SG50 or not, we're never short on engaging nostalgia. We've been wearing rose-tinted goggles while thinking about the 90s and 80s as long as we can remember. Digging out old videos of Singapore especially has been quite fun. Thanks to the far-reaching power of YouTube and the archival resilience of some VHS-hoarding Singaporeans, we've been able to travel back in time to watch clips of (admittedly confusing) 60s revivalist variety show in 1993 Rollin' Good Times, a lengthy 1957 British newsreel of a visit to pre-LKY Singapore, or hell, just watching Under One Roof's opening montage again and again.
One of our coolest finds is definitely this slightly strange but wonderfully insightful documentary of rock legend David Bowie's Southeast Asian tour in 1983, in support of his then-newest album Let's Dance.
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Stopping by Singapore to perform at our National Stadium (now taken over by the Singapore Sports Hub), he had a bit of time to roam around our country and even chronicled his adventures — talking to taxi drivers, making new friends with Chinese opera performers, learning about Singapore's 70s rock culture through a local journalist, and even nearly getting in trouble with a shopping mall security guard in town.
The full documentary can be viewed here, along with his exploits in Hong Kong and Bangkok. If you want to skip ahead to his visit, jump to 26:55.
If you're too lazy to watch the whole thing anyway, here's Bowie watching a Chinese opera performance among unsuspecting Singaporeans, interspersed with him performing 'Heroes' at the old National Stadium. Sucks he isn't performing live anymore.
UPDATE: It appears this blogpost by film historian and author Benjamin Slater lends some context into Bowie's Singapore trip. A fascinating read that highlights our country's then-aversion towards international pop and rock music at that time, a move that prevented bands like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath from performing here previously in the 70s.
"[documentary director Gerry Troyna] recalls that until the gig happened they all “thought we were going to get thrown out.” This situation isn’t referred to in Ricochet, but a high level of tension and discontent creeps into the Singapore segment. Troyna says that the script outlined the “points we wanted to make about each country", Singapore was intended to reflect “alienation and submission to the state”, but of course there would be a great deal of improvisation. The director walked around Orchard Road and discovered Far East Plaza, Singapore’s newest and (at that time) largest, shopping mall, opened only a few months earlier. It was a suitably “alienating” place. Bowie agreed."
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