1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

Just another music list

No Man Shall Fall – Little Sister

Ready And Willing - Litle Sister

Ready And Willing – Litle Sister

Purely as a title, ‘No Man Shall Fall’ can be read in a ‘he ain’t heavy’ kinda way in that it could be a call to pick up your fellow human when they stumble. Or it could be a feel-sorry-for-myself-woe-is-me song bemoaning the fact that nobody could fall in love with the poor singer. But in the hands of the Lonman sisters (Debbi and Jenni) who were better known as Little Sister, the lyric explains further that “no man shall fall/into my heart”.

And speaking of heart, there is undoubtedly a similarity between Little Sister and the American band Heart. Not only are both groups primary members two sisters (Ann and Nancy Wilson in the case of Heart), but they both write great power ballads. ‘No Man Shall Fall’ was described in the SA Rock digest as being “Elegiac and beautiful, soaring singing and guitar work, a song about awareness of wrongs done and a new leaf turning.”.

Starting out slowly with an atmospheric piano and voice, the song quickly builds into that large sound associated with rock ballads and a loud blast of chorus before suddenly dropping back to quiet again, only to build once more. South Africa was not a place where power ballads were easily grown. But the Lonman sisters seemed to have found a fertile patch to plant this one and have reaped a great crop of guitars, drums and emotive vocals. Contrary to the title, I think any man who loves his rock music will fall for this one.

Where to find it:
While No One Was Looking – Little Sister (1999), Gallo, GWVCD9
Ready And Willing – Little Sister (1990), Tusk, TUCD 7

Be Bop Pop – The Spectres

Be Bop Pop - The Spectres

Be Bop Pop – The Spectres

Vox pouli is Latin for the the voice of the people. So if you ever wondered what the hang Tara Robb and her Spectre mates were going on about in 1989 on the second single and title track to their only album ‘Be Bop Pop’ (the chorus goes “Be Bop Pop/Vox Populi”), now you know.

Following up the (be bop) popular ‘Teddy Bear’ was this bright and bouncy little tune which is a foot tapping, brassy piece of pop perfection. From its trumpet and sax laden intro, through the Heather Mac-esque vocals and honky tonk piano interlude, including the rabble-y chorus and hand clapping instrumental break to the return of the wailing sax on the fade out, this is great stuff. It was a worthy follow up to ‘Teddy Bear’ but unlike its predecessor, did not garner any chart action on Radio 5, Capital 604 or 702 and it is difficult to understand why as this was probably even more commercial than ‘Teddy Bear’. However such is the music biz.

Tara Robb (who sadly passed away in September 2000) provides the chocolate-covered boiled-sweet vocals to Gary Rahtbone’s solid guitar and Allan Lusk’s bouncing bass. Richard Frost provides the driving percussion rhythms. And it is the addition of some non-Spectres that add a warm brassy layer.  Murray Campbell (he of ‘Goodbye My Love’ fame) supplies the trumpet, Mandla Masuko makes the sax wail and John Davis slides in with some tromboning. Whoever decided to add the brass deserves a medal. You need to listen to vox Phasma Phasmatis (Latin for the voice of a Specter).

Where to find it:
Vox Populi – The Spectres (2004), RetroFresh, freshcd 141

Video:

 

Time Of The Season – Neil Cloud

St Cloux - Neil Cloud

St Cloux – Neil Cloud

Most of you will know the Zombies’ song ‘Time Of The Season’ which was a number 2 hit for them in SA in 1969. Back in 69 the song was a shimmering, sexy, smokey song in that 60’s garage style. About 9 years later and following the demise of one of South Africa’s biggest bands, ex-Rabbitt drummer Neil Cloud took the song and decided to funk it up.

Disco was all the rage then and what better to do than take a nice old 60’s rock classic and turn it into a floorfilling-get-down-and-boogie-till-you-puke-funk-n-roll-70’s-classic. A lineup of well known names pervade the song with Johnny Boshoff on bass and keyboards and being responsible for the beautiful string arrangements that give the song wings. Malcolm Watson provides the funky, thwacking guitar that Chic’s up the song. Lofty Shultz is among the names responsible for the brass that warms the song up and Rene Veldsman (she of Via Afrika fame) brings a sultry vocal to make love to Neil Cloud’s breathy ones. Lastly, there is of course, Neil’s drumming. It’s not just a straight forward keep the beat going drums, there are cascading and twiddly drums thrown in every now and then.

Drummers are not renown for having solo careers post the break up of a band, and even fewer actually make even half decent music on their own. But some of them do and Neil Cloud was one. While none of the tracks on his only solo offering ‘St Cloux’ (which included ‘Time Of The Season’) made the charts in SA, both ‘Time…’ and the epic 17 and a half minute cover of Marmalade’s ‘Reflections Of My Life’ (with a bit of the theme to’ The Good The Bad And The Ugly’ thrown in for good measure) made the cut for what is arguably the definitive collection of South African disco music – Gallo records ‘Disco Fever’. ‘Time Of The Season’ was a song that was one of the stand outs of its genre.

Where to find it:
Disco Fever – Various Artists, (July 1999), Gallo, CDREDD 627 (Out of print, so you may struggle)

Video:

Love – Gene Rockwell

Love - Gene Rockwell

Love – Gene Rockwell

Ah, that old elusive thing that so many poets have written about and musicians have sung about – love. ‘Love Me Do’, the Beatles cried, Robert Palmer was addicted to it, Air Supply were all out of it and Whitney topped the charts promising to ‘Always Love You’. That little four letter word has been countrified, rocked, punked, serenaded, reggaed, disco-ed, blues-ed, jazzed and every other genre’d in betweened.

So what could Gert Smit do with the topic? Well for a start, if you want to sing about the L-word, you cannot call youself Gert Smit now can you? So Gert changed his name to Gene and dropped the Smit for a much cooler Rockwell and soon had the nation love-ing him. In 1965 he penned and recorded this little ditty simply entitled ‘Love’. Gene had undoubtedly been listening to early Beatles records when he wrote this as it has that beat song sound with a gentle, almost rock-a-billy beat combined with a sharp vocal.

The song raced to number 5 on the Springbok Charts, giving him his 3rd top 5 hit and the first he had written himself. It’s a nice little rocker and in the worlds of David Mills, ‘’Love’ is a beautiful song.

Where to find it:
Various Artists – The Best of SA Pop Volume 3 (1994) GSP, CDREDD 610
The Heart And Soul Of – Gene Rockwell (2000),GSP, CDREDD622

Video:

Ten Seconds – Cutting Jade

Cutting Jade

Cutting Jade

Cutting Jade were one of a number of edgy rock bands that sprung up in South Africa around the turn of the millennium. The difference between them and a lot of the others was that they rose above the pack and looked set to become another Saron Gas/Seether success story. Despite showing a lot of promise and garnering some international interest, it was not to be.

And this is where the fickleness of the music industry is brought under the spotlight. Listen to ‘10 Seconds’ next to something by the Springbok Nude Girls or the aforementioned Seether and you would be hard pressed to say that this does not hold its own next to those other bands. It has everything needed to catapult a band into the big time – ominous, growling guitars and edgy vocals that explode into a catchy and soaring chorus.

The song did manage to top 7 SA radio stations’ charts, got to number 3 on the SA Rockdigest Chart and was voted the 2nd best song of the year (behind Seether’s ‘Gasoline’) by that publication. ‘10 Seconds’ should have given Cutting Jade more than their 15 minutes of fame.

Where to find it:
So There We Were – Cutting Jade, (2002), David Gresham, CDDGR 1544

Video:

Taximan – éVoid

Taximan - éVoid

Taximan – éVoid

The main force behind éVoid were the Windrich brothers Erik and Lucien. And behind the massive hit ‘Shadows’ there was the little brother ‘Taximan’ a song which has had to live in the, erm, shadow of it’s big brother all these years. Had they not written ‘Shadows’ éVoid would have always been remember as the band that brought you ‘Taximan’.  There may be some out there who prefer this younger brother to the older statesman hit and that is perfectly acceptable because, well, ‘Taximan’ is such a brilliant song in its own right.

The song itself is a bit like a taxi ploughing its trade between Soweto and Jozi. It’s overloaded with great ideas, it doesn’t obey the usual rules but choses to plough its own furrow, there is a great dance beat booming away, someone is leaning out the song shouting ‘heya!heya!’ and then it comes to an abrupt stop without much warning.

‘Taximan’did not fare (no, not what you pay for the ride) quite as well as ‘Shadows’ but reached a respectable 6 on the Springbok Charts in comparison to the latter’s 3. That said, it did manage number 3 on the Radio 5 charts where ‘Shadows’ stalled at 4. One can just imagine the sibling rivalry that went on in the LP sleeve way back when. Both songs have grown up and matured, yet both sound as vibrant and youthful as they did in 1983/4. So come out of the shadows for a bit, head out on that highway and head into town with the most loveable ‘Taximan’ in South African musical history (with Karen Zoid’s ‘Taxi’ coming a close second).

Where to find it:
éVoid (2000), RetroFresh, freshcd 106
SA Top 40 Hits of All Time – Various Artists (2001), Sting Music, STIDFCD037

Video:

Shake – Tananas

Tananas

Tananas

I often wonder how musicians come up with names for instrumental pieces. I suppose it’s a bit like modern artists who put a few blobs of paint on a canvas and call it ‘Ash on a Moonscape’ or something equally bizarre. It is sometimes more about the feel of the painting that the artist wants to put over rather than what the actual visuals show. Similarly, the titles of instrumentals are about the feel that the musician has for the song.

That said, I am at a bit of loss as to why those Tananas dudes called this track ‘Shake’. To me it’s more thwacks and pops and bubbles and bangs and crashes than something that would make one shake in a ‘Shake Rattle And Roll’ sense. It is also earthy and funky and a little chilled to be make one shake in a ‘shaking in my shoes’ kind of way. Perhaps it is the sort of bubbling rolling sound that Steve Newman manges to extract from his guitar that makes it light and frothy in a milkshake kind of shake sense.

Whatever the reason behind naming the track ‘Shake’ it is a strutting piece of expert musicianship that blends bubbly beats with fruity flavours to give you a brilliant blend for slaking your thirst for cool sounds on. So get on down to the Tananas Roadhouse and order youself a delicious ‘Shake’.

Where to find it:
Tananas – Tananas (1988), Shifty, CDSHIFT(WL)26

Video:

I Loved ‘Em Everyone – Billy Forrest

I Loved ‘Em Everyone - Billy Forrest

I Loved ‘Em Everyone – Billy Forrest

There is a very definite connection between the song ‘I Loved ‘Em Everyone’, singing under a pseudomyn, your original first name being William and your surname starting with a ‘B’. In 1981 William Neal Browder (better known as T.G. Sheppard) recorded the song which was penned by Phil Sampson and it became his 7th number 1 on the Country Singles Charts in the US. In 1983 William Broad (aka Billy Forrest) took his version to number 17 in South Africa.

The song covers the same ground as the Willie Nelson/Julio Iglesias song ‘To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before’ as it is a tribute to all the women the singers have loved and how they “Loved Them Everyone” and how he would loved to have “kept ‘em all”. It paints a picture of a wanderer who strikes up relationships and then moves on. There is a mixed emotion in the song as it seems that the singer enjoyed having met all these woman, but at the same time there is an undercurrent of regret at not being able to settle down with one.

Its not a full on country song with twangy guitars and voices, but would probably better be described as country rock as there are some heavier touches on the guitar which give it a harder edge, but it still has that sort of wide open prairie sound to keep it country.

There is not a huge amount to choose from between Billy and T.G.’s versions. They are pretty similar, but as South Africans, we got to know the song through Billy Forrest. He was a prolific singer, coming up with songs under a variety of names, but we ‘Loved ‘Em Every One.’

Where to find it:
The Heart And Soul Of – Billy Forrest (2001), Gallo, CDREDD 654

Video:
Billy Forrest:

T.G. Sheppard:

Save Me – Clout

Save Me - Clout

Save Me – Clout

With all the excitement about Clout’s version of ‘Substitute’ getting to number 2 in the UK (and number 67 in the US), other hits of theirs get a bit relegated. One of their other great hits was ‘Save Me’, a cover of a song originally recorded by Irish singer Clodagh Rodgers. Like ‘Substitute’ (which was the b-side of a Righteous Brothers hit), the first recording of the song did nothing for the artist who first recorded it.

Clout, however, injected some vooma into the song and had it speeding up the local charts and some of the European ones. It peaked at number 8 in SA and made number 6 in Holland, number 4 in Switzerland, 14 in Austria, 4 in Germany and 5 in Belgium. Comparing it to the Clodagh Rodgers version, it’s not too surprising that Clout’s one was the hit. Clodagh does a pleasant enough job of it, but it seems a bit bland in comparison to the dose of ROCK! that Cindy Alter et al brought to the song. To put it in other terms it’s like comparing a Carpenters song to a Suzi Quatro one. You can listen to Clodagh, but you can dance to Clout.

Clout open their version with a strong harmonised voice of “Save Me/Take Me Away To The Moonlight/The people around me don’t feel right” before tumbling into a stomping beat that is reminiscent of Slade (sans the howling of Noddy Holder) with drums a-pounding, guitars a-roaring and Cindy giving a great vocal performance. Perhaps it is time to substitute your favourite Clout track with this for a little while.

Where to find it:
20 Greatest Hits – Clout (1992), Gallo Records, CDCLOUT 1

Video:

Clout:

Clodagh Rodgers:

Gange Van Babylon – Valiant Swart

Deur Die Donker Vallei - Valiant Swart

Deur Die Donker Vallei – Valiant Swart

In 2002, after having given us 3 albums (‘Dorpstraat Revisited’, ‘Die Mystic Boer’ and ‘Kopskoot’) a live album (‘Voetstoets’) and an EP (‘Roekeloos’) all of high quality music, one could have been forgiven for thinking that perhaps Valiant Swart was due a dud one. But instead he gave us arguably his best album…ever in ‘Deur Die Donker Vallei’. It is an album chock full of great tunes and they don’t come much better than ‘Gange Van Bablylon’.  But what are the gange van Bablyon?

Perhaps a quick Biblical lesson is necessary here. In Old Testament times, the Jewish nation was forced into exile in Babylon, one of the major powers of the day. So the song is about being transported back in time to be exiled in an ancient city, right? Well no, not really. Babylon is said to be derived from the Hebrew word for ‘confusion’, so it may be about being a bit deurmekaar. Maybe. A closer look at the lyrics suggests that it could be about the upheaval and violence in the country post the collapse of apartheid.

Whatever the subject matter, it’s safe to say that the song is a smooth blues ride. There’s a steady rhythm courtesy of Vernon Swart on drums and Schalk Joubert on bass, which is supplemented by one of the finest blues guitarists south of the Limpopo – Albert Frost. Valiant himself, apart from singing, plays guitars and adds a harmonica to the bridges between verses. The whole package is firmed out by Simon ‘Agent’ Orange’s Hammond organ. This song is a bit like the ring in Lord of The Rings. It is like a strange, beautiful thing to keep you company through those confused times, something polished, beautiful and powerful to accompany one on your journey. And something that strangely gives you a reason to keep going. This song is precious.

Where to find it:
Deur Die Donker Vallei – Valiant Swart (2002), Rhythm Records, SWART004

Hear here:

https://myspace.com/valiantswartmusic/music/song/gange-van-babylon-40272628

Lyrics:
Dis die winter van die jakkels
Die somer van die slang
Wat ‘n sluwe seisoen
Onder ‘n hartseer son
Die sout van die aarde
Dwarrel en draai
In die gange van Babylon
Brabbel almal in brabbel taal
En niemad wil luister nie
En niemand verstaan
Pandemonium in die gange van Babylon

Dit rammel in die vlei
Dit huil by die bobbejaankrans
Dit dreun met die laning langs
Oor die plein kom dit aangedans
En niemand skenk aandag daaraan
Want daar’s niemand wat verstaan
Wat gaan aan vanaand in die gange van Baylon

In die bosse van Babel
Rank die kinders van Kaan
Tussen die dorings
In die hangende tuin
En die water van verwarring
Syfer deur die mure
In die gange van Babylon
Slaan die laaste ure
En daar’s niemand wat verstaan
Hoekom alles vergaan
Langsamerhand
In die gange van Babylon

(Written by Valiant Swart)

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