Saturday, November 13, 2010

Nostalgic Weekend - The Thunderbirds, Singapore

When I first heard the song, My Lonely Heart, by this group, I was simply taken back by the sound of the slide guitar at the intro. Since one of my favourite music genres happens to be C & W music, I guess that this was the next best thing that came my way, coming from an Asian, or rather a Singaporean, group.

The Thunderbirds were a Singapore band that was popular in the 1960s. Formed in 1963 and anchored by guitarist Derrick Fitzgerald, the band was probably the longest lasting in Singapore and played for almost two decades at the Carriage Bar at York Hotel. The band is best known for its original hit songs My Lonely Heart and You Were Made For Me To Love.

Formed in 1963, the original band line-up comprised Tony Chong, Hamzah Hussein, Victor Lam and Derrick Fitzgerald. The band won the Beatles Versus Rolling Stones band competition that year.

The line-up changed over time to include Heather Batchen on lead vocals, Derrick’s brother Harvey on rhythm guitar, William Wee on bass, and Freddie Tan on drums. Another Fitzgerald brother, Ivan, also joined the band as a vocalist. The late 1960s saw the addition of Alan Lim, organist Freddie Kang, Richard Dankar on bass and Shedig Marican on drums. Bassist Harris Hamzah joined the band in 1976.

The most significant change to the line-up occurred when Harvey Fitzgerald and Heather Batchen married and migrated in 1975. Subsequently, the couple visited Singapore in the 1980s as part of the lounge act Trilogy and played at Le Vendome at Dynasty Hotel.

From the inception of the band and through the changing line-up of members, lead guitarist Derrick Fitzgerald was the mainstay of the band. He was well respected as a guitarist in the local music industry, particularly for his ability to play slide guitar.

In 1965, the band released its first EP under the Philips record label. The following year, their single My Lonely Heart topped the charts in Singapore and Malaysia. Written by Harvey Fitzgerald and band manager Gerry Pasqual, the song featured Derrick Fitzgerald on slide guitar, a distinctive sound created using a comb. The song became the band’s signature tune and has remained popular over the years.

The band’s second release was Hula Girl in 1967. However, it was the B-side track composed and sung by Harvey Fitzgerald, You Were Made For Me To Love, which became a hit on the local charts.

The Thunderbirds [TODAY], Live

Previous Highlights:

The Saints, Kuala Lumpur
The Quests, Singapore
The "Little" Falcons, Kuala Lumpur
The Crescendos, Singapore
Rose Iwanaga, Sarawak
Naomi & The Boys, Singapore
Rocky Teoh, Ipoh
The Surfers/October Cherries, Singapore
Janice Wee, Sarawak
Roy Chew & The Merrylads, Kuala Lumpur
The Checkmates, Singapore
Terry Thadeus and The Teenage Hunters, Kuala Lumpur

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