“Excuse me uncle, do you still listen to records?” asked Alex, one of my neighbor’s teenage son.
He was walking past by my apartment and saw me in the living room, sorting out my dusty collection of old vinyl records. I told him that many elderly folks like me today (if they are still alive) still enjoy music on a turntable or record player.
Alex gave me a puzzled look and walked away clutching his smartphone and wearing a pair of huge stylist over-ear headphones.
When I was a teenager during the funky and rocking Seventies living in Muar, Johor, I had never heard people calling us Baby Boomers then.
During those good old days, we were better known as someone who was cool, groovy or square. And if we kept our hair long, people would immediately label us as a hippie.
Free Spirit From Rocking Seventies Still Alive And Kicking
Now as I look back, I am glad that I was smack in the middle of this tumultuous decade, during my formative years.
I grew up immersing myself in the creative vibes of that vibrant period – the psychedelic & pop art, music, fashions and movies. The counterculture known as Flower Power had great impact on my life and even my choice of career.
But I stayed clear of substance abuse and the so-called free love.
I was not actually one of those so-called Flower Children, but I was strongly attracted by their bohemian lifestyles and ethos like: individualism, free spirited, social justice, and particularly their artistic experimentation in fashion, music and art.
1970s was a very creative period. Many of us wanted to look or behave different from the crowd, in order to be hip.
During that time, my buddies and I created our own catchphrases and wrote a few badly-written protest songs (influenced by Bob Dylan).
We did a lot of DIY stuff together that included drawing posters, custom-made wristbands and pendants, silk-screened and tie-dyed our own T-shirts.
Instead of buying clothes from the usual fashion stores or bazaar, we rummaged through worn-out jeans or old army clothes from used clothing shops.
Those days it was far out (it means cool in 1960s and 1970s), but of course now when I recall back, I cringe with embarrassment.
As a believer of individualism, I had my share of conflicts with some older folks back then.
I dare to speak my mind, make my own decisions, and also willing to accept the consequences of my own choices. They considered me as rebellious and uncultured, particularly those of us Chinese who studied in English medium school.
That was why they called me “Banana” – an Asian person who acts like they are white. Or they say yellow on the outside, white on the inside.
I must say it was the profound influence from the Seventies that I developed my self-confidence, creativity, learned to be more independent, to believe in myself and discovered the spirit of adventure.
My passion for both performance and visual art, are all influenced by the popular culture of the 1970s.
For instance, after my Form Five (St. Andrew’s School, 1975), I told my parents I wanted to go into fashion designing. They did not object to my choice of career, as they knew I would have it all mapped out on my own.
I did not have any formal qualification in fashion or graphic designing. So what I did was I self-taught myself by reading fashion magazines, spent endless hours of sketching and learned about materials by visiting fabric shops.
Armed with only a G.C.E. (General Certificate of Education) and a portfolio of fashion illustrations, I managed to get a job as an assistant fashion designer right away.
Then I went on to work for various boutiques, fashion manufacturers and apparel companies in the Klang Valley, Selangor, Malaysia
My job as a fashion designer over the years had taken me to countries, which include Paris, London, Germany, Japan, China and Australia.
Back then, never had I imagined I would have the opportunity to travel to all these wonderful faraway places, when I took up fashion designing as a career.
Imagine, having the opportunity to fly to far away places long before the advent of no-frills airlines.
Then I went on to dabble in the entertainment field as a club deejay, voice-over artiste and acting in both TV dramas and movies.
All these were not possible if I was not persistent enough and had the resilience to bounce back each time I had a rejection or faced with a naysayer.
Today I am retired and live a simpler and essential life together with my wife and a son.
I am glad I have lived the kind of life as I have always envisioned. I have always pride myself as a free spirit. A non-conformist who thinks and acts in a free way without worrying much about social convention and obligation.
Most of all, I am fortunate to have an amazingly understanding and loving wife, Nancy who can accept and live my kind of erratic lifestyle.
Today if I hear any one of those tunes from the Seventies, I will immediately sing along and wonderful memories of long gone days will spin in my head just like a vinyl record. Yeah, groovy baby!