The onset of the Sixties saw Singapore well poised to ride the waves of international pop trends. It had been a scant six years since the first wave of Rock and Roll hit our shores. To the elders it had seemed like the end of civilisation as they knew it. This was youth culture. At once mysterious and alluring. The elders had no part it. The music was for the most part unintelligible but it conveyed its message to the young. Soon a few of the brave were venturing forth creating what they heard on records. Singers, duos and trios abounded. Only a few bands such as The Stompers and Esquires formed before the Sixties loomed.
It was a Cliff Richard and The Shadows concert in Singapore held in November 1961 that opened the floodgates. Suddenly light bulbs popped in more than a few budding Singaporean musicians. The blueprint for a band. Lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass guitar and drums. Fronted by a singer. Suddenly bands were forming all over the island and clamoring for gigs wherever they could get it. The entrepreneurs, owners of restaurants and night clubs sensed an economic opportunity. If they could offer venues for the bands to play in that would bring in the punters. They were not slow to follow it through. Venues mushroomed round the island and then tea dances were held over the weekends. To be young in the Sixties was to be spoiled for choice. Shows almost every night and bands and singers by the dozens.
It would not be long before the recording companies would come sniffing. They were skeptical initially. Yes there is a lot of excitement but would it sell. Into the fray entered Philips. They signed Ruby Wah and released an EP which contained Jazz and mainstream oriented material. Respectable sales but no real indicator. Then they decided to take a chance on a vocal quartet fronted by the irrepressible Susan Lim. This was the Crescendos. Their first two releases sold upwards of 25,000 units and hit number one in both Singapore and Malaysia. At that time, Malaysia and Singapore was considered one market and it was not uncommon for a single to be released simultaneously in Singapore and Malaysia and followed by a long haul tour the length and breadth of Malaysia.
Suddenly the gates were swung wide open. Philips decided to go whole hog. Their talent scouts checked out venues and shows all over the island beginning 1964. There was a joke then that the depth of talent in Singapore was so deep that semi finalists of the Radio and Television talentime of that year were being signed. The artistes that you hear on this collection shows that diversity. Philips signed a wider range of talent than other labels. They were not afraid to take a chance on bands playing Rhythm and Blues such as The Cyclones, Bryan Neale, those playing the new fangled Soul such as Denni Wilson and The Commancheros and even emerging psychedelic which peeps out via Clansmen and Stevie Lorraine.
However pop still ruled the roost and artistes such as Naomi and The Boys, Shirley Nair and The Silver Strings, The Thunderbirds, Wilson David, Sonny Bala and The Moonglows, The Dukes with their various singers, Henry Suriya, Veronica Young and Heather provided plenty of releases in that direction. The releases became a flood in 1965 and fans were delirious knowing that each week would bring new releases from Philips. They did not disappoint and soon enough by 1966 had the largest roster of artistes in Singapore. They also entered the Malay and Mandarin market when they realised that Pop Yeh Yeh and Mandarin Pops had their own following.
For a four year period from 1965 to 1968 Philips had a major presence in the Singapore music scene and made names like Naomi Suriya, Shirley Nair, Heather, Thunderbirds, Cyclones, Alan Lyford household names not only in Singapore but also in Malaysia and even in Brunei where some of these acts did shows. This five cd box set of Philips Sixties depicts a time in Singapore's pop music history when the universal fever for pop also reverberated here and the breadth of styles and music played here reflects that diversity. Perhaps a feat never to be repeated.
By Joseph.C.Pereira, Author of "The Legends of the Golden Venus' book
Posted by Vernon Cheong at 07:41