1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “Roger Lucey”

Lungile Tabalaza – Roger Lucey

Roger Lucey

Roger Lucey

Lungile Tabalaza was a man arrested during the apartheid years and died while in police custody, ostensible committing suicide by jumping out of a fifth floor window. One man who was angry about this was Roger Lucey and when you hear his song about the incident, you can feel the emotion in his voice. There is an abrasive bass, an edgy beat and a wailing woman’s voice that mixes grief with pain.

Despite not actually accusing the police of killing Tabalza, the lyrics between the sung lines are fairly obvious what Lucey thinks happened. He sings “Well whatever happened in that office only God and the cops will only know” and “well some say it was murder and some say suicide, but this is not the first time that men have gone in there and died” which nakedly reveal what Lucey’s views on the event were.

Included on his ‘The Road Is Much Longer’ album, it was just one of 11 reasons why the album was banned (the other 10 reasons being the 10 other tracks). In a post apartheid 2000, the song resurfaced on ’21 Years Down The Road’ and it serves as one of many politically charged songs from the era when they were usually banned. It is a bit of a history lesson, giving us an insight into things that often didn’t make our television news broadcasts.

Where to find it:
21 Years Down The Road – Roger Lucey (2000), 3rd Ear Music


Lungile Tabalaza

Spaces Tell Stories – Roger Lucey

21 Years Down The Road - Roger Lucey

21 Years Down The Road – Roger Lucey

Here’s a political one from Roger Lucey. That’s a bit like saying here’s a heavy one from Deep Purple. Lucey virtually exclusively did political songs, and he was one of our best at doing so. But back in the day, you weren’t allowed to hear political, so most of his stuff was only heard by a limited few (his seminal album ‘The Road Is Much Longer’ was banned outright).
‘Spaces Tell Stories’ is about the censorship of the press during the State of Emergency in the 80’s in South Africa. Newspapers like the Weekly Mail had large chunks of their stories blacked out, so we couldn’t be told what was happening in the country. But, as Roger observed, you didn’t need to read the stories to know what was going on. As the opening line of the song says, ‘Spaces tell stories/and details aren’t needed/you hear things you don’t want to know’.
‘Spaces Tell Stories’ could almost be classified as punk as it is a brief 2 minute 37 second angry rant at the establishment, but where it falls down on the punk front is that the instrumentation is far more refined and melodic than some of the thrashy sound your usual punks make. Instead, the anger manifests itself as it builds to a ragged military beat that goes to war against the subject matter, somewhat akin to John Lennon’s ‘Working Class Hero’ where the music spits out the message with as much venom as the words do.
South Africa is a lot further down the road from where it was when Lucey recorded this song, but it still stands as a milestone on that journey we took, a stark reminder of where we have been.

Where to find it:
21 Years Down The Road – Roger Lucey (2000), 3rd Ear Music


Hear here:


No Easy Walk To Freedom – Tighthead Fourie & The Loose Forwards/Roger Lucey

No Easy Walk To Freedom – Tighthead Fourie & The Loose Forwards/Roger Lucey

No Easy Walk To Freedom

No Easy Walk To Freedom

Roger Lucey must have caused huge consternation at the censor’s offices when he decided to call his band Tighthead Fourie & The Loose Forwards. How could those keepers of our morals possible ban anything rugby related? It must have been with shaky hand and sweaty palm that they (surely) signed off the banning order for this record.

I have not seen confirmation that it was banned, but as it was written in 1986 by Roger Lucey and echoed the words of Nelson Mandela before he was incarcerated and the mere fact that it was Roger Lucey and it refers to Mandela, it must have been banned.

There are two recorded versions of the song that I know of, Tighthead Fourie’s on the Shifty Records compilation ‘Shotdown’ and Roger’s solo version on his ‘21 Years Down The Road’ and both are worth listening to. The former has a country feel to it, both in the dom-dom 1-2 time of the bass as well as in the western twang to the vocals. The latter has a more laid-back acoustic rock sound to it with a Lekgodilo flute giving it a rootsy African flavour.

Despite the anger of the lyics, neither version sounds particularly angry. In fact if you are able to turn off the lyrics in your mind, you might find the songs pleasant listening, but, and this is a big but, if you do manage to ignore the lyrics, you’ve missed the whole point.

Where to find it: Tighthead Fourie version: Shot Down (Resistance Music from Apartheid South Africa) – Various Artists (2006),Shifty Records Roger Lucey Version: 21 Years Down The Road – Roger Lucey (2000), 3rd Ear Music


Dry Wine – David Kramer

Dry Wine – David Kramer




‘Dry Wine’ was finally released by Kramer on his 1986 album ‘Baboondogs’, but the song goes back to about ten years previously. According to the 3rd Ear Music website, Roger Lucey was given a demo cassette of Kramer songs sometime in 1976 or 1977 and this included the song ‘Dry Wine’. Despite agreeing that it was an excellent song, Lucey was reluctant to perform it. Not because he was concerned about getting into trouble with the law due it the nature of the lyrics (he was already doing that, so one more wouldn’t matter), but he preferred to only perform his own material. However, he began performing ‘Dry Wine’ and it was included on his live album ‘Half A Live’ which was recorded at the Market Theatre in 1979.

Due to the political nature of Lucey’s work, he was not a well known musician, so ‘Dry Wine’ was only heard by a select few. However, once Kramer’s career took off with the success of ‘Hak Hom Blokkies’, more people got to hear this gem. It is a song about the disparities that existed in South Africa during apartheid and how those that were rich enough to afford to be liberal, would express their opinions about the situation from the safety of fine restaurants, high fences and locked doors and “from the distance of headlines”.

Lyrically it is quite a vitriolic attack, but Kramer’s performance shows more sadness than anger. If you want the angry version, check out Lucey’s one. Kramer was an astute observer of South African life and culture, both the good and bad sides of it. ‘Dry Wine’ is Kramer at his lyrical best.

Where to find it:
Vinyl – Baboondogs – David Kramer (1986), EMI, EMCJ(V)4051001

The Roger Lucey Connection:



Half asleep I dream in the dark
Trusting the locks on the door
And the dog’s warning bark
Outside in the street a drunkard
Stumbles and sings
In the next door flat
A telephone rings and rings
But nothing disturbs the suburbs quiet
Not the sirens or the news of a township riot
Knowing it all from the distance of headlines
I express my opinion
With a mouthful of dry wine

A woman with red fingernails
Is playing with her diamond
Gazing through the restaurant window
At the lights on Robben Island
Her hair’s cut in the latest style
Her eyes are painted blue
She’s probably thinking
Now where in the world
Could I find a better view
Her husband asks the waiter
Are these prawns from Mozambique?
The waiter just nods his head
He smiles but doesn’t speak
Knowing it all from the distance of headlines
I express my opinion
With a mouthful of dry wine

An old lady in a Sea Point flat
Lives with her dreams and dread
She can hear the disco music
As she lies in her bed
And in the servants quarters
She can hear them laugh and sing
While in the next door flat
A telephone rings and rings
Perhaps I’m like a deaf man
Who has seen the lightning flash
Or maybe I’m just like the blind
And I’ll only hear it crash
Knowing it all from the distance of headlines
I express my opinion
With a mouthful of dry wine

(Written by David Kramer)

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