Listen to 8 of S’pore’s most happening pop acts that your grandparents likely boogied to
We had a really amazing local music scene then.
The 60s was considered Singapore’s golden age of pop when music talents were discovered regularly at Talentime singing competitions.
Live performances were held regularly at tea dances and for a fee of $1.50, you could be jiving away to your favourite local band, drink in hand.
Check out these hits by pop acts your parents would probably approve of.
1. The Quests
Considered the most successful of local bands during Singapore’s golden age of pop, the Quests started out as noisy boys jamming together in a Tiong Bahru flat.
Over the course of 4 years, the band evolved from poor musicians who borrowed equipment for their gigs to a powerhouse which took over the stages at dance halls, night clubs, and TV programmes. Other than Singapore, the band also conquered Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei, and even Hong Kong.
Check out The Quests’ cover of Mr. Rainbow:
2. Matthew & The Mandarins
Known as Singapore’s first cowboy to make local country music, Matthew Tan formed Matthew Tan and The Mandarins in 1961 after graduating from school. By 1965, Matthew and his mandarins were already performing full time at local hotels, bringing country’s melancholy to the tropics with their Southern drawls and guitar slides.
Released in 1978, their hit single Singapore Cowboy recently hit triple platinum status, with more than 30,000 copies sold.
Listen to Singapore Cowboy here:
3. Naomi and the Boys
Naomi Suriya was the Heartbreak Queen of the 60s, wailing about lost love before Taylor was raining teardrops on her guitar. The band’s heartache- themed hits (Please Baby Please, I’m The Loser, I’m Crying Inside, It’s All Over, etc) were the perfect vehicles to showcase Naomi’s sincere and sensitive voice which ensnared the hearts of male teens everywhere as well their pocket money.
Naomi and her boys were also known for being one of the few bands who thrived with original compositions.
Weep with Naomi and the Boys while they croon I Know:
4. Susan Lim And The Crescendos
Singapore first fell in love with 14-year-old Susan Lim when she fronted the Crescendos in the 1962 Talentime contest. The band did not win the first place but caught the attention of recording label Philips International. They became the first band in Singapore to sign on with an international recording label.
The band released their first single, a cover of Connie Francis’ Mr Twister in 1963. It was such a hit that it outsold the original version locally. The band continued churning hits which sold more than 10,000 copies each until 1966 when they took a hiatus while Susan pursued her studies at University of Singapore.
Unfortunately in 1970, Susan got swept out to sea during a beach vacation in Terengganu. Her body was never found and the band never regrouped.
Listen to their cover of Mr. Twister here:
5. The Stylers
The Stylers captured Singapore’s attention with their signature offbeat cha-cha rhythms. The band also gained an ardent fan base who loved their solid and unpretentious showmanship in their instrumentals as well as multi-lingual offerings. To date, The Stylers have released albums in English, Mandarin, Hokkien, Cantonese, and Malay.
At the height of their popularity, The Stylers were dazzling audiences at New World Amusement Park, Odeon, and the Capitol.
The Stylers’ instrumental cover of Midnight in Malaya by Boy And His Rollin’ Kids
6. Shirley Nair & The Silver Strings
Formed in 1963, the Silver Strings comprised of 4 students who were encouraged by their music teacher to pursue their dreams of playing music. Not long after, lead singer Shirley Nair was recruited into their ranks.
The band was famous for being one of the rare ones who wrote and sang their own material, and often performed at the old National Theatre. Their hit single “You’re The Boy” was produced in 1965.
Hear Shirley Nair sing Come Home to Me:
7. Sakura Teng
At the age of 17, Sakura Teng launched her career at the New World Amusement Park, and quickly became known as the A Go-Go Queen. At her peak, Sakura Teng enthralled her listeners with songs in a variety of languages, including Bahasa, Mandarin, English and Japanese. Most of her renditions were accompanied by The Quest, and over the years, she released more than 50 albums.
Listen to Sakura’s cover of Boom Boom here:
8. The Cyclones
Brothers Siva and James Choy were a singing duo who frequently sang alongside The Checkmates at The Cellar as well as Golden Venus. Their music was influenced by rhythm and blues and heavily inspired by rising bands such as The Rolling Stones and Animal. The Cyclones released their first EP in 1965 and their single Oh No, She Didn’t Say shot to the top of the charts.
Hear their chart-topper here:
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Top image is a screenshot of a SG50 tribute featuring the song You’re The Boy by Shirley Nair and the Silver Strings.