He's here again and has been around studying the local music scene for many years now. Pushing aside his busy lecturing schedule, Dr Steve Farram has contributed yet another article for the blog.
Many thanks, Steve.
I really enjoyed reading Michael Bangar’s reminiscences in his recent post about the National Theatre and all the bands that had played there. Some time ago I wrote to you about the Australian band The Troupadors who had had their photo taken at the phone booths at the old Singapore airport for the cover of one of their records; as had The Jets and at least one other band (I still can’t remember who the other one was!)
I said then that there was an even more popular spot for record cover photo shots in 1960's Singapore. Yes, it was the National Theatre. Here are all the ones I have in my collection and a little bit of what I know about the various artists.
Hi-Fi Twins and The Kings
I have read that the Hi-Fi Twins were from the Philippines. They give the appearance of being a couple of old hands on the show scene and the songs they chose to record for this EP were mainly early 60s numbers like ‘Papa Oom Mow Mow’, ‘Papa and the Mama Twist’ and ‘Boom Boom’.
They did get a bit more contemporary with their version of the Knickerbockers’ ‘Lies’. I don’t know anything about their backing band The Kings or if they ever recorded anything else. Judy Lee, I do not much at all about Judy Lee, but she appears to have been a regular on the live scene in Singapore.
In another entry on this blog you can see that she once appeared on the same bill as Barry Walker & The Figures and a host of other artists at the Capitol Theatre:
My favourite track on this EP is her take on the song ‘Mary Mary’. I don’t think the Monkees ever did a Chinese version, did they? I have read that Judy’s backing band on this record was her Blue Star label-mates The Jets, although it says nothing about that on the record itself.
You cannot see the actual National Theatre building in the photograph of Judy here, but the fountains, the fence etc. make it obvious where she was
Naomi and The Boys
This was Naomi and The Boys first recording for Decca after a number of great records on the Philips label. My favourite track here is the Peter Thomas song ‘Bad Loser’. I don’t think anyone who is a regular on this blog needs an introduction to Naomi and The Boys!
For those who don’t know, one place to start is Andy’s previous entry here:
The Peels were a band from Bandung in Indonesia that released a number of records in Singapore. I have a few of their EP's, but they produced a lot more than I have. They seem to have been very popular in Singapore and Malaysia.
This is the only record from my collection where the National Theatre is designated by its Malay name: Panggong Negara. I really like the song ‘Neng Geulis’. How many people in Singapore understood the Sundanese lyrics, I wonder?
Teng Teng and The Stylers
I cannot read Chinese, but I was told the singer’s name is Teng Teng. Please tell me, anyone, if that is wrong. Teng Teng is very young in the photograph of the cover of this record, but I have seen some other records by The Stylers that seem to show a slightly older Teng Teng on the cover.
My favourite tracks on this EP are the versions of ‘Hang On Sloopy’ and ‘Be Bop A Lula’. The Stylers backed many singers on albums and EPs (mainly in Chinese, but not always) and produced a mass of records of their own. Andy has written about them several times elsewhere on this blog, so find out more there.
I do not know much about the Travellers except that they released a number of instrumental albums under their own name and several albums and EPs backing various singers, always in Chinese. By the look of the cut of their clothes, I’d say this record was from the early 1970's. This is the only record of theirs that I own
The Vantomites offer a couple of instrumental tracks on this EP. I also have two EPs where they are backing singers Liu Zhong and Jing Jing. On those two records, they are recorded as the Vandomites on the record label. The photograph for this record seems to have been taken at about the same place as that for Judy Lee, which means you can see the fountains and so on, but not the National Theatre itself
That’s all for now. There are probably other records showing the National Theatre, but these are the only ones I know about.
These Chinese song/artist vinyl are becoming rare now. None going to print because they cost a fortune to produce and many collectors are just keeping them. Sungei Road (Singapore's Flea Mart), that was selling them, will close in July 2017. Used to cost $2 a piece. Lately, saw them for sale at $20 each.)
The English Singapore collection, like the Malay ones, are going for more, some as much as $200 a piece. Andy.
Images: From Steven Farram.