ARE you a fan of Roy Orbison, the Everly Brothers or Connie Francis? If these names bring back fond memories of lovely songs you used to listen to as a teenager, then you might want to tune in to BFM radio every Saturday at 2pm.
That’s when Pick of the Pops is on the air, hosted by wellknown radio and theatre personality Patrick Teoh.
Teoh used to host several radio shows over the years, most notably Kee Huat’s Fantastic Facts and Fancies in the 70s on Blue Network (since rebranded and renamed Radio 4, and now known as TraxxFM).
According to Wikipedia: “Kee Huat’s Fantastic Facts and Fancies was the longest, uninterrupted sponsored radio programme in Malaysia history, running for 26 years.”
Teoh has not been on the radio since 2008 and only returned two years ago when he mooted the idea for this show to BFM, which was more than happy to have him and the programme onboard.
“At first there was apprehension. We were going to play the old songs and we were not sure if the demographics of the station would find that very appealing. But, fortunately, when we started the response was very good,” says Teoh.
Pick of the Pops features mostly music of the 60s and 70s, which no other radio programme in the country focuses on.
Teoh picks out the songs to be featured every Saturday. It’s usually done by theme, very often songs from one particular year. The list is then sent to the producer at BFM who compiles the digital songs. Unlike what listeners might think, Teoh does not have all the information on the songs and the singers at his finger tips. He does rely on the Internet and Wikipedia.
According to Teoh, he also tries to play local songs as much as possible.
“But the sad thing is on the Internet there is precious little you can find of Malaysian groups. The only group that has presence on the Internet is The Strollers. Even for Frankie Cheah, who was a fairly big Malaysian recording artiste in the 70s … you can hardly find his tracks. You can find a lot of Singaporean bands, from The Quests to The Crescendos.
“I was looking for The Falcons, Grim Preachers and people like that who were really big during that time, but there is no presence on the Internet at all, which is a shame,” he says.
He sometimes tries to play old songs that are not so popular. In fact, a few weeks ago he played songs from 1960, which were lesser known top 30 hits. These were probably songs that did well in America or Britain but did not gain much momentum in Malaysia.
Teoh admits he is very much a regular music fan like most people and his favourite genre is pop. His favourite music decade is the 60s because that was when he listened to the most music, when he was working at Rediffusion. Teoh reveals that that was when he worked about 14 hours a day!
“I’m a very basic music fan. I’m not a music fanatic like some hard rock fans who would know every track ever made by a certain band and the history of the band. I’m not that kind of music fan. I listen to music because it’s a catchy tune, it’s got silly lyrics and stuff like that,” he says.
His favourite artistes from the 60s would be the popular singers and bands of the time, including the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.
The other singers of that time who stand out for him are John Rowles (the New Zealander of Cheryl Moana Marie fame) and Peggy Lee (famous for her cover of the song Fever).
Teoh chuckles as he reveals that radio listeners in the 90s would be forgiven for thinking his favourite song was Mexican Girl by Smokie.
He found the song very catchy and a bit silly, and even though it wasn’t a big hit, Teoh took it on as the novelty song for his show.
“I would play it up to five times on my three-hour show, which was unheard of at that time. Nobody would do that. I did it to prove a couple of points.
“Although it was a silly song, it was catchy and easy to remember, and even if I played it five times, I knew that people really wouldn’t mind. They would complain and ask why is he playing it again, but they would still enjoy it. When I first played it, it was not a new song. It had been released a few years earlier, but it was a very minor hit so nobody remembered it until I started playing it.
“As a matter of fact, after I introduced the song on the radio and I kept playing it day after day, multiple times every day, EMI, the record company which had the rights to the song, decided to re-release the album by Smokie that contained Mexican Girl. From what they tell me, it became a fairly successful CD, whereas the first time they released it, nothing very much happened.
“It proves that the power of radio is there. You can use it to achieve these kinds of results,” says Teoh with a cheeky grin.
Regular listeners of Pick of the Pops would also have heard Mexican Girl a few times by now, but certainly not as often as five times on one show! The song still receives good feedback today from listeners who remember hearing it on his show in the 90s.
One of the things that Teoh wanted to have when he started the show was requests and dedications, which used to be done a lot over the radio in the 70s and even in the 80s. Unfortunately, the response to this was poor.
That said, Pick of the Pops does have a decent following. Among BFM’s list of shows, it is somewhere in the middle in terms of popularity (judging by the number of podcast downloads).
Not too bad, considering BFM is not a music station and those who tune in to the station don’t do so for the music. In addition, it airs at 2pm on Saturdays, which is not exactly prime time – it’s the hour when most people are out shopping, running errands or just relaxing at home.
“I missed being on the radio, not necessarily doing a music show. So, I was quite happy when I got this programme.
“What I enjoy most about being on the radio is not the music. To me, radio is a very personal medium. It’s a medium where you converse, it’s a medium that makes a difference in your daily life. So, for me, radio is not so much about music … sure music is a nice diversion from what we’re talking about, but for me radio has always been a communication medium. I want to talk to you about what matters to you most today, last week, last year, what happens in your life, what you would like to see changed ….
“Radio to me is one big mamak stall. Everybody sits down and they chat. When they have a spot of ‘teh’ the music plays and then they go back to chatting. That, to me, is radio,” sums up Teoh.