October 28, 2020 – 7:57 am


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Picture by Melanie Oliveiro.

When Don McLean sang about the day the music died, it could also apply to $ingapore record store legend, Bobby Yeo of The Attic. Longtime customer and active price negotiator Philip Cheah remembers all the crazy times.

Bob is dead. Long live The Attic. He collapsed shortly after leaving his home for work on October 20, 2020 of a ruptured thoracic aortic dissection. That is the tearing of a large blood vessel near the heart. He had complained of chest pains for a few days but insisted on going to the shop. He died a Muslim so there was no wake. Within one day, he was buried.

As his sister and DJ, Belinda “Sunshine” Yeo says: “The day he passed on, the music died, also at The Attic. He never had heart problems. It was so sudden. According to the cardiologist, this type of occurrence is unpredictable. It can happen to both young or old. No chance of survival. It happened when he left home around 10 am and whoosh it happened. No warning.”

I saw him twice the week before. My last purchase was a Nancy Wilson twofer. Besides covering Jimmy Webb, I felt that I finally discovered where Randy Crawford got her vocal chops from.

We all have memories of Bobby Yeo since he first started his shop in Lucky Plaza in July, 1978, 42 years ago. I used to stare at his records with envy as they all looked better than my local pressings. The Attic was after all the first and only dedicated parallel import record store. What killed me was his copy of The Who’s Quadrophenia that was lavishly packaged with a large booklet. At $50, that was just too rich for my blood. Inflation is such that today, prices start at $50!!!

Then one day, Bob had a sale and I could finally own that Quadrophenia. No turning back now. I was at every sale he had and built my collection through steady accumulation of sale items. In $ingapore, it’s good to be a collector. Most fans don’t want the stuff that you want. In that sense it’s a collector’s paradise. Like inflation, that too has changed. Everyone is a collector these days.

Bob… with his beloved late mom, sister Belinda Sunshine and chef Eric Teo.

I followed Bob everywhere. From Lucky Plaza, he went to Centrepoint and this was where he reigned for 23 years. Then he set up at Novena Square for several years before running his store from home. Finally, he opened again at Far East Plaza.

Bob knew I was hung up on sales. During the period when he didn’t have a physical store, he would carry bags of CDs and meet me in the Holy Family Church. We BOTH figured that we couldn’t possibly get a bad price in the house of God. Although Ian Gillan’s (aka Jesus Christ Superstar) scream that “My house is not a den of thieves” rang in our ears each time he did his sales there.

Because Bob knew me so well (as he did of all his regular customers), he knew what we liked to listen to and so he knew what buttons to press to stir interest. As a result, that was also how he amused himself by playing little games. I remember two games he played with me in his last year. He knew that I loved Laura Nyro and when he finally lowered his CD prices to $5, he snuck in a Nyro double disc of her first two albums in Mono at the bottom of the pile.

After a long trawl when I triumphantly fished it out, he mumbled: “I wondered when you were going to find it”. The other time was shortly after Record Store Day when I badgered him for a RSD tote bag. He fended me off by saying that everyone was asking but to come back a week later to see if he had. One week later I went back but he didn’t offer anything. I didn’t ask again but after I had found another bargain, he fished out the RSD bag and said: “Of course I kept one for you.”

So there you have Bob - the most cantankerous guy in $ingapore showbiz but also in his own way, a very loyal friend. That sometimes meant that the line between customer and friend kept changing or that we would keep crossing the line and go back again.

Bobby Yeo, 1986 picture by Christine Chew.

One year he invited me to his house for Chinese New Year. He had never forgotten that BigO published his best portrait photo. It was a shaded Bob in mysterious chic shot by BigO’s pioneer photographer Christine Chew for BigO issue #12. I couldn’t make it and when he moved to Bedok (where that infamous spat with a neighbour went ballistic), he remembered to call me again. That was probably the time when we crossed the line to friendship.

I also went to his house for Hari Raya and saw the family that he doesn’t readily speak about. His wedding in 2015 to a beautiful lady was equally mysterious. That explains why the Christine Chew portrait was so dear to him. He always saw himself as enigmatic. Interestingly, no one in the scene knew Bob’s age. Based on his music knowledge and the songs that he used to sing along to at the store, my guess would be late 60s or early 70s. Punters in the scene put his age at 62 but his sister Belinda finally confirmed it as 70 years old.

He liked to eat cheaply and had very definite views about what was good. But I know that he splurged on his children and family. Even the cantankerous Bob was a family guy.

What really made Bob special as a music retailer was his roots as a fan. If you notice his broad selection of progressive rock, it’s because he loved it. He was also good at oldies but don’t sniff at that. I bought from him Shelby Flint during his last months and Flint was an early singer songwriter in the early ’60s whom Joni Mitchell wanted to sound like.

Bob… as a member of the Survivors in the late ’60s.

Bob also had a band called the Survivors. Formed in the late ’60s during the time of the Quests, McCoys, and Trailers while he was still in school, the band comprised Bob on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, his younger brother Jim on guitar, cousin Tony Goh (of Tony, Terry and Spencer fame) on vocals and lead guitar, and three other friends on bass, drums and keyboards. The band lasted three years but did not record.

If you were a Bob-customer, there was one phrase that you could identify each other by: “Sold out already. Why didn’t you come earlier?”

You see, Bob had EVERYTHING and even a sense of humour…

Note: Fans can still email Belinda here, and also at the Attic address (click here). HP: 92953926.

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  1. 4 Responses to “BOBBY YEO [THE ATTIC] R.I.P. 2020”

  2. My heartfelt condolences to Bobby Yeo’s family and

    his sister Belinda Sunshine.

    Rest In Peace, Bobby Yeo.

    By Ricky Lee on Oct 28, 2020

  3. So sorry to hear of the passing of Bobby Yeo. I worked with Bobby since about the year 2010, I think. I worked for different suppliers over the years that he purchased his music from. He was a loyal customer. Condolences go out to his family, Belinda, and all that knew him.

    By Carol Puehlhorn on Nov 3, 2020

  4. Dear Belinda Sunshine Yeo

    My belated condolence to learn on the passing on of your dear brother Bobby Yeo. I’ve got to read about it through the news article on The Attic story in The Sunday Times in November 2021. I saw that u mentioned the present shop The Attic would serve its last walk-in customers at Far East Plaza in Scotts Road by 31st December 2021. Would u be manning The Attic record store on all the weekends till December 31st 2021? Hear from u soon Belinda Sunshine Yeo!

    By Kent Chan Yuk Lun on Dec 14, 2021

  5. Former Malaysian now living in the US. Every trip to Singapore, the Attic was a must stop. It carried all the records I sought after not usually found in any other stores albeit a but pricier (being an indie shop). Bobby was very knowledgeable and can always get you stuff that is near impossible to find. Visited his shop while on a short holiday in 1993 and he still recognized me. Then I was working in Singapore for a couple of years in 2011 and decided to drop by; yes he recognized me still and it was a pleasure to catch up with him. Sad to find out that he is no longer with us but the infrequent encounters I had with him has always been pleasurable and memorable. Certainly the best record store during his time. RIP Bobby.

    By Edwin on Oct 27, 2022

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