1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “Trevor Rabin”

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


I Never Loved A Man – Margaret Singana

I Never Loved A Man – Margaret Singana

I Never Loved A Man – Margaret Singana

Yes, I know Aretha Franklin also did a song called ‘I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)’, but hers is a breathy, soulful song written by Ronnie Shannon. Margaret Singana’s is a completely different song, written by John Russell and produced by Patric van Blerk, Trevor Rabin and Julian Laxton. And with that production team, you know you’re going to have a great song.

‘I Never Loved A Man’ (Margaret’s one) was first seen, as far as I can tell, in 1977 when it was released as a single and included on her ‘Tribal Fence’ album. It has an early disco bounce to it that would have enticed most on to the dancefloor back then for a little boogie. It’s got a funky bass, a thumping beat interwoven with some 70’s rock guitar. All of this underpins Margaret’s strong vocals.

The song made it on to the Springbok Top 20 where it managed 18 weeks, spending 3 frustrating weeks at 3 while Heart’s ‘Barracuda’ and McCully Workshop’s ‘Buccaneer’ battled it out for the top 2 spots, then eventually made it to number 2 for a week on 13 January 1978, but was denied the top spot by ‘Barracuda’. This would be her most successful effort on our charts and also the best performance for the 3 producers with the exception of van Blerk who eventually saw a number 1 hit as producer with Joy’s ‘Paradise Road’. I guess one could say that We never loved a song (produced by Patric van Blerk, Trevor Rabin and Julian Laxton) the way we loved Margaret’s ‘I Never Loved A Man’.

Where to find it:
Lady Africa – Margaret Singana (1996), Gallo, CDRED603J


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


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


Living For The City – Disco Rock Machine

Living For The City - Disco Rock Machine

Living For The City – Disco Rock Machine

When Stevie Wonder recorded ‘Living For The City’ it was a slick and funky song. When Disco Rock Machine got hold of it, they turned it into a rocking, floorfilling, stomp-a-thon with a killer female vocal that grabs hold of the song and shakes it by its commuters. While Wonders version is silky and somewhat laid back, rather like a drive through the suburbs, Disco Rock Machine’s version struts down a busy Wall Street, head held high.

As the band’s name suggests, they combined the burgeoning disco sound with a rock sensibility to create a hard-edged song that you can dance to. But who were the cogs in this machine. Well, the names of this studio outfit should ring a few bells as we had none other than Trevor Rabin (Rabbitt and later Yes in case you’ve been living on another planet for the last 40 years) on guitars and keyboards while Kevin Kruger (possibly better known for his production work) on drums and a certain Rene Veldsman (she of Via Afrika fame) providing those powerful vocals. It is quite difficult to picture the voice on this song going on to give us the earthy, ethnopunk of ‘Hey Boy’ which is a credit to the vocal versatility of Veldsman.

The band would also record a cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Higher Ground’, but would not find any success on the Springbok Charts, perhaps it was lines like ‘To find a job is like a haystack needle/Cause where he lives they don’t use colored people’ from ‘Living For The City’ that put the old SABC off giving this cover version a good run in the public’s ears. However, you can get to hear it now if you can lay your hands on the ‘Disco Fever’ CD, otherwise, there is always Youtube.

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


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 it 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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