase Rock and Roll because these kids were rocking and rolling to this music and that was how that genre came about. This new music landed on our shores in 1956.
I had just started school. Primary One to be exact, at Telok Kurau Primary School in Lorong J, Telok Kurau Road (image: last below). Almost all of the young kids on this side of the world, including myself were suddenly taken over by this new music called Rock & Roll. To some extent with some of us, our school work took a back seat. I used to cut out and even collect photos and features of these new music stars from newspapers and magazines.
First to arrive here via vinyl records (78's and a bit later 45's and 33's - remember) were Pat Boone, Bill Haley and His Comets, Ricky Nelson, Gene Vincent and His Blue Caps, Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, etc. The King, Elvis Presley took a little longer to get here but when he did - it came down on us like a ton of bricks. WOW!
All of a sudden, our airwaves were invaded by songs like, Love Letters In The Sand, Rock Around The Clock, Poor Little Fool, Be-Bop-A-Lula, Peggy Sue, Summertime Blues. The King then took us by storm with Blue Suede Shoes, Hound Dog, Teddy Bear, Jailhouse Rock and the list goes on. Then Great Britain gave us their Rock and Roll Stars: Tommy Steele, Marty Wilde, Frankie Vaughn, Billy Fury and a year or so later Cliff Richard accompanied by The Shadows. What A Time It Was! Life was never the same after that.
B.B. King, Albert King and Freddie King: The 3 Kings of the Blues.
They were all Caucasian artistes and their music was classified as Rock and Roll. The African American Artistes like Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Ray Charles and Bo Diddley, didn't quite make it big time over here. They were classified as Rhythm and Blues but they were a huge influence across the Atlantic, in Great Britain especially.
Other Blues artistes like Muddy Waters, Albert King, Howling Wolf, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Freddy King, etc. were the heroes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Spencer Davis Group, The Searchers, Gerry And The Pacemakers, Freddy And The Dreamers. These were artistes that were involved in the so-called Great British Music Invasion of the mid 1960's, and that changed popular music forever.
In the mid 1950's over in the U.S.A., the people in charge were not too pleased with the arrival of this new music categorized as Rock and Roll (calling it the black man's music and even the music of Satan) and tried their best to suppress it even to the point of destroying it. They didn't like the way the young were absorbing the music and grooving to the rhythm and the beat. Prime movers to this notion were the heads of religious organisations and church leaders. They were of the opinion that this music was corrupting and would eventually destroy all the American Youth. Looking at it now, and how it turned out, they were so wrong! Even church hymns and songs have incorporated Rock and Roll rhythms into their music.
Therefore, when Rock and Roll was sweeping the US, they went on a rampage to destroy the first generation of Rock & Roll stars. They charged Jerry Lee Lewis and eventually imprisoned him for marrying his 13 year old niece (daughter of his bassist). Chuck Berry was also jailed for income tax evasion. Worried that he might be next Little Richard (Richard Penniman) took up religion and became a pastor. Apparently, he threw all his jewellery into a river. Ricky Nelson took a step back away from the spotlight.
The King, Elvis Presley, was drafted into the Military and sent away to Germany. A few years later, when he returned he toned down and lost a bit of his raw Rock And Roll edge. In 1957 Eddie Cochran, died in Bristol, UK, while on tour when the taxi he was in collided with another vehicle. Then in 1959 while on tour, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper were killed when their plane crashed into the side of a mountain. Almost all of the first generation rockers were out of action.
It was then that the record companies in the US created this new breed of pop of stars who were very marketable, clean cut and wholesome and they took over the pop music scene. Frankie Avalon, Fabian Forte, Brian Hyland, Johnny Tillotson, Bobby Vee, Bobby Rydell, Bobby Vinton, etc.. That probably inspired Jerry Lee Lewis’ famous quote, "Suddenly there was a whole lotta Bobbies!" Ha Ha Ha! Good one Jerry! Soon after, an exciting 5 piece band called, The Beach Boys came on the scene and enjoyed a string of hits with their surfing songs.
In 1962, Chubby Checker came along with The Twist (above) and had a string of hits, which also sparked a new dance craze. So while real and exciting first Generation Rock and Roll was watered down in the US, it made a great impact across the Atlantic in the UK on the young English people. Through records, movies and television the British were influenced by what is now termed Classic Rock and Roll.
Meanwhile in the year 1957 in the US, The Ventures started The Guitar Instrumental Band trend with their first hit Walk Don't Run. The following year, Britain gave us The Shadows with their massive hit Apache (now voted The Best Guitar Instrumental Song of all time) and they became stars in their own right. Just a year before, they were known as the backing band for one Cliff Richard (now Sir) who gave the world his first hit Move It followed by Please Don't Tease, Living Doll, Travelling Light, etc.
Written by Michael Bangar (image 1).
Michael has written nearly 2 dozen postings for this blog and they all stem from his first-hand experience as an established and professional musician in Singapore since the 1960's when he was very young.
Please go to the Content Column on the right of this page, scroll down, look for MICHAEL BANGAR and click. His stories are ripe for readin'.
Thank you very much Michael.
Michael Bangar, with his trade mark sunglasses during one of his concerts at a famous tourist spot on Sentosa Island, Singapore in May 2017. Image from Fabian Foo. Thanks Fab.