Susan Lim and The Crescendos



The Crescendos were a popular Singapore band of the 1960s. Formed in 1961 and comprising John Chee, Leslie Chia and Raymond Ho, the band was joined the following year by vocalist Susan Lim. It became the first Singapore pop group to be signed on by an international record label. The band scored several hits with songs such as “Mr Twister” and “The Boy Next Door”. The Crescendos disbanded in 1966 and never regrouped after the death of lead singer Lim in 1970.

Early years
The Crescendos started out as a singing group comprising Chee, Chia and Ho from St Patrick’s School.1 In 1961, they came together to take part in Radio Singapore Talentime, a successful programme for finding new singers and musicians.2 For the talentime contest the following year, the group decided to add a female lead vocalist, Lim. A friend of Chia’s sister, Lim was then a student at Raffles Girls’ School.3 However, the band signed a contract with record company Philips International even before reaching the competition finals, making it the first Singapore group ever to sign on with an international record label.4

The band was later joined by Israel Lim on bass guitar and Peter Soh on drums, enabling the band to perform as an electric band. They were previously a vocal quartet with only acoustic guitar accompaniment and had to depend on other bands for musical backing.5

Recordings
In 1963, the band released its first single – a cover of Don Conway’s “Mr Twister”, with a cover of Neil Sedaka’s “Frankie” on the flipside.6 The single was an instant hit and sold more than 10,000 copies in Malaysia, placing it on the Philips World Top 10 list and locally outselling even American pop singer Connie Francis’s version of the song.7

The band’s next single was an original composition, “The Boy Next Door”, which also entered the Philips International Top 10 list in July 1964 at second place.8

Other memorable songs followed, mostly covers like “Everybody Loves A Lover”, “Silver Threads and Golden Needles” and “Has Anybody Seen My Boyfriend”. The band also demonstrated its versatility by recording Malay songs such as “Lenggang Kangkong”,Waktu Fajar” and the traditional Indonesian favourite “Bengawan Solo”.9

In 1966, at the height of their popularity, the band decided to disband because Lim left to study political science and sociology at the University of Singapore (later renamed National University of Singapore).10 Lim did have one further recording in 1968 – with The Thunderbirds, another popular local band.11

In 1994, recording company PolyGram issued a compilation of Crescendos music titled The Complete Crescendos.12 In 2002, another major label, Universal Music, released Treasures From The Past, a compilation featuring The Crescendos as one of the four most prominent bands of the 1960s in Singapore.13

Death of Susan Lim
In 1970, the 22-year-old Lim was engaged to be married to John Chan York Lee. After completing her final university examinations, Lim went on a holiday to Malaysia with her fiancé and some of his friends and relatives. On 8 February 1970, while at a beach in Kemaman, Trengganu, Lim was swept away by strong waves despite attempts by her fiancé and others to hold on to her. The body of another member of the party who died in the accident was recovered, but Lim’s body was never found.14 Shortly after the accident, the National University of Singapore awarded Lim a Bachelor of Arts honours degree in absentia.15

Unlike other bands of the 1960s that reunited over the years for nostalgia and charity events, the Crescendos never regrouped as they felt that Lim could not be replaced.16



Author
Joanna Tan Hwang Soo



References

1. Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Pub., p. 7. (Call no.: RSING 781.64095957 PER)
2. Remarkable Crescendos at their peak. (1994, November 23). The New Paper, p. 36; He won loudest cheers. (1949, February 19). The Straits Times, p. 7; Music scene started with Talentime. (1993, October 16). The Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Pub., p. 7. (Call no.: RSING 781.64095957 PER); 1965: Those were the days. (1990, July 6). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Crescendos make first record [Microfilm no.: NL 14881]. (1963, February 18). Radio Weekly, 4(8), 1.
5. Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Pub., p. 8. (Call no.: RSING 781.64095957 PER)
6. Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Pub., p. 7. (Call no.: RSING 781.64095957 PER)
7. The Crescendos find a place in top ten. (1963, September 30). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: the story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Pub., p. 8. (Call no.: RSING 781.64095957 PER)
9. Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: the story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Pub., p. 9. (Call no.: RSING 781.64095957 PER)
10. Goh, S. (1995, January 6). Crescendos singer’s memory still lives on. The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Pereira, J. C. (2011). Apache over Singapore: The story of Singapore sixties music, volume one. Singapore: Select Pub., p. 10. (Call no.: RSING 781.64095957 PER)
12. Ang, D. (1994, November 23). Back to the ’60s. The New Paper, p. 36. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Wee, T. (2002, November 8). That thing they do! The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Singer Susan missing at sea. (1970, February 9). The Straits Times, p. 1; Requiem for singer Susan Lim. (1970, May 3). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Degree in absentia for Susan Lim. (1970, April 23). The Straits Times, p. 8; Requiem for singer Susan Lim. (1970, May 3). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Goh, S. (1995, January 6). Crescendos singer’s memory still lives on. The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



Further resources
100 greatest Singapore 60s [Sound recording]. (2009). Singapore: Universal Music Pte Ltd.
(Call no.: RSING 782.42164 ONE pt. 5CDs)

Singapore 60s Vol 1: Treasures from the past [Sound recording]. (2002). Singapore: Universal Music Pte Ltd.
(Call no.: RSING 782.42163 SIN)



The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Personalities>>Biographies>>Artists
Arts>>Performing Arts>>Music
Arts>>Music>>Popular music
Women singers--Singapore--Biography
Music
Artists
Bands (Music)--Singapore
Popular music--Singapore