My Recollections Of The 60s

Looking back through the years, the 60s was probably one of the most exciting periods for the post-war babies. Some of the events that captured my imagination and left lasting impressions until this day helped shape my life and destiny to a certain extent.

The first pop song that rang in my ears during my early childhood around the late 50s was Fraulein by Bobby Helms. That was also when Rediffusion began to eclipse Radio Singapore as my favorite broadcasting station. At that time, Rediffusion was the rallying point for teenagers who were hungry for western music, culture and more. A very competent and popular group of DJs helped its cause, with the likes of Mike Ellery, Larry Lai, Eric Lim, Peggy Ross, Noreen Sales, among others.

Programs like Top Tunes Of The Week, PO Box 608, British Top 20s, Stars On Wings, and Rediffusion Discovery Show etc. kept most of us glued to the music box day and night. The talentime shows brought some of the best entertainment value, not only during the show proper but also during the audition stages. The potential contestants were required to showpiece their talents to a panel of judges before they could qualify for the competition. There was this guy who probably held a metal plate with a stick, waiting for the signal from the judges to “strike off” contestants in the midst of their performance with a loud “GONG!” I always wonder about the feelings of a 4-piece instrumental group that had spent weeks or months practising their song only to be struck off within a minute or less during their audition. Remember this funny bit?

There was another program entitled “Feuding And Fighting”, hosted by two of the most popular DJs from Rediffusion. Each week there would be a contest between two pop groups or artistes and fans would vote for their favorites, e.g. Beatles vs Rolling Stones, Cliff vs Elvis, and each of the DJ would lend support to one of the two contesting parties. During the program, there would also be some contests where listeners were invited to participate by naming the title or artiste of songs featured and prizes given out to winners were normally the latest LP albums. There was this occasion during an evening show when the DJ announced that the first listener who turned up at the Rediffusion studios at Clemenceau Avenue would receive a gift. Not surprisingly, the winner was someone who turned up in a pair of pajamas! There was also a 15-minute program when listeners were given a chance to be the DJ and got to select his/her own choice of songs. Those were really fun days, thanks to Rediffusion.

When I started my record collection, the first SP that I purchased from a shop along Middle Road was by The Fabulous Echoes of Hong Kong. The titles on that SP were Little Peanut Shell and Waray Waray. Ring a bell to anyone? Don’t think so because both were not hits at all! When the local groups came knocking at the door, Susan Lim & the Crescendos stood out prominently with hits like Mr. Twister, Waktu Fajar, The Boy Next Door, Besame Mucho, and the list went on and on. Don’t Play That Song by Keith Locke & The Quests was a major milestone in local music. The first time I heard the song, I thought it was by a foreign group! Another great vocal recording then was My Lonely Heart by The Thunderbirds. Of course, there were many other great recordings from the local scene, but I shall not attempt to name all of these for the simple reason that I may omit some inadvertently. They were all great tunes from a golden period, rich with local talents and strong support from fans.

Some of the songs that reminded us about the wonderful region we reside in included Singapura by Sandra, Oh Malaya by Anneke Gronloh, Midnight In Malaya & Sunrise In Malaysia by Boy & His Rollin’ Kids, Malaysia Wonderful by The Sundowners & The Tornados etc. Each time I hear any of these songs now, I would try and recall what I was doing during that period in time. A strong sense of nostalgia.

The Xperiments also stood out after my two-year interval from the local pop scene, serving National Service. They were the resident group at the Lost Horizon, Shangri-La Hotel at Orange Grove Road. My colleagues and I frequented the joint despite our meager monthly income of about $280. That’s when I was introduced to the “horns” or brass instruments, listening to songs like Vehicle by the Ides of March, We Got To Live Together by Buddy Miles, and some of the evergreen favorites like Let Me Try Again & Love’s Been Good To Me by Frank Sinatra, If I Could Reach You by Johnny Mathis, After The Lovin’ by Engelbert Humperdinck, among many others.

Besides live performances by local acts at the National Theatre and the Singapore Badminton Hall, there were also the more economical options, like the Musical Express Show at the Capitol and the Early Bird Show at the Odean cinemas. For an admission fee of only $2, you got to enjoy about 2 hours of live entertainment by some of our best local talents such as The Trailers, The Thunderbirds, The Quests, Sakura Teng, Rita Chao, Lara Tan, top comedians like Uncles Wang Sa & Ya Fung, Hamid Bond & Ah Leng, et al.

And there was Sungei Road where you could get second-hand items ranging from radios, magazines, watches, clothes, records etc, anything under the sun! Record stalls were in abundance, carrying local and foreign recording labels. The Mandarin pop culture was more dominant here, loudspeakers blaring out latest releases by The Stylers, The Travellers, Wang Ching Yuen, Lina Lim, Chang Seow Ying, Ling Seow, Suyin, Sakura Teng, Rita Chao, Lara Tan, Lam Leng and more. Among the goodies, there were also bootleg versions, selling at half the price or even less! I picked up several records by local groups and artistes from here, until this day. Time has moved on, but Sungei Road is still the same as it was during the 60s.

Well, these are just a few recollections of my 60's years which I hope would also rekindle your own favorite moments of those times. Do share them with us here. Cheers!

Best Regards,
Vernon Cheong