From:The Straits Timesposted on 12 May at 10:25 AM
12 May at 10:25 AM

It's back to disco heyday

by Melissa Kok

Happy Days are here again for those who remember disco's heyday here in the 1970s: Veteran local bands from the era are back, live.

Jerry And The Neu Faces, a familiar act at the hip nightclubs of yesteryear, have been playing classic hits at Happy Days in Princess Theatre Building, Bedok.

The band's frontman Jerry Fernandez, now 63, says he is enjoying their residency at Happy Days. "It takes me back to the days of my growing-up years, watching people connect to the music."

However, performing these days presents a fresh challenge. "People are more in tune with music, and they are demanding - they expect a band of our nature and experience to know every song." But, he adds with a laugh: "We can always get away with a little apology if things go wrong."

As a fresh-faced singer, he and his band worked the Orchard Road nightclub circuit at now-defunct joints such as the Pink Pussycat, popular with foreigners, at the then Prince Garni Hotel at Bideford Road; the Barbarella club at Ming Court Hotel; and Spot Spot at the Hilton Hotel. There, they rocked the bluesy grooves of Santana, rock rhythms of Rare Earth and the sexually charged hits of Tom Jones.

For the past five months, the group - along with two other local cover bands which used to work the Orchard Road nightclub circuit in the 1970s, LaChicago and Crozzroads - have been performing at Happy Days, run by NTUC Club.

Mr Joe Ferdinands, senior manager of NTUC Club, says he decided to hire these veteran acts to change up the club's entertainment offerings and to showcase the talent of local musicians. Before the bands came on board last December, the club's resident band was 2WaySt, a two- piece Filipino acoustic band which played mainly pop and soft rock.

Mr Ferdinands says: "The bands currently performing at Happy Days have been involved in the local music industry for many years and they have developed into great musicians and entertainers."

He adds: "It also gives our patrons a chance to relive the good times and memories together with bands they were familiar with in their youth, and interact in a cosy and informal environment."

Mr Ferdinands says the response from members and guests has been "very positive" towards the bands, who perform a repertoire of music from 1960s hits to current chart-toppers. Each night, the 5,000 sq ft venue sees about 70 patrons, mostly in their 40s to 60s. But that number doubles on nights when bands such as Jerry And The Neu Faces and LaChicago perform. Each band plays on one specific day of the week, performing three 45-minute sets a night.

LaChicago's frontman and keyboardist Gerry Lachica, 62, performs every Friday night at Happy Days, serenading the crowd with covers of soft rock hits by Journey and Bryan Adams. Lachica used to play with veteran band The Flybaits in the 1960s and 1970s at The Kelong, a club housed above the old Cathay cinema (now The Cathay), and says Kelong regulars drop by Happy Days sometimes to request for old favourites.

In particular, they ask for two numbers the band used to play a lot back in the day: Vehicle by American rock band The Ides Of March, and MacArthur Park by Irish actor-singer Richard Harris.

Says Lachica: "The songs were very popular in the late 1960s and 1970s, so when they ask for these songs, I know they come from a particular time. We're happy to get the requests because it means people know us."

But the band play contemporary hits too: "We're flexible. We play songs by rockers Muse and Three Doors Down."

Mr Eugene Surendra, 61, is a regular patron of Happy Days, dropping by two to three times a week to enjoy the live music. Says the technical director with PestBusters Singapore: "Some of the bands have a following, and I'm really glad NTUC club is supporting local bands, because there are a lot of local talent and good choices."

The Bedok resident, who lives just two blocks away from the club, adds cheekily: "I never knew Bedok had this kind of happening pub. It's a nice place and we have a good party every time we come.

"I always say, I walk to Happy Days and crawl back later."

Happy Days at 445 Bedok North Street 1, Princess Theatre Building, operates from 10am to 1am daily, with live entertainment from Mondays to Saturdays from 8.15pm.

This story was originally published in The Straits Times Life! on Friday, May 10.

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