1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

Just another music list

Archive for the category “Aeroplanes”

Hey Where’s The Jol – Aeroplanes

Greatest Hits - Aeroplanes

Greatest Hits – Aeroplanes

I don’t know about the youth of today, but certainly when I was growing up, the phrase ‘Hey where’s the jol?’ would have been used quite a lot, especially on a Friday or Saturday night. It was really only a matter of time before someone brought out a song that used that phrase in it. Cue the Aeroplanes, a bunch of industry misfits whom, back in those days, only Shifty could love. And thank goodness they did as they enabled us to enjoy this quirky song which spliced together all the fun of a jol with an almost vitriolic rap about the state of the country and the local music industry back on the 80’s

‘Hey Where’s The Jol’ has a punky, anarchic feel to it right from the start with its funky guitar intro  and almost random organ which tumbles into the vocals which sound a little like the singer has been on the jol for a little while and lost any inhabitions. But you hardly have time to settle into this joyful chaos before the rap comes along and reminds us about how the state controlled all the radio and in particular the music. ‘I’m music, pop music/I’m a vehicle of the state’.

But just before it becomes too political so as to ruin the jol, the original singer bounces back into the the room to remind you that he’s ‘daaancing, oh yeah!’ and everthing seems alright again. But is it? The vocals just sort of stop and the music continues to wonder around, feeling slightly uneasy with itself.

This was protest music that didn’t just use the lyrics to get a message across. The contasting feelings the music brings out in you makes you swing between comfortably have a great night out with your mates and having to face up to the realities of apartheid that seemed to sit side by side in the country at the time. It’s a jol, a really serious jol.

Where to find it:
Greatest Hits – The Aeroplanes, (1986), CDCJM001


National Madness – The Aeroplanes

The Aeroplanes

The Aeroplanes

The Aeroplanes never really took off in South Africa, well not to the masses, but they were one of those shifty Shifty groups that did well in the ‘alternative’ or ‘underground’ music scene. It’s not too difficult to see why they never hit the mainstream, their music is too angular and unpolished and their lyrics were too close to the bone for the average South African. And that is what made them so good. Despite their lack of polish and their music being somewhat jolting, they still managed to inject the songs with some great lo-fi tunes. Their songs had genius written all over them.

‘National Madness’, by it’s very title, would not have garnered much (if any) airplay. The fact that this song first appeared on the End Conscription Campaign’s (“ECC”) tongue-in-cheekly titled album ‘Forces Favourites’, would also not have helped its cause (but did help the ECC’s).

There are two versions of the song to choose from. The one that appears on The Aeroplanes’ ‘Greatest Hits’ has sad but angry vocals which are applied to raw beats and bandaged up with bruised guitars. It is an open wound of a song where you can feel the hurt. A second version which appears on the ‘Shotdown’ compilation and re-issue of ‘Forces Favourites’ is a slightly smoothed over one with a burping sax and a female backing vocal is thown in. This does take away some of the edge of the original, but none of the venom. Either way, the song worms itself into your brain, unsettling you slightly and doing what all good music does, makes you think.

Where to find it:
Shot Down (Resistance Music from Apartheid South Africa) – Various Artists (2006),Shifty Records
Greatest Hits – The Aeroplanes, (No label or year given) CDCJM001
Forces Favourites – Various Artists (1986), Shifty Records (SHIFT10)

Hear here:



South African Male – The Aeroplanes

South African Male – The Aeroplanes

Aeroplanes Greatest Hits

The Aeroplanes Greatest Hits

Most of The Aeroplanes’ Greatest Hits CD could be found on their eponymous (and as far as I can tell) only release. However, one of the tracks that was not on the original album is ‘South African Male’ and the original album is poorer for that omission (despite still being an essential album you should hear).

‘South African Male’ seems as loose and deurmekaar as its subject matter would be on a Friday night after a few Castles too many. However, don’t be deceived by this apparent shambolic-ness, there’s real bite beneath the semi-drunken chorus that tell us ‘South African Male, You’re a South African Male’, because this song was written during those politically charged days of the 1980’s when apartheid was in full swing.

After telling us that we are South African males’ the ’planes go on to add that ‘You got a uniform.’ The full stop at the end of the line is emphatic and drives home the point that as a South African Male, you have to go play soldiers. In juxtaposition to this, a heavily accented ou charfs you how he has a big car and tape deck and how he goes out, gets pissed and picks up some chicks. But then there is suddenly a drill sergeant’s shout just to remind you that life is not one big party.

Additional males listed are Sean Taylor, David Butler and Nicky Rebelo, all well-known South African actors of that era and they add a sense of theatre to the song. Unfortunately, these Aeroplanes never took off and we only have a handful of nuggets of theirs to enjoy and ‘South African Male’ is one of the shiniest.

Where to find it:

Greatest Hits – The Aeroplanes,  1986 (No label given) CDCJM001


Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: