Sunday, March 26, 2017

Legends About Thunderbirds, Tornados n Strings

From left: Freddie Kang (Thunderbirds), John Cher, Andy Lim (Silver Strings), Derek McCully (The Tornados).

One of the reasons why I write this blog is to get like-minded music people to meet and chat; so this blog is like a cyberspace kopi-tiam (coffee joint).

It has been happening since because John Cher who appreciates this blog and its usefulness, has been doing something similar. He's been gathering music-makers together for personal chit-chats in the real kopi-tiams.

And I must thank him for his innovative ways in getting people together.
On Friday last John and I (Silver Strings) met, but this time with two legends who are still around.  I remember this gentleman meeting Rickie Chng (Silver Strings lead) and myself at Novena Square, twelve months earlier, thundering into the mall and announcing himself with his sirens and beepers as he approached us. 

Freddie Kang (cover image: 2nd right), was from the Thunderbirds, one of the top ten bands from Singapore 60's that was still playing some years back at the Carriage Bar in Orchard Road.  

When he left the group, he went solo and with his impactful Fender Strat and appropriate amplifiers became a successful one-man band at Riverside Hotel.

You have to sit with Freddie to know him better. He's got lots of history to tell and the two hours I spent with him hardly covered the first pages of his life story.

The other gentleman is one I had met, when he with his group performed at the Temasek Club some years ago, with the band's rhythmist at that time, Arthur Lim. 

The band is called The Tornados and he was from St. Andrew School.  They made a record with the Sundowners. This grey-haired gentleman sat beside me with his numerous stories of knights in shining armour riding in fast Lamborginis, Ferraris and Aston Martins.
Derek McCully from the famous McCully clan in Singapore, told John, Freddie and myself about how he decided to: 

Only play the guitar for fun
And not to chari-makan...

The question is, how did he chari makan?  Definitely not with his guitar and Hank Marvin riffs.  Although he was just too good with The Shadows repertoire of instrumental hits, he did something else to earn a living.

As I explained this posting is just a teaser.  So for more stories about The Thunderbirds and The Tornados, watch out for future stories on this blog.
                    Derek McCully (left) with an Aston Martin Lagonda.
                                 video: singapore sixties pop music

Images: A Private Collection and Star On Line.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Jimi Hendrix Distorts: Horace Wee Replies Part 2

Horace Wee is one of the foremost professional pop guitarists this side of the Pacific, having been with our local radio station (RTS) for many years and a leader of his own group.  He has a reply to Henri Gann's interesting short comment about distorted guitar sound when I asked him to educate an ignoramus like me.

Thank you Horace.

His article starts here. 

The subject of distortion and a discourse of Jimi Hendrix - the man, his music and instrument has been covered in volumes of books and articles. Guitar distortion existed in various forms from the early 50's recordings. Much of it was by accident and the discovery that it produced musical tones.  Like the tremolo drenched sound of Link Wray's rumble or the bite of Keith Richards' telecaster.

Hendrix pushed the envelope further by playing louder and using larger amplifiers.  Influenced by his background of RnB music and likely listening to blues performers performing on inadequate small amplifiers distorting, were some factors that probably contributed to the crystallization of his musical approach (image: Richards-left, Wray-right).

Black people don't listen to white music. Essentially Hendrix foundation was the Blues. Probably America's greatest contribution to the world's art form.  The distortion on his guitar sort of emulates the growl in a blues holler or shout.  In short the distortion of an electric guitar sound can be equated to a primal scream. Pure raw emotion.
Technically in the beginning, Hendrix's equipment was a regular right handed Fender Stratocaster strung and played left handed, a germanium Big Muff distortion pedal, Vox wah pedal and a stack of Marshall amplifiers. He used a Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face as well, mentioned in various articles about Hendrix.

The way he played was the most important element in the final result we all have come to appreciate.

Ah Andy, you have triggered my thoughts.

Horace Wee (left) has peppered this blog with many short anecdotes and comments for some years now. If you key his name in the Search engine on the right bar of this blog you can find many of his contributions.

What triggered this discussion. Read connection here:


Images: Google and a Personal Collection.
You Tube Video: Tone Factor.

Jimi Hendrix: Distorted Guitar Sound: The Trekkers

Henri Gann, who lives in California and from Singapore 60's band The Trekkers wrote a comment on Ray Anthony's posting. I thought it needed a bigger space. So here it is everyone. From one guitarist to the rest of you guys out there. Any comment?

Ray Anthony of Singapore playing Jimi Hendrix ? OMG ! That had to be quite a trip!

A few years ago, my brother John who lives in Singapore asked me, " Who's Jimi Hendrix?" The first tune that instantly came into my mind was " Foxy Lady." 

I remember the feeling when I first heard Hendrix on the radio of my '66 Ford Mustang in LA. I was instantly floored by his guitar playing. The year was 1967. 

The DJ's were raving over the happenings at the Monterey Pop Festival. When I was playing the guitar with the Trekkers in the early 60's, distorted amplifiers were negatively thought of as inadequate amplification. And here, Hendrix was able to turn all that distorted guitar sound into very beautiful sounding music. 

Years later, while at a guitar store when I saw a young kid playing Hendrix with the new Guitar God device, I instantly wished I could be that kid. 

Hendrix was indeed the rare guitarist of the century; the star that showed up in our Galaxy once in a lifetime. And as Ed Vulliami from the Guardian stated, "he was the only guitarist who could think of playing like the blues musician Muddy Waters and rock guitarist Albert King combined." 

From: Henri Gann.

My Comment:

Jimi Hendrix' music has also been associated with drugs and fantasy trips, and I must be clear here, nothing to do with Henri's letter to me.  But is his music still popular today? Looking at the number of viewers on his You Tube videos, it has 57 million watching his Watchtower song.

Comment you musicians, especially guitarists out there? What say you?

Horace Wee replies. Click connection:

Images and Video: Google and You Tube.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Li Li Hua 李麗華 (1924 - 2017) R.I.P.


Born in 1924 in China, Li Li Hua made her first movie in 1940, just before World War II. Three Smiles it was called.  She was only 16 but with a whole lot of acting experience since she started acting at four. 

Because of her training in Peking (Beijing) Opera she was able to maintain her journey through the tough film industry acting in 120 movies within 4 decades.

There were many 'firsts' in this illustrious lady's career. She starred in the first colour movie made in Hong Kong, Blood Will Tell (1955); the first Chinese actress to star in a Hollywood movie, China Doll (1958) with Victor Mature. 

She acted in a Chinese movie that won a Cannes Award, The Magnificent Concubine (1962) and walked on the famed Cannes red carpet. Could she be the first Chinese actress to be fully undressed in a Shaw Brothers' movie?

A very young Jackie Chan had acted in 3 movies with her.  Cecil B. De Mille, Yul Brynner and Clark Gable were some of her admirers.

She was under Great Wall, a China controlled movie company but was later under the banner of Shaw Brothers film based in Hong Kong and Singapore. 
She married thrice and her second husband Yen Chun was another famous actor; they had acted in many movies together.

According to a Chinese newspaper report, she had an apartment in Singapore opposite the American Club in Claymore Hill. She used to frequent this island but because of her health had lived in Hong Kong since.

She passed away in Hong Kong at 92 years in March 2017.

She was also a celebrated singer, having recorded a good number of songs that were just as popular as her movies. Those years a movie had its own theme song usually sung by the main star. 

The You Tube song below was interpreted in a jazzy style rather than in her usual traditional way. Li Li Hua had many tracks to her name.

In 1994, at 70 years, she recorded again and had more than a dozen of her classic songs but adding 3 more to her already popular repertoire for EMI, Singapore.
                    China Doll - Li Li Hua (1956) - Video Chan Julian

A Short List of Li Li Hua's Songs:

Blue Bridge - 魂断蓝桥 (Auld Lang Syne)
Waiting For His Return In Vain -人儿不见归
Beaming - 喜上眉梢

Blazing With Irises - 万紫千红
A Million Purple and Red - 萬紫千紅
Cabbage - 小白菜

The Second Spring - 第二春 (Ding Dong Song)
Heaven and Earth - 天上人間
Blind Love - 盲戀

Snow Red - 雪裡紅
Flowers Hate - 殘花恨 
Two Flowers - 兩朵花

Song of Spring Tour - 之歌 春之旅
Song of Potherd Mustard - 之歌 雪裡紅
A Personal Experience:

This beautiful and talented lady won the hearts of both men and women in South East Asia and even around the world. My mother adored her and often went to Li Li Hua's movies at Shaw Brothers theatres in Singapore. 

I was still a child then but used to accompany her to see this Ms Li's films. What little I know of Mandarin today I had learnt from watching Chinese movies.

I remember going alone one day to queue up for one of her films. The line snaked round the Capitol Cinema so long I ended up going home, unhappy and did not see the movie until it was screened in one of the smaller cinemas in the suburbs, at the Roxy which was near the East Coast.  

                           Li Li Hua Grass On The Wall 李丽华-墙头草

Many times I would watch Li Li Hua movies at the Queens Cinema at Geylang, catching many of the shows there produced by Shaw Brothers. It was one of many cinemas own by the magnates.

I had refused to pay two dollars for any show, limiting myself to a dollar a movie. I didn't quite enjoy the costumes and plot - having been westernised even as a child - but will never forget the story of Liang Shan Po and Chu Ying Tai (1964), the butterfly lovers.

There are many websites about Li Li Hua. 

Rest In Peace Li Li Hua.

Images: Google. Pix 2 with her husband Yen Chun,  Pix 3 with Clark Gable. Pix 5 with Victor Mature.
The Capitol Cinema Singapore where many of Li Li Hua's movies were shown.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Jimi Hendrix Come Alive: Singapore's Ray Anthony

When Mr. Michael Bangar, who plays rhythm guitar for Singapore pop bands that included The Silver Strings, informed me that he was attending the *Ray Anthony / Jimmy Appudurai gig I asked him if he could cover it for this blog. As usual, he agreed. Mike's knowledge of the genre speaks for itself. 

Thanks Mike for your story and pix 3,4 and John Cher for pix 1,2,5.

Hood's Bar n Cafe: Bugis/Victoria Street, Singapore: 19/3/2017:

Doors opened at one pm. My buddy Shaikh and myself paid our entrance fee of $20 each, which includes a drink and took up position at the back with a clear view of the goings-on stage wise.

Ray Anthony with his red Fender guitar, son Ryan Marshall on keyboard and original Fried Ice member Gerry (Gerard Bheem) on drums and Felly Chitran on bass guitar. As we watched them do their sound check, we were listening to Steppenwolf's Born To Be Wild.

Their first set started at 2 pm. They opened with a Gary Moore song (unfamiliar). After that songs included Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here, The Doobie Brothers' Long Train Running, Dylan's All Along The Watch Tower, Purple Haze, Stone Free - all Jimi Hendrix Experience numbers (when Hendrix had Noel Redding on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums).

As in the tradition of the 70's Guitar Hero era, long solos followed between Dad and Son. It was their moment !  After all these years brother Ray Anthony is still as versatile and great as he was.

They ended the set with a Chuck Berry tribute, Johnny B. Goode. And as Ray put it, "Ladies and Gentlemen, we want to pay tribute to a guy who just left us for the big gig up there, Mr. Chuck Berry."

This first set ended at 3.40 pm.

The second set featured a mixed band of two locals and two expatriate members. The band called themselves, Blues 77 and featured Lim Kiang. There was a Chinese gentleman on a guitar, a Caucasian on drums. They all did about half a dozen of their original songs, which were not familiar to many in the audience and myself.

Then *Jimmy Appadurai from The Meltones, Stray Dogs, took over lead guitar and performed Stormy Monday, a blues classic and Fleetwood Mac's My Baby's Good To Me. He was as great as ever and played just like he had done in the late 1960's.

Ray and Company took to the stage again for their third set at 4.35pm. Pink Floyd's Another Brick In The Wall. More of Jimi Hendrix' music followed. There was Hey Joe (when he formed The Band Of Gypsies with Billy Cox and Buddy Miles before his passing), Cry For Love and Them Changes.

Free's, Alright Now, Deep Purple's Smoke on the Water, some more Doobie Brothers and a few more rock classics followed. This set also included drum solos and bass guitar solos towards the end.

The two of us, including Mr. John Cher left by 5.45 pm. We did not stay for the jam session gazetted up to 7.00 pm.

Thanks Andy.

Ray Anthony lives in Taiwan while Jimmy Appadurai lives in Cornwall, England.

Images from: Michael Bangar (right) and John Cher (left).
Article and images are Copyrighted. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Jimi Hendrix Of Singapore: Ray Anthony & Fried Ice


Hood's Bar n Cafe: Bugis/Victoria Street, Singapore: 19/3/2017 @ 2pm:

Here they are folks, guitarist, writer and today's photographer,  Michael Bangar and Silver Strings rhythmist with Ray Anthony, who is also known as Singapore's Jimi Hendrix. He is a south-paw, like a boxer i.e., a left handed guitarist.

It's a scoop. The group Fried Ice who accompanies Rayis still playing at a venue in Victoria Street now. Gerry Bheem is on the drums and Felly Chitran on bass. 

And the audience in the afternoon at two when they gathered at this place in Victoria Street. Lim Kiang, Jimmy Appadurai and John Cher, the man who's everywhere.

Images: Michael Bangar and John Cher Copyrights Reserved.

Chuck Berry RIP 1926-2017 Father of Rock n Roll

Mr Chuck Berry: 1926 - 2017 (90 years).

John Lennon said: If you tried to give rock n roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry.

I remember going to HMV at Orchard Road in February 2009 to get the 3-CD Set of Chuck Berry The Ultimate Collection (image below). It was the second last piece and there was another guy beside me wanting to buy the same set. We smiled at each other and paid the Cashier.

With nearly 30 songs by the man who was highly respected by the King himself, the list included the great anthems, Johnny B. Goode, Roll Over B, Rock n Roll Music, Maybellene, My Ding-A-Ling, Sweet Little Sixteen and two dozen others. 

But the number of songs he recorded is far beyond this figure. Chuck Berry recorded about 531 songs altogether. Don't you think he should be The King instead? But being dubbed, The Father of Rock n Roll means he's father to the King.

Now this great man is gone too. But he has a particular place to go. It's to the Promised Land (not the one in the lyrics) and You Never Can Tell because he will perform again when he has his great gig in the sky with Elvis and the rest of the Go Go Go gang.

In Singapore since the late 1950's nearly every guitar group and combo band had played Chuck Berry's compositions. The Cyclones, Siva and James, The Silver Strings, The Esquires and others would have done at least, Johnny B. Goode on stage. 

Just yesterday (20/03/2017) on stage, in a large bar and auditorium at Victoria Street, Ray Anthony - the Jimmy Hendrix of Singapore - performed the song as a tribute to Berry. 

So, Chuck Berry isn't gone. He's still around, everywhere.

Rest In Peace Sir. 

Images: Google
You Tube video by Pig City Records.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Jimmy Appudurai-chua All You Need Is Love

The Silver Strings were at the SIA Club at Changi last night, 17th March 2017. Drummer John Cher who had partly organised the jam session invited Audie Ng, Rickie Chng and myself to the meet. Veronica came with other friends.
Rickie, Audie, Veronica, Andy and John enjoying the jam session. Check posters behind us.

It was a get together for former Singaporean Jimmy Appadurai Chua, the man of the moment. Jimmy who lives in the UK showed his guitar prowess when he lead the evening's group with hits from The Shadows accompanied by drummer John and others. 

A Blues man playing Shadows. That was a sight to see and hear.
                                         Jimmy Appudurai-chua

Freddie Kang who was from The Thunderbirds sang a few Cliff Richard songs to close the deal. Derek Mc Cully from The Tornados provided a solid performance with a few Shadows melodies too.

What I love about the venue are the various posters that bedeck the walls of the Music Room. There are two of these beauties which caught my eye. One is a quote from Plato and the other from The Beatles. Both sayings are significant to the evening in question: Music and Love. You can't have one without the other.

A personal thanks to Rickie Chng for driving us all the way to Changi to join in the session. And Richard Toh for the photographs.

For further details regarding the many guests who were there check out John Cher's Facebook.
Images: Google and Richard Toh's Personal Collection.