1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “Freedom’s Children”

Bossies – Wilderbeest

Bushrock 1 - Wildebeest

Bushrock 1 – Wildebeest

For those of you who don’t know, ‘bossies’ is an expression which originated in the army where young South African men had to do compulsory service. It means to lose the plot and go crazy. It would have referred to a state of mind many experienced spending time in the bush (‘bos’ in Afrikaans) where things were a long way removed from one’s usual comfortable white suburban life.

It is therefore no surprise that the song ‘Bossies’ starts off with an army corporal shouting at the manne (men) and the song sings about it being another day in the army with a chanted chorus of ‘ons is almal bossies’ (we are all crazy). It is a fast-paced track that doesn’t sound a million miles from some of the early Dog Detachment songs. One could argue that this was the first Afrikaans punk song as it came out in the early 80’s long before Fokofpolsiekar and the like.

While this is ostensibly just a descriptive song about the state of mind many young men had when doing their army service, there is an undercurrent of venom in the delivery which makes it feel like a protest song and it would have sat well on the End Conscription Campaign’s ‘Forces Favourites’ album. The track motors along in a slightly crazed way, imitating the emotions many would have felt in the army.

Wildebeest featured Jack Hammer’s Piet Botha and Freedom Children’s Colin Pratley along with Boet Farber, Karlien van Niekerk and Dave Tarr. Together the band created a rough and ready masterpiece in the album ‘Bushrock 1 (‘Tribal Fence’ and ‘Russian And Chips’ from the album have already featured on this list). ‘Bossies’ is another great rrack from a great album. Check it out and go crazy to the tune.

Where to find it:
Bushrock 1 – Wildebeest (1981 – reissued in 2010), Fresh Music, freshcd171

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Russian And Chips – Wilderbeest

Bushrock 1 - Wildebeest

Bushrock 1 – Wildebeest

Very few people who are not South African would understand one going into a take-away joint and ordering a Russian and chips. Most people check you out skeef if you happen to mention Russian and chips in conversation. They wonder why you would wish to eat a person from a large east European country along with sliced and fried potatoes. You would confuse them even more if you asked for slap chips.

However, most South Africans will know that a Russian and chips is a chorizo like sausage with chips and that most take-away joints in the country offer this delicacy. But why would anybody sing about this. Is it some form of alternative to ‘popcorn, chewing gum etc’? Perhaps it is a pean to ‘Russian, chips and toasted bacon and banana’ (the latter being another particularly South African thing). But no. When you put it on and listen to it, you may find the lyrics somewhat familiar as the first line goes ‘The Kid He Came from Nazareth’. And yes, it is a cover of the Freedom’s Children classic, ‘The Kid He Came From Hazareth’ and maybe the reason Freedom’s chose to use ‘Hazareth’ instead of ‘Nazareth’ also prompted Wildebeest to change the song’s title as the kid from Nazareth would have been a reference to Jesus and you could not have that in a rock song back then.

Not only did the ‘Beests change the title but they also gave the song a completely different sound. Where Freedom’s Children had a dense brooding rock sound of doom to their version, Wildebeest turn it into a kind of Irish jig that had been listening to too much folk rock as there is a persistent drum throughout that sounds akin to the Irish bodhran. This is accompanied by a violin (courtesy of Dave Tarr) which sound like it has been through an electric shredder and Karlien van Niekerk’s pure vocals which have that Irish lass quality.

Despite all this Irish-ness I have spoken about, one can hear the kind of Cossack-y sound coming through that perhaps gave the song its new title. This was a great cover of a great original. It is the old classic with a new recipe.

Where to find it:
Bushrock 1 – Wildebeest (1981 – reissued in 2010), Fresh Music, freshcd171

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Fire – Third Eye

Fire – Third Eye

Fire – Third Eye

The late 60s and early 70s in South Africa saw the emergence of heavy rock acts like Freedom’s Children, Hawk and the Otis Waygood Blues Band. To this list one can also add Durban based band Third Eye (sometime spelt Thyrd Eye) who crashed onto the scene in 1968 or 1969 (depending on which source you use) with a blistering and wailing thunderball of a cover of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown’s ‘Fire’.

From the first cry of ‘I am the son of hellfire’ (I guess they had to change the ‘god of hellfire’ to the ‘son of hellfire’ to avoid a ban from the ultra conservative at that time SABC), the song is racing against the flames that the song is about with Dawn Selby’s Hammond organ swirling like a whirling dervish dancer on fast forward. Maurice Saul’s vocals cry out from this vortex at first with ominous rock sensibilities but as the song gets more frenetic it slowly morphs into a screeching banshee as he starts to wail as one burning up.

The song, produced by Billy Forrest, would get to 16 on the LM Radio charts and it certainly holds it own when placed next to the Arthur Brown original. It has that same intensity of heat and burns just as bright. We certainly knew how to rock back then, whether producing original material or covering some of the classics of the day and Third Eye were spot on with this cover. Maybe its because we South Africans are so good at braai-ing that The Third Eye could so easily (so it seems) knock off a great cover of ‘Fire’. As Neil Young says, it’s better to burn out than to fade away.

Where to find it:
Astral Daze – Various Artists, RetroFresh, (2005), FRESHCD148

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Above My Room – Jo Day

No Warning - Jo Day

No Warning – Jo Day

Somewhere between 1991 and 2003 Jo Day went from looking a little bit like Lisa Stansfield and sounding like Heart in their more relaxed moments to a leather-clad-spiky-black-haired-heavy-rock rock bitch, yowling like a banshee and generally making a lot more noise.

Some may say that’s a bad thing, but have a listen to ‘Above My Room’. It is a thunderous affair that is the perfect vehicle for Day’s ominous to a scream vocals. Starting off with some slightly laid-back guitar, one quickly feels the storm clouds gathering as a fiercesome electric guitar builds to flashes of lightning and a roll of thunder. The music quietens for moment as Jo starts off in sultry voice but one that has an undertone warning in it to be careful. It seems to prowl restlessly around the song before she leaps up and makes you realise just how perfect the word ‘scream’ is suited to being sung as a scream.

This is thick and heavy heavy rock. It is not the dense sound that earlier guys like Freedom’s Children brought us. This is a crisp and clear wall of sound not too dissimilar to Metallica and the like. Jo Day was one of the few local acts who took this style of music and managed to make it work and especially so on ‘Above My Room’. It is hard rock at its best. Lisa Stansfield had to go ‘All Around The World’ for her hits, but Jo managed to do it in the room upstairs.

Where to find it:
No Warning – Jo Day (2003), Legend Music, LEGMCD1

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Tribal Fence – Wildebeest

Bushrock 1 - Wildebeest

Bushrock 1 – Wildebeest

Whatever happened to Bushrock 2. Wildebeest migrated into our world in 1981 and made an album called ‘Bushrock 1’ and then the herd scattered before they could do ‘Bushrock 2’. Presumably when they put the ‘1’ behind the name of the album, there were plans for a follow up. However, we have to live with the fact there was only 1 Bushrock by this group of musicians although the alert among you may point to Anton Goosen’s 1996 album which also went under the title ‘Bushrock’ as perhaps a son of Bushrock 1.

Recorded live, the album opens with this cover of the Freedom Children’s classic, ‘Tribal Fence’ and given that former child of Freedom, Colin Pratley was on the drums, it’s not too surprising. However, instead of the growling vocals of Brian Davidson that the Freedom’s version had, we are treated to some swirling Kate Bush-esque vocals from Karlien van Niekerk, giving the previously testosterone fuelled song, a femine touch. But its not a pot-pourri, floral dress feminine touch, this is a haunting, witchy feminine.

And while the ‘Beests keep true to the heavy rock of the original, there is a more contemplative feel to this version. They have not made the sound as dense as what Freedom’s Children made it, which frees the song up a little to make it more accessable to those who were not keen on total onslaught rock. This version is clearly moulded on the original, but with the female vocals and the slightly reduced sound, it makes for an intruiging and highly listenable-to cover which, in case you didn’t know, features Piet Botha on bass.

Where to find it:
Bushrock 1 – Wildebeest (1981 – reissued in 2010), Fresh Music, freshcd171

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The Rock Machine – The Bats

The Rock Machine - The Bats

The Rock Machine – The Bats

In the days before disco we had rock and that is why The Bats could only recored a song called ‘The Rock Machine’ and only later Trevor Rabin and his friends came along with a band called Disco Rock Machine. The Bats, however, did a really good job of producing some fine rock with this little ditty.
It starts is a slightly, erm, batty manner with a very posh couple listening to and opining about some lounge style piano with the posh man eventually saying ‘By jove, do you think it’ll last?’ to which the posh woman replies, ‘Oh definitely it’s really quite super’. However they were wrong as the piano is sudden thrown out of the song and The Bats come in with a chant of ‘Way Hey The Rock Machine’.
We are not privy to the reaction this couple may have had to the intrusion of a rock machine into their peaceful piano music, but we don’t really care as we are caught up in a catchy Beatles-esque pop song which brings in folky and psychedelic elements into this melting pot, including a classical guitar interlude where one almost expects the return of the posh couple, but they don’t have time to get a word in because the songs descends into a swirling psychedelic spiral.
It’s not the easiest song to listen to with its shifting twists and turns. It’s a little experimental, but there is something catchy about it and sits on the poppier side of the pysch-rock that bands such as Freedom’s Children were making at a similar time. It is the folkier, hippy-happier side of the genre and there is not a disco beat in sight.

Where to find it:
The Best Of The Bats – The Bats (1996) Polygram, MORCD 612
Astral Daze 2 – Various Artists, RetroFresh, (2009), FRESHCD162

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You Keep me Hanging On – The Flames

The Flames

The Flames

Most people will know ‘You Keep Me Hanging On’ from the sweet soul version recorded by The Supremes. Children of the 80s might have been introduced to it via Kim Wilde’s Stock Aitken & Waterman-esque version of it. But some of you who were around in the late 60s in South Africa may have first been hit by The Flames version of the song. I say ‘been hit’ by it because theirs is a sledgehammer version, with a psychodelicly surreal intro that thunders at you for nearly 3 minutes before the ethereal vocals come floating in over the dense sound.

There is a certain Freedom’s Children feel to this track by arguably one of the best soul bands to come out of the country. Its less soulful than some of their other offerings but it almost feels like the building is crashing down around you as you keep hanging on to this intriguing barrage of sound that pummels your senses. The dense instrumentation is perfectly complimented by an almost dismissive echo-ey vocal that says to the person involved that while you keep me hanging on, I have grown weary of you, you are dismissed.

The Flames were more than capable of producing some quite brilliant pure soul, just listen to their verisons of ‘Knock On Wood’, ‘Land Of A 1000 Dances’ and their big hit, ‘For Your Precious Love’, but occasionally they would lean to the rockier side of life. Their cover of Jimi Hendix’s ‘Purple Haze’ is an example of that, but I have yet to come across a track when they immersed themselves so completely in psychedelic rock in the way the do on ‘You Keep Me Hanging On’. This may not have been a favourite for many fans of their soulful side, but if nothing else, it would have won then great kudos with the rock fraternity.

Where to find it
Astral Daze – Various Artists, RetroFresh, (2005), FRESHCD148

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The End – Dickie Loader & Freedom’s Children

Dickie Loader - A Breath Of Fresh Air

Dickie Loader – A Breath Of Fresh Air

People sometimes use the word ‘searing’ to describe a guitar lick. The definition of searing is ‘extremely hot or intense’ which I guess is quite an apt way to try and explain the guitar sound that seems to tear through your speakers as soon as ‘The End’ starts. It is an extrememly intense moment that kick starts this collaboration between Dickie Loader and Freedom’s Children.

Loader had been around on the local scene for a while as Dickie Loader & The Blue Jeans, but one day he dropped his Blue Jeans and, avoiding any public indecency charges, forged a solo career. However, with this offering from 1970, he teamed up with those Astral rockers, Freedom’s Children, for a couple of tracks on his album ‘A Breath Of Fresh Air’. The result if the familiar dense wall of rock that the Chidren were capable of producing, over which Loader seems to manange to mix Robert Plant’s voice with that of Elvis to get a rock ‘n roll ‘n metal effect. The result is 2 and a half minutes of, well, there isn’t really any other words for it, but ‘searing rock’.

Most of Loader’s material has been confined to vinyl history, however, this is one of the few gems from him that have managed to make it into the digital era thanks to Benjy Mudie at Retrofresh records who dug this one out of the vault to include in the second in the series of Astral Daze albums, a series which captures the best of an era when guitars were fuzzy and loud and vocals were overdosing on testosterone. The inclusion of ‘The End’ on ‘Astral Daze 2’ is testament to the song being one of the standout tracks of its era.

Where to find it
Astral Daze 2 – Various Artists, RetroFresh, (2009), FRESHCD162

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1999 – Kalahari Surfers

Russian Lyrics to '1999' - Kalahari Surfers

Russian Lyrics to ‘1999’ – Kalahari Surfers

In South Africa we had 1999 in 1971 and then again in 1986 and finally in 1999. How you may ask. Well, Freedom’s Children recorded a song called ‘1999’ which appeared on their 1971 album ‘Galactic Vibes’. This was the inspiration for the Kalahari Surfer’s 1986 release of their song called ‘1999’. And finally in 1999, we had the year 1999.

The Freedom’s Children song asked the question, ‘In 1999 will you still be mine?’ and did so in a dense, heavy rock fog. The Surfers were less concerned with matters of the heart as in their song they wanted to know, ‘In 1999 will we still around’ and they did this in a rather loose, somewhat punk-ish way. The vocals have a strange menacing feel to them while the music is somewhat avant garde with a down and dirty production that keeps the song raw and edgy. Lovers of guitar music will enjoy the instrumental break about three quarters of the way into the track where the guitar is set loose for a work out.

The album that ‘1999’ appeared on called ‘Living In The Heart Of The Beast’ manged to get noticed in the UK and was favourably reviewed in some of the music press there, however this did not translate into commercial success.

The year 1999 has come and gone and the Kalahari Surfers are still around, so we have the answer to the question they posed back in ’86, but that is no excuse to ignore the song. It is still as brilliant a rough gem now as it was back then.

Where to find it:
Living In The Heart Of The Beast -Kalahari Surfers (1986), Recommended Records

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Buy it here:
http://kalaharisurfer.bandcamp.com/album/living-in-the-heart-of-the-beast

The Kid He Came From Hazareth – Freedom’s Children

Astra - Freedom's Children

Astra – Freedom’s Children

This song was originally called ‘The Kid He Came From Nazereth’, but had a name change as those moral guardians at the SABC at the time didn’t like this because of the obvious Christian references. So they went back into the studio and recorded ‘The Kid He Came From Hazareth’ and this is possibly more appropriate as there seems to be a haze of fuzz and and intrigue and echoes banging around inside a studio on this intense song. It’s packed full of guitars and organs and wailing, ethereal vocals that pound the senses and warp the mind. It almost needs a “Hazareth materials” warning sticker on it.

Taken from the band’s second, and many would argue their best album, ‘Astra’, it features the burning guitar of Julian Laxton, the thundering bass of Ramsay MacKay, the pounding drums of Colin Pratley, the swirling organ of Nic Martens and the exploding vocals of Brian Davidson all sloshing around in a belly of a beast.

It’s not really a song you listen to, it’s one that you experience. It will suck you into its whirlpool of noise, make you giddy as it swings you round and round, battering your ears and senses before washing you up onto a deserted shore with thunder rolling ominously in the background and you are left wondering is it really all over.

Where to find it:
Astra – Freedom (2005 reissue), RetroFresh, freshcd 145

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