1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “Peter Vee”

He (Can Build A Mountain) – Peter Vee

He (Can Build A Mountain) – Peter Vee

He (Can Build A Mountain) – Peter Vee

Peter Vee has been around the South African music scene since the early 60’s. He was a member of The Invaders, The Four Dukes, Sons of She, The In Crowd, The Outlet and The Staccatos before striking out on his own and forging a successful solo career which produced 4 Springbok top 20 hits. The least successful of these 4 hits was ‘He (Can Build A Mountain)’ which spent 2 weeks at number 20.

The song appears to be a cover of one recorded by a band called Family Child who, I believe, were a German band that included as a member Bernd Vonficht who became better known in South Africa in the earlier 80’s as Bernie Paul having hits such as ‘Oh No no’ and ‘Night After Night’.

‘He (Can Build A Mountain)’ is a gospel/soul number which builds slowly on the back of a repeated refrain of lines starting with a syncopated ‘He’. The circular nature of this draws you into the song as it builds, like being slowly sucked into a whirlpool of warmth and joy. Undoubtedly it is a song of its time and fitted in well with the soul and gospel tinged sounds that were popular at the time (think Alan Garrity’s ‘Put Your Hand In The Hand’ and the earlier hit, Edwin Hawkins Singers ‘Oh Happy Day’).

There is not much to choose between Peter Vee’s version and that of Family Child as they are quite similar, but, of course, we would have known Peter’s version on our radios. There is also a cover by Joanna Field and Billy Forrest which one can find of Youtube. This sounds more like a more recent version (possibly early to mid 80’s) and is a little more like a church band version rather than the gospel choir-y versions from Peter and Family Child.

Of course you can choose which one you prefer, but as a clue to which one is my favourite, I can give you a hint – the Joanna Field and Billy Forrest version will not appear on this list. The title of the song says ‘He (Can Build A Mountain)’ but one could say of Peter Vee that ‘He (can Build A Good Song)’.

Where to find it:
Vinyl: The Tips Of My Fingers (1973), MFP, MFP54633

Video:

Working On A Good Thing – The Outlet

Working On A Good Thing – The Outlet

Working On A Good Thing – The Outlet

The Outlet were a band featuring Clive Clader (who went on to produce loads of stuff), Neil Herbert (who had a number 1 hit with ‘She’s A Woman), Robert Schroder (who wrote and produced loads of other hits), Greg Brown and Howie Jones (who were both in The Attraction) and Peter Vee (who had solo hits and hits as part of Buffalo). With this line-up, it was no surprise that they had a couple of Springbok Top 20 hits.

The second of these hits was ‘Working On A Good Thing’ and was the more successful of the 2 hits, going to number 2 and spending 14 weeks on the charts. Calder and Vee wrote the song which has the same cheeky rhythm as The Beatles’ ‘Ob La Di Ob La Da’. It is self abandoned pop that has no shame in being so. The gentle lilt of the music dances playfully with the almost understated vocals and that all sits nicely in a catchy groove.

As with songs of that era (1970), it is a short piece, clocking in at just over 2 minutes 15 seconds so is almost over just as you’re getting into it. One wonders if, when The Outlet recorded it, they knew that they were working on a good thing. The whoops and yelps in the background of the song seem to indicate that a bit of a party was going on in the studio, so I suspect they knew.

Where to find it:
Various Artists – The Best of SA Pop Volume 2 (1994) GMP, CDGMPD 40486 (CD)

Video:

Born To Be Wild Medley – Buffalo (featuring Peter Vee)

Born To Be Wild - Buffalo

Born To Be Wild – Buffalo

There is something a little amusing that a song called ‘Born To Be Wild’ is covered by a band whose name is one of the Big 5 animals. But then again, the original was by SteppenWOLF. However, where the original was a rock song, Peter Vee and his band turned it into disco rock. The medley stats off with Crazy Elephant’s ‘Gimme Gimme Good Lovin’’ moves into Tommy James & The Shondells (Billy Idol’s version hadn’t been invented back then) ‘Mony Mony’, spends some time running through an instrumental tribute to The Kinks (‘All Day And All Of The Night’ and ‘You Really Got Me’ before finally easing into the old Steppenwolf classic.

Clocking in at just over 14 minutes, this would have been a DJ dream back in the late 70s early 80s. The mixing was already done, the songs were classics that everyone on the dancefloor could sing-a-long to, the beat was just right for the time, the guitars meant you could really crank the volume up and given the length of the track, you could just leave it playing while heading off to grab a drink, or chat up a girl.

So, find an old mirror ball somewhere, set it going in the middle of the lounge, send the neighbours away for the evening and then dance the night away, just you and your air guitar and of course Buffalo’s ‘Born To Be Wild Medley’

Where to find it:
Disco Fever – Various Artists, (July 1999), Gallo, CDREDD 627 (Out of print, so you may struggle)

Video:

Please Stay – Jonathan Butler

Jonathan Butler with Little Ronnie Joyce

Jonathan Butler with Little Ronnie Joyce

Butler was a mere 13 years old (nearly 14) when his song ‘Please Stay’ entered the Springbok Top 20 and as you listen to it, you can hear that he is a youngster, but at the same time, there is a real maturity in his voice. He knew how to inject the right emotions into the song. Backed by a band that sounds a bit like it could have been the Invaders (and maybe was, I haven’t been able to find out who the muscians were) and having Clive Calder and Peter Vee producing, ‘Please Stay’ is a powerful soul ballad.

The song was written by Burt Bacharach and Bob Hilliard and was a number 14 hit in the US for The Drifters in 1961. That version is a bit of a doo-wop affair and one does get the impression listening to it that The Drifters are not as concerned if their woman went than Jonathan was. Their version feels a little glib about the issue when listened to next to Butler’s. With Butler, you get the impression that it will be the end of the world if she goes. Maybe it is because the Drifters were older when they sang the song and therefore further away from the angst of teenage love with all its ups and downs.

In the late 60’s and early 70’s South African soul music of this ilk was doing well with the likes of Una Valli, Peanut Butter Conspiracy and The Invaders and, although this song came towards the end of this era, it is a prime example of how good the local musicians could be at the style. ‘Please Stay’ deservedly made it to number 2 on the Springbok Charts and stayed in the top 20 for 13 weeks, during which run, Butler would celebrate his 14th birthday. Not bad for a lightie from Athlone in the Cape.

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

Video:

The Tips Of My Fingers – Peter Vee

The Tips Of My Fingers – Peter Vee

Peter Vee - The Tips Of My Fingers

Peter Vee – The Tips Of My Fingers

Peter Vee has been involved in the South African music business for a long time. He began his career by joining The Invaders in 1962. He has worked with The Four Dukes, Sons of She, The In Crowd, The Staccatos, The Outlet and Buffalo. He has worked as a musician and producer. In between all this he found time for a solo career which produced 4 SA Top 20 hits, including ‘The Tips Of My Fingers’ which entered the charts on 11 January 1974, spent 11 weeks in the top 20, peaking at number 8. This was to be the highest position he gained as a solo artist (‘Working On A Good Thing’ by The Outlet which he co-wrote with Clive Calder made number 2).

The song is about not grabbing love when the opportunity arises. “I had your love on the tips of my fingers, but I let you slip right through my hands,” Vee laments in an early Cliff Richard voice. The song flows back and forth between tender refrains and crescendos of the chorus, all well-oiled by some slick production.

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

Video:

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