Bernadette – All Night Radio
All Night Radio introduced South Africa to a major talent in Steve Louw. The band’s main members were Steve Louw, Nico Burger and Rob Nagel. Their first album was 1984’s ‘The Heart’s The Best Part’ and their second (and final) album was1986’s ‘The Killing Floor’. ‘Bernadette’ is the opening track to ‘The Killing Floor’ and is a pacy rock, bordering on punk, number.
From the opening, the track is racing to the finish line. There is a sprinting guitar that speeds along the edge of a ragged tooth saw, while the drums are almost falling over themselves to keep up. Over this, Louw’s strong vocals bounce along with a confidence of one who has no problem with the pace. But there is an angry tinge to the voice which adds to the punk feel of the track.
Examining the lyrics gives a bit of a clue to the anger. The song hints at (because you couldn’t come right out and say it back then) a love across the colour line. ‘We go out dancing all night on the cheaper side of town/where a poor man can be a winner/and a black man can be proud’ is the first hint we get. Then he sings ‘We talked all night, you told me about your life/Across the tracks’ which again speaks of differences. Later, there is the line ‘You took me to a wasteland, they call it District 6’, which confirms it. This reference to District 6 led to the song (and at least 2 others from the album) being initially banned by the SABC. Louw managed to negotiate it down to just the track ‘Reign Of Fire’ being banned.
The rush of the song, matches the helter skelter and upheaval of the 80’s in South Africa. The illegal love between people of different colour causes the singer to propose running away to a place where the ‘sunshine turns to snow’. The words paint a bleak picture of the options for the couple while the music and singing sum up the anger felt by them at the situation.
Often overlooked due to Louw’s later work with Big Sky, All Night Radio were a solid rock band who brought us two great albums and a great cover of Them’s ‘Here Comes The Night’ amongst other songs. They not only rocked but had a social conscious. So, when you have one of those nights when you can’t sleep, put on All Night Radio. It may not help you sleep, but you will have a far better time listening to this than tossing and turning in bed.
Where to find it:
Vinyl: The Killing Floor – All Night Radio (1986), Previous Records, ASF 3136