Going Straight – Flash Harry
When someone sings to you that they are going straight, you would not really think that they would tell you this in a ska-punky kind of way because people who sing that kind of music are a bit dodgy, aren’t they. Well, I’m sure the Mother Grundys of the day would have told you that as they tried to prevent you from listening to anything except pan pipes and Sonja Herholt. But when Flash Harry tell us that they are going straight they do so in that jerky punky way that has a ska-ish feel.
And perhaps that is the point as listening to the lyrics, they are seeming to have a dig at those who ‘go straight’. ‘I’m just a straight man/I depend on the news’ sings Keith Berel then continues ‘My wife makes me breakfast/and my boy shines my shoes’. He is singing about a typical white South African growing up in the early 80’s, a man who is comfortable with the chauvinism and racial dominance of the day without being out there on the far right in either area. He just wants to live his life. ‘Don’t ask me questions/I got nothing to say’.
There is definitely a tongue firmly in a cheek in this song. Flash Harry were, in a subtle way, asking how can you be comfortable with what is going on around you? How can you just bury your head in the sand while these injustices continue? Perhaps there is a clue in the rattlesnake sounding tambourine that opens the track. There is a venom hidden behind the perky upbeat song. Not all is as it seems in this cheeky sounding track.
Flash Harry were a short lived band with only 2 albums to their name. Keith Berel moved on to the even shorter lived, but equally brilliant Carte Blanche (only 1 album there) after Flash Harry called it a day and again came up with some tuneful yet subtle political songs in his new group. Even the title of ‘Going Straight’ is a bit tongue in cheek as, in order to be heard in South Africa in those days, you could not be straight talking with your message, you had to wrap it up in something that the censors wouldn’t take offence to and Berel and Flash Harry were good at doing that.
Where to find it:
Vinyl album: Take What You Can – Flash Harry (1982), A.D. Records (DTC 1000)