Monday, December 11, 2017

John Keats: 'To Hope', Septimus Winner: 'Whispering Hope'

It has been a long time since a book is mentioned within these postings of singers and songs.

I love John Keats' (1795-1821) To Hope, from his collection of poems under, Keats: Truth and Imagination. It's a book from my home library. He was well-known for poems like The Eve of St. Agnes, Ode To A Grecian Urn and othersHe died at the very young age of 25.

The hymn, Whispering Hope, another favourite of mine, was playing on YouTube and I was listening to the Haley Westenra's rendition. It was one of a number of songs composed by Septimus Winner (1827-1902). Jim Reeves made it famous in 1958.

Both poem and hymn have similar themes, except that the feeling of hope is expressed differently. But they agree on one point, that it is Sweet, fill the sky with silver glitterings and has the voice of an angel:

So, when dark thoughts my boding spirit shroud,
Sweet Hope, celestial influence round me shed... (Keats)

When the dark midnight is over,
Watch for the breaking of day... (Winner)

The 19th Century is still around today with its poetry and music. Perhaps you may have read the poem and is familiar with the song? Pray tell.
Portrait of 'Hope' by George Frederick Watts 1886 (2nd Version) is featured in the Keats' book that I mentioned.

To Hope
by John Keats (composed 1816)

When by my solitary hearth I sit,
And hateful thoughts enwrap my soul in gloom;
When no fair dreams before my "mind's eye" flit,
And the bare heath of life presents no bloom;
Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,
And wave thy silver pinions o'er my head!

Whene'er I wander, at the fall of night,
Where woven boughs shut out the moon's bright ray,
Should sad Despondency my musings fright,
And frown, to drive fair Cheerfulness away,
Peep with the moonbeams through the leafy roof,
And keep that fiend Despondence far aloof!

Should Disappointment, parent of Despair,
Strive for her son to seize my careless heart;
When, like a cloud, he sits upon the air,
Preparing on his spell-bound prey to dart:
Chase him away, sweet Hope, with visage bright,
And fright him as the morning frightens night!

Whene'er the fate of those I hold most dear
Tells to my fearful breast a tale of sorrow,
O bright-eyed Hope, my morbid fancy cheer;
Let me awhile thy sweetest comforts borrow:
Thy heaven-born radiance around me shed,
And wave thy silver pinions o'er my head!

Should e'er unhappy love my bosom pain,
From cruel parents, or relentless fair;
O let me think it is not quite in vain
To sigh out sonnets to the midnight air!
Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,
And wave thy silver pinions o'er my head!

In the long vista of the years to roll,
Let me not see our country's honour fade:
O let me see our land retain her soul,
Her pride, her freedom; and not freedom's shade.
From thy bright eyes unusual brightness shed---
Beneath thy pinions canopy my head!

Let me not see the patriot's high bequest,
Great Liberty! how great in plain attire!
With the base purple of a court oppress'd,
Bowing her head, and ready to expire:
But let me see thee stoop from heaven on wings
That fill the skies with silver glitterings!

And as, in sparkling majesty, a star
Gilds the bright summit of some gloomy cloud;
Brightening the half veil'd face of heaven afar:
So, when dark thoughts my boding spirit shroud,
Sweet Hope, celestial influence round me shed,
Waving thy silver pinions o'er my head!

From Illustrated Poetry Anthology (1996: Brockhampton Press).

Haley Westenra sings 'Whispering Hope': Video Haley Westenra. Thank You.

Whispering Hope
by Septimus Winner - (Composed 1868)

Soft as the voice of an angel,
  1. Breathing a lesson unheard,
    Hope with a gentle persuasion
    Whispers her comforting word:
    Wait till the darkness is over,
    Wait till the tempest is done,
    Hope for the sunshine tomorrow,
    After the shower is gone.
    • Refrain:
      Whispering hope, oh, how welcome thy voice,
      Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.
  2. If, in the dusk of the twilight,
    Dim be the region afar,
    Will not the deepening darkness
    Brighten the glimmering star?
    Then when the night is upon us,
    Why should the heart sink away?
    When the dark midnight is over,
    Watch for the breaking of day.
  3. Hope, as an anchor so steadfast,
    Rends the dark veil for the soul,
    Whither the Master has entered,
    Robbing the grave of its goal;
    Come then, oh, come, glad fruition,
    Come to my sad weary heart;
    Come, O Thou blest hope of glory,
    Never, oh, never depart.

Images: Google

Christmas joy is here 
More postings soon
For everyone's cheer...

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Johnny Hallyday: A Tribute From Singapore

Paris, France:

I tried, but couldn't start a romance with Paris, France. The country is picturesque, the language is beautiful with the not so easy to pronounce nasal vowels; the Louvre, ah, and the femme fatale, well I could not stand up to them. 

Worse, my wife and I were robbed* at the La Defense Metro underground while we were around or about to head for the Paris red-lights at Montmartre. That was the end of my love life with France. But I still love her...
Johnny Hallyday (1943 - 2017):

It was the same with Johnny Hallyday. I never got to know him but would have loved to. Why? The language just didn't work with me. And other reasons too.  But Johnny himself and the music 👍.

He was one of the top stars in the 60's, followed Elvis' style and sang rockabilly numbers. He started off right and like so many singers then, followed The King impact. 
Johnny Hallyday: Blue Suede Shoes: video from grandino 57. Thank You.

But what I like about Hallyday, as he grew in his own image, with his powerful voice, muscle-flexed stature, he became an original French rock star, not a rock-n-roll star. And he was outstanding - a man of his own before he died.

To say, as one international newspaper mentioned, that Hallyday was the Elvis of France is not true. He may have started off, copying Elvis' style but he was a singer and musician in his own category, in fact, the best that France could offer. Just watch his YouTube videos. He grew with the music.

His Vinyl Records:

I tried to buy his vinyl records but could not find them in Singapore. I should have bought a few on my trips to France, but the thought never came to mind. As a young person, I had more important things to do. I have regretted it since.
Johnny Hallyday, the French Elvis Presley, before his death, unique!

Like France, my interest in Johnny Hallyday waned because it was difficult to know this great singer in Asia.  Unlike Maurice Chevalier, Francoise Hardy and Claudine Longet, I never really got to know Johnny Hallyday with his songs, only familiar with some of his rockabilly hits.

So readers out there, if you have Johnny Hallyday vinyl records to spare, spare me some. 110 million albums, half a century of reign, 74 years young, I'm sure I could find some. 

R.I.P. Johnny Hallyday, le meilleur il ya, (the best there is). 
Singapore 60's music has much influence from other countries. Is Hallyday the
French influence? Tell us.

*I was travel insured and got back what I lost. Cheers.

Images: Google.
Johnny Hallyday was married 5 times. Laeticia Hallyday announced his death. 

The Johnny Hallyday Funeral
9th December 2017 

Thousands gave Johnny Hallyday a big send-off this afternoon as they thronged the streets to wish him a last goodbye.  Even President Macron and the former President Sarkozy were present at the ceremony.

Motorbikers, 700 strong, lined the streets and famed guitarists played melodies outside the church. France's Elvis received a loving but sad au revoir, similar to the Elvis Presley funeral when The King died in 1977.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Australian Influence: Ray Brown and The Whispers Part 2

Ray Brown and The Whispers: (L-R) John Manners, Pat Jeffrey (seated), Lawrie Barclay, Ray Brown, Al Jackson (line up: 1964).

When 60's Music Friends Had A Get-Together In Singapore (2):

When Dr Steven Farram (Darwin U, Australia) came to visit Singapore recently, it wasn't the first time. He's familiar with a lot of Singaporean activities, its culture and history, especially with the local music 60's scene.

I first met him ten years ago when he introduced himself, all wet and hot, after rockin' and rollin' to Mike and Herb's (Beatles of Malaysia) stage performance in 2008 at the Vivo City Roof Top. We became good friends and he never failed to write an article for the blog when I made the request.

Steve wanted to interview some band boys so I managed the help of Mr Michael Bangar (professional guitarist playing rhythm for Silver Strings) to speak to him. We had our first session and a few days later, a larger group came. 
With Andy: Michael Bangar and Steven Farram during the interview @ a food court.

Our 2nd session ended after Steve interviewed guitar legend Horace Wee, bassist Zainal Abidin, drummer John Cher and singer/DJ Jerry Fernandez (images below).

It was a successful meet when Mr Bangar provided Dr Farram with the necessary information he needed. The interview and informal chit-chat over coffee lasted nearly four hours. The lecturer was satisfied with the outcome.

Steve brought with him some vinyl records. I list the artistes and songs covered on both Side A and B. All artistes were from Australia:

Ray Brown and the Whispers:

Now Is The Time        
In The Midnight Hour (YouTube Video above)
Say It Again
20 Miles
Devoted To You
Go To Him
Fool Fool Fool 
Normie Rowe:
Ain't Nobody Home 
Ooh La La

Johnny Young (image) Let It Be Me 
Step Back

The New World: Try To Remember
The World I Used To Know 

Col Joye and the Joy Boys: (Rockin' Rollin') - Clementine 
Fools Like Me

Clockwise from left: Zainal Abidin (Dukes), Michael Bangar (Silver Strings); Pete Hanoken (CD Producer, Helsinki); Jerry Fernandez (Neu Faces); Andy Young (host); John Cher (Writer, Silver Strings); Horace Wee (Guitar Legend, Radio/TV Singapore); Steve Farram (Lecturer, Darwin U, Australia).

Here's a list of Australian pop stars on the international scene that I am familiar with:

Slim Dusty,  John Farnham, Olivia Newton-John,  Rick Price, Kylie Minogue, Natalie Imbruglia, Rick Springfield, Tina Arena, Tommy Emmanuel, Johnny O'Keefe, The Seekers, Men At Work, The Easybeats (YouTube video below), Air Supply, AC/DC INXS, Little River Band, Savage Garden,  Keith Urban, Helen Reddy and of course, The Bee Gees. And the names go on...
It's time we have some writing about pops Down Under since we're neighbours but I am not an expert with 60's Australian pops so I have left Steve to elaborate on the records he provided. 

But that's Part 3 in this series.


Images: Steven Farram, Personal Collection.
YouTube Videos.

Wes Cossacks Singapore band covered Sorry under a Singapore label. Video from The Garage 1966. Thank you.

Read connection below about humble George Chew who used to play lead guitar with Wes Cossacks and in recent years, The Burns. Wes Cossacks had recorded a few instrumental numbers in the mid-sixties and The Burns in the 2000's which has disbanded since.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Blue Diamonds: Hendrick de Wolff Says Thanks

Here's a letter I received from Hendrick De Wolff, brother of The Blue Diamonds Ruud and Riem, who wishes to thank the duo's fans and friends found on this blog.  

I am glad this blog has managed to be an important link to all 60's music lovers from our region and internationally:

Proper words fail me to express my sincere gratitude to every person in this blog, who paid his respect to my late brother Riem. The words written by you will be valued by Riem very much and are of very great value to me as well.

I can only add to this that I respect(ed) and admire(d) him enormously myself, just like I respect(ed) and admire(d) my late brother Ruud, who once, together with Riem, formed the band The Blue Diamonds. 

Both Riem and Ruud dedicated their lives to share their music with their fans and looked upon it as a privilege to be appreciated by them. 

Riem and Ruud's departure caused a hard to bear emptiness in me and I miss both of them very much.

My wonderful memories of them are my only consolation and I know that my love for them will remain for as long as I live. 

The urn with Riem's ashes was placed in a cremation niche in Singapore; may his soul grow further from there on. 

May all of you have God's Blessings. 

I send each of you my fondest thoughts and warmest greetings.

Hendrick de Wolff 

                                                Hendrik Toch
Image: Google.

This article/letter has been copyrighted.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Andy 60's Music Celebrates 10th Anniversary

On 21 November 2017, this blog went into its 10th year. To date one and a half million viewers have visited its pages - 1,509,413 to be exact. There are 8,875 comments on the 1,957 articles written and 1,600 published. 

I have been involved in other activities and could not publish the statistics on the actual date. 

Thanks to each and every reader, supporter and friend for the support these past years.

Happy Birthday, Swing: video from Lucky Seven. Birthday wishes from James Kwok.

W.A., Australia
25th November 2017:

I celebrated my birthday and received FB wishes so here's thanking everyone for the greetings and congratulatory messages which can be found on the Comment Page. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Singapore MRT Breakdowns And Train Sentiments

Trains: Old and New

The Singapore Mass Rapid Transport (SMRT) woes have brought about a lot of heartaches for commuters, especially those who need to use the trains to go to work. It is serious and an unpleasant state of affairs. 

Singaporeans have always been encouraged to use public transport, the train, the bus or the taxi (hired car).  I am one of those lucky ones who can still afford a car but wanted to abandon it last year. To keep the car now would be a better option. 

Trains, the many different types that exist throughout the years, have always been a choice for many commuters, especially those who have to travel many miles to reach their destination. Hopefully the situation improves.
Elvis Presley: Frankfurt Special: One of the best train songs and a Presley classic. From his movie, G.I.Blues. Video by: Kevin Allen.

The earlier trains of yesteryear have always been large, bulky, long and noisy but today, in the 21st Century, the new electronic trains are quiet and clean, whipping around like grass snakes, fast and efficient. 

I remember in the 1960's taking an old mechanical train from the station at Tanjong Pagar, Singapore to a town in Malaya. Cannot remember but it could be Butterworth, Penang. It was a dreadful trip and one I wish never to remember. More so it was the condition in the train rather than the ride.  

Other train trips in Taipeh (Taiwan) and Shanghai (China), using the mass transit system were wonderful experiences. England, Canada and Europe trains were excellent too. These trains consisted of both the older train type or locomotives and the present rapid transit system.

Train Songs: Old and New

Songs about trains too are in the hundreds, perhaps more. These songs would be ones where trains are either mentioned in the titles or in the lyrics and many of them would have been written a long time ago. There is a list of nearly every train song on Wikipedia
From Abalinga Mail by Slim Dusty to Zion Train by Bob Marley, the titles are varied and an eye-opener for those who love this mode of transport and love the usual chug-a-chug-chug musical rhythm.

The titles that came off my head are not too many nor are they in order, so here goes:

Chatanooga Choo Choo - Ray Charles
Freight Train - Bob Dylan and many others
Mystery Train - Elvis Presley

Frankfurt Special - Elvis Presley
(Hear That Whistle Blow) 500 Miles - The Seekers
The Lightning Express - Everly Brothers

Morning Train (9 to 5) - Sheena Easton
Morningtown Ride - The Seekers
Rambling Man - Del Shannon

Everly Brothers 'The Lightning Express': another classic hit that expresses sadness and pain. Video by:  johnsonchusc.

Rockin' On The Railroad - Chuck Berry
Sentimental Journey - Les Brown
Wabash Cannonball - Chet Atkins

Folsom Prison Blues -Johnny Cash
Choo Choo Train - Children's Song
She'll Be Comin' Round The Mountain When She Comes - Pete Seeger

Take it easier. Check out these songs and hope for the trains to run better soonest.

Any comment, please? About trains songs or train disruptions?

Images: Google
YouTube: Elvis Presley, Everly Brothers.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Scandinavian Influence: The Sleepwalkers: Part 1

When 60's Music Friends Had A Get-Together In Singapore (1).

The Music CD:

The Sleepwalkers are a Scandinavian, instrumental, rock n roll group that combine the Euro sounds of the Shadows with the American twang of Duane Eddy. 

According to the promotional literature on its website, The Sleepwalkers, a Finnish group, play brilliant early 60's style rock 'n' roll guitar instrumentals as they provide lots of original material, crystal clear production, and perfect musical arrangements and performances.
The band included: Ben Engblom (rhythm), Jan-Eric Saine (lead), Mikko Lund (drums) and Taito Ikavalko (bass).

"The members are strongly influenced by the great instrumental guitar bands, performing with character and originality and guaranteed to keep you awake -
Fat City Cigar Lounge."

If you like it laid back and twangy, then you've come to right place. The music is both exotic in imagery and easy on the ear.
The Sleepwalkers with 'Too Young' YouTube Video from Rautalanka The Ends

Some melodies in the selection include Sleepwalkers' Theme, Twisting Tango, Mr Z, Too Young, Shazam, Twisted Fate, Cossack, Golden Earrings, Riding Guitars and six others.

From other groups, I heard about 25 more guitar instrumentals and thought these well-produced CD's deserved an airing. You can find them on YouTube. 
These groups are The Quiets, The Dangermen, NoNo Soderberg, The Atomic Blast and The Youngers.

Horace Wee (local guitar legend) has this to say when I sent him the video, "Nice. Well played and great tone 👍."

For Horace to say that...
Andy Young with Pete Hakonen from Helsinki, Finland @ Bras Basah Book Place.

The Music Friends:

This recording and a few others from the same European connection were introduced by a Helsinki friend, Pete Hakonen (image above). Pete wrote to me just two days before coming over to Singapore last week. His speciality is rockabilly.

Pete has been reading my blog for a few years, finds Singapore and its music an interesting holiday idea. He decided to come here, away from everything else.

He had to buy his own beer when we met because I bought him only coffee and tea. Seriously though, I am glad to have met the Finland connection.
Zainal Abidin (Dukes), Michael Bangar (Silver Strings), Pete Hakonen (guest), Jerry Fernandez (Neu Faces).

This is Part One of a music connection and together, a group of 10 music-minded friends met for a chit-chat about Singapore 60's. Pete and Steven provided some insights about music from their countries.

Watch out for Part Two next when Steve, Michael Bangar and I got together to discuss Australian pops.
John Cher (Silver Strings), Horace Wee (guitar legend) and Dr Steven Farram (Darwin U).

This posting does not, in any way, promote the music CD's nor their production. 

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

My Tormented Heart: Tribute To A Lady Pianist

Image is for illustration only
A Mike Bangar Music Story:

Near 500  readers
since 1st Nov. '17

Hi Andy, 

Just to share another interesting episode for your blog. This true story that happened more than 40 years ago came to mind.
Michael Bangar

For those who lived, played or hung around the East Coast Road (Katong) area during that time will remember this lady everyone knew as Water Mary (we never got to know her real name) reason being, that whenever she was anywhere near large amounts of water, she would just immerse herself in it and get soaking wet. She loved it when it rained.

She used to live in one of the terraced houses in Katong and her regular hang-out was at the church which was across the road from her home. Most of the time when she walked out of the church, her clothes would be wet.

As the reader can tell by now, she was not her normal self. The story went that one day before a church service and while she and her fiance were crossing the road, they were involved in a hit-and-run accident. Witnesses who saw it happened said he died in her arms shortly afterwards. The incident could have resulted in her confused state of mind.
Terraced homes in Singapore. A familiar scene in the 1960's
She was a very friendly person and most people who knew her treated her well, including me.

For a while in the mid-70's, after I had a family, we lived with my brother-in-law in the same area. He owned a Lawry organ and an upright Yamaha piano. One afternoon while all of us were at home and my brother-in-law was tinkling on his piano, we heard a lady's voice calling out loudly at the gate. It was this lady.

She asked if she could come in and join the fun. Mind you she spoke good English. When he invited her in, he asked if she could play any one of the two instruments available.
Liberace plays 'Chopsticks' YouTube Video from pianoplaylist.

"Yes," she replied without hesitation and proceeded straight towards the piano. And when she started to hit those ivories, we all went, "Oh my goodness!" 

She was all at ease on the keyboard as her fingers flew, playing in the style of Winifred Atwell.  All the popular piano tunes of the day came to her mind. And by heart too!

A few of the songs that she played included, My Tormented Heart (Toselli Serenade), Chopsticks and other piano hits by Atwell and Liberace. There were many more numbers that were played that afternoon. 
But I can't recall all at the moment. Her solo performance went on for more than an hour and our home was filled with her selection of melodies.

After that, she left just as abruptly as when she came in but thanked us gratefully. Even our neighbours, who had gathered to watch her performance, were mesmerized and dumbfounded by her talent. 

No one knew she could play so well. I still remember her in her sarong kebaya. She could have been in her late 40's or early 50's.
Winifred Atwell (1914-1983) n Liberace (1919-1987)
Sadly, a few years later we heard she had passed on. We have never heard or seen any lady play the piano like she did, ever. 

I hope this story keeps her memory alive. My family and I will remember her always. 

Thank you, Andy.

Copyright Article by Michael Bangar.
The images and gif are for illustrations only.
Images: Google.
My Tormented Heart: Winifred Atwell.

        (Try to play this song as you read Mike Bangar's story...)

My tormented heart
Cries out I still love you
Though I know you're gone
Your love lives on
To haunt my memory.
(1st verse).