In the late fifties, Muar youths were very much influenced by everything Elvis Presley of the USA and Cliff Richard of England. Some American singers too became our idols such as Ricky Nelson, Frankie Avalon, Johnny Tilitson, Neil Sedeka and few others. Cliff Richard was perhaps the only singer from England who managed to captivate our minds. The girls too went crazy on everything Elvis and Cliff. As for the four piece band, it was none other than ‘The Shadows’, although we did try to emulate the style of ‘The Ventures’ of America. Duet singers whom we admired most was ‘The Everly Brothers’ and later ‘The Blue Daimond. Female singers were mainly from the USA and the one whom we liked most was none other Connie Francis. It was only in 1962 that we began to hear more female voices from England.
Western influence reached Muar town quite regular and it was in the early sixties that we could see more interesting influence coming our way. In fact the early sixties was like entering into a time change of a new and exciting dimension. From the clothes we wore and the music we crazed had all changed our behaviour and attitude. We always wanted to be like our idols and the society accepted our wish for a new era in time. There would be no more songs of Nat King Cole and Doris Day that we considered outdated and it was time that we needed to change in tandem with the Western modern ways.
The movies too played a significant role in remodeling our way of life. When the movie ‘A Summer Place’ played by Troy Donahue and Sandra Dee was screened at the Cathay cinema, every youth would cycle to the cinema and the Kacang Putih seller would always be ready with a larger amount of stock and so were the Cendol man and the ice kacang seller. The seniors in school would be dating their girlfriends from the girl schools cycling abreast like the road belonged to them. The movies of Elvis Presley had a greater impact and everytime after the movie ended, many began to walk like Elvis and in no time their hair too became very much like Elvis. Once I tried to have my hair style that of Elvis’ but I had to use a thicker cream so my jambul would not fall apart whenever blown by the breezy wind at Tanjung. However, it would not be for too long because the barber in Muar had no idea how to have our hair cut to the styles of Elvis and Cliff. Everytime after my hair cut, I would look like ‘Moe’ of ‘The Three Stooges’. I had to wait for at least a few weeks for my hair to grow before I could have my hair style changed to the style of my idols. Later we became more conscious and the barber need not cut our hair like the usual way, only this time he needed only to trim our hair. By doing so, our jambol would not be affected.
By 5pm in the evening, I would be at the tembok of my house strumming my acoustic singing the songs of Cliff Richard. I would sing a little bit louder whenever a girl cycled by. Most often my cousin Ajis (Aziz Bakar) would join me and together we would sing the songs of the Everly Brothers. Quite often we would be joined by another cousin Sahak Doktor (Ishak Hamzah) who thought that his voice was quite like that of Cliff’s. We would sit at the tembok singing happily like as though the world belonged to us. Our neighbours sometime would peeped through their windows figuring out what these young boys were shouting about. We would sing and sing until the dusk azan from the town mosque could be heard and we would stop immediately otherwise grandpa would be showing his face at the entrance of the house.
One day sometime towards the end of 1962, Ajis came cycling as fast as he could to my house like he had a very important message for me. When he came to my room which was situated at the ground floor, he told me there was a new four piece band from England but this time unlike The Shadows who only played instrumental songs, this new four piece band would be singing while playing their guitars. Ajis was always up to date when it came to music as he liked music so much and would spend some time at the ‘Ban Heng Bookstore’ situated along Jalan Abdullah where the latest magazines could be found. This time he found out about a new four piece band that sang while playing their guitars. They were known as “The Beatles”.
“Din, there’s a new band called The Beatles, Ajis shouted at me immediately after he entered my room. Then he took out a magazine and showed me the faces of the four band players.
“Why are their hair like this?”, I asked Ajis. It was a strange style and they all looked just like ‘Moe’ of The Three Stooges. “How can we hear their songs?” I asked Ajis again. He told me that the shop-owner would reserve one record for him when the stocks arrived next week. Those days we had a 45 rpm record with one or two songs from each side. It would cost us two dollars and fifty cents. Both Ajis and me were excited about this new group but I was still skeptical whether to follow their hair style because I still prefer my hair style like that of Cliff Richard.
It was during one evening that Ajis came to my house with a new single of The Beatles with one song to each side “Love Me Do” and “Please Please Me”. That was my first time viewing a Beatles single. Now we needed a record player to listen to these two songs and the only person who could help us was Mat Shah (Muhammad Shah Tun Suleiman) whose father was a well-known politician. Mat Shah had a record player and so we both cycled to his house to borrow the record player. He was apparently at home when we arrived and after having told him about this new group, he was equally excited and the three of us ran immediately into his room. We took no time setting the player and when the record was spun, we listened attentively. We played the record over and over until we almost knew the two songs very well except we could not sing because we still did not know the lyrics. When we had enough listening to these two songs, I told Ajis that they used the dandi (harmonica) in both these songs and how on earth could we get ourselves the harmonica? In those days, we called the harmonica in Malay as ‘dandi’.
Within a few days almost all of our friends within our fraternity had been informed of a new British four piece band who sang while playing the guitar. Pictures of the four good looking English lads were passed over from hands to hands and some were still skeptical about the way these four combed their hair. Many would come over to Mat Shah’s house to listen to the new songs of the Beatles. International magazines flown into the country would reach Ban Heng Bookstore almost immediately to satisfy the great demand. Some Muar youths were already spotted with the new mop-hair style puzzling many elderly people. And now suddenly the fame of Elvis Presley and Cliff Richard began to dwindle but for me I was still hooked on everything Cliff Richard. Even the girls were excited about this new group and they began to compare and make distinctions among the four and who was the most handsome.
Not long after, new songs of the Beatles began to take its cue and we followed very closely. “I saw her standing there”, “She loves you”, ‘All my loving”, “I want to hold your hand” and what intrigued us most was the “yeah yeah yeah” that was included in some of the songs.
As the Beatles’ fame began to gain momentum, many new bands began to form and we did not want to be left out. Ajis would teach me some new chords and I would strum singing new songs of the Beatles. When we were invited to sing at weddings, we sang only Beatles songs but because most of the Muar bands at that time knew not of the songs, we would sing playing the instruments ourselves. By now some of our friends had their hair just like the Beatles and they need not bother whether to look like John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison or Ringo Starr because their hairstyles looked the same. However, my close buddy Halim was unfazed and still preferred the hair style of James Bond and even walked like Bond.
Then a new Beatles craze reached Muar town and it was the “beatles boots”. The Bata shop did not sell these boots and so many of us went to the ‘Husseini Store’ situated along Jalan Maharani to order these boots and by and by many Muar youths were spotted wearing the “beatles boots”. I had mine too but I bought mine at the Robinson Store in Singapore as I frequently visited Johor Bahru during the school holidays and had many JB friends.
That was the exciting period when the Beatles reached Muar town.
Once I tried to have my hair styled like the Beatles but grandpa disallowed it and told grandma that I really looked like a stupid dumb kid. At school our class teacher Mr. Quek told the class that we have a beatle in class who looked like ‘Moe’ of the Three Stooges. So I thought I would rather stick to my Cliff Richard’s hair style.
In the evening at Tanjung, many ‘Beatles’ could be seen walking along the shore and the most notable was my relative named Jaafar Ahmad who became known as “Jaafar Beatle”. He is still known as ‘Jaafar Beatle’ till this day.
The Beatles’ influence in our life was truly great. Their songs touched the hearts of many and my favourites were ‘Yesterday’, ‘And I love her’ and ‘When I am 64’. In fact there are many of their songs that are being listened to till this day. I have almost every compilation of their songs and whenever I feel like going down memory lane, the songs of the Beatles will be the most suitable companion.