Hong Kong Beat Swings Sixties Hong Kong – Part 2

Side 2 of this offering of music from the English Pop Wave of Hong Kong Swinging Sixties, brings a mix of tunes infused with rock, pop, beat, and surf sound influences, featuring –

  • Another offering from The Zoundcrackers – an early success for Macanese music, TV and movie artist José Maria Rodriguez, known by his stage name as Joe Junior, here with a soft cover of ‘Once Upon A Time’ originally by Boston counter-culture group Teddy and The Pandas
  • Joe Junior & The Side Effects. This was Joe Junior’s band after the break up of the Zoundcrackers, here with a jangly beat cover of Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich’s ‘We’ve Got a Good Thing Going’
  • The Magic Carpet. Can’t find much information about this sixties sunshine pop band, other than Uncle Ray has fortunately included them on his 101 collection of Hong Kong sixties hits, with this cover of The April Fools ‘Things Go Better With You’
  • Here covering Australian beat group The Easybeats ‘It’s So Easy’, Danny Diaz & The Checkmates, were a Filipino rock ‘band of brothers’ – Danny, Romeo and Rudy and brother-in-law Michael) – on the Diamond label and were highly successful on the Hong Kong scene after beating all other bands in the ’69 Levis ‘Battle of the Bands’ challenge. The Diaz family were all musicians and had a huge influence not only on the local music scene in the 50s and 60s but also on international pop music. As told by Danny Diaz, in the 1950s there was a soldier called Terry Parsons stationed in Hong Kong who was always getting into trouble sneaking out of barracks to hang out and sing with the Diaz family. That soldier won Radio Rediffusion’s Talent Time show several times and, at the urging of radio DJ Ray Cordeiro and the Diaz family, would take singing more seriously. After returning to the UK where, once his break came, that soldier would become known as one of the best if not the most perfect natural baritone voices of the time, Matt Monro. Thank you to the Diaz family for your influence!
  • Another superb song from Mona Fong (Li Menglan [李夢蘭]), swinging ‘Wooden Heart’ in a way that just made Elvis’ version sound, well, wooden
  • Kong Ling (江玲[Kong Yan Lai]) was one of the “Sweethearts of Hong Kong” singing in the Kowloon nightclubs of the 50s, and later recording with The Fabulous Echoes, here covering The Crickets ‘More Than I Can Say’ with a swinging cha cha style sung in English and Mandarin lyrics
  • Another from the Fabulous Echoes this time with Tang Kee-chan performing a Hong Kong take on Pat Boone’s ‘Speedy Gonzalez’ suitably modified to Hong Kong life with ‘Speedys’ part sung in Cantonese. Tang, known as “The King of Comedy”, was a well-known Hong Kong comedic actor and radio personality
  • Instrumental surf-sound influenced and garage rock self-penned TV show theme tune ‘Norman’s Fancy’ from Teddy Robin & The Playboys
  • The Menace were another HK Diamond Records band led by musician Joe Chen, another who went on to become a huge influence on the music scene in the Cantopop era, here with a self-penned sunshine pop song ‘Strawberry Sundae’
  • Another offering from The Mystics fronted by Michael Remedios, a psychedelic soulful version of New Zealander John Rowles’ epic power ballad ‘One Day’, with some lovely organ fills instead of the original orchestration and a highly creditable vocal by Remedios who was regarded as one of the top male singers in Hong Kong at the time
  • A swinging uptempo cover of the Mamas & Papas’ California surf-sound song ‘You Baby’ from the D’Topnotes
  • The Reynettes were a Hong Kong family group of four sisters and one brother, who were popular performing at many of the nightclubs of the time and in Singapore, and gave us maybe one of the most endearing – yet, to some, jarring – self-penned theme tunes celebrating sixties Hong Kong ‘Kowloon, Hong Kong’

Part 1 can be found here

When I arrived in Hong Kong in the second half of the 70s, Cantopop – with artists such as Sam Hui, George Lam, Roman Tam, Teresa Teng – was already rising as a genre of Cantonese-language western-influenced 1960s soft-pop music – think The Carpenters, Fifth Dimension and so on. Even the ‘harder’ sounding songs were softer rock from the likes of the Beatles – ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Michelle’ are probably still two of the most requested, and murdered, songs in any karaoke lounge with anybody over 40. It seemed the one sole rock band of any popularity at the time was Beyond, singing a kind of Hong Kong garage rock that took its influences from American rock and folk music – perhaps not surprising with the influence of US rock music during Hong Kong’s time as an R&R spot during the Vietnam war.

In the 80s the genre exploded of course with the arrival on the scene of huge artists like Anita Mui, Leslie Cheung, Leon Lai, Prudence Liew, Priscilla Chan, Sandy Lam, and others, adopting musical influences as wide as disco, folk, rock and synthpop. And so the Golden Age of Cantopop was born. I have two other blogcasts highlighting music from these eras can be found in the blogcast archives.

It came as a bit of a surprise when I started to DJ here in the 80s and began to dig more into the oldies from Hong Kong’s music past to satisfy older local clients. While cha cha and ballroom styles were still popular at that time with most people over the age of about 30 – and still are – I discovered that Hong Kong in the 60s had enjoyed a swinging and rocking scene, incorporating styles from UK beat music, US garage rock and psychedelic folk, alongside sweet Mandarin songs from the 40s and 50s and swinging jazz updated to the modern style.

The cause of this was of course influence from overseas on one side. Hong Kong had a huge Chinese diaspora all around the World – and you can still find village elders who’ve returned after decades overseas speaking with a Liverpool, Essex, or New Jersey accent – and on the other side there had been a massive influx of people from all nationalities and race decamping from post-war China. This brought to Hong Kong a number of highly accomplished Chinese ballroom singers, Macanese and Filipino band leaders and musicians, all coming together in the melting pot that was Hong Kong at the time.

While a lot of recordings from the time have been sadly lost, the sterling work of RTHK DJ Ray Cordeiro, who holds the record as the World’s longest working DJ and was a key mover in getting these artists and their music onto the radio in the 60s, and later entertainment impresario Anders Nelsson who grew up in Hong Kong, has helped keep these names and their music alive so that there’s a rich vein to tap into, so much that Hong Kong Beat’s tribute has been split into three 30ish-minute long sides.

With thanks for much information from Hong Kong English Pop Music Blogspot and acknowledgement to the 2019 ABC-CBN documentary project On the Record: An Instrumental Hong Kong Documentary

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