Intro 60s Hong Kong scene :
In the Sixties, Mainland China was busy with the Cultural Revolution, which branded Rock & Roll as a sign of Western decadence. Nevertheless, the "Beat Wave" hit big in two Chinese territories that remained open to British influence, Hong Kong and Singapore.
Hong Kong. The Beatles concert in Hong Kong in 1964 marked the birth of the golden age of the Hong Kong pop scene. From 1964 to 1969, a great number of bands appeared. They sung in English, as Cantonese and Mandarin songs were considered to be old fashion. These bands normally did cover versions of songs from the UK or the US. This scene reflects the multicultural diversity of the city. Musicians of different nationalities were active in the Hong Kong band scene: Chinese, British, Swedish, Macanese, Portuguese, Pilipinos, Singaporeans and Indians, among others. The most popular venues for stage shows and gatherings for youngsters in Hong Kong and Kowloon were called "Tea Dances". These weekend afternoon dance parties took place in night clubs and Chinese restaurants, providing Hong Kong bands with an opportunity to play live. Major bands were signed by Diamond, a subsidiary label of Polydor: Teddy Robin & The Playboys, The Mystics, Joe Jr. & The Side Effects, Menace, Lotus, Anders Nelson & The Inspiration, The Fabulous Echoes, D'Topnotes, Mod East, Magic Carpets, Danny Diaz & The Checkmates, to name a few. EMI on the other hand concentrated on the Mandarin song market, recording artists from the Shaw Brothers (the largest Hong Kong Movie company), such as Connie Chan (Chan Po-chu), Josephine Siao (Siao Fong-fong) and Nancy Sit, who recorded Chinese versions of international hits. Bands who joined EMI were relatively less active and less successful in the market: Thunderbirds (whose lead singer Robert Lee, was the brother of Kung Fu star Bruce Lee), Thunders (from Macau, the only band that successfully crossed over to Hong Kong in the 60s), The Reynettes (who were a Filipino brother and sisters group), The Quest, from Singapore, who were stationed in Hong Kong in 1968. Most of the bands disbanded in 1969. In the 1970s. Teddy Robin, Joe Jr and Sam Hui (of Lotus) all became solo singers. Yet the glory days were over. In the mid 1970s, Sam Hui single-handedly invented a new Canto-pop market. It proved to be very successful in the coming years, thus putting a final stop to the so called "Golden Band Era of Hong Kong".
Read more: Hong Kong 60s Re-capture on http://60spunk.m78.com/hongkong.html :
Hong Kong, dubbed as " The Pearl Of Orient ". A place full of opportunities and activities. A place combined with fading traditional Chinese culture as well as updated Western cultures. A typical modern international financial city. However, at the pop music forefront, from 70s until today, the term " International " was being interpreted in another format. "Localized" will be more the focus and direction as far as the majority of citizens were concerned. Since the mid-70s, local canto-pop music was masterminding the whole concept of Hong Kong music productions.
The music industry purely concentrated on the moulding of new individual Canto Pop teenage idols, while faded out and middle age singers were purely for nostalgia purposes. Bands were too luxurious an item to own and promote. As far as Hong Kong pop music listeners and producers were concerned, there was only today and tomorrow, but no yesterday. English songs were labelled as only sub-culture, behindCantonese as well as Mandarin.
As far as the world goes, this of course was quite normal and just a natural progression, as the city developed, people got more confident in themselves and felt more proud of their own way of expression, their own language, their own mind concept. Was that a good thing or a bad thing ? Different people will have different opinions, but history tells us that the more languages and voices there are, the better it will be usually. Talking about history, in terms of the pop music history of Hong Kong, there was once a period which was very special and very genuine. Yet when time moved forward, it was not much mentioned and remembered anymore. It seems that it was just a heat of the moment and had long faded out from the mind of most of the
Hong Kong people.
Which is really sad to see. Because that period from a historical point of view, and musical point of view, was a very unique and important phase of Hong Kong pop culture for it signified the change. A special time for the Hong Kong music scene. It was never like that before and afterwards. We are talking about the 60s Band Scene of Hong Kong. specifically, the period between 1964 to 1969.
The 60s, a golden era of pop music around the world, the time of the birth of "Beatles ", " Rolling Stones ", " Searchers ", " Herman's Hermits ", " Hollies ", " Yardbirds " and others. It changed completely the whole concept of western pop music culture, the evolution from singer/vocal groups in the 50s to electrified beat group in the 60s had a huge impact on youngsters around the world. The old walls were down and the young generation just went wild.
The Beatles passed through Hong Kong in 964. It signified the birth of the golden age of local band scene in Hong Kong. From 19664 to 1968, there were tens to hundreds of bands appearing in the local market. They sung their songs in English language and played their own instruments. Cantonese songs and Mandarin songs at that time were not touched by these bands, cause it was not hip and belong to another world. Compare with the present. It's funny, isn't it ?
Since the late 50s, English pop songs were already the main voice of the young people.
Elvis Presley, Paul Anka, Neil Sedaka, Ricky Nelson, Connie Francis etc They were the idols of teenage schoolboys and schoolgirls. The Chinese radio stations would broadcast a lot of English pop songs besides the Cantonese, Mandarin and Chinese opera songs. Hong Kong printed English pop hits lyrics books which sold like hotcakes. People would just hold the songbooks in their hands and follow the lyrics. They sang the songs in their houses without any music accompaniment. The earliest one was called OK Hit Songs.
In the 60s, another one called Hit Parade entered the market. With better quality printing and guitar chords of the songs, soon it outsold OK Hit Songs. The young pupils who just learnt how to play guitar treated it like treasure. The Beatles had further popularized the impact of English songs to the youngsters. Even though the older people dubbed these "Yeah Yeah sound Beatles" as Four Crazy Guys, but the young people just couldn't care less.
Bands were formed and they were given chance to show their talent by playing at school parties.The Tea Dance as well as compete in talent shows or the more mature groups, participated in Battle of the Bands in order to prove who are the actual champions. Out of the numerous bands that formed, those lucky and talented ones were being signed by major record companies like " Diamond " (organized by Polydor and Philips ) and " EMI ". Some released 7" singles as well as albums. Others turned professional and played in nightclubs. Some only stayed at the Tea Dance level and never got the breakthrough.
Yet all had one thing in common. That is, love music, get hip, join in and have fun. Most of the band members were still in their school years. Yet they could squeeze in time to practice, to do recording in studio as well as play on stage. Some even joked that they asked their fans (mostlygirls) to do their homework for them ...... free of charge.
There were lots of talents of different nationality appearing in the Hong Kong band scene in those 6 years. You could find local Hong Kong, Chinese, British, Swedish,Macanese/Portuguese, Philippinos, Singaporeans and Indians among others. Among all the famed bands, there were no boundaries. As long as they played a great tune, they would be accepted. Most of the great names were under the moniker of the "Diamond" label. You had Teddy Robin The Playboys, Mystics, Joe Jr. & The Side Effects, Anders Nelson & The Inspiration, Fabulous Echoes, Danny Diaz & The Checkmates, D'Topnotes, Lotus, Mod East, Magic Carpets, Menace to name a few.
They were the hippest and coolest names of those days. On the other side, EMI were the second major home for these young talents. However, as EMI were concentrating on their Mandarin (big linkage with the Shaw Brothers Hong Kong Movie company) songs market, plus their conservative policies in promotion of artists, those who joined "EMI" were relatively less active and less successful in the market. Even with this handicap, they still had Thunderbirds, whose lead singer Robert Lee, was the brother of Kung Fu mega star Bruce Lee, Thunders (from Macau, the only band that successfully crossed over to Hong Kong in the 60s), The Reynettes who were a Filipino brother and sisters group), The Quest from Singapore who were one of the great bands of the 60s era. For a while they were stationed in Hong Kong and Mr. Rainbow which they released as a single was No 1 in Hongkong in 1968. Others were Bar Six, Roman & The 4 Steps plus two fantastic female singers, Marilyn Palmer and Irene Ryder.
All in all, it was really quite an astonishing scene. Those bands normally would choose the most updated hits from UK or USA to do a cover version. Most of the time, through the record company's recommendation, they would get hold of an obscure track from abroad and make it an instant success in Hong Kong. Furthermore, sometimes there would be a few self composed songs thrown in, which made the whole package even more convincing. They caused their fans (especially females) to scream at their shows and the Tea Dance became the most popular weekend gathering for all the youngsters.
What was " Tea Dance "?
It was a weekend afternoon dance party with a live band playing. The venue would be night club or Chinese restaurant. The whole package would include a drink as well as snacks. After paying an entry fee, the fans would be able to see their favorite band playing live and they could dance and scream the whole afternoon. Some even would find their chosen one and start an affair. Tea dances were held everywhere in Hong Kong and Kowloon in those few frantic years. All the night clubs and restaurants needed to book bands to appear in their venues. In return, more bands formed and had a chance to earn income to carry on with their musical adventures.
All good things have an end. For the Band Scene in Hong Kong, 1969 was a cross road year. Many bands were starting to fade out or disband. The bubble seemed like to burst all of a sudden. There were many reasons for this. Society changed. The people riot in Hong Kong in 1967 caused the Chinese to care a lot more about their own identity. The music scene around the world changed. The Psychedelic Drug Sound plus Heavy Rock Sound were in the forefront to replace the earlier innocent and poppy band sound.
Most important of all, most of the band members had finished their high school. They had to decide what would be their future. The majority of them did not believe that music could bring them fame and fortune. Although it had been great fun for a number of years, they all decided to give it up. Move abroad to carry on studying in the university. Or tried their luck elsewhere. Side Effects, Thunderbirds, Mod East , Magic Carpets disbanded, Fabulous Echoes went elsewhere,Menace disbanded, Mystics no more.
In the 1970s, Teddy Robin, Joe Jr, Sam Hui (of Lotus) all became solo singers and had a different fate. There were other new bands popping up. Wynners, Jade, Fantastics, New Topnotes etc, etc Yet the glory days were long gone. The scene was relatively quiet and stale. In the mid 1970s, Sam Hui single-handedly invented a new Canto-pop market. It proved to be very successful in the coming years thus all but putting the final nail in the coffin of the so called "Golden Band Era of Hong Kong".
See also http://home.ied.edu.hk/~hkpop/music/hkpophistory.html