1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

Just another music list

Man In A Bowler Hat – John & Philipa Cooper

Man In A Bowler Hat – John & Philipa Cooper

The Cooperville Times - John & Phillipa Cooper

The Cooperville Times – John & Phillipa Cooper

Until the recent re-release by the RetroFresh label, John & Philipa Cooper’s ‘The Cooperville Times’ was a much sought after, and much not found album. Nowadays we can listen to the music, but information on the group is about as rare as the album was. Apart from their 1 album discography, the Chilvers/Jasiukowicz ‘History Of Contemporary Music Of South Africa’ has this to say of them – ‘Folk duo’. That’s it. They were a folk duo folks.What we do know from other sources is that John & Philipa were brother & sister, Julian Laxton played on the album which, as noted in the Chilvers/Jasiukowicz discography, was produced by John Edmond.

All that leaves then is the music. ‘Man In A Bowler Hat’ tips it’s, erm, hat to the artist Rene Magritte (remember him from Niki Daley’s ‘Is It An Ism’?) and his picture of a man in a bowler hat (you know the one). It’s a folky tune that weaves a grating fiddle and searing, if somewhat muted guitar, over a solid drum beat and a thick layer of tambourine. John takes most of the vocal responsibility on this track, but is joined by Philipa for the chorus. Neither have brilliant voices, but it sort of fitted in with the ideology of the hippy folk of the times where the lyrics were more important.

Lyrically, ‘Man In A Bowler Hat’ seems to try capture the emotions while wondering round an exhibit by Magritte.  The opening line ‘My mind is spinning around, is this all real?’ and
‘You show me magical things that I’ve never seen. It seems when I’m walking around I’m in a dream’, suggest someone lost in the surrealism of the artist’s work. But these lines could equally be applied to listening to this song. Somewhat surreal, certainly magical and rather dreamy, it will have your mind spinning around.

Where to find it:
The Cooperville Times – John & Philipa Cooper (2009), RetroFresh, FRESHCD 168
Astral Daze 2 – Various Artists, RetroFresh, (2009), FRESHCD162

Video:

Wikipedia on Rene Magritte

Download from Channel 24

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