Back in the '70s, life in Kuala Lumpur ( KL) was sedate and idyllic. There were no traffic jams and petrol was sold at the equivalent of less than RM1 per litre. Television broadcasts were in black and white and the video cassette recorder had not been invented yet. The cinemas were still drawing in the crowds. The personal desktop and laptop computers had yet to make its debut. If you wanted to chill out, the A&W Restaurant and the Oasis Snack Bar in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman were the places to be. For your shopping needs, you went to Globe Silk Store, Robinsons or the Weld Supermarket.
To those who were not around or were very young then during that epoch, life must have appeared to have been pretty boring and uneventful. Well not quite right! It was not exactly dullsville in KL then! If you wanted to go dancing, we had some pretty good discotheques or discos (as they are more popularly known) in KL and the Klang Valley. During the weekends we would go to these nightspots in our groovy clothes to listen to psychedelic music and let our hair down! All these phrases have become passé and would sound Greek to the present generation.
The Time Tunnel was probably the first disco in KL. It was located in a shoplot along Jalan Ampang where Wisma Char Yong (next to the AIA Building) now stands. Parking was not a problem as you could park your car along Jalan Ampang right in front of the disco. To enter the disco you had to walk through a "time tunnel" or passageway of flickering lights. Live bands were in attendance and the place was popular as it was a novelty. The name of the disco was most likely taken from a popular TV sci-fi series of the same name, back then.
The Tomorrow Disco at the Merlin (now Concorde) Hotel at Jalan Sultan Ismail was another popular haunt. The disco had a large circular dance floor and the bands there played good dance music. The Flybaits from Singapore performed there regularly. With their slick showmanship, they were able to attract a legion of fans. Whenever they were in town their fans would flock to hear them croon their hit composition Kenangan Lalu. The band members would eventually part ways with the leader Fredo forming a new group known as Fredo And The Flinstones.
Further up the road at the Hilton (now Crown Mutiara) Hotel was the Tin Mine. This was the place to be and be seen on Saturday nights. It was the joint where the rich and beautiful hob-nobbed. The interior of the disco was styled around the theme of a tin mine. Many Malaysian bands like The Strollers, The Revolvers, The Falcons and Alleycats performed regularly there. Some of the bands later became recording artistes and some had successful stints overseas. That era was considered as the Golden Age of Malaysian bands.
Near the KL Race Course (now KLCC) at Jalan Ampang was The Cave. The disco was designed to look like a cave with its columns, stalactites and stalagmites. There were even stucco tables and seats. Unlike the other discos which had live bands, The Cave employed a disc jockey or deejay to spin records. The cover charge here was cheaper and it was popular with the younger crowd.
Over in Petaling Jaya at the Jayapuri (Now PJ Hilton) Hotel, the Glass Bubble attracted a niche clientele from PJ and KL. The dance floor of this disco was sort of enclosed in a "bubble" made of plexiglass. It was designed to contain the dance music within the "bubble" so as not to disturb the other revellers. The Delta, a local band had regular stints at this nightspot. The lead singer was Francesca Peters who would eventually leave the band to carve out for herself a successful career as a recording artiste. She achieved notable success partnering Royston Sta Maria in a duet known as Roy and Fran. Their song Siapa Dia Sebelum Daku was a big hit then. Francesca later went her own way to become a solo singer.
Then there were also what was known as the basement discos, that is, discos that were operated from the basement of buildings. These included the Federal Club at the Federal Hotel, Where Else at the Hotel Malaya and the Baze at Wisma Central. In addition there were other lesser- known discos. Some were housed in old bungalows and some conducted their business from the first floor of double storey shophouses. What were the dances that were popular during the '70s. I will be writing about that in my future posts.