Thursday, July 19, 2012

Hillview alive with the sound of music (1)

The decade of the 1960s were the heady days for local bands in Singapore. 
Among whom were names like Susan Lim & the Crescendos, The Quests, The Trailers, Naomi and the Boys, Straydogs, The Thunderbirds, Shirley Nair and Silver Strings, October Cherries and The Siglap Five. These local bands were mostly semi-pro but many could hold their own against international names in the recording industry.

From Princess Elizabeth Estate, there would emerge a number of boys who would go on to support and join a number of these bands.  Our own ‘resident’ bands were the Pest Infested and The Blue Stars.

I can still recall them practicing in their homes. You just can’t soundproof the old PEE flats against loud amplified guitars and drums! However, estate residents were mostly tolerant and the boys knew well enough not to play all through the late evening.  

Pest Infested started playing at Sng Say Juan’s home at the 7 storey block and occasionally at Ernie Koh’s house next to the bus terminus.

Pest Infested
L-R: John Ali, Lim Thian Soon, Ernie Koh, Richard D'Silva, John Chan.

I also remember always trying to peek into the practice sessions by the Blue Stars who were located in the same block as my home. But many a times I would be kicked out from their place as they didn’t want pesky kids disturbing their practices.

In those early days, there were already quite a number of families in our small estate getting their children interested in music. The Phua &  Moss girls at blk 21 played the piano. My Indian neighbour Tanga played the violin while her brother Menon played the classical guitar.  I know of the Thomas girls, Diana and her sister, who learnt their music at the Trinity College. I am sure there were many, many others as well.

Musicians who were connected to Princess Elizabeth Estate and who would later gain fame in the local music scene are Ramli Sarip,  known today as Papa Rock, and Moliano Rasmadi.  Ramli and his brother would form the '70s band Sweet Charity, while Moliano would form the band Lovehunter.

Don’t worry if you have not heard of any of them. I will try to dig out some details about our own home grown musicians and post them on this blog at a later time.

As for myself, I was one of the early converts to the then new musical instrument, the electronic organ.  I started learning it with my sister back in 1967 and I actually obtained Grade V of the ABRSM. 
Alas, I then discovered that I really had no musical talent. I guess it was my father who was more interested in showing off his children than his children being musically inclined. LOL. 
However,  I did redeem myself by becoming a church organist for many years (St Joseph & Mary of the Angels).  So at least my meagre talent did not totally go to waste.

This was my very first organ, a basic Yamaha Electone B6.

Later upgraded to a better Yamaha Model D-3 with all the bells & whistles.

You may be surprised to learn that my music teacher was actually a rock band artiste, so the focus of my lessons were always modern pop pieces rather than classical. My teacher was Mr Patrick Foo who was the keyboard player with the 60s band, The Trailers. When not performing on his gigs, he ran a music school that was located at a shophouse on Orchard Road. Today the same spot where the shophouse stood is occupied by Orchard Towers.

Orchard Road shophouse where I had my music lessons.
This stretch now occupied by Orchard Towers.
(Picture from NHB PICAS)

When we first bought our little Yamaha B6, Ernie Koh and John Ali from Pest Infested came over to our house to look at the organ. At that time keyboards were not usual with electric bands and they were interested to see if such a new kind of instrument could be used with their band.

My next blog would be on the estate bands, Pest Infested and The Blue Stars.
Do send me an email if you have information on our estate band boys.

If you would like to hear what the 60s band sounded like, I recommend you visit
JoeWuSeattleWAUSA youtube channel for a sample. Click here.


  1. The D3 was THE ORGAN then,but I couldn't afford it. Lucky you!

  2. Thank you! Patrick Foo was my teacher too, 1967/68. Like you, I was a piano student who figured the Electone D2B was more fun... Anybody know what happened to Patrick?

  3. AnonymousMay 15, 2019

    He was my teacher too.. You can look for him at Regent Music at peninsula shopping centre. I heard that he is still teaching pop piano.