1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “Jack Hammer”

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


Sien Jou Weer – Piet Botha & Jack Hammer

Piet Botha

Piet Botha

It seems appropriate that a song called ‘Sien Jou Weer’ (‘See You Again’ if you are not au fait with Afrikaans) begins with that sort of country-ish on the road again sound that you get in the movies as the hero/heroine sets off on a trip. You never quite know if you will see them again.

The music here has a rhythm of a train, a smoothness of the countless whiskeys consumed on the way, the desolation of the open road and a voice as gravelly as the tar on which you ride. You can smell the memories and sadness that gather in the slipstream of the departing sound, but the singer has to go. As Piet sings, ‘kyk nou die langpad/roep my al weer/daar is nou genade en liefe/en nog baie meer’ (‘look, the highway/calls me again/there is mercy and love/and so much more). The call of the open road is strong with this one.

This is Piet Botha and Jack Hammer at their smooth best. They can sometimes rock hard, but when they turn their collective hands (and voices) to those blues, they know exactly what to do and in ‘Sien Jou’ Weer’, they created something of beauty. It’s a song that once you’ve listened to it, you have no objections to seeing it again on your playlist.

Where to find it:
n Suitcase Vol Winter – Piet Botha (1997) Wildebeest Records, WILD005


Live video:

Fort Lauderdale – Jack Hammer

Anthology - Piet Botha & Jack Hammer

Anthology – Piet Botha & Jack Hammer

The subtitle of this Jack Hammer classic is ‘Ballad Of Andre Stander’. For those who may not know it, Andre Stander was a South African policeman who was also one of the countries most notorious bank robbers. He would sometimes go out during his lunch break while working as a policeman, and rob a bank, later returning to the scene as the investigating officer. His life is captured in the 2003 film ‘Stander’.

But what has Fort Lauderdale got to do with all this, you may well ask (unless of course you know the story). Well the law eventually caught up with Stander in South Africa, but he managed to escape to the US. He was eventually found out and ended up being killed by a policeman in Fort Lauderdale.

That is probably why Piet Botha and his Jack Hammerers sing ‘don’t go to Fort Lauderdale’ in this song which tells the story of Stander in 3 minutes and 40 second, while the film takes nearly 2 hours. There is something about Stander, the barefaced cheek of what he did, that seems to appeal in the same way that Bonnie & Clyde and Ma Baker have intrigued people for years. And Jack Hammer tell the tale in their typical raw-edged guitar and growling vocals way. Although it has a similar subject matter, one can’t compare ‘Fort Lauderdale’ to Georgie Fame’s honky tonk ‘The Ballad Of Bonnie & Clyde’ or Boney M’s disco ‘Ma Baker’. This is a completely different genre. I wonder what it would sound like if The Police did it.

Where to find it:
Anthology – Jack Hammer (January 2000), Wildebeest Records, WILD020


Sarajevo – Jack Hammer

Death of A Gypsy - Jack Hammer

Death of A Gypsy – Jack Hammer

The name Sarajevo always conjures up the words war and genocide after the Bosnian war of 1992 to 1996. There were some horrific stories that came out of Bosnia and it’s capital Sarajevo. Jack Hammer, led by Piet Botha, seemed to capture some of that horror and violence in this hard-hitting song from their 1996 album, ‘Death Of A Gypsy’.

From the very first second of the song we are assailed by screaming guitars and pounding drums, which one could easily equate to the pounding of bombs and screams of those on whom the bombs and missiles were falling. But inbetween these barrages of sound, there is an ominous lull where the guitars become the background noise while Piet’s gruff voice half sings, half shouts the lyrics that tell some of the history. The delivery is somewhat akin to a prophet calling judgement upon the people, a voice in the wilderness. The chorus (sung by another member of the band, possibly Stean van der Walt) is the voice of a parent urging the children to ‘Go now go now child/Go with the night and go to the mountain’ to run away from the war.

The memories and news of Sarajevo and the atrocities that happened there were very fresh when Jack Hammer recorded this blistering political song. While this song is particularly about Sarajevo and the Bosnian war, it could easily apply to any situation in the world where such atrocities have happened (and we know that there are many of them). Perhaps what one can take from this, apart from a pounding of your aural senses, is the last line of the second verse, ‘Mother you must take your children/Away from the frontline’.

Where to find it:
Death Of A Gypsy – Jack Hammer (1996), Wildebeest, WILD001


Die Son Kom Weer – Piet Botha

Piet Botha - Live & Rare

Piet Botha – Live & Rare

If you weary and feeling small, don’t worry, be happy because ‘Die Son Kom Weer’. Well that’s according to Piet Botha anyway in a song that was recorded for possible inclusion on ‘Die Hits’ album, but, for reasons known only to the Botha powers that be, was not released then. It has since surfaced on a compilation called ‘The Demos 2001-2002’ which, from what I can tell is only available as a download.

For a song with an upbeat title, it is surprisingly melancholic and downbeat, which makes one investigate it a little deeper. And it’s not really saying that there are better days before us (and a burning bridge over troubled water behind us) where everything will be absolutely lovely, but rather it is just a gentle encouragement to continue battling on as if Piet is gently pushing you forward, through the difficult times.

Although, the song was recorded as a demo and it is a little raw round the edges, it is still a quality recording with Piet’s deep and laid back tones rubbing shoulders with some gentle blues guitar which plays an almost hypnotic riff while a steady rhythm comes from the drums with splashing cymbals that are almost like a steady, soaking rainfall on the song as we await the return of the sun.

Where to find it:
The Demos 2001-2002 (Not an official release, but available on iTunes, Amazon and as an MP3 at: http://www.jackhammer.co.za/mp3.html)

Hear it on Spotify:


For Annette – Jack Hammer

Anthology - Jack Hammer

Anthology – Jack Hammer

‘For Annette’ finds Piet Botha and his band in a quieter, more reflective mood. There is a sadness running through the song which seems to be about a woman who has turned to the bottle: “I know the way the she drank her wine/Red yellow all the time just to get away”. It is sung from a stand point of a friend of this ‘Annette’ watching and understanding but not liking. The reasons for the “Too many living sharpened tears” is what “Some call [it] love in a place that died”.

To match the subject of the song, there is that distinctive Jack Hammer rough edged guitar sound and a grungy emotional vocal, but it’s not as in your face as some other material in the band’s portfolio. It’s serious subject and the music matches it.

It’s not all doom and gloom thought, there is the bittersweet line “And I can see you smiling” which suggest that there is some positive left in ‘Annette’s’ life. This is a song to sit in solitude and listen to, while reflecting on life and friendship. It’s a song for watching the sun go down on a particularly emotional day. It has a certain soothing quality to it that won’t wash the blues of the day away, but will slowly dissolve them, leaving you better off for the experience.

Where to find it:
Anthology – Jack Hammer (January 2000), Wildebeest Records, WILD020


Street Of Love – Jack Hammer

Street Of Love – Jack Hammer

Ghosts On The Wind - Jack Hammer

Ghosts On The Wind – Jack Hammer

Piet Botha found his way into Jack Hammer via Raven and Wildebeest, both of whom produced some rock singles in the late 70’s and early 80’s. But with Jack Hammer, Botha seemed to have found his calling and the band has been going for over 25 years now. Not a bad feat not only in South African terms, but in world terms.

‘Street Of Love’ is the opening track to Jack Hammer’s third album, the 1994 offering ‘Ghosts On The Wind’ and from the first howl of the guitar at the outset, you know you are in for a rock treat! The rest of the song doesn’t let you down. Playing some ZZ Top-esque blues rock the band burn rubber on the street of love. Piet Botha’s voice growls like a Harley Davidson prowling the neighbourhood causing any dad’s listening to this to contemplate incarceration for their female offspring.

Piet Botha has also produced some wonderful solo material, but (and this is not a hard and fast rule) he tends to keep the harder-edged rockier stuff for his band. ‘Street Of Love’ showcases Jack Hammer at their blistering best.

Where to find it:
Anthology – Jack Hammer (January 2000), Wildebeest Records, WILD020
Ghost On The Wind – Jack Hammer (1994), Inhouse Records, INH 160 CD
Road Works (1984 – 2009) – Jack Hammer (2009), JHCD003

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