The online South African Rock Encyclopedia covers the history of South African rock music from the 1950s up to the early 2000s. All this information is made freely available to the public.
July 1999, Gallo, CDREDD 627
Thanks to: John Ireland, Brian 'Vagabond' Currin, Dion Singer, Gary Van
Riet, Lana-Jane Miller, Terry Owen, the good people at EMI, Peter
Pearlson (Forest Studios) for all his hard work, Terry Fairweather, the
crowd at Apula and everybody else who made this compilation possible.
Compiled by Derek Smith
Digitally re-mastered at Forest Studios by Peter Pearlson.
In the late 70s disco music internationally was dominated by such
artists as The Bee Gees, Donna Summer, Chic, Gloria Gaynor, Village
People, etc. The rhythm was everything and musicianship was secondary.
In South Africa, however, disco seemed to take on a distinct harder edge, with a number of classic hard rock and heavy metal songs being given the disco treatment. Paul Ryan's classic 'Eloise' was extended to 17 minutes by Zane Cronjé's Rouge, HOT RS covered Iron Butterfly's 'In-A-Gadda-Da -Vida' (cleverly combining it with Frankie Vaughan's 1957 UK #1 smash hit 'Garden Of Eden') and Peter Vee's Buffalo covered Steppenwolf's heavy metal anthem 'Born To Be Wild'.
Ex-Rabbitt, Trevor Rabin with his Disco Rock Machine recorded the Kinks' 'You Really Got Me' while his colleague, Neil Cloud (Rabbitt's drummer), covered 'Time Of The Season' originally done in 1968 by Rod Argent's Zombies.
All these tracks and others (like John Ireland's 'Living Inside My Head') are on this Gallo collection compiled by Derek Smith.
Even if one did not care overmuch for disco, he or she should be able to find enough songs on this double CD to make at least a 90 minute tape. In Texas we spend much time in our cars so road tapes, for me anyway, are important. This is good music to use to thump one's way across Texas. When done South African style, and that's with a bit more rock thrown in, one wonders if the disco genre is undervalued. Here are the songs of Disco Fever: all disco or dance, though some do rock:
'Magic Carpet Ride' by Buffalo is a strong opener, and in its way, "Ooh, ooh, carpet ride!" is a fine basic rock lyric. Nice musical frills here, the song is imaginative despite the dominant disco beat that can easily become moronic if not decorated creatively, as it is here. I hear a couple of lyrics differently on the original, but this is really a strong song.
'Living for the City' by Disco Rock Machine is a nice disco-fied cover of Stevie Wonder's song, and one faithful enough to the original, yet different and so eminently danceable that I can imagine Stevie himself might like it.
'House of the Rising Sun' by Hot R.S. A good version of one of my favorite rock standards, though the young lady singing really over-emotes how glad she feels, and she carries on disturbing the neighbors for quite a while.
'Hiroshima' by People Like Us has nice singing and is interesting lyrically, more than I-love-you-baby lyrics, yet it is a more straight-forward disco song than the first two songs on this double CD set.
'Eloise Concerto' by Rouge starts out as a readily recognizable disco song, with horn accents, and moves into a lo-o-ong and rather mellow interlude. The song is pleasant, with several movements, and comes across more as listening disco than dancing disco. If I were to hear it in a club I might think differently, though. The pleasantness of the song is borne out by the fact that it does not seem to last 17 minutes and 32 seconds.
'Time of the Season' by Neil Cloud has the same eerie mood of the original, but with a more obvious beat. The original was a favorite song, this version is too.
'Living Inside My Head' by John Ireland is my favorite song on 'Disco Fever'. Maybe early in childhood I was entranced by 'Greensleeves', which I feel sure Henry the VIII did not write, despite his claim. Anyway, John Ireland does a much better job than Henry could have with this beautiful melody and original lyrics. Absolutely lovely.
'In-a-Gadda-da-Vida' by Hot R.S. rocks, or is it that maybe the original wasn't too far from being a disco number itself? Whichever the case, this is a good version of a classic song that everyone pokes fun at, but one which everyone knows nonetheless.
That's disc one, some good pure disco, and some disco with a definite rock edge.
'You Really Got Me' by Disco Rock Machine (featuring Trevor Rabin) is only barely disco. It's disco in a hard rock mode, go-ahead rock with a cranking guitar. This is a loud disco cover of The Kinks song with a disco beat in the back and a wailing guitar up front in the lead.
Medley: 'Born to Be Wild', 'Gimmy Gimmy Good Lovin'', 'Mony Mony', and 'Born to Be Wild' by Buffalo works, flowing from one song to another. Inspirational rock in that it lifts me up like good music is supposed to do. Nice and long at 14 minutes and 7 seconds, too.
Medley: 'The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly' and 'Reflections of My Life' by Neil Cloud also mixes different songs and it works, moving from the universally known "Good, Bad, and Ugly" theme to lyrics of Marmalade's reflective song to disco dance rhythm and back to the two pop songs -- it really works. Also nice and long at 17 minutes and thirty-eight seconds.
'Delta Queen' -- Another song with a vocal woman disturbing the neighbors. This starts out dance-worthy with a nice yearning mood, then it mellows to become a softer disco song, with a build meant to symbolize something going on. This is a disco song of movements and parts, good to listen to aside from the young lady's histrionics, which in the song, as in real life, are distracting.
'Time to Love' by Disco Rock Machine is a good disco song with a moderate beat and some electronic fills. Pleasant and acceptable, but it doesn't really stand out.
'Give' by Harari is not what I'd call a disco song, but rather it is a timeless dance number, and a catchy and good one. The few songs I've heard by Harari make me want to hear more.
'Money Runner' by Hot R.S. combines disco, horns, and hip lyrics in an anthem to the almighty buck. This song has a driving tempo and in a club was likely to cause everybody to move in unison.
'Loving Styles' by Disco Rock Machine is a quirky song, slow in tempo with a stop-start rhythm. While I can see where some might enthuse over this one it's another that didn't hit me. It's not obvious disco, but definitely a song to dance to. Okay, it has interesting guitar extrapolations.
'Burn Out' by Sipho "Hotstix" Mabuse is a nice and gently chugging dance song, and another without the obvious disco beat. The melody and beat work precisely together here. The vocals carry the tune but are not dominant, they work with the instrumentation. A pretty song, appropriate for a closing set for lovers to dance close to before going home together.
My take on over 150 minutes of South African disco music, untinged by nostalgia, is to wonder: can it be that South Africa improved on disco? I conclude: Yes.
About a third of the musical contents of these two discs is disco for rock fans, so rockified that one might ask, "Disco? What disco?" Many of the songs are untypical of an undervalued genre. The couple of songs that I didn't respond to as strongly as others most certainly don't detract from the whole. All in all, another case of my Dollars-into Rands being well-spent.
Do you remember the mid-to-late 70s with great affection?
Platform shoes, sessions, roadhouses, etc?
Bands like HOT R.S. and Buffalo?
If not, then ignore this next section…
OK, you’re still here … good.
Derek Smith from Gallo has compiled a 2CD set called Disco Fever which features some great South African disco/dance tracks from the 70s. These 2 discs are filled to the max with music … over 150 minutes of music, memories and magic.
Been looking for the full-length version of “Eloise Concerto” by Rouge? Well here it is, all 17 minutes 32 seconds of Zane Cronje’s rearrangement of the classic Barry Ryan hit, “Eloise”. Wonderful stuff.
Remember Neil Cloud, the drummer from Rabbitt, combining the Marmalade’s 1970 chart-topper “Reflections Of My Life” with Ennio Morricone’s theme from the Clint Eastwood spaghetti western “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”? Well its here, over 17 minutes of it and featuring the voice of Rene Veldsman (of Via Afrika).
HOT R.S. took their name from the initials of their first album the House Of The Rising Sun and there are no less than 4 examples of the orgasmic disco rock that Donna Summer first pioneered and Dan Hill, Kevin Kruger and friends made their own. Tracks from all three of HOT R.S.’s albums are included here.
Peter Vee’s Buffalo took Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild” and “Magic Carpet Ride” to new heights of disco/rock and both are included here.
I don’t know much about Disco Rock Machine, except that Trevor Rabin was involved. Their version of the Kinks “You Really Got Me” is great, with some punchy guitar.
A track I’ve been searching for on CD for a long time, has been John Ireland’s “Living Inside My Head”. Well, the search is over, as the full 6.25 album version is here on this CD. John’s rearrangement of the “Greensleeves” melody is superb and that whistling synthesizer pre-dates the “X-Files” Theme by 2 decades or so.
Also on this excellent compilation are Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse’s “Burnout”, Hiroshima’s “People Like Us” and Harari’s “Give”.
So buy this CD, put on your platforms, grab your cherrie and take yourself on a magic carpet ride with the delta queen to the garden of Eden.
OK, the rest of you musical snobs can join us again.Rubin Carrin, 1999
This mix is inspired by the "Disco Fever" CD, which celebrated the classic Disco era, with a distinct South African flavour.