Monday, 3 July 2017

RITA CHAO (凌雲) "HANKY PANKY" (1967)



Rita Chao, best known to her Mandarin-speaking fans as 凌雲 (…Ling Yun, Ling Ying or Seow Mei-Mei, depending on your preferred source of information…), was born in Singapore, probably sometimes in 1949 or early 1950; she grew up there, where she received her education.

Anyway, 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).

Rita, the youngest of six children with three brothers and two sisters, started singing at the tender age of 8 and was already working as a singer and actress at 14. At school she was not very interested in her academic studies, instead she excelled with performance arts: singing and acting.

Luckily enough, she was born in a family of artists: her grandmother, Zhao Yongchun (趙永春), was a known Chinese Opera singer, and her mother Jing Yu Xian (荊玉仙) was a Chinese Opera singer too. Growing up in this environment allowed her to be familiar with life in the entertainment business, and helped to mentor her future career.

Her parents and relatives saw her potential as an artist quite soon, and decided to pull Rita out of school to follow the Opera troupe on their performances. Rita was given chances to perform Chinese Opera on stage and her performances were very good.

It is unclear when and where Rita embraced Pop music... However, at the end of 1965 - when she was just 15 - while touring Malaysia with her former group, she joined a band called Super XX.

In the meantime Zhao Yongchun, determined to turn her beloved granddaughter into a star, increased her vocal training, became her manager and successfully arranged for her to perform in various nightclubs in Singapore.

Rita was discovered on the local entertainment scene by Su Yin (舒雲), a.k.a. Henry Foo, a Singaporean singer, songwriter and lyricist, who at the time was also the A&R manager for the Chinese section at Columbia / EMI.

In 1966 she was signed by the label and released her very first 7" EP. On this record, she was paired with the top guitar band from Singapore, The Quests. The EP sold over 50.000 copies, and for Rita it was instant stardom.

During those days Rita met Sakura Teng (櫻花). As the story goes, Sakura was already a star singing at various Cabarets throughout South East Asia. On one occasion before going on stage, Sakura and Rita were backstage talking; they instantly clicked and started singing together. Sakura thought they had a very distinctive sound and that night she decided to add a segment to the show in which they would sing a duet. Obviously, they received a stunning reaction from the public and decided to join forces...

Well, probably that is just the romantic version of the story...: since both singers were doing quite well, it is an easy guess that EMI felt that pairing them would give both their careers a boost. In 1967 Rita and Sakura began performing as a double act and constantly toured Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan, building a fan base at each port of call.



During her heyday 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, they were both known as 'A Go-Go Queens of the Sixties"; in those days, they used to perform at the now defunct New World Amusement Park and they both lived in Jalan Besar.

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.

For more than three decades there has been no news about her in the media, 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.

In early February 2015 the news about her death spreaded: Rita's 90-years-old mother confirmed that the former singer passed away in July 2014; she has been suffering from colon cancer for about three years when she died at the Singapore General Hospital surrounded by her mother, brothers and sisters. Her ashes were scattered at sea after a short wake and funeral attended by family and friends. The family did not inform show business friends as they wanted the past to be forgotten...

Most of the information included in this post was translated by our best friend Brian (...thank you!!!) from a rare article found in the May 19, 1970 edition of "Hong Kong TV Magazine" available in this post on the great macaenese5354 blog.

I am also in debt with Joseph C. Pereira, whose books "Apache Over Singapore" and "Beyond the Tea Dance" are a constant and invaluable source of information and inspiration, thanks!!!


Here's the track list for this 7" EP:

01. Hanky Panky (3:11)
02. 薄情郎 (He's Untrue) (3:24)
03. 去年今天 (Lonely Heart) (3:36)
04. 媽媽的勸告 (Bachelor Boy) (2:07)

All tracks were remastered from vinyl in June 2017 and are available in FLAC lossless format, along with scans of the original item.

Please have a look at the comments section for the download link.



"Hanky Panky" was released by EMI /Columbia in Singapore sometimes during 1967. It is one of the most sought after Rita Chao EPs, and therefore one of the most expensive. As far as I know, two different editions of this record exist: the main difference between them is the background colour of the front cover, which is available in blue (here) and purple (the copy on offer in this post); the back cover also uses some different colours for the lettering and the label's logo. Once again, the backing band duties are performed by The Quests and all numbers were also included on Rita's debut album. Now let's have a closer look at each track.

Side 1 opens with the title track "Hanky Panky", a song written in 1963 by Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich for their group, The Raindrops. It was famously remade by rock group Tommy James and the Shondells, who took it to No. 1 in the United States in 1966. On this version, The Quests add their trademark guitar sound and wild drumming, turning Rita's performance in a Garage classic. Here's a link to The Raindrops' original version.

I wasn't able to find any information about "薄情郎 (He's Untrue)", I would believe that it is an original composition, but the presence of a Mandarin + English title seems to prove the contrary... Maybe some reader of this blog can shed some light on the subject? Anyway, this track features Reggie Vergese in top form offering a great performance on acoustic guitar, including a mandolin-style solo.



Side 2 starts with "去年今天 (Lonely Heart)", a Mandarin cover of The Thunderbirds' "My Lonely Heart", one of the most popular original compositions in the history of Singapore Pop Music, which was written in 1966 by Harvey Fitzgerald - the band's lead singer - and Gerry Pasqual, their manager. The magic of the original version is reinforced by Rita's memorable performance and the evocative Mandarin lyrics would send shivers down the spine of the coldest human on Earth. This is a M-A-S-T-E-R-P-I-E-C-E!!!

"媽媽的勸告 (Bachelor Boy)", the last track on the EP, is a cover of a song written by Cliff Richard and Bruce Welch. Originally performed by Cliff Richard with musical accompaniment by The Shadows in 1963, it was also included on the successful movie "Summer Holidays".


The following clips offer a complete preview of the remastered EP, enjoy!










More information about Rita Chao is available here:

http://www.discogs.com/artist/385494-Rita-Chao

https://rateyourmusic.com/artist/%E5%87%8C%E9%9B%B2

https://rateyourmusic.com/artist/rita_chao_and_sakura

http://blog.roodo.com/macaenese5354/archives/25610568.html

http://blog.roodo.com/macaenese5354/archives/25707290.html

https://questing.wordpress.com/category/rita-chao-%E5%87%8C%E9%9B%B2/

https://questing.wordpress.com/category/sakura-rita-duet-%E6%AB%BB%E8%8A%B1-%E6%B7%A9%E9%9B%B2/

http://illfolks.blogspot.com/2014/04/rita-chao-chaod-mary-proud-mary-in.html

http://mocamborainbow.blogspot.com/2008/07/rita-chao.html

http://www.tofu-magazine.net/newVersion/pages/gogo.html

http://www.smartshanghai.com/articles/nightlife/music-tuesday-far-out-east-2

http://singapore60smusic.blogspot.com/2009/01/rita-chao-pop-go-go-for-william-dad.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_of_Singapore

https://www.flickr.com/photos/dk_gilbert/sets/72157625310673913

http://www.geocities.jp/a104gs/rita.chao.html

http://www.geocities.jp/a104gs/rita.lp.html

http://www.geocities.jp/a104gs/sakura.rita.chao.html

http://women.asiaone.com/women/people/agogo-princess-rita-chao-died-6-months-ago

http://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/entertainment/a-go-go-queen-rita-chao-dies-of-colon-cancer

http://www.lollipop.sg/content/partner-shocked-news-agogo-princess-rita-chao-died-6-months-ago



I'm still struggling to find somebody who can help me with translations:

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!

8 comments:

  1. DOWNLOAD LINK

    http://www.mediafire.com/?lto...

    If you download this file please consider leaving a comment, your feedback is important!

    Please let me know if the link is broken and I'll do my best to quickly fix it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you for a whole new world of music.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great record, thank you sir.
    hanky panky reminds me a lot of the finnish 1990s band thee ultra bimboos. one of my favorites.

    ReplyDelete
  4. My ears are doing the hanky panky!
    Froggie

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm Chinese so perhaps I can help help you with the lyrics

    He's Untrue
    I can never forget him once I see him, I feel so uncertain if I stop seeing him, he seems to be a playboy, I fear to see he falling in love with someone else, I'll be heartbroken, so terrible, so ridiculous. Whenever I see him, I get butterflies in my stomach, it's so hard to forget his face, his love keeps me yearning days and nights, he seems to be a playboy, if he falls in love with other girls, I'll be heartbroken, I'll be forlorn, I'll weep, I'll turn mad for him, my love has been forsaken by him, my heart has been punctured by him, he is so fickle in love, I couldn't foresee him falling love with other girls, such ridiculous, what is lovelornness for? what is the broken heart for? I won't be sad for him from now on.

    ReplyDelete
  6. grazie,ho aggiunto il tuo blog ai favoriti,saluti dal Cile

    ReplyDelete

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