1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “Rabbitt”

African Trilogy – Samson

African Trilogy – Samson

African Trilogy – Samson

Cedric Samson (no relation) was a stalwart of the 80’s music scene in South Africa and even spent some time presenting the TV show ‘Pop Shop’ (which was the closest thing we had to a few minutes of MTV a week back then). He was a member of an early incarnation of Rabbitt and also featured in Morocko who brought us the awesome ‘Bow-Tie Boogaloo’.

However, one of his lesser known bands was one simply called Samson which produced, as far as I can tell, one solitary album called ‘African Trilogy And Other Curios’. The ‘African Trilogy’ in the title refers to an eight and a half minute epic track made up of ‘Sun Dance’, ‘Rain Dance’ and ‘Fire Dance’. Samson joined forces with Neville Paulson and a pre-Via Arika Renee Veldsman for the vocal force on the album and the track was written by Rodney Canes and Hilton Rosenthal. Rosenthal rose to fame producing most of Johnny Clegg’s work and this shows through in the African feel to the track. However, it’s not in the same vein as Juluka, but rather more akin to Hawk’s ‘African Day’ stuff. It is like an 80’s version of Hawk. It has the stomping African drums rhythms, but this is merged with a more synth sound.

This epic track could get one out there and dancing and singing along to it. It has a catchy tune and rhythm, and given the components of the song, you can dance to it in any weather – sun, rain or fire. If you enjoy the syncopated sound of Africa, then you would want to search out this not very well know track.

Where to find it:
Vinyl: African Trilogy And Other Curios – Samson (1980), WEA, WBC 9005

Locomotive Breath – Rabbitt

Locomotive Breath – Rabbitt

Locomotive Breath – Rabbitt

Way back in 1971 a band called Jethro Tull (who were named after a famous agriculturist from the 1600-1700’s) recorded a song called ‘Locomotive Breath’. It appeared on their album called ‘Aqualung’. A couple of years later, in 1973, a local band called Rabbitt recorded a cover of it which had the same piano intro. That version would make it to number 11 on the Springbok Radio. However it was not the Rabbitt that people came to know and love later in the 70’s. This was an early incarnation of the band where the only member who would feature in the more popular line-up, was Trevor Rabin. He was accompanied on that early version by Errol Friedman, Francis Roos, Louis Forer and Cedric Samson.

Move on a few more years and Friedman, Roos, Forer and Samson had been ditched in favour of Faure, Cloud and Robot. This new line-up decided to dust off the old Tull classic and try it again, this time as a cleaner pretty boy rock version rather than the dense Freedom’s Children-ish rock version of the earlier line-up.

So which to choose from, the 73 version of the early incarnation or the 75 version from ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ (this is of course presuming you are happy to put the Tull version aside for a bit). Well, as already mentioned, the early version is a dense rock affair which has it’s own appeal, especially to those who like a thick sound, while those who prefer a crisper, quicker ‘train on a track’ paced sound with an electric guitar solo to air guitar to version, then the latter version is for you.

What the early version did reveal was what a talent we had in Trevor Rabin as you can already hear someone who knows how to handle an axe. By the time he picks up his guitar a few years later to re-record the song with his new band mates, he is well on his way to being noted as one of South Africa’s great guitarist. It’s up to you to choose which version you prefer, but the bigger question that comes from these 2 versions is did the way the word ‘Charlie’ is sung in the line in ‘Locomotive Breath’ that goes ‘Old Charlie stole the handle and the train it won’t stop going’, have any influence on Patric van Blerk when he wrote Rabbitt’s later hit.

Where to find it:
Boys Will Be Boys – Rabbitt (September 2006) RetroFresh, freshcd 153 (CD)
The Hits – Rabbitt (1996) Gallo, CDRED 602

1976 version

Lifeline – Rabbitt

The Hits - Rabbitt

The Hits – Rabbitt

Rabbitt slowed things down a notch when they recorded this one. Their bigger hits such as ‘Charlie’ and ‘Locomotive Breath’, although not frenetic or particularly noisy, were certainly rockier affairs. But here we are in slow rock ballad mode. There are some aaahh’s underpinning the verses which are not that far away from the similar part on 10cc’s ‘I’m Not In Love’, but where 10cc keep it cool, Rabbitt do throw in some electric guitars every now and then to remind one that they knew how to handle an axe.

‘Lifeline’ really shows off the craftsmanship of Trevor Rabin and the boys when it came to putting a song together. The production is also slick, giving this love song a velvety feel as it seems to glide along on a cushion of air.

While their rockier numbers like ‘Charlie’, ‘Morning Light’ and ‘Locomotive Breath’ had chart success, ‘Lifeline’ prefers to hang around in the background, taking a slow seductive approach compared to the more ‘in your face’ sound of the hits. It showed another side of Rabbitt that I’m sure the girls loved just as much as their bouncier side.

Where to find it:
Boys Will Be Boys – Rabbitt (September 2006) RetroFresh, freshcd 153 (CD)
The Hits – Rabbitt (1996) Gallo, CDRED 602


House Of The Rising Sun – Hot R.S.

House Of The Rising Sun - Hot R.S.

House Of The Rising Sun – Hot R.S.

‘The House Of The Rising Sun’ had been around for a while (possibly having its early origins in the 17th century), but was flung into popular culture by The Animals who took this traditional folk tune and introduced a rock element into it, so the song has become used to trying out different genres. And in South Africa it decided to see what it sounded like as a pounding disco anthem.

Cue Kevin Kruger and Dan Hill who assembled a band calling themselves Hot R.S. (I wonder where they got the name from). They drafted in a certain Rabbitt called Trevor Rabin, a chap called Cedric Samson, another called Duncan MacKay and for a sexy feminine touch a pre-Via Afrikan Rene Veldsman was called upon. They then set out turning this old folk tune into a mammoth dance track.

With drums pounding and atmospheric keyboards swirling around in your head, you can bust more than a groove on the dancefloor to this one. But don’t start out with the John Travolta moves as you will need to preserve your energy because the song, which takes up the whole side of the LP, clocks in at nearly 15 minutes, so build up to that moment when you swing your white suit jacket round your head.

And you may just have to have a cold shower standing by for the end of the song because as you head into the last 4 minutes or so, Rene Veldsman, who has been slinking sexily around the song, moves into orgasmic overdrive in a way that makes Meg Ryan’s ‘When Harry Met Sally’ effort seem positively faked. This must have had the mother grundies turning in their graves before they even died.

During the song, Rene also pleads ‘Rise again baby’ and Kruger, Rabin, and Veldsman did so under the name Disco Rock Machine which also produced some brilliant rocking disco track as the 70s drew to a close and the 80s dawned on us.

Hot R.S.’s version of ‘The House Of The Rising’ is a classic epic that is like a gym work out. I am sure that those troubadours of the 17th century would have marvelled at how far and how many roads their song had travelled.

Where to find it:
House Of The Rising Sun – Hot R.S. (1991), RPM, CDRPM 1120


Time Of The Season – Neil Cloud

St Cloux - Neil Cloud

St Cloux – Neil Cloud

Most of you will know the Zombies’ song ‘Time Of The Season’ which was a number 2 hit for them in SA in 1969. Back in ’69 the song was a shimmering, sexy, smokey song in that 60’s garage style. About 9 years later and following the demise of one of South Africa’s biggest bands, ex-Rabbitt drummer Neil Cloud took the song and decided to funk it up.

Disco was all the rage then and what better to do than take a nice old 60’s rock classic and turn it into a floorfilling-get-down-and-boogie-till-you-puke-funk-n-roll 70’s disco classic. A lineup of well known names pervade the song with Johnny Boshoff on bass and keyboards and being responsible for the beautiful string arrangements that give the song wings. Malcolm Watson provides the funky, thwacking guitar that Chic’s up the song. Lofty Shultz is among the names responsible for the brass that warms the song up and Rene Veldsman (she of Via Afrika fame) brings a sultry vocal to make love to Neil Cloud’s breathy ones. Lastly, there is of course, Neil’s drumming. It’s not just a straight forward keep the beat going drums, there are cascading and twiddly drums thrown in every now and then.

Drummers are not renown for having solo careers post the break up of a band, and even fewer actually make even half decent music on their own. But some of them do and Neil Cloud was one. While none of the tracks on his only solo offering ‘St Cloux’ (which included ‘Time Of The Season’) made the charts in SA, both ‘Time Of The Season’ and the epic 17 and a half minute cover of Marmalade’s ‘Reflections Of My Life’ (with a bit of the theme to ’The Good The Bad And The Ugly’ thrown in for good measure) made the cut for what is arguably the definitive collection of South African disco music – Gallo records’ ‘Disco Fever’. ‘Time Of The Season’ was a song that was one of the stand outs of its genre.

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


Charly – Sean Rennie

Charly - Sean Rennie

Charly – Sean Rennie

Sean Rennie was born in Ireland, auditioned for the Vienna Boys Choir, but didn’t make the grade. He moved to South Africa in 1964 and formed a band called Purple Haze. While still with the band he started making a name for himself as a solo arist. His first Springbok Top 20 hit was in 1970 called ‘I’ll Walk With You,’ which made it to number 13. A few years (and singles) later, he popped up with ‘Charly’ (2 years before Rabbitt’s ‘Charlie’ a completely different song). ‘Charly’ made number 4 on the SA Top 20 and had a 13 week run there.

Perhaps it’s just the fact that he was born in Ireland, but there is a Joe Dolan thing going on in this song. It’s a love ballad similar to those that Dolan was famous for and Rennie’s voice, while not quite as sharp, has a similar pleading quality to it. Where it does differ from Dolan is that the song hinges around a psychedelic riff that has been modified for a pop song. A Greek bazouki sound pops up during the chorus giving the song a Mediterranean flavour.

‘Charly’ tells the typical story of boy meets angel, boy marries angel, angel buggers off. The stuff of true romance. It was produced by David Gresham and Alan Goldswain and was a good example of what was popular pop back in the 70s. It was a local(ish) lad doing what the artists in the UK and US were doing, and doing it well.

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


Charlie (Ain’t Slavin’ 2 Da Habit) – Wonderboom

Charlie (Ain’t Slavin’ 2 Da Habit) – Wonderboom



When Rabbitt recorded ‘Charlie’ it was a ‘sleek Labrador with a shiny coat’ of a song. Wonderboom turned it into a snarling, growling pitbull. In the quarter of a century that passed between Rabbitt’s original and Wonderboom’ cover (yes it was that long), rock had been taken out the hands of the pretty boys and unceremoniously dumped into the laps of grungy, tat covered hardcore guys.

Another development in South African terms was the rise of kwaito in the townships and Wonderboom flavoured their hard edged rock sound with the kwaito beats to give us this pounding, snarling version of the old classic. Lead singer Cito and guitarist Martin Schofield battle it out in the vocal department, reaching their peak on the chorus with Cito taking control of the catchy chant of “Charlie! Charlie! Charlie!” while Martin’s blunter voice takes the rap-like “I ain’t slavin’ 2 da habit”.

Dad’s back in the 70’s would probably have worried about their daughters going out with those wild boys in Rabbitt, but after hearing this version, they would be crying out for a nice clean cut Rabbitt boy to take his daughter out, rather than letting these Wonderboom lads near her. However, musically, the ‘Booms took the classic song by the scruff of its neck and dragged it into the new millennium where it can now be heard kicking and screaming and having one helluva party. Apparently Patric van Blerk (who wrote the song) likes this version. And why not? It’s a great cover of a great song.

Where to find it:
Rewind – Wonderboom (2001), David Gresham Records, CDDGR 1533



Fantasy – Trevor Rabin

Fantasy – Trevor Rabin

Trevor Rabin

Trevor Rabin

Yes, this is the Trevor Rabin who was in Rabbitt and spent some time in the group Yes. ‘Fantasy’ is the song that fell in the period between the two, where he was heading out on his own into the big bad world and seeing what he could do.

The song itself seems to land somewhere between Rabbitt and Yes not only on a Rabin timeline, but also in its sound. It still has that sort of 70s, clean-cut rock feel about it that Rabbitt perfected, but it also has leanings towards the big sound of ‘Owner Of A Lonely Heart’ that Rabin would help Yes score a big hit with. There are pounding disco-rock beats, loads of showy prog-esque guitars and Rabin’s AOR vocals that all pummel their way through the three mintes and tweny two seconds of this wall-of-sound pop barrage.

‘Fantasy’ was Rabin’s only solo top 20 hit in South Africa. It reached number 12 on the charts during its 8 week stay. This was better than anything he managed in Rabbitt whose best achievement on the Springbok charts was getting to 14 with ‘Charlie’. He did go one better with Yes when ‘Owner of…’ reached number 11. So chronologically, musically and chartwise, this is very much middle ground for Rabin. So why should you hear it? Because it is the lesser known chapter in the development of one of South Africa’s most successful musical talents.

Where to find it:
Beginnings – Trevor Rabin (2011), Voiceprint, VP254CD

Hear here:



Morning Light – Rabbitt

Morning Light – Rabbitt (And then it dawned on me)

Rabbitt - A Croak And A Grunt In The Night

Rabbitt – A Croak And A Grunt In The Night (1977)

The mania that surrounded ‘A Croak And A Grunt In The Night’ was the peak of Rabbitt’s success in South Africa. However, where could they go from such success? The answer, as history tells us, is nowhere as a group. So they disbanded and the members went on to greater things on the world stage.

But in that time between ‘A Croak…’ and Trevor Rabin departing the band, they produced the gem called ‘Morning Light’. The song was written by Duncan and Trevor, and does hint at the worldwide smash Trevor was to have with Yes and ‘Owner of A Lonely Heart.’ You can find the full rock guitar sound and high pitched vocal harmonies here that made ‘Owner…’ the hit it was.

The song peaked at number 15 on the Springbok Top 20, spending only 3 weeks on the chart. This seems to belie just how massive the band actually was in the country. Yes, there was probably many a tear shed, particularly amongst the young girls, when the band split, but they did leave a fitting finale in ‘Morning Light.’ There was a further album and single without Trevor, but that’ll form part of another entry.

Where to Find it:
A Croak & A Grunt In The Night (bonus track)– Rabbitt (2006), Fresh Music, FRESHCD 154

SA Rock Encyclopedia:


Charlie – Rabbitt

Charlie – Rabbitt (The Hound & The Hare)

Rabbitt - Boys Will Be Boys!

Rabbitt – Boys Will Be Boys!

‘Charlie’ has been to South Africa what Carly Simon’s ‘You’re So Vain’
was to the world in that the big question was, ‘who is this song
about?’ Some said it was about Trevor Rabin’s girlfriend, some said it
was Patric van Blerk’s (co-writer of the song) dog, and some like me
(who were very young at the time) thought it was about the girl in the
ad for Charlie perfume.

However in 1999, Julian Laxton who was the producer and engineer on
the track (and a musician in his own right in case you didn’t know),
explained that it was about Patric van Blerk’s partner Charles Coetzee
and that Lady Marmalade was not the song, but their Persian cat (see:

Now that we’ve cleared that up, we can talk a little bit about the
song that possibly every South African aged forty or over will know, and
some under forty will know from the rather good Wonderboom cover a few
years back (either that or from their parents playing it).

‘Charlie’ is regarded by many as Rabbitt’s defining song and this is
borne out by the fact that it was their highest charting song on the
Springbok Radio charts. Surprisingly, given the amount of hype and
attention the band got, they only managed to reach number 14. Trevor
Rabin’s classical training does show through in the piano playing and
orchestral arrangements on the track and his yearning filled voice
soars over the chorus.

It doesn’t really matter exactly who the song is about, it will remain
a firm favourite of many South Africans for many years to come.

Where to find it:

Boys Will Be Boys – Rabbitt (September 2006) RetroFresh, freshcd 153
The Hits – Rabbitt (1996) Gallo, CDRED 602
The Best of SA Pop Volume 2 -Various Artists (1994) GMP, CDGMPD 40486

Cover version:


Loving you is easy
Such a beautiful thing to do
And though at times you hurt me
I buzz each night on you
Oh! What times we’ve had together
What crazy things we’ve done
Enough to fill my memory
And keep me loving Charlie

As dogs go you’re groovy
Not as predictable as some
But you’re not as paranoid as Lady Marmalade
And really much more fun

Hell! At times I get so mad
When you buzz on someone new
It’s not that you don’t love me
It’s just that I’m too selfish to consider sharing Charlie

You’ve filled my head with new ideas
And filled my heart with sun
So I’d like to take this time right now
To thank you for what you’ve done

You and Lady Marmalade
Are everything I need
The two of you and the music
Deep inside of me

And watching you sleep
Side by side
Makes me breathe
I love you Charlie

(Written by Trevor Rabin / Patrick van Blerk)


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