Nevermind The Bollocks… Here’s Your A-Go-Go Fix

They call it A G0-Go in Singapore and we call is Pop Yeh Yeh. Whatever it is, Singaporean have did something that we could possibly take a pointer or two from when it comes to appreciating our musical heritage. Below are some of the compilations & boxsets the music were fondly refer as pop yeh yeh.

Various Artistes • Let’s A Go-Go! – Singapore And Southeast Asian Pop Scene 1964-1969 (Silver Tortoise)

Yet another fantastic collection of Southeast Asian pop, funky and fuzzy, jangly and garagey, poppy and psychedelic music.

Let’s A Go-Go definitely sounds like it could have ended up on Sublime Frequencies, but in spirit seems to fall closer to one of our favorite comps ever, Teen Dance Music From China And Malaysia, the focus here less cultural and anthropological, and more fun fun fun. There are several tracks from Dara Puspita, whose entire collected work was recently reissued on Sublime Frequencies, and which should give you a good idea of the sort of fuzzy garage pop you can expect here, but besides Dara Puspita, there’s not a single band here we’ve heard of, but they’re all fantastic, Rita Chao, The Bes, Patrina, Hai Fei, The Dee-Tee’s, The Crescendos, The Blue Beats, Rocky Teoh, Charlie And His Go-Go Boys, Lotus Liew, Orkes Tropicano among others.

And of course there are a handful of covers, in keeping with Southeast Asia’s obsession with Western pop music, the perfect examples being both Patrina’s “One To Nine Walkin“, and Charlie And His Go-Go Boys’ “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’“, a cool reinterpretation of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’“, almost identical to the original, in arrangement at least, even with the change in title, the vocals a bit more playful and girlish, and there’s the addition of a cool almost Christmas-y sounding chiming guitar breakdown between every verse! And the second a wild sexy sixties instrumental version, with the vocals replaced by horns, a go-go jam true to the band’s name for sure.

The whole record is like some super exotic sixties dance party, flutes flutter, drums shuffle, organs hum and wheeze, melodies twist and tangle, the sound definitely Asian, but also Western, from fuzzed out garage rockers, to cool garage-ified Asian folk, most of the vocalists are female, but the handful of males representing are pretty spectacular, the Dee-Tee’s “Just Because” is a haunting minor key ballad, the Quests’ “The Dancer” is total Beatles-esque jangle (definitely cobbled together from a handful of parts from various Beatles songs), there’s a groovy version of “Wooly Bully“, there’s some sixties space aged garage a la the Telstars and so much more.

Totally wild and fun, and fuzzy and funky and so varied, a fantastic comp that will definitely appeal to Sublime Frequencies obsessive, Southeast Asian pop nerds, and anyone who bought Teen Dance Music From China And Malaysia, loved it to death but wanted more more more!

* Review lifted from http://www.aquariusrecords.org

 

Various Artistes • Steam Kodok: 26 A-Go-Go Ultrarities From the 60’s Singapore and South-East Asia Underground (Grey Past Records)

Was there ever a Beast known as Singapore Pop?

Now buzzwords like J-Pop or K-Pop abound but there was a time when Singapore Pop shined brightly. When groups were forming and being signed and records were being released weekly. Furthermore in multicultural Singapore bands were playing music but singing them in English, which was the major language, Malay and Chinese. Therefore fans had three streams to choose from. The music produced by Singapore bands and singers mirrored the times.

Cliff Richard and The Shadows played a concert in Singapore in late 1961 and that marked the beginning of the beat group era. Before that it had been duos, trios and quartets and that had been a result of the Blue Diamonds performing in Singapore in 1960. The early bands were strictly instrumental bands and had singers as an afterthought. Most times singers, were adjunct to the band.

The arrival of the Beatles on the music scene in 1963 changed the emphasis on the instrumental band scene in Singapore as bands became self contained units with singers and instrumentalists although strictly instrumental bands flourished for a long time yet in Singapore as there was a need for instrumental music in many situations. So instrumental bands were able to find work and record and keep going.

The scene was further sub-divided as rhythm and blues UK style permeated Singapore and this caused another division among Singapore bands with the result that a new breed of bands appeared that drew from R&B influences. To compound the complications further, Malay bands drew from this new spring as they wrote their own music which drew inspiration from English R&B. Thus Singapore’s musical brew was a heady mix of different influences sung in English, Malay and Chinese.

The artistes presented on this LP represent a mix of those styles and influences. They range from popular bands like Quests who came from the early Sixties era, Naomi and The Boys who hit big in 1965 and had a successful four year run, Antartics who personified the second wave of R&B tinged groups, then Malay groups like D’4 Ever, Les Kafila’s, Mike Ibrahim and The Nite Walkers, Swallows, Ismail Haron and The Guys and two guests from Thailand – Dynamics and Fox. The music ranges from pop R&B, early heavy to the plain weird. It is a mix of Western influences and Asian ethnic diversity to produce something unique that can only be Singapore pop albeit two guests.

* Review lifted from http://psychemusic.org

 

Various Artistes • 100 Greatest Singapore 60s: The Definitive Collection (Universal Music Singapore)

In the introduction to this lavish 5CD set, the writer declares (and laments?) – “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.”

Ironically, of course, the Singapore music scene is undergoing a mini-revival at the moment, with many local bands playing regularly both home and abroad and a multitude of albums & EPs seeing release. Of course, none of these bands are household names in the same way their 60s counterparts were. But still, its a good time for this collection to see light of day to remind bands and fans alike of the days that used to be.

The music is mainly culled from recordings made in the mid-60s, at a time when the Philips label was making inroads in establishing itself as a regional music label. With bands like Naomi & the Boys, The Crescendos, the Cyclones and the Thunderbirds delivering local interpretations of the melodic rock ‘n’ roll pop sound popularized by the Beatles, Cliff Richard & the Shadows, Beach Boys and the like, Philips made a vital contribution to the vibrant local music of the time.

The first 3 CDs feature the complete EPs of the aforementioned bands as well as Shirley Nair and the Silver Strings, Sue, Bobby Lambert and the Dukes, Bryan Neale with the Checkmates. Immensely listenable, it is no wonder that these bands were popular in their heyday with enthusiastic fans snapping up releases and attending gigs, with the high quality on display.

4th CDs brings us on a romantic journey with love songs from The Boys, Heather, Tony Chong, Janice Wee and so on. Whilst the final CD shows the Singapore bands moving on with the times as fuzztone guitars signal the arrival of psych rock, folk pop and garage onto our shores. Bands like the Dukes, the Dee Tees, Cells Unlimited et al start to reveal greater diversity in styles to mirror the going ons in the USA and the UK.

Sadly, of course, the powers-that-be basically declared war on rock music in the 70s and that was the end of the Singapore music scene, with the recovery scene only occurring two decades later. But that’s another story.

One caveat – the tracks here have been recorded off the vinyl records and not magnetic tape – which speaks volumes of the treatment of Singapore music in the years that followed this golden age. And so, the sound quality is pretty poor considering modern CD standards. But one has to keep in mind the historic importance of these songs and what they will continue to represent to the current local music scene. Personally, despite the challenges facing the S-ROCK musician in 2009, I believe that we can still emulate our 60s forefathers and maybe even surpass them…

In the meantime, head on down to your nearest music store and get this box set now.

* Review lifted from http://www.powerofpop.com

 

Various Artistes • More! Singapore 60s Treasures From the Vault (Universal Music Singapore)

After the warm reception given to the 5CD retrospective of the Philips Singapore 60s back catalogue, Universal Singapore has released a 2-CD follow up. Again, the sound isn’t the best it can be since the original masters are long gone but as an archival record of an exceptional epoch of Singapore music, this set is again essential for all fans of that era.

Being born in 1961, I was obviously very young when these records saw light of day but certainly I can vaguely remember the buzz that these Singapore bands generated in this heyday of Singapore music. The influences of the likes of Cliff Richards & the Shadows, the Ventures, Elvis Presley, the Everly Brothers and of course, the Beatles is clearly apparent on these records. A fair mix of covers and originals are showcased here, with no discernible distinction between the two, a testament to the songwriting talent on these shores even in those bygones days.

Judging from the music styles (not to mention the group names), it is evident that Cliff Richards & the Shadows provided a very strong model for many of these bands e.g. Heather and the Diamond Four, Henry Suriya & the Boys, Steve Lorainne & the Clansman and so on.

For fans who picked up the first set, More! Singapore 60s is a must-have. Good songs with excellent performances recommended for lovers of 60s music.

* Review lifted from http://www.powerofpop.com

 

Various Artistes • Recollecting Singapore 60s (EMI/Warner Music Singapore)

EMI & Warner Music has recently re-issued the two Recollecting Singapore 60s albums that were originally released in 2007. This double CD set is a compilation of 40 tracks by local and regional artistes from the 60s & 70s who recorded under the EMI label.

The artistes featured include The Quests, The Sundowners & The Tornados, The Blackjacks, Matthew & The Mandarins, The Surfers, Asha Puthli, Rita Chao, The Xperiment, Sarah Chen, Straydogs, Frankie Cheah, The New Topnotes, Sugiman Jahuri, Sakura Teng, Pietro Attila & The Warlocks, Tony & Terry, Tania, Western Union Band, Anita Sarawak and Lam Leng.

For those who missed out on these two CDs the first time round, this is a good opportunity to pick them up before it’s too late. There is also the added bonus of four Christmas songs by The Quests. Something from the past, and yet another collector’s item. Cheers to local music from the 60s & 70s !

* Review lifted from mocamborainbow.blogspot.com

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