1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “The Bats”

Love Power – Wanda Arletti

Love Power - Wanda Arletti

Love Power – Wanda Arletti

It surprises me somewhat that Wanda Areltti’s (born Wanda Arletowicz in Hackney, England of Polish parents) brilliant album, ‘Love Power’ has never seen a digital release. One has to dig around in second hand vinyl shops if you want a copy of this.

The song ‘Love Power’ was written by a guy called Teddy Vann and was first recorded by a group from New York called The Sandpebbles. Their version made it to number 22 on the US charts. A year later Dusty Springfield recorded a cover of it and Wanda’s version appear the following year in 1969. Even jazz saxophonist Lou Donaldson produced a nice organ led cover which featured George Benson on guitar.

Wanda brings a powerful soul voice and a liveliness to the song while a drum heavy instrumentation (courtesy of The Bats’ Eddie Eckstein) warmed by some wonderful brass, underpins a classy cover of the song.

Like most songs of they era, it it over too quickly, clocking it at just over 2 minutes. But what a wonderful 2 minutes. The song is uplifting with Wanda’s sassy voice compliemented by such SA luminaries as Una Valli, Stevie van Kerken and Judy Page providing Motown-esque backing vocals, this is one of the stand out tracks of the brief period in SA music when we were doing some burningly great soul music. And that’s saying something, for although the volume of this type of soul in SA was not great the quality was very high. In amongst great tracks from The Flames, The Peanut Butter Conspiracy and Una Valli, ‘Love Power’ certainly has the power.

Where to find it:
Vinyl: Love Power – Wanda Arletti (1969), NEMS301

Video:
Wanda’s version

The Sandpebbles

Dusty Springfield:

Lou Donaldson:

The Rock Machine – The Bats

The Rock Machine - The Bats

The Rock Machine – The Bats

In the days before disco we had rock and that is why The Bats could only recored a song called ‘The Rock Machine’ and only later Trevor Rabin and his friends came along with a band called Disco Rock Machine. The Bats, however, did a really good job of producing some fine rock with this little ditty.
It starts is a slightly, erm, batty manner with a very posh couple listening to and opining about some lounge style piano with the posh man eventually saying ‘By jove, do you think it’ll last?’ to which the posh woman replies, ‘Oh definitely it’s really quite super’. However they were wrong as the piano is sudden thrown out of the song and The Bats come in with a chant of ‘Way Hey The Rock Machine’.
We are not privy to the reaction this couple may have had to the intrusion of a rock machine into their peaceful piano music, but we don’t really care as we are caught up in a catchy Beatles-esque pop song which brings in folky and psychedelic elements into this melting pot, including a classical guitar interlude where one almost expects the return of the posh couple, but they don’t have time to get a word in because the songs descends into a swirling psychedelic spiral.
It’s not the easiest song to listen to with its shifting twists and turns. It’s a little experimental, but there is something catchy about it and sits on the poppier side of the pysch-rock that bands such as Freedom’s Children were making at a similar time. It is the folkier, hippy-happier side of the genre and there is not a disco beat in sight.

Where to find it:
The Best Of The Bats – The Bats (1996) Polygram, MORCD 612
Astral Daze 2 – Various Artists, RetroFresh, (2009), FRESHCD162

Video:

I Wanna Go To Mauritius – Paul Ditchfield

I Wanna Go To Mauritius - Paul Ditchfield

I Wanna Go To Mauritius – Paul Ditchfield

Mauritius, in case you didn’t know, is an island on the other side of Madagascar and is famed for its white beaches and blue seas. Is it any wonder then that one time Bat man (no, I’m not talking about a masked superhero, but rather a member of the SA Fab Four, The Bats) wants to go there?

Released in 1981 and possibly cashing in on Ditchfield’s popularity as a TV presenter at the time, the song has waves of piano cashing around beaches of xylophone and with a sunny sax breezing in. Ditchfield’s voice has a slightly rasping quality to it, as if he’s been sipping a few too many cocktails the night before, but the beautiful surroundings let him forget about his hangover and he’s in Bermuda shorts and an Hawaiian T-shirt dancing a conga on the beach with anyone who want’s to join in.

There are hints of Madness’ ‘The Return Of The Los Palmos 7’ on this that come through in the honky tonk piano dancing a two step with the xylophone. Paul just missed out on a top 20 hit with this. It made it onto the programme ‘Bubbling Under’ on Springbok Radio which used to play the possible future top 20 hits, and even made it to the top of the ‘bubbles’, but sadly got the cold shoulder from the record buying public, although I’m not sure why. This is bright breezy pop, that is pumped full of feel good. Forget Madonna’s ‘Holiday’, take a trip with Paul.

Where to find it:
Singles bins

Video:

Stand Up For The Lady – Rising Sons

Stand Up For The Lady - Rising Sons

Stand Up For The Lady – Rising Sons

This is an old song. How do I know, well it refers to a form of chivalry that has all but disappeared from out society. Now I don’t want to get into a debate about whether it is a good or bad thing that this no longer happens, I just want to put the song into context. So, with lyrics that today may seem a bit politically dodgy, one needs to remember that back then, this would have been regarded as a ‘good’ message in a song.

Apart from the lyrics, the song is a nice sing-a-long ditty that was written by Paul Ditchfield (who was in the Bats) that has a foot tapping rhythm, a nice echo-ey vocal and some funky sax thrown in for good measure. The Bats were well known for producing quality pop songs and in ‘Stand Up For The Lady’, they could easily have kept it for themselves, but The Rising Sons did a great job of it.

Hailing from Pietermaritzburg and featuring Rod Kielly on vocals, Andy White on bass, Gerald Hawes on keyboards, Malcolm Watson on guitar and Dave Campbell on drums, Rising Sons took the song to number 13 on the Springbok Radio charts and number 11 on the LM Charts. All in all it was a good mannered song.

Where to find it:
Singles bins

Video:

Sun – Impi

Sun – Impi (You’d be bats not to like it)

IMPI

IMPI

Impi, (not to be confused with John Kongos’ briefly lived band or Johnny Clegg’ seminal anthem) were mostly The Bats under a different name. To their ranks they added Sounds of Brass’ Peter Hubner, The Square Set’s Neville Whitmill and Hubner’s girlfriend Deni Loren. The group released one eponymously titled album which featured the track ‘Sun.’

Listening to it, one can see why The Bats chose not to release it under their usual name. It was far more prog rock influenced than most of their previous pop work and, perhaps they felt their fan base would not really like it. Starting out with a heavy beating drum (African rhythm), then weaving in a haunting pennywhistle before building up to the catchy chorus with a rich brass ensemble.

Unfortunately for The Bats, their alter ego did not really capture the hearts and minds of their pop fans, nor those of the progressive bands like Hawk, Abstract Truth and Freedom’s Children as the album did not do too well and faded into obscurity. Fortunately Benjy Mudie, the keeper of the South Africa rock flame, has just released the album on his Retrofresh label, so we are able to listen to ‘Sun’ and all the other tracks, and wonder why we didn’t go for it big time at the time.

Where to find it:
Impi – Impi (2012), Retrofresh, FRESHCD 183

Shabby Little Hut – The Bats

Shabby Little Hut – The Bats (aka a Krumbling Kraal)

The Bats

The Bats

There should be a health warning on this song as it is so infectious that no matter how hard you try, you’ll be humming or singing it for days after it has faded from your speakers. Few of us born in the sixties or later would have realised that the man who used to Turn On The Telly (no, not the presenter, the skivvy who actually turned on the Telly) and the bloke who presented Video 2 with Delia Sainsbury had ever been in a group, let along one of the longest running groups in SA history.

Yes, Eddie Eckstein and Paul Ditchfield (remember them?) were half of the Bats, the other two members being Barry Jarman and Jimmy Dunning. They were responsible for a string of hits in the sixties, crowning their efforts with ‘Shabby Little Hut’.

Written by Van McCoy (who had a hit in SA with ‘The Hustle’) and also recorded by an American group called The Reflections, it’s a simple tale of boy meets girl, girl’s parents don’t like boy, boy arranges to meet girl in a shabby little hut down by the docks. We’ve all been there haven’t we?

An organ underpins the beat guitar and a trumpet comes in every now and then to lend a warm brassiness to the song. The Bats also recorded a Spanish version ‘Una Chocita Abandonada’ which was released in Argentina. Kariba, another South African group who mostly did reggae cover versions of Bob Marley songs, did a cover of this, but, to be honest, stick with The Bats English version.

Where to find it:

The Heart And Soul Of – The Bats (2001), Polygram, CDREDD 659
The Best Of The Bats – The Bats (1996) Polygram, MORCD 612

The Best Of SA Pop Vol 2 – Various Artists (1994) GMP, CDGMPD 40486
SA Party –  Various Artists (2009) Gallo, CTS 5028

Lyrics:

Your folks they say they don’t want me hanging round
Cause I come from the wrong part of town
So I’ll meet you in a secret place
After dark when the sun goes down

In a shabby little hut
By the dock
Down by the sea
It ain’t nothing fancy but
It’s paradise to me

In the shelter of your tender arms
When the jukebox begins to play
Then the warmth of your many charms
Seem to melt all my cares away

In a shabby little hut
By the dock
Down by the sea
It ain’t nothing fancy but
It’s paradise to me

Suddenly I look and I see the time
And I know I must go right away
But my darling when we kiss goodbye
How it hurts when you walk away

From the shabby little hut
By the dock
Down by the sea
It ain’t nothing fancy but
It’s paradise to me

(Written by Van McCoy)

Video:

The Bats:
Kariba:
Reflections:

Website:

The Bats

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