Rita Chao, best known to her Mandarin-speaking fans as 凌雲 (…Ling Yun, Ling Ying or Seow Mei-Mei, depending on the source of information you’d prefer to rely on…), was born in Singapore, most probably during the mid '40s of the last century, probably in 1946.
According to some reports, her family originated from the city of Hangzhou (杭州), which is located in the Zhejiang Province (浙江省) in Eastern China, not so far from Shanghai (上海).
Her interest in music developed at school, and when she was 15 she started singing and performing on stage. Her grandmother, Zhao Yongchun (趙永春) a former amateur Peking Opera singer, encouraged her to leave school and at that time she embarked on short tours through Vietnam and North Borneo (Malaysia) along with small acting companies.
Since then, Zhao Yongchun, determined to make her beloved granddaughter famous, became her manager and successfully arranged for her to perform in some of the most famous nightclubs in Singapore.
In 1966 Rita was signed by Columbia / EMI and released her very first 7" EP, the subject of this post. On this record, she was paired with the top guitar band from Singapore, The Quests, and it was instant stardom.
During her career Rita Chao recorded many great Mandarin covers of popular English songs and she was part of the pioneers who launched the Rock Movement in Singapore. Along with Sakura (with whom she joined forces on many recordings during the late '60s) they were both known as 'A Go-Go Queens of the Sixties".
...the EP was also released with a different cover offering orange as the main colour...
Rita's career lasted about ten years. In 1975, when her last solo album was released, she declared in an interview that she was about to make a movie in Hong Kong and that she was tired of singing all the time... In 1980-81 she briefly returned on the scene releasing two albums with Sakura, just before disappearing completely.
There has been no news about her in the media for more than three decades; only during recent years, unconfirmed information appeared on the Internet that she may have been suffering from a psychiatric illness that required long-term treatment.
While searching information for this post, I stumbled upon some comments on YouTube that give her up for dead... Despite these rumours, I truly hope that she's still alive and well.
"Shake, Shake, Shake" inner gatefold
Here's the track list for this 7" EP:
01. 搖搖搖 (Shake, Shake, Shake) (1:48)
02. 愛人你變了 (I Know) (3:17)
03. 快樂誕辰 (Happy Happy Birthday) (3:16)
04. 想起他 (As Tears Go By) (2:47)
All tracks were remastered in January 2015 and are available in FLAC lossless format or high-quality 320 Kbps MP3 files; both formats include scans of the complete original artwork.
Please have a look at the comments for the download links.
Side 1 opens with the reverberd drums of "搖搖搖" (Shake, Shake, Shake), the very short and lively title-track. This song was originally included in the 1966 movie "何日君再来" (Till the End of Time) which was a huge success in Singapore and launched the acting career of the young 胡燕妮 (Jenny Hu). The voice singing the original tune belongs to Chinese singer and dubbing artist 静婷 (Tsin Ting); you can watch the original music number here.
The original version of "愛人你變了" (I Know) was written by Robert Suriya of Naomi & The Boys and was included on the band's second EP released in 1965 by Philips. "快樂誕辰" (Happy Happy Birthday) was also included in the same EP, and is a cover of a 1957 Doo Wop number by The Tune Weavers (...original version is here).
Both songs were very popular among young people in Singapore then, especially the originally titled "Happy Happy Birthday, Baby!" which, according to what Joseph C. Pereira wrote in his "Apache Over Singapore" book, «became a favourite at parties due to its value for having a good smooch.» You can listen to the Naomi & The Boys' own versions by clicking here and here.
The EP ends with "想起他" (As Tears Go By), a song written by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Rolling Stones' manager Andrew Loog Oldham. It was originally released as a single by Marianne Faithfull in 1964; The Rolling Stones recorded their own version later, releasing the track in late 1965.
From left to right, Sakura and Rita Chao as they appear on the inner gatefold of this EP, 1966
The following clips offer a preview of the remastered EP, enjoy: "搖搖搖 (Shake, Shake, Shake)" and "想起他 (As Tears Go By)"!
More information about Rita Chao is available here:
In the next months I will post more Hong Kong/Taiwan/Singapore/etc. Pop/Instrumental records released in the late-60s / mid-70s. As usual, I would like to provide information about these releases and their authors.
Unfortunately the Internet doesn't offer much information - written in English - about these artists and this is the reason why I need help: if you can translate from Chinese to English please get in touch with me at stereocandies [at] hotmail [dot] com or leave a comment in the box below, thank you so much!
It's been difficult to obtain these vinyls, some are not in the best conditions and I'm currently working hard to properly master them. It seems that these artists and their music are poorly known in the West, of course it's a real pity because they made stunning releases: I'd like to share them with you with a proper presentation, hope that someone will be able to help.