It took a few years for the culture and fashions of dear old England to reach its far flung colonies, ex colonies and protectorates. Less true in the mid 60’s than before the war, of course, but still true to a quite remarkable degree, even quite late into the ‘60’s. So it was in Singapore. Untouched by the rock and roll 60’s revolution that was making London the centre of the earth; we went about our empire duties as if the world would never change, as if there had always been English soldiers, always would be English soldiers, keeping the good flag flying, wearing shorts, taking afternoon tea or tiffin and listening to the light programme..
It was therefore somewhat brave of a rock group, forged in the wild excesses of England to include Singapore on a Far East concert tour. We did not know of the word “gigs” in those far off days. It was a concert. To be held in Singapore’s almost brand new National Theatre.
The rock band, or should that be rock group, were the oddly named Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick and Tich. It sounded like the nicknames of a squad of cockney national servicemen, but they were long haired, wore velvet jackets and had a number one hit on a television show, unknown and unwatched in Singapore, called Top of the Pops.
Soldiers, curious as to what was happening in England, and denied of modern forms of entertainment, attended the concert in great numbers. We were so cool! It was an entirely seated affair, no moshing pits, whatever they may be, no dancing in the aisles. No, we were properly seated, officers and their wives at the front, other ranks at the back, where they should be. Dress code was really quite empire traditional. The concert was after 6pm, therefore shorts were absolutely forbidden. In fact nearly every soldier would have been wearing Prince of Wales check trousers, polished brogues and with a long sleeved white shirt, freshly starched and laundered. The trousers were of course from the ubiquitous prince of wales check, three piece suits, that we all had bought on passing out from training.
It is possible that Dave Dee Dozy Mick and Tich had not before, in their hectic rock careers, faced such a quiet disciplined and conservative audience. Each number was met with polite applause and there was evidence of some toe tapping, even the shaking of a head or two in time to the “beat”, but otherwise the reaction was no more animated than listening to a lecture on the perils of venereal disease.
We sat in serried ranks listening politely to them playing their number one tune, Zabadak, nodding sagely as if we understood every word they were singing:
Shai shai skagalak
Oh! They don’t write lyrics like that these days. You must listen to it, click the link at the bottom!
At the end of their concert there was warm appreciation expressed and we filed out into the Singapore evening. I met my colonel and his wife and daughter as we were leaving.
“Did you enjoy that corporal? Jolly good show I thought”
“Yes sir, it was jolly good”
We were so cool. And so to Bugis Street….