29 June 2007
The story of The Crescendos
From my interview with Raymond Ho and John Chee on 24 June 2007, I've put together a mini Cresendos digital repository. For visual reference, you can check out articles and record sleeves I've scanned here. If you have any material you'd like to contribute, do let me know.
The Crescendos began with 3 schoolboys - Raymond Ho, John Chee and Leslie Chia. Music was an after-school hobby, a means to "stay out of trouble". In 1961, the three of them took part as a three-part harmony group in the Radio Singapore Talentime, which threw the group into the limelight.
Audio Clip (John): The 1961 Talentime and the gigs that came after that.
For the 1962 Talentime, the group decided to inject a new element, and found it in a female singer, Susan Lim. Susan was a friend of Leslie's sister and was all of 13 years old. She fitted right into the group, with the older boys taking care of her like their kid sister. The Crescendos were very well-received because at that time it was still uncommon for local groups to feature a female lead singer, backed by male vocalists.
Audio Clip (John and Raymond): Meeting Susan
Audio Clip (John and Raymond): A Novelty Factor?
Even though The Crescendos didn't win the Talentime, they got a Philips recording contract (even before the Talentime Finals!), making them the first local group ever to be signed by an international record label.
Audio Clip (John and Raymond): The Philips Recording Contract
Their first record, the Mr Twister/Frankie single, sold over 10, 000 copies in Malaysia, placing it in the Philips World Top Ten. Such was the record's popularity, that in Singapore, it outsold a similar song by Connie Francis. Intense radio exposure was one of the factors that contributed to their success. It can be said that The Crescendos' success ushered in the Golden Era of Singapore music, which saw numerous local bands performing and recording.
Audio Clip (John and Raymond): The First Record
The Crescendos - Frankie
The Crescendos went on to score a hattrick on the Philips' International Top Ten, with three singles in a row being placed among the best sellers in European and Asian markets on the Philips label. Their second single, "In The Good Old Summertime", and their third, "The Boy Next Door" (an original composition by the label), sold over 10,000 copies each.
Audio Clip (Raymond): On recording
The Crescendos - Bengawan Solo
In spite of the changing music trends as the 60s wore on (from Everly Brothers to The Rolling Stones), The Crescendos stuck to their trademark style of harmonised vocals. Still, the band evolved to include Israel Lim on bass and Peter Soh on drums, so that The Crescendos could appear on stage as a self-contained group.
Audio Clip (John and Raymond): Evolution of the group - Peter Soh and Israel Lim
The Crescendos stopped performing and recording for four years in 1966, while Susan enrolled in University. The group had the intention to resume after she finished her studies. Sadly, it was not to be as in her fourth year at Uni, she disappeared on February 8 1970 while picnicking off the East Coast of Malaysia. The last record that Susan put out, shortly before her accident was a solo release, backed by The Thunderbirds.
Susan Lim & The Thunderbirds - With Every Little Tear
Susan was only 22. As you can tell from all her recordings (from her cuts with The Crescendos right up to the final solo record), the Singapore music scene lost one of its best female singers.
Looking back, Raymond and John believe that their success was due to being at the right place at the right time. For The Crescendos, it was all about the love of music.
Audio Clip (John and Raymond): Just For The Love Of Music
My sincere thanks to Raymond and John for allowing me the interview opportunity!