1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Candy – Geoff St John

Candy - Geoff St John

Candy – Geoff St John

‘Candy’ was Geoff St. John’s second Springbok Top 20 hit and followed the success of his 1975 hit ‘Kiss Me Kiss You Baby’. ‘Candy’ made it to number 9 in the charts in 1976 and enjoyed 10 weeks in the top 20 and its not too hard to see why the nation took to the song. Dare I say it’s a sweet song, with an uplifting pop tune and bubblegum lyrics.

The tune was written by Ken Levine who drafted in song writing partner Ernie Schroeder to provide the lyrics. According to Ken they had very little to do in promoting the song as Geoff St John was very popular at the time and the chart success mentioned above backs this claim up.

Listening to this song years after it was a hit one may be inclined to dismiss it as it is very much of its era, slotting in alongside other light hearted love songs like Brotherhood Of Man’s ‘Save All Your Kisses For Me’ with enough of a beat to be danceable to and a catchy chorus, and perhaps, yes, it has not aged as well as other songs, but there is a certain charm about it that makes me think it deserves another listen.

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

Video:

Sunglasses – Hilary

Sunglasses - Hilary

Sunglasses – Hilary

Sunglasses have been the subject of a few songs over the years. Corey Hart sang about ‘Sunglasses At Night’, Timbuk 3 throught ‘The Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades’ and goth band The Cramps have recorded a song called ‘Sunglasses After Dark’. But long before these guys were trying to look cool, Hilary (Archibald) was donning some dark glasses. But she was not needing to protect her eyes from the effects of the sun, but rather she was hiding her tears as she had spotted her guy making out with another while on the beach.

While this little pop gem from 1968 may sound a little cheesy nowadays, there is still a certain poignancy to the heartbreak that hides behind the sweet girlie voice. The song was first recorded by Sandy Posey who had a big hit in South Africa with ‘Single Girl’. That version is all orchestral and melancholic while Tracey Ullman’s 1984 cover is melodramatic ‘Cyndi Lauper’ quirky and while some may prefer those versions, there is something about Hilary’s candy-coated sadness that makes this version worth a listen.

‘Suglasses’ was the second song by a local woman to go to number 1 on the Springbok Radio charts (the first being Carike Keuzenkamp with ‘Timothy’) where it stayed for 7 weeks, an all time record for a local lass. Hilary re-recorded the ‘Sunglasses’ part of the Let’s Play SA medley in 1983, sadly in 1989 she passed away from cancer in her early 40s.

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

Video

Goema – The Genuines

Goema - The Genuines

Goema – The Genuines

There came a time in South African music when Afrikaans musicians were breaking free of the shackles of sugar candy coated music that sang of innocent things, and began to rock and sing of things political. This was the Voelvry movement. Slightly lost in this ‘Afrikaans’ revolution was a Cape Coloured band called The Genuines. Led by Samuel ‘Mr Mac’ McKenzie on banjo, this band were doing a similar thing with the traditional music of the Cape Coloureds. And in ‘Goema’, the title track of their debut (I think) album they really broke the mould.

‘Goema’ is a thrashy, punky piece that races along at a blistering pace (completely out of sync with life in the Cape) with Gerard O’Brien’s searing guitar trying to out pace Ian Herman’s (he of Tananas fame) machine gunning drums while Mr Mac’s throaty vocals cascade over the top of this. It last a mere 3 minutes this song, but it would take some stamina on the listener’s behalf to cope should the song be longer as it leaves you quite exhausted.

Parallel’s could be drawn with The Pogues and Les Negresses Vertes who took the traditional music of their respective cultures and punked it up. The Genuines did this with their ‘Cape Carnival’ style of music with 2 of their songs appearing on the original Voelvry album (‘Blikkie Se Boem’ and ‘Ou Klein Jannie’). With ‘Goema’ they took things a step further and nearly did away completely with any traces of their roots – there is just a trace of the Cape Coloured accent in the vocals – and stepped out of their comfort zone to give us probably the best punk song ever by a band of Coloureds.

Where to find it:
Goema – The Genuines (1986), Shifty Records, SHIFT22

Download:

http://thegenuines.bandcamp.com/track/goema

Beach Girl – Natalia

Natalia

Natalia

There is something Joni Mitchell-ish about this song from young (she claims to be sixteen in the song) Capetownian singer Natalia. This is a slightly strange comparison to make especially if you remember Natalia from her short-lived punk band Janie Jones. But on this solo effort, it’s just Natalia, her voice and her guitar, something that Mitchell would have done. And the best thing is that on ‘Beach Girl’ Natalia’s voice is not nearly as irritating as Mitchell’s. Having now probably blasphemed in the eyes of ardent Mitchell fans, I will say that Mitchell does have a great voice, but I can only handle it in small doses. On ‘Beach Girl’, Natalia employs a sweet, innocent girl voice to coincide with the lyric ‘Because he’s 25 and I ain’t even 16 yet.’ (I wonder what her father thought of this one?) and it works well.

The song is about a young beach girl falling for an older waiter and contains all the dreaminess that one associated with a young girl in love. However, despite this seemingly twee subject matter, Natalia injects a maturity into her pure vocals and the plucked guitar can surely not come from one so young. This prevents ‘Beach Girl’ from becoming seaside candyfloss and makes it sound more like a good chardonnay sipped on Clifton Beach on a Sunday arvie.

Where to find it:
Long Street Lullabies – Natalia (2007), Indie Release

Ramaja – Glenys Lynne

Ramaja – Glenys Lynne (A yes to margarine – Rama, ja.)

Glenys Lynne - Ramaja

Glenys Lynne - Ramaja (image courtesy of Suid-Afrikaanse Musiek Blog)

Glenys was possibly better known as Jill as she was the female in Four Jacks and A Jill, but she did have some solo success. In fact Ramaja became the only totally Afrikaans song to top the Springbok Top 20 (David Kramer’s ‘Hak Hom Blokkies’ did have an Afrikaans chorus, but the refrains were in English) and that is what makes it important to listen to.

The song is bright, breezy and bouncy and probably had many a sokkie jol bopping in no time. It could well have featured in the Eurovision song competition if South Africa had been part of Europe as it has that candy floss flavour and the requisite strange words like ‘Hikka Tikka Prrr’ that are essential in any song entering that competition.

Strangely, the lyrics didn’t seem to cause a furore in apartheid South Africa with a good clean cut white girl seeking the help of a witch doctor to protect her man and bring him back to her. Perhaps the request to protect and bring back her love hinted at the plight of women whose men had headed off to the border and that sentiment saved the song from criticism.

No matter the reason for it not being criticised, it had some impact as in more recent times girl group Shine 4 have covered it.

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

Video:

Glenys Lynne:

Shine 4:

Lyrics:

Hikka Tikka Prrr Ha Ha Ha
Hikka Tikka Prrr Ramaja

Ramaja!
Sy naam was Ramaja.
Hy kom uit Afrika.
Ek wil hom gunste vra.
Wo-wo-wo

Ramaja!
Toordokter Ramaja, sal jy vir my kan sê: “Waar liefde lê”?
Hikki Prrr Mapah, as jy dolosse gooi.
La-la-la-la-la
Hikki Prrr Mapah, om die vure rooi.
La-la-la-la-la

Rondom drom want die donker wil.
La-la-la-la-la
Hikki Prrr Mapah, is die liefde koud?
La-la-la-la-la
Vra die eerste honderd bewaar.
Hou hom weg van alle gevaar.
Ek sien hom, hy’s my behoud.
Bring hom terug na my.

Ramaja.
Toordokter Ramaja, sal jy vir my kan sê: “Hoe ver die liefde lê”?
Wo-wo-wo

Rajama!
Jou naam is Ramaja.
Jy kom uit Afrika.
Ek wil jou vra.

Hikki Prrr Mapah, bring die moetie gou.
La-la-la-la-la
Hikki Prrr Mapah, waar die dop laat brou.
La-la-la-la-la
Gee my ‘n twee punte towerwoord.
La-la-la-la-la
Hikki Prrr Mapah, met ‘n liefdes skoot.
La-la-la-la-la
Vra die eerste honderd bewaar.
Hou hom weg van alle gevaar.
Ek sien hom, hy’s my behoud.
Bring hom terug na my.

Hikka Tikka Prrr Ha Ha Ha
Hikka Tikka Prrr
Hikka Tikka Prrr Ha Ha Ha
Hikka Tikka Prrr Ramaja
Hikka Tikka Prrr Ha Ha Ha
Hikka Tikka Prrr Ramaja

Ramaja!
Vra die eerste honderd bewaar.
Hou hom weg van alle gevaar.
Ek voel te koud, hy’s my behoud.
Bring hom terug na my.

Ramaja!
Toordokter Ramaja, sal jy vir my kan sê: “Hoe ver die liefde lê”?
Wo-wo-wo-wo

Rajama!
Jou naam is Ramaja.
Jy kom uit Afrika.
Ek wil jou vra.
La-la-la-la-la
La-la-la-la-la
La-la-la-la-la
La-la-la-la-la

(Music and lyrics: deur Simone/Regal/Van Rensburg)

Ag Pleez Deddy – Jeremy Taylor

Ag Pleez Deddy – Jeremy Taylor (All together now – Popcorn, chewing gum…)

Ag Pleez Deddy

Ag Pleez Deddy

Say ‘Popcorn, Chewing Gum’ to a South African and they will probably respond with ‘Peanuts and bubble gum.’ Say ‘Ag Pleez Deddy’, you’ll either get ‘won’t you take us to the drive-in’ or ‘Popcorn, chewing gum.’ Should you say ‘The Ballad Of The Southern Suburbs’ a lot of South Africans would look at you blankly. You could then add, ‘it’s a song by Jeremy Taylor,’ and they will probably go, ‘Oh, I only know Ag Pleez Deddy by him.’ You can then smile your smug, I know more than you about South African music smile and inform them that ‘The Ballad of The Southern Suburbs’ is the proper name of the song everybody knows as ‘Ag Pleez Deddy’.

It is marginally more ironic than rain on your wedding day that a song that so encapsulated the South African accent, its culture and people was written by a pom, for that’s what Jeremy is. He came to South Africa from England, poked fun at us till the government told him to Voetsek!! They did eventually allow him to return.

‘Ag Pleez Deddy’ nearly didn’t get recorded. According to Jeremy, he wrote a verse and chorus then threw it away because he thought it was dumb. Fortunately for us, he then read an article saying that any serious writer will always finish what he starts otherwise you never learn. So he dug out the bits he had written and completed it.

Wait A Minim!

Wait A Minim!

The next issue was to get it recorded and this is where South Africa has a story to match the legendary Dick Rowe of Decca Records who turned down the Beatles, or the screen test at RKO Pictures that said of Fred Astaire, “Can’t sing. Can’t act. Balding. Can dance a little.” Jeremy took the song to Phil Goldblatt at Gallo records who decided that no one would buy it as it wasn’t commercial enough. ‘Ag Pleez Deddy’ was eventually recorded as part of the musical ‘Wait a Minim’ and went on to outsell any Elvis Presley single in South Africa.

Another famous recording of the song is from 1974 when Jeremy teamed up with the comedian and one time Goon, Spike Milligan for a concert at Cambridge University which was captured on the double album, ‘An Adult Entertainment.’ During this performance, he does have to explain that Eskimo Pies are a kind of ice cream.

Well into his seventies, Jeremy is still performing the song, although he now as to be politically correct and sing ‘Sugar balls’ instead of you know what, and despite this necessary change, the song will live on long after Jeremy eventually retires.

Interestingly, I have not come across many cover versions of this song, I have found a single by a guy called Rodger Bellamy who recorded it, and on Youtube, there is a parody of it by Leon Shuster and that’s about all. Perhaps this stands as testimony to the fact that Jeremy did it so well, no one else has felt they could do it justice.

Where to find it:

Ag Pleez Deddy

Ag Pleez Deddy

Lyrics:

Ag pleez deddy won’t you take us to the drive-in

All six, seven of us, eight, nine, ten

We wanna see a flick about

Tarzan and the Ape-men

And when the show is over you can bring us back again

Chorus:

Popcorn, chewing gum, peanuts and bubble gum

Ice cream, candy floss and Eskimo Pie

Ag deddy how we miss

Nigger balls and liquorice

Pepsi Cola, ginger beer

and Canada Dry

Ag pleez deddy won’t you take us to the fun-fair

We wanna have a ride on the bumper-cars

We’ll buy a stick of candy floss

And eat it on the Octopus

Then we’ll take the rocket ship that goes to Mars

Chorus

Ag pleez deddy won’t you take us to the wrestling

We wanna see an ou called Sky Hi Lee

When he fights Willie Liebenberg

There’s gonna be a murder

‘Cos Willie’s gonna donner that blerrie yankee

Chorus

Ag pleez deddy won’t you take us off to Durban

It’s only eight hours in the Chevrolet

There’s spans of sea and sand and sun

And fish in the aquarium

That’s a lekker place for a holiday

Chorus

Ag Pleeeeeez Deddy – VOETSEK!

Ag sies deddy if we can’t go out to bioscope

Or go off to Durban, life’s a henguva bore

If you won’t take us to the zoo

Then what the heck else can we do

But go on out and moer all the outjies next door

Chorus

Words and Music by Jeremy Taylor, 1961

Videos:

Jeremy Taylor:

Leon Shuster parody:

Further info:

Who is Sky Hi Lee?

South African Rock Encyclopedia

3rd Ear Music

Jeremy Taylor

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