MERVYN JOSEPH MATHEWS (1926 – 2010)

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My father, Mervyn, passed away on Monday, 15th March at about 4pm. He had been suffering from lymphoma of the gastrointestinal tract and had been getting physically weaker. On the previous Monday, he had been admitted into the hospital as he had been too weak to do anything for himself at all. He seemed to get better and was due to be discharged on Saturday. Sadly, due to his lymphoma, he suffered a gastrointestinal perforation on Friday night and his condition quickly became life-threatening.

By Monday afternoon he was gone but thank God, he did not suffer too much and he had a chance to see my mom, sister, brother-in-law and his grandsons and speak to us before that. The last few days since his passing have been tough – emotionally and physically draining. However, thanks to the kind support of many relatives and friends, the situation was made that much more manageable. There were many kind condolences from S-ROCK friends on Facebook and Twitter and also Pat Chng, Josh & JBarks (of The Fire Fight), Nick Tan and Narisa Chan turned up at the wake, all of which meant a lot to me.

My initial exposure to pop music came about from listening to Bee Gees, Bread, Santana, Beatles 8-tracks in the back of my Dad’s car when I was a teenager in the 70s. My Dad was a movie buff as well and I remember watching classic scifi movies like Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green, by his side. Not only that, but my Dad bought tons of comic books in the 60s, including the amazing Stan Lee-Jack Kirby Fantastic Four and the Legion of Super-Heroes comics (sadly thrown away by my mother in the 70s). So, you see, in many ways, my Dad made me the pop culture geek that I am and I’ll always be thankful for that!

My Dad was born into poverty, the youngest of eight siblings, and as a teenager during the Japanese Occupation endured a hard life. After the war, he was orphaned and soon joined the British Army to eke out a living. He would later join the Harbour Board (subsequently known as the Port Authority of Singapore) Police Force and worked his way up to the rank of inspcctor. He and my mom worked hard to give my sister Melinda and I, a life that would be better than theirs and they succeeded.

I still can’t believe that he’s gone but I’ve accepted it (knowing that he is in a much better place). So goodbye, Dad, we’ll meet again… Thanks again to everyone who graciousy shared their time to pay respects to my Dad in the last few days – I appreciate you all!!!

… still there’s more …

CHRIS COLLINGWOOD – LIVE IN SINGAPORE

 

We ran off the stage anticipating an encore – Leave the Biker – but the host killed it for us by anouncing the end of the set instead of attempting to coax one more song from us. So things did not quite go to plan and my dream gig was over.

Over.

Four intense days of jamming, bonding through food & shared musical interests culminated in a thrilling (albeit terrifying) 45-minute set at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre.

From Wednesday to Friday, the band (Desmond Sim, Eugene Wee, Alexius Cai and I) jammed with Chris to work out the songs that we would perform on Saturday night. By the time we sound checked on Saturday afternoon, we had a set list all planned out and we were in good shape for the performance.

Chris asked me if I would back him up for Troubled Times for his solo acoustic set for early Saturday night at the Concourse. The song had been dropped from the full band set list and I felt honoured by his request. But before that, the five of us were featured artists at the library@esplanade for the “observation deck” segment. It was great to see familiar faces in the crowd – Tim, Chang Kang, Weiwen, Daniel – as we manoeuvred our way through the usual questions.

From then on time seemed to freeze and fly past at the same time – if that makes any sense. Chris played his solo acoustic set, I backed him on Troubled Times (which was almost dream-like, surreal even), we set up at the Outdoor Theatre, cracked opened the set and ran through the songs, trying hard to remember my vocal, guitar and keyboard parts. The highlight for me personally was seeing all the familiar faces in the crowd, the missus, my eldest son Wesley, Narisa, Cindy, Roland, Weiwen, Thomas, Poh Soo. The audience reaction to I Love Singapore was bigger than I expected – Chris described it as the “biggest hit of the night” – a fantastic high!

Then it was done. I felt relieved that it went down well and yet was slightly disappointed that it was over. I want to thank to everyone who made this once-in-a-lifetime experience possible. The folks at Esplanade – Chloe, Keith and Junmin, the awesome band – Des, Gene and Al and of course Chris. I have been blessed to have collaborated with talented people like Skye, the Great Spy Experiment, Jon Chan, Jack and Rai but working with Chris has been phenomenal.

Truly unforgettable … but there’s more…

Set list – Please don’t rock me tonight/No Better Place/Sink to the Bottom/Red Dragon Tatoo/Wasting Time/Hackensack/All Kinds of Time/Mexican Wine/I Love Singapore/Sick Day/Radiation Vibe/Stacy’s Mom/Survival Car.

CHRIS COLLINGWOOD – LIVE IN SINGAPORE

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Dreams do come true! Sometime in 2008, I posted an event on Facebook for my performance (with the Groovy People) at Rock the Sub. I got a bit of a shock when Chris Collingwood (the voice of power pop legends Fountains of Wayne) wrote on the event wall that he would love to play in Singapore!

Well, in about 5 weeks’ time, Collingwood will in fact be playing in Singapore at Baybeats 2009 on the 29th of August to be precise. And if that wasn’t exciting enough, yours truly will be backing Chris playing rhythm guitar and singing backing vox! Yes! Really!

Let’s just say that I have been a big fan of FOW since their gorgeous eponymous album was released in 1996 – the one with the kid playing Superman holding his pet bunny – and I can barely wrap my head around the fact that I will be on stage with Chris playing great songs like Radiation Vibe, Sick Day (my favorite!), Red Dragon Tattoo and Stacy’s Mom!

So, stay tuned as Power of Pop begins its countdown to Baybeats 2009, with special emphasis on my experiences with Chris in the coming weeks! Oh by the way, rounding up the band are Eugene Wee and Desmond Sim out of S-ROCK legends The Lilac Saints!

Check out my review of FOW’s third album, Welcome Interstate Managers, which I wrote a few years back. Still there’s more.

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Ten tracks into this, the third and latest album from Adam Schlesinger, Chris Collingwood and company, Fountains of Wayne delivers a truly incandescent pop moment with the ‘70s soft-rock evoking “Halley’s Waitress.” With the inspirations of Burt Bacharach and the Carpenters trailing in its wake, “Halley’s Waitress,” with its baroque piano, poignant string arrangement, vibes and theme of wistful regret, represents the rare indications of heart (rather than mind) dictating the Fountains Of Wayne pop agenda.

This superior mood and tone is mirrored in the folky “Hackensack” and the balladic Fire Island, not to mention the radio-friendly “All Kinds of Time.”

Not that the band’s trademark driving sunshine pop-rock doesn’t in itself justify a recommendation. It’s just that I’ve always felt that this particular kind of Cheap Trick meets Pixies melodic crunch has been better served up by the likes of Weezer and Grandaddy. Worse still when juvenile urges are indulged with the rather distasteful “Stacy’s Mom” – imagine a much creepier “Jesse’s Girl,” where instead of lusting after another guy’s girlfriend, this time it’s your girlfriend’s erm mother – although I presume it’s done as a parody but why go there at all?

That aberration apart, the songwriting duo’s knack for stitching together vivid novelettes ala Ray Davies remains intact. The working class dilemma is outlined in tracks like “Mexican Wine” – “I used to fly for United Airlines/Then I got fired for reading High Times,” “Bright Future in Sales” – “I had a line on a brand new account/But now I can’t seem to find/Where I wrote that number down” and “Little Red Light” – “Stuck in a meeting on a Monday night/trying to get the numbers to come out right.” Even happier to report that the boys’ sense of humour is not lost in songs like the bizarre action-replay paean “All Kinds Of Time,” which simply describes an American Football TV scene, “No Better Place” with “Is that supposed to be your poker face/Or was someone run over by a train” and “Hey Julie” which illustrates the mundanity of the working stiff – “Working all day for a mean little man/With a clip-on tie and a rub-on tan.”

Hailed years ago as the Great White Hope of power pop, Fountains of Wayne do not disappoint with Welcome Interstate Managers, clocking in at 55-plus minutes and 16 tracks, discerning pop fans will relish every nuance and every lick. Indispensable.

ME & MY GUITAR GOES OUTDOOR

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And so, a week of gigs ended for me with two satisfying solo acoustic sets at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre. I got Nick Tan and Narisa Chan, two young singer-songwriters to open each set for me with two songs and it was rather affecting, I must say, to watch them delivering their own originals to the crowd.

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Narisa seemed rather nervy but I think she handled herself well. Just needs more experience. Nick more seasoned now and his new song together with You (one of my favorites) pleased the audience. More to come from these two I predict.

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I felt the first set was a little hard going for me – although the crowd was always appreciative – for some reason, I felt the songs weren’t coming across, especially the Singapore-referencing ones, which surprised me. Or maybe it was my own imagination. In any case, set list – Jealous Guy, I Love Singapore, High Cost of Living, The Offender, Pasir Ris Sunrise, Lament, Here, Beautiful, My One & Only.

I started with the electric piano for my second set. Was a little apprehensive about this, I don’t usually do this live but I thought that Texas and My Life went down well. And that pleased me no end. So from that point in time to the end, the set went very well and I could see many mobile phones raised recording my performance. Always a good sign! Also very much enjoyed the debut of (It’s Not A) Fact after all these years. Yes, it’s time to record some of these babies! Set list – Hey Jude, Texas, My Life, Beyond the Ashes, (Its Not a) Fact, Easy, Heaven, My One & Only, Gum.

Thank again to Chloe (and all at Esplanade) and of course to Nick and Narisa.

Pictures courtesy of Soh Poh Soo.

… still there’s more …

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD – PART III

It was a new decade. Singapore’s only independent rock mag BigO had come out of the underground and onto the newstands and bookstores all around Singapore. And their message was simple. Singapore music is as good as any in the world and we  support it. I must admit that I had largely ignored the mag for most of its existence, but it was getting increasingly harder to do so – especially with Chris Ho glaring daggers at you on the cover.

In 1991, the mag launched the New School Rock CD series and effectively kickstarted the local scene. On this CD, the talents of The Oddfellows, Opposition Party and Coporate Toil were showcased. Whilst the recording standard was very rough (  do well to remember that this was before ‘lo-fi’ became a fashion statement ), certainly the potential shone through the murky productions. In particular, The Oddfellows’ Song For Caroline left a deep impression on me and would serve as an inspiration for certain musical ideas of my own.

It had become increasingly evident that any ambitions I cherish in relation to what I could do with my music lay very much in my own hands. With that in mind, I complied a cassette of songs that we had recorded over the course of a decade and sent it off to BigO.

This little effort on my part would have greater significance that I could have hoped for. Subsequently I was contacted by Yong Shu Hoong, a writer to whom the mag had assigned the task of checking the Watchmen out. Shu Hoong was encouraging and seemed to be taken up somewhat by our material. His impressions were printed in the April 1991 issue ( which sported a Patrick Chng cover ) under the mag’s Ruff Cuts section.

” What baffles me is how they managed to remain unknown all this time. Through the years , they never stopped believing in the music that they are playing – maybe now it’s time the recording companies start believing too.” * ahem *

As flattering as it was I was cynical enough to appreciate the irony of the reality of the local scene. It was never difficult to ‘remain unknown’ in Singapore and I am very sure that there are many in my generation that possessed the skill and talent to make their mark musically and artistically but never had the chance because of the paucity of opportunity and reward to motivate development of their craft. That I had taken a first tenative step towards ‘recognition’ made me feel very fortunate indeed. I had no illusions about how far this could go and in fact, I had in all truth expected it to end there and then. My three minutes of fame had come and go albeit on a very minor scale.

The reasons for my pessimism were simple. I had no band. My colleagues were in the States and there was no contact from them whatsoever and my contemporaries were too busy pursuing career and family priorities to consider a time-consuming sideline like music-making. No, this had been the first and last hurrah of the Watchmen.

Or so I believed.

Stephen Tan is an editor with BigO and indeed a founding member of The Oddfellows. Stephen was emphatic that I should release the demo compilation I had sent to the mag. I had never seriously considered it before but his encouragement gave me the impetus to do so and thus, Who Watches The Watchmen hit the shops in August of that year. The fact that it sold out briskly ( all twenty copies !!) prompted a second release – Industry And Commerce – two months later.

Although it had been suggested that this was proof of how prolific we were, actually both tapes were culled from existing material , some dating back to 1979, which somewhat deflates that claim.

Back in the real world, Patrick Chng and The Oddfellows were taking the local scene by storm with the single So Happy and the album Teenage Head.  A new era had been heralded by these releases as for the first time since the Sixties, a homegrown song topped the radio charts all over Singapore. A new phrase had entered  into the public consciousness – ” indie band ” – which to the unintiated simply meant, a local band performing their own original material. It seemed as if the island could not get enough of the band, as they dominated the airwaves and meida attention for that surrealistic period in the third quarter of 1991.

Despite all the hype and publicity, sales of Teenage Head were disappointing – less than 2,000 copies – the public it seemed were not convinced of the value of local music. On the personal front,  I had embarked on a homemade recording of new material together with my wife’s cousin Phoon Kwong Mun, then eighteen. Mun was blessed with impressive equipment in his bedroom – four track machine, sequencer, synthesizer & electric guitars as well a keen head for music arrangements. Our gameplan was basic, I would record the songs on a portable recorder on an acoustic guitar and Mun would flesh out my bare bones into full-blown productions.The end-product would be This Savage Garden.

1992 witnessed the delivery of New School Rock II, and the introduction of  the likes of  AWOL, The Shades, Stomping Ground, The Padres, Fish On Friday & Black Sun. Co-ordinated by Patrick Chng ( who esle!), the disc moved decidedly into the mainstream direction with songs from AWOL ( Postcards) and The Shades (The 5 Cs) generating chart action and national attention.

A rosy future seemed inevitable for the bulk of these bands and interest in “indie bands” reached a new high. Gigs were well-attended affairs and the major labels watched the entire proceedings keenly. Certainly, it would not be long before the masses embraced the local musician warmly to their collective bosom.

This Savage Garden was released in February and was generally well-received. This collection of political songs was a watershed for me as it proved that my music-making days were only beginning. Stephen Tan again proved encouraging and put me in touch with Patrick Chng to explore the possibilities of getting my material properly done.

Without sounding too cynical about it, I had my doubts as to how much could be achieved.

As I was mulling over limited options, the trio known as Black Sun invested their time and hard-earned cash to independently release their self-titled CD in mid-1992. Whatever one thought of the easy-listening pop fodder of the actual material, the drive, motivation and the commitment could not be faulted.

However, as with most other local releases the first weeks of release were torturously slow sales-wise. Worse, for the band, they were constantly being written off as ” middle-aged rockers ” or derided due to the fact that they were wealthy enough to pursue their dream.

But, as fate would have it, radio picked up on Love You Now, the opening single and the band found itself with a Number One Song! Better yet, the accompanying musicvideo was a feature in the MTV Asia Top Twenty !! Had Singapore pop arrived ?

Sadly, sales again contradicted. Reportedly no more than a measly 3,500 copies! What would a local artiste have to do to sell albums?

In October, my contact with Patrick Chng paid off as he invited me to contribute two tracks to New School Rock III. So it was off to the Savior Faire studio in Sim Lim Square backed by friend Stephen Huen on lead guitar and Patrick on drums. My first recording experience was quite rewarding as we churned out On Orchard Road and Please Believe Me in a day. Certainly, the satisfaction obtained by putting the songs together was something I thoroughly enjoyed. I wanted more!

1993. On Orchard Road was the first of my songs to be played on radio. It was definitely a cheap thrill I could possibly get used to very quickly. It was also the first to be made into a music video ( courtesy of Eric Khoo ) and aired over national television. Things, it seemed were begining to happened. Remarkably by May I had secured a recording deal with local indie outfit Odyssey Music. At last twenty years of unfulfilled dreams were to be resolved.

For the next year, the pace could only be described as hectic as if to compensate for the long time it took for me to reach that stage. And through it all I had to take the good with the bad. My One and Only, whilst managing to be a #1 radio hit was also summarily snubbed at the Perfect Ten Awards. At gigs, the song would be wildly received by hundreds and yet the album Democracy failed to sell more than a paltry 4000 copies. I performed ‘live’ on National Television but would later be accused of falsehoods in The New Paper by former friends and partners. The Love EP was recorded and mixed in less than 22 hours only to be ignored by everyone.

By May 1994, Watchmen were history.

Indeed, though this journey appears to have ended, I am beginning a fresh venture with The Crowd. It doesn’t matter to me how many albums I sell, or whether The Straits Times writes about me, or if the radio plays my music. This adventure is for me, my family and whomsoever is interested in jumping on board. If there is but one person who is keen on following my art then it is certainlky worthwhile to soldier on. I see Modest not merely as a demo i.e. as a means to an end but an end to itself.

My recording career has only just begun.

Well, that’s where I had left it in 1995, which is now 14 years ago! Should I fill in the blanks? Comments, please…

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD – PT 2

The 2nd installment of The Long and Winding Road, an article published in the No Finer Time to be Alive book on the S-ROCK scene of the 90s.

The Eighties was a lost decade for me and my muse. Other commitments stood in the way. My bandmates had flown over to the other side of the world, I had to serve my country, spend four years paper chasing, get-a-job and marry my sweetheart. My songwriting continued a pace as and when time permitted. On the odd year that my displaced colleagues returned, we recorded whatever material we could. In 1983, I sat at the piano and came up with My One And Only, a demo recording was made the following year. Most who heard it wasted no time to tell me that it would be a hit. And though I had faith in my own material, I knew that that would never come to pass. Or so I believed.

The local scene saw the sporadic releases from the likes of Heritage, Dick Lee and Zircon Lounge but no matter how accomplished the music was, as usual public consciousness was hardly dented. In the mid-Eighties, Before I Get Old or BigO( ‘Singapore’s only independant rock magazine’ )was born from the ashes of the defunct Sunday Monitor and with it the seeds of a local music scene was sown, though fruition would only be seen in the Nineties.

Whilst marginally interesting, my own attentions were not focused on these events and in fact entertained absolutely no thoughts of ever achieving anything substantially with my music. But i was soon to change my views-thanks to a certain gentleman named Patrick Chng.

It was 1989, the ubitquitous Chris Ho’s Pop Life article featured a motley trio of odd fellows who were touted by Ho as the next big thing locally. I poured through the contents of that piece religiously. What interested me most was that the band had released their own demo tape ( Mild ) independently! Definitely, I had missed out on something the past couple of years. My mind and heart raced, if these ordinary boys-next-door-types could do the business, there was hope for all would-be closet musicians. It certainly suggested the possibility to me.

Fuelled by this renewed optimism and faith in what could be achieved in the music scene, my bandmates and I decided that this was the year that things would finally happen for us as a group. With that in mind we set down to record as many songs as possible with the hope of releasing them either with an established record company or even independantly.

Thus during my bandmates’ summer vacation, we spent some time holed up in a bedroom – a true-blue homestudio and emerged with a few genuine tunes. That then, we concentrated on the next task-convincing someone somewhere that our material was worth a shot on the commercial market. I managed to obtain a few names from a former lawschool classmate who worked with COMPASS and certain phonecalls were then made.

Deja vu gripped me hard as we sat in the producer’s office. I had been given to understand that this person could give us the lowdown on our chances in the local music scene. If he was impressed enough, he would take us on and make that recording deal a reality. And so, it really seemed like the years had been peeled back to ten years before with that WEA A&R rep as the producer slided our latest demo cassette into the tape player. He would listen to a bit of each track and then fast-forward to the next one a thoughtful look passing over his bearded face everytime a new song was heard. I glanced at my bandmates – it seemed ( to us anyway ) that he could not but be impressed – our stuff was hot!

When he finally stopped the tape for the last time, he looked at us with a  slight smirk and in the most patronising of tones asked, ” Are you guys fans of the Lettermen ?”

Silence.

He continued, ” Is that why you call yourselves the Watchmen ?”

We were too flabbergasted to come up with a suitable reply. What the hell was he talking about? We adopted the name because we loved Alan Moore’s comic. And no, we were decidedly not fans of the Lettermen.

It got worse. ” You guys are too old to make it in the local scene ”

Huh? I beg your pardon? Yes, we were in our late twenties then, but I daresay we were not knocking on the doors of the old folks homes. Not yet anyway.

He elaborated on his twisted logic. ” The only people who buy local English music are the kids. These kids want to see a young face. Let me show you what I mean.”

At which point he produces from his drawer a cassette and plays it for us. Commercial and inconsequential, the music contain the typical radio fodder of the day.

“Disco”, I said, rather disdainfully. I was corrected. ” Soul music, from an album called the First Time.”

And for those who were still in diapers back during those exciting times, this release introduced to the kids such notable personalities like Shawn De Mello and Jessica Soo.

” Nobody in Singapore wants to listen to local versions of the type of music you guys are creating. There’s no market for it.” so concluded our expert on the Singapore scene.

Disappointed and a little deflated by this man’s completely negative analysis of our craft, we trooped out of his office a dejected lot. Personally, I’ve never taken this kind of situation well. I regarded it as a slap in the face. Furthermore, with my partners leaving for the States again, things were again looking bleak. I had resigned myself to the fact that our last chance had come and gone.

… and there’s more …

THE LONG & WINDING ROAD – PT. 1

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD My Bittersweet Life as a Local Musician

(PART I)

NB. More than 10 years ago, I contributed an article to a book on local music called No Finer Time To Be Alive. I’m serializing the piece here at Power of Pop over the next couple of days. It’s an interesting snapshot of where I stood, as a musician, in the mid-90s. Maybe I should update it, eh? Comments, please.

The National Theatre, a hot & balmy Saturday night, sometime in the tailend of the Seventies. On stage, the impossibly thin  lead vocalist ( with the incredibly tight jeans ) of rock band The Unwanted is caught in an unfortunate quandry – he’s forgotten the lyrics to that classic rock chestnut Burn – and the crowd ( naturally ) jeer him unmercilessly. Uncomfortably, he asks whether he was ‘ unwanted ‘ and receives a predictable response!

Pest Infested are next in the firing line and suicidally decide to play the blues. Midway through an impassioned run through Like A Rolling Stone, the predominatly Mat Rok crowd make their own decision – its intermission time! Those who remain, continue to heckle the luckless bluesboys with the chants of ‘ WE WANT SWEET !!! ‘ slowly but surely gaining momentum and strength. Disgusted, the group simply give up. 

The snacking mass soon return to welcome their darlings – Sweet Charity – and it seems like the entire auditorium erupts into a frenzy of unbridled excitement. Led by Ramli Sarip, the band are in their element, making the right  moves, striking the right poses and singing the right songs – they can do no wrong.

Welcome to a typical gig in Singapore circa 1978, where the ticket to audience appreciation is providing faithful fascimiles of classic rock i.e. Deep Purple / Led Zeppellin / Black Sabbath, and nobody but nobody even thinks of the words ‘ artistic integrity’.

As a mere seventeen year old, my own thoughts were not about whether local bands would forever be doomed to play second fiddle to their foreign cousins. Rather, it revolved around  perfecting that tricky organ solo in Highway Star. Yes, it seems strange, but the ultimate goal for any local band two decades ago was to strutt your stuff on the National Theatre stage and hopefully avoid the heckling.

And being part of a fledging outfit myself, my own ambitions did not stray far from the norm. In any case, the conventional wisdom was that this was only a  teenage phase and nobody would take pop music seriously either as a career or an artform. 

Once the heady days of the Sixties were over, the scene entered its darkest period and would not emerge back into the sunshine for two decades. The perception of musicians as ‘band boys’ was solidified during this time as whatever artistic merit of local musicians was totally stripped away and reduced to mere functionaries to provide background muzak during dinners, parties & dances.

However as far as my bandmates and I were concerned, none of these matters concerned us as we lived from jam to gig, hoping for greater things, maybe one fine day. Our principal  inspiration being The Beatles, we rehearsed and rehearsed, played at various functions and slowly but surely developed our own original repertoire.

By 1979, we knew in our hearts that a bold step was required to bring us to the next stage. And so, we set up an appointment with a A&R representative from WEA and armed with a ghetto blaster and a demo tape, we plunged into the unknown.

Memories are a bit hazy about the actual details-how this man looked like, what his office was like-but what was clear was someone pressing ‘play’ on the player and listening to the opening psychedelic strains of Fool’s Paradise fill the room. After three nerve-wrecking minutes, the man pressed ‘stop’, stared intently at us and told us that it was quite good BUT ( and there’s always a ‘but’ ) WEA were only releasing Mat Rok albums.

Now, chew on this. If indeed this man was telling the truth, it seems ridiculous. The material was ‘good’ but not ‘marketable’ i.e.  it would not sell enough to make it a worthwhile risk for a record company. There appeared to be a reality gap between the value of ‘quality’ and ‘commerciality’ as far as popular music was concerned-at least in Singapore.

For us, it marked the end of an era and for me personally it was the beginning of a long and winding road that would often bring dissapointment and frustration. This experience also served as a rude awakening for me-it did not matter how ‘good’ your music was, could it sell? That question continues to haunt all local musicians to this day.

… still there’s more …

ROCK YOUR WORLD: THE GROOVY PEOPLE

Just when you believe all that’s been said about Singaporeans – y’know that we’re repressed, not supportive of Singapore music and unable to show appreciation at concerts – you have an experience that totally blows all your pre-conceived notions out of the water!

Suffice to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the awesome reception the Groovy People and I received when running through our set at the recent Rock Your World. With each succeeding song, it seemed like the applause was getter louder and the enthusiasm was increasing apace. Halfway through, I really felt that it was going to be a magical night and in my mind I let go of every fear and anxiety and simply rode home on auto.

Inspite of the odd glitch – I forgot the lines of the second verse of Never Liked the Beatles for example – everything went smoothly and when we closed the night with My One & Only and Gum, I could not help but smile at the thunderous applause. Truly unforgettable!

My heartfelt thanks to the Groovy People viz. James, Brian, Thomas, HQ and Esther, without whom that fantastic night would never have been possible. I love you all!

Set list time – 

Hot Burrito #1

Never Liked the Beatles

A Climate of Fear

Beautiful

Easy

Jealous Guy

Feel the Same Way

Damaged

Heaven

My One & Only

Gum

… still there’s more …

ME & MY GUITAR

Rachael and I

I will be 48 next month.

A sobering thought maybe but I count my blessings that I am still able to do what I love – write and play my music. Ever since plunging back into the S-ROCK scene after New York April 2007, things have been happening for me. So on the 14th and 15th January 2009, I made my solo debut at the Esplanade Concourse, armed with my guitar (and a piano).

And whilst it was enjoyable to be able to share songs from my 15-year recording career (such as it is), it was even more satisfying to share the stage with my apprentices – Racheal Teo and Nick Tan, two talented singer-songwriters who have the potential to make an impact not only on the S-ROCK scene but across the world. And why not?

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So thanks to all the kind folk who made this event such a fun one for me – the Esplanade peeps (Chloe, Lynn, Ashton, Keith), Rachael, Nick, Gary and Janice, Georgene, Mandy, Esther, HQ, Nick, James & Mel, Es, Jon, Sherwin, Ivanified et al.

Set list – 

(1) Love & Water (Rachael Teo), Late Night Request (GSE), Never Liked the Beatles, Beautiful, High Cost of Living, I Love Singapore, My One & Only.

(2) Hot Burrito #1 (Flying Burrito Bros), My Life, This Savage Garden, Keep the Faith, Oh Lord!, Always, My One & Only

(3) Lyric Space (Nick Tan), Jealous Guy (John Lennon), Feel the Same Way, Here, Mister Ong, Orchard Road, My One & Only

(4) Waterloo Sunset (The Kinks), A Climate of Fear, Easy, Damaged, Heaven, My One & Only, Gum

Hope to upload a couple of tracks recorded live from both nights soon.

… still there’s more …

And… watchmen@midnight Ep is still available for free download here.

ME & MY GUITAR

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2009 begins tonight, boys and girls!

My first gig of the year will be a solo affair, armed only with my guitar. Not entirely true actually, as there will be a little surprise for those of you at the esplanade concourse tonight for the 2nd set at 8.15pm.

Also, my talented Noise apprentices Rachael Teo and Nick Tan will be opening each night’s set with a original song of their own. These kids are gifted singer-songwriters and you can expect to hear much more of them in the months to come. 

I will be singing a few of the usual suspects and many songs that I’ve never ever played live before. I’m blessed to still have an audience even after all these years and for this, I am thankful. So hope to see all you kind folk tonight or tomorrow night and please do come up and say hello…

… and there’s more …