It's Wednesday night and the small, cluttered rehearsal room at Causeway Bay's Musicland is packed. Musicians buzz around swapping greetings, jokes and song sheets. In the middle stands veteran DJ 'Uncle Ray' Cordeiro, a beaming smile spread across his white-bearded face. 'This is where it all started,' he says, gesturing around the room and doffing his trademark white Kangol flat cap to the throng. To my left are the three Samson sisters (part of the sibling group D'Topnotes), Romeo Diaz is at the piano, Michael Samson is on drums, Ted Lo hovers by the keyboards and Hong Kong's soul man, Michael Remedios, is sucking on a throat lozenge. It is an impressive gathering. Younger genera-tions may scratch their heads at the names, but four decades ago, before Canto-pop was born and when the charts were still called the hit parade, these were Hong Kong's biggest stars; the Andy Laus, Faye Wongs and Twins of the swinging 60s, complete with No. 1 hits, screaming fans and sell-out gigs. Tonight they are rehearsing for their biggest show in 30 years, a reunion concert taking place in two days at the Grand Hyatt Ballroom. It is part of a charity gala in aid of Lifeline Express, which runs trains into the mainland carrying medical staff who restore sight to the blind. A hush falls over the rehearsal room and smiles give way to looks of anxious concentration. A wall of sound suddenly fills the room as the band launches into Ain't No Mountain High Enough, the Ashford & Simpson Motown classic made a hit by both Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross. Uncle Ray is singing along and it sounds like it is all coming together ... until the singers and musicians fall out of sync and the song ends in disharmony. A few laugh; others look concerned. The performance is almost upon them and for some it's been a long time since they've had such an important engagement. Sharon Kwok Sau-wan, a former local beauty queen who, as chairwoman of the ball committee came up with the 60s theme, looks unconcerned as she sits filing her nails between songs. The former actress admits she was not familiar with any of the acts while growing up but is practising to sing along on stage on the big night. 'I know the words to My Guy but I'm still learning Baby Love,' she confesses during a time-out. 'Initially my idea was music from the 40s to the 80s. I didn't realise how many [60s] bands there were. We can't even cover The Beatles.' She says her task is daunting but exciting. 'I have to organise everything, the lighting, music, sound ... there's so much to do.' Soon the songs are coming together, with Uncle Ray, the world's longest-serving radio DJ, having spent more than 40 years manning the decks, nodding along as the Motown hits are belted out. Eyes gleaming, he points out each of the stars. 'Look at the way Michael Samson holds the drumsticks,' he says, referring to the drummer's jazz-style flicking technique. 'That was how they did it then. They didn't bang the drums like now. You could feel the beat and get the rhythm.' He points out Remedios, a youthful, svelte singer with a penchant for funky glasses. 'In the good old days of the Hilton Hotel, Michael was the singer at the Eagle's Nest [the hotel's fine-dining restaurant]. He was a real soul singer,' coos Uncle Ray, who turns 80 in December but has lost none of his passion for music. Nostalgia is everywhere and during breaks outside the rehearsal room old friends are catching up over drinks on Musicland's terrace. For D'Topnotes it is not only the first gig for two decades but a rare family reunion. The city's answer to the Jackson 5 started out in the 1960s under the direction of their bandleader father Lobing Samson. Christine Samson, the only one of the five remaining in Hong Kong, was 14 then and sang alongside sisters Vikki and Lizzie with brothers Michael on percussion and Larry on guitar. They represented Hong Kong in singing competitions in Malaysia and Japan in the 1980s and toured as far afield as Mexico and Canada before disbanding in 1986. 'It's hard, we have our own jobs and commitments,' says singing-teacher Christine, whose siblings now live in North America. 'But it's been great catching up and playing together again, and seeing the other musicians too.' A host of other 60s acts who have been rehearsing at another venue in Kowloon will also join the Friday concert, including Teddy Robin (no longer with The Playboys), Joe Junior (sans the Side Effects), Philip Chan and Irene Ryder. 'In terms of 60s icons we have managed to get more than the Oldies concert at the handover organised by RTHK and the government,' says Anders Nelsson, the event's producer. A former member of Merseybeat-influenced band Kontinental and now a promoter, Nelsson, with Kwok, has spent two months getting the gig together. 'Many have not played together, or even solo, for nearly 20 years, so it's been quite a feat,' he says. By Friday afternoon Nelsson is pacing around the venue overseeing final rehearsals for the three dozen players involved, including those in the big bands of Robin and David Harilela. But a power blackout puts them behind schedule and the producer is on edge until he finally manages to do the sound check. Remedios, by contrast, is a whirl of energy on and off stage. 'It brings back a heck of a lot of memories,' he says, taking a breather in the wings. 'Those days were so different. It didn't matter which group you were with, we would visit each other and just play. Irene was with EMI and I was with Polydor but we didn't care. We just wanted to make music.' Remedios, the star turn of the charity gala, formed school band The Mystics with friends but things soon took off and they were offered a contract at the Scene, a nightclub at The Peninsula. 'We could only do three nights because we had to go to school, but then thought, 'What the hell, this is fun,' and went into the industry,' recalls Remedios. In 1968 The Mystics dominated the city's annual Diamond Music Awards and jockeyed for chart position with the likes of Joe Junior, Robin and Ryder. But the real money came from touring so they began playing Chinese clubs in Manila, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok before Remedios went solo. 'Fans would throw things on stage, and when it first happened I wondered if they didn't like me. But they were throwing gold ... bloody gold! And flower arrangements made out of US dollars. I was in my 20s and it was so much money. It was crazy,' says Remedios, who bought three cars and lived the rock-star lifestyle for a while. His long spell at the top, including 21 years of performing at the Eagle's Nest, enabled him to semi-retire in the 1990s. He left for Vancouver, where, occasional trips to play Bruce Lee film-music nights in Japan alongside Nelsson, and the odd gig elsewhere in Canada aside, Remedios spent most of his time running a car-repair shop. 'I gave it up though. It wasn't for me. Looking back I'm satisfied because I did exactly what I wanted. I know plenty of good musicians who had other careers and now want to get back into it. But it's too late. They should have followed their hearts before,' he says. But every rock 'n' roll story has its share of tragedy, and a reminder of the cost of fame came when Friday night's gig finally arrived. For Irene Ryder it was a reminder of her glory years. One of the biggest stars of the 60s and 70s, she suffered horrific facial injuries when acid was thrown over her by an unknown assailant in 1977. Numerous operations and 20 years later, Ryder made a comeback and now regularly performs at clubs, often with long-time friend Joe Junior. Here, her fellow musicians are united in admiration. Musically, gig night belongs to D'Topnotes and Remedios, dressed in shimmering sequined tops and jackets, whose Motown classics have the guests, most wearing dinner suits and ball gowns, with a few in miniskirts and flowery, big-collared shirts, dancing until 1am. For one night only it is as if the Eagle's Nest, the Scene and the Golden Phoenix have taken wing again. 'It's like being back in the 60s,' says Nelsson after the show. 'There are so many old faces backstage. Of course there is a bit less hair and the slimming-cream companies could do some business, but it's great to see them and they can all still do their stuff.' Nelsson says he doubts people will see such a bill again for a long time, if at all. 'Maybe some will play for Uncle Ray's 80th birthday in December, but it will be hard to better that line-up.' Remedios, meanwhile, is more concerned about his next gig than the one just passed. 'I'm playing in Canada in two days. I'll land, rush home and change then head out to play,' he says, buzzing around as if he were a high-school singer again. 'It really is just like the old days.'