Stingray were a bit of a supergroup in South Africa, featuring Tidal Waves’ Mike Pilot, Dennis East, Rising Sons’ Eddie Boyle, Julian Laxton and Hocus’ Allan Goldswain. And with all these talents coming together singing ‘Better The Devil You Know’, well, one wouldn’t be taken to task for running out and buying this single without even hearing it, because you knew what these ‘devils’ were capable of.
And you wouldn’t have been disappointed as the song kicks off with a guitar riff that has ROCK!!!!! Written all over it. There is a bit of a Led Zep feel to this opening and this feel continues into the track with the thumping syncopation of the drums and East’s howling vocals. The chorus moves the song into more AOR territory, with higher pitched backing vocals intertwining with the raw rock of the lead.
And we took to the devil we knew as the song went all the way up to 4 on the Springbok Radio charts in 1979, spending 12 weeks in the top 20. This was a better peak than all of Dennis East’s solo hits, the Rising Sons hit and The Julian Laxton Band’s ones. Only Tidal Wave manged better as they hit the top spot with ‘Spider Spider’. But the average weeks the songs by the band members’ other hits managed was 9.2 and their peak positions averaged 9.4 so one could say that in the case of Stingray, the whole was better than the average of the parts.
‘Better The Devil You Know’ is one of the great tracks in the South African musical chest. It has all you need for a perfect rock song – wailing and fuzzy guitars, a howling lead vocal, high pitched backing vocals and thundering drums. Would surely rank highly in a top 100 South Africa rock tracks list.
Where to find it:
Various Artists – The Best of SA Pop Volume 2 (1994) GMP, CDGMPD 40486 (CD)