1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

Just another music list

Jannie Cocaine – Akkedis

Voortvlugtend - Akkedis

Voortvlugtend –

It’s trippy, it swirls and disorientates…that is until about 20 seconds in when the drums start a-pounding and the guitar start a-blaring and whichever of the Dennis brothers it is that takes lead vocals on this, start a-growling. But then instead of deteriorating into a barrage of noise, it reaches a plateau and sort of relaxes on an uneasy rock bed. From then on, the melodic verses fight with the tumbling chorus.

Akkedis first came to our attention as The Dennis Brothers on the Wingerd Rock CD’s which highlighted the burgeoning talent in Stellenbosch. Dropping the ‘brothers’ thing, they morphed into Akkedis and brought us first ‘Husse Met Lang Ore’ and the brilliant follow up ‘Voortvlugtend’ on which ‘Jannie Cocaine’ closes proceedings and leaves you feeling slightly ill at ease. Like Neil Young’s ‘The Needle And The Damage Done’ where the focus is on the effect of drugs on a friend rather than being an out and aout anti drug song per se.

The guitars, at times abrasive, are somewhat at odds with the vocals that, apart from singing the song title, seem laidback and a bit spaced. But don’t be deceived, there is a menace underlying the voice, a disturbing edge that is in itself almost addictive. The song comes full circle where, after the rock/melody of chorus/verse, it retuns to the intro sounds where it disorientastes, it swirls and it’s trippy.

Where to find it:
Voortvlugtend – Akkedis (2001), SSS Records, SSS001


The End – Dickie Loader & Freedom’s Children

Dickie Loader - A Breath Of Fresh Air

Dickie Loader – A Breath Of Fresh Air

People sometimes use the word ‘searing’ to describe a guitar lick. The definition of searing is ‘extremely hot or intense’ which I guess is quite an apt way to try and explain the guitar sound that seems to tear through your speakers as soon as ‘The End’ starts. It is an extrememly intense moment that kick starts this collaboration between Dickie Loader and Freedom’s Children.

Loader had been around on the local scene for a while as Dickie Loader & The Blue Jeans, but one day he dropped his Blue Jeans and, avoiding any public indecency charges, forged a solo career. However, with this offering from 1970, he teamed up with those Astral rockers, Freedom’s Children, for a couple of tracks on his album ‘A Breath Of Fresh Air’. The result if the familiar dense wall of rock that the Chidren were capable of producing, over which Loader seems to manange to mix Robert Plant’s voice with that of Elvis to get a rock ‘n roll ‘n metal effect. The result is 2 and a half minutes of, well, there isn’t really any other words for it, but ‘searing rock’.

Most of Loader’s material has been confined to vinyl history, however, this is one of the few gems from him that have managed to make it into the digital era thanks to Benjy Mudie at Retrofresh records who dug this one out of the vault to include in the second in the series of Astral Daze albums, a series which captures the best of an era when guitars were fuzzy and loud and vocals were overdosing on testosterone. The inclusion of ‘The End’ on ‘Astral Daze 2’ is testament to the song being one of the standout tracks of its era.

Where to find it
Astral Daze 2 – Various Artists, RetroFresh, (2009), FRESHCD162


I Am The Eagle You’re The Wind – Bles Bridges

Net Vir Jou - Bles Bridges

Net Vir Jou – Bles Bridges

Love him or hate him, this list would not be complete without a Bles Bridges song. He was a huge star amonst the Afrikaans portion of the South African population and well known amongst the English speakers as well. His success was perhaps due in part to him singing in both languages.

Born in Viljoensdrift in the Free State, (with the name Lawrence John Gabriel Bridges), he began his professional career in the early 80s and by the time he died in 2000 (in a motor accident) he had shifted 2.5 million records and had outsold Frank Sinatra at Sun City.

‘I Am The Eagle You’re The Wind’ was one of his biggest hits. The song has soaring orchestration over which Bles, strong (almost operatic) voice floats in this uplifting pop song. It is the style of song that had a lot of popularity in the country and echoes of this can be heard in later Afrikaans songs by artists such as Juanita du Plessis, Kurt Darren and Die Campbells.

There used to be a joke that if you played Bles Bridges records backwards you got poitjiekos recipes, but Bles knew the recipe for success. You can’t really argue that an artist that shifted as many records as he did does not deserve to be on this list.

Where to find it:
Bles Bridges Se Grootste Treffers – Net Vir Jou (1994) Vat 5 Musiek, CDVAT6260


Hammerhead Hotel – Falling Mirror

Hammerhead Hotel - Falling Mirror

Hammerhead Hotel – Falling Mirror

Falling Mirror’s commercial success seemed to end once their classic hit, ‘Johnny Calls The Chemist’ had scaled the charts on a number of the local radio stations. In 1986 they went on to record the quirkly single ‘Let’s Paint The House Pink’ which was meant to be a track on their fifth album, but that album never materialised and all went quiet on the Mirror front.

Then, a decade later in 1996, they were back in Tully McCully’s Spaced Out Studios and this time they were serious about putting out an album, recording sufficient material for one including the title track, ‘Hammerhead Hotel’. This is a funky bluesey number that reflects (pun intended) a bit of the psychotic side of the band with references to pyscho’s and schizos floating around the lyrics. Neilen Marais’ vocals are somewhat yowly (with hints of Elvis in there), giving the song an added edge while Allan Faull’s guitars burn a path of blue flame through the heart of this worthy come-back song for the band. The song stomps along at a cool movie hero walking down the street pace. It’s slick and grimy, scary and seductive, out of control and perfectly in control. It seems to find synergies in opposites.

Despite this strong track, the hoped for revival did not arrive at that time as the album only got a download release on the now sadly defunct Rhythm Records download site and only a few tracks from that album can be found on the band’s website (see ‘Hear here’ below for link). But this was not the end of the strangely enduring story of Falling Mirror as in 2010 they brought us their final album (as Faull and Marias), ‘Special Agent Duck’. Sadly in the October of 2013, Allan Faull died of a heart attack while working on a new album.

Where to find it:
Currently unavailable

Hear here:

Letters For Dicky – Jennifer Ferguson

Hand Around The Heart - Jennifer Ferguson

Hand Around The Heart – Jennifer Ferguson

David Kramer’s song ‘On The Border’ tells the story of a guy recalling a friend who ended up commiting suicide while doing his army stint. In that song it was time spent in DB that put the guy in question over the edge. Jennifer Ferguson’s ‘Letters For Dickey’ covers similar material except that the narrative is in the form of letters from a girl to her boyfriend on the border.

The song is sung in a strong South African accent and one can imagine it being a rather simple and frightened girl who at first cannot believe that there would be anyone else but Dickie for her, but while her man is away she is tempted and falls pregnant to another guy. Despite the ‘Dear John’ letter she ends up writing, she still loves her Dickie. The song takes a sharp turn from this dreamy lovestruck, confused and rather naïve girl when the news come through that Dickie had taken his life. Ferguson’s voice reflects the growing maturity in the girl as the song builds to its climax and perfectly captures the shock and emptiness as she sings the line ‘the bullet that you put into your head was meant for me not you’.

Like ‘On The Border’, ‘Letters To Dickey’ is a very emotional song and deals with a subject that we all knew, but never spoke about openly. It perfectly captures the strain that conscription put on the country, not only for those fighting, but also for those back home waiting for the return of loved ones. While those days are gone, this song and those like it, still speak to us of the impact war has on people. There have been many anti-war songs written, but few cut as close to the bone as this one. The song appeared on Ferguson’s album ‘Hand Around The Heart’ and everytime you hear ‘Letters To Dickie’ that hand is not a kind one, it is squeezing your heart till it hurts. Powerful stuff.

Where to find it:
Hand Around The Heart – Jennifer Ferguson (1985) Shifty Records

Hear here:

Josie Josie – Anton Goosen

Riviersonderend - Anton Goosen

Riviersonderend – Anton Goosen

‘Josie Josie’ finds Anton Goosen in a more sombre mood. The song starts out with a slightly menacingly strum guitar, but the sting of this is quickly flattened by a melancholy flute playing over the top of it, and then Anton’s vocals come in.

The song then builds with a chorus joining Anton on the vocals and the flute weaves itself around this chant like sound. There is a stuttering, stumbling feel to the song, like it is lurching forward into uncertain territory, trying to be brave by stomping along, yet one can sense the lack of confidence in it. So one turns to the lyrics for clues to what is going on. ‘Josie Joise don’t let it rain on your dream tonight/Josie Josie we’ve seen it through now our days are bright’ is the repeated refrain that Goosen and the chorus sing and then you realise, Josie is perhaps not a woman, but could be Johannesburg (‘Jozi’). The song then makes sense in that it is almost a prayer for the new South Africa as it stumbles from Apartheid into democracy.

There has been lot sung about the country and in particular its transformation from the bad old days, but few have done this with such beauty. It’s not a ‘New York New York’ for Johannesburg, it is a heartfelt request.

Where to find it:
Riviersonderend – 21 Greatest Hits – Anton Goosen (1994), Gallo Records (CDGMP 40402)



Kilimanjaro – Juluka

The International Tracks - Juluka

The International Tracks – Juluka

Whenever you talk to someone who has climbed or attemted to climb the highest mountain in Africa, all you hear is how terrible they felt due to the altitude sickness. And then, when you point this out to them, they go on to talk about a sense of achievement etc etc. Having spent a lot of time on the lower slopes of Kimlmanjaro, but never having climbed the mountain, I think I will avoid altitude sickness and a sense of achievement by doing 2 things. Firstly I will enjoy looking at this magnificent land form whenever she shows herself (she can be quite shy, hiding under clouds a lot) and secondly I will listen to Juluka’s song ‘Kilimanjaro’. Of course, some will say, that this is not as good as actually climbing the mountain, but hey, I’m a lazy git and besides which, the Juluka song is so cheereful and bouncy that frankly, I don’t give a damn.

The song comes from one of the final Juluka albums of Johnny Clegg & Sipho Mchunu’s first collaboration and it was entitled ‘The International Tracks’ which was a collection of singles that had been released internationally, but not in South Africa. Perhaps the line in ‘Kilimanjaro’ that went ‘what a strange strange freedom/only free to choose my chains’ had something to do with the lack of an initial release in South Africa.

The song also showed a leaning towards more of a ‘western’ sound and a keyboard (a popular instrument in the 80s) features quite prominently with a sound somewhat more akin to that being heard in the new romantic moment in the UK than in the townships in SA, but having said that, the song still has much of the South African sound that had endeared Juluka to us. There is a jangling township guitar, a penny whistle and a few ‘um-um-oh-um’s that remind us where the song comes from, even if the subject of the title is from somewhere a bit further north.

So sit back, relax, you don’t have to get hiking boots, big jackets and back packs to climb this ‘Kilimanjaro’. And like the majestic mountain in Tanzania, Juluka’s song will take you to new heights.

Where to find it:
The International Tracks – Juluka (1990), MINC, CDM 4064772


Woogie Boogie – Platform 6

Woogie Boogie - Platform 6

Woogie Boogie – Platform 6

‘Woogie Boogie’ was a song written by Chris Andrews, an English singer and songwriter who had a good number of hits in South Africa which included ‘Yesterday Man’, ‘Pretty Belinda’ and ‘Yo Yo’. He was also responsible for a number of other artist’s hits such as Sandie Shaw’s ‘Puppet On A String’ which he wrote. ‘Woogie Boogie’ was one of his less successful compositions in terms of international appeal as it only managed to get to number 30 in Holland when Dutch act Ferrari recorded it.

However, we in South Africa seemed to dig what Andrews did as he scored at least 11 hits on our charts as a song writer, 4 of which (all of them with him as artist) made number 1. Platform 6’s take on ‘Woogie Boogie’ would land him a number 3 hit in SA and its not too surprising when he uses a simply stomping beat that you can dance to with a catchy tune laid on top of it.

Platform 6 were from Vereeniging and comprosed Keith Taylor (vocals), Gary Smith (vocals), Jack Mouton (guitar), Michael Nosworthy (organ), Hennie Botha (bass), Jan Labuschagne (drums). They took the Andrews composition and, where Ferrari used a rather breathy vocal and a slower pace, they injected a stonger vocal and certainly gave the song a bit of oomph on the pace front. You will find yourself tapping your foot away to this poppy tune and who knows you may even get up and woogie boogie a bit.

Where to find it:
Various Artists – The Best of SA Pop Volume 3 (1994) GSP, CDREDD 610


Home – Just Jinger

Greatest Hits - Just Jinger

Greatest Hits – Just Jinger

Released around the time that Ard (sometimes Art) Matthews and his Just Jinger (now Jinjer) were busy relocating to the US, it is  interesting that they would record a song called ‘Home’ as it must have a soul searching time for Matthews as he made the decision to leave his home. And this perhaps reflects in the song itself which finds the band in a reflective mood.

But apparently its not about Ard/Art at all and his leaving SA. Its a tribute to Nelson Mandela and all he did for South Africa.

The sound is not as heavy or lively as some of their previous offerings. Featuring a mellow rock beat around which thoughtful guitars gather, the song feels somewhat intimate and the listener almost feels like they are an intruder eavesdropping on a private jam that the band are having. And that is probably the attraction of this nugget, the sense of being privy to something that the creators of are not aware is being leaked to the public.

‘Home’ has a poignant intensity to it. The band are so caught up in creating this beautiful sound and the lyrics seem to echo in the heartbeat of the music. There is a searching and a longing in the vocals that swirl through the song. For the singer, home is where the Ard is and I think every house should have a ‘Home’.

Where to find it:
Greatest Hits – Just Jinger (2001), BMG Records Africa ‎– CDCLL(CLM)7048


Count The Red Cars – Penny Croft

Penny Croft

Penny Croft

Penny Croft is another of those honorary South Africans as she was born in the UK and came out to SA where she recorded a number of songs and eventually returned to Britain. Her father, David Croft, was a sitcom writer and co-wrote scripts for BBC shows such as ‘Dad’s Army’, ‘Are You Being Served?’ and ‘Allo, Allo’.

In 1977 Penny recorded ‘Count The Red Cars’, a song she had penned with Zayne Cronje. The song failed to chart on the Springbok Top 20, but did make it onto the first volume of ‘The Best Of SA Pop’ series.

The song is about unrequited love and is underpinned by a beautiful piano melody which builds slowly as a slow confidence comes into Croft’s voice and the lyrics start working through the issues of not being loved in return and finding ways to deal with it. In this case, the singer finds that singing helps her overcome the loneliness (‘And then I’ll hide inside the melody/and cry behind the smile/but I’ll sparkle in the spotlight/sing the songs that you compile’).

This is a positive song which Penny handles with aplomb. It has a lot of feminity to it and would not have worked with changed lyrics to be the theme tune to a popular radio show if it had been called ‘Count The Squad Cars’.

Where to find it:
Various Artists – The Best of SA Pop Volume 1 (1994) GMP, CDGMPD 40485 (CD)


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