Rocking Against The System

Rocking Against The System


  1. éVoid - Taximan
  2. Via Afrika - Hey Boy
  3. Bright Blue - Window on the world
  4. Tribe after Tribe - Damsel (As I Went Out One Morning)
  5. Ellamental - Clowns (See Yourself)
  6. Celtic Rumours -
  7. Dog Detachment - Waiting for a Miracle
  8. Petit Cheval - Magical Touch
  9. No Friends Of Harry - Competition Rules
  10. Asylum Kids - Schoolboy
  11. The Helicopters - Mysteries & Jealousy
  12. The Spectres - Teddy Bear
  13. Falling Mirror - Johnny calls the chemist
  14. The Dynamics - Thugs
  15. Peach - Complicated Game
  16. Flash Harry - Shame on you
  17. The Sweatband - This Boy
  18. Psycho Reptiles - Monster from the Bog

Compiled by Benjy Mudie

Release information:

February 2002, RetroFresh, freshcd 119

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It is not well known, but during the 1980's a secret movement of elderly folk living in the small towns of South Africa would sit on their verandas slowly swaying to and fro in specially designed chairs. These good intentioned folk hoped that the creaking sound caused by this would be heard in the Union Buildings in Pretoria and result in the government dismantling apartheid. As history has shown, this method of rocking against the system proved ineffectual, mainly because it was never done with any rhythm or tune and certainly lacked any punk attitude.

The 80's were heady times in South Africa. Apartheid was at its peak, but looking decidedly wobbly with the Nats being bombarded on all fronts. One of these fronts being the Rock Music scene. African rhythms were leaking out of the townships and onto the white radio stations faster than rands were "leaking" into offshore accounts, and the government couldn't control it. Bands like éVoid, Via Afrika and Bright Blue were mixing these sounds with western rock and producing fascinating results. "Taximan", "Hey Boy" and "Window on the World" are the examples showcased here.

Then there was punk. Peach, the Asylum Kids and Tribe after Tribe are the safety pin in the ear of this CD, but this is not just sneering punk with attitude, it also had message. If anyone rocked against the system, these guys and girls did.

But don't forget the New Romantics, the lipstick around the hole in the middle of the CD and the weird hairdo round the edge. These come courtesy of the Helicopters' 'Mysteries and Jealousy' and Petit Cheval's 'Magical Touch'. The Dynamics and the Psycho Reptiles give the CD a two-tone (surely not black and white) feel with their Ska sounds on 'Thugs' and 'Monster from the Bog'.

All this and I haven't mentioned the rock of Ellamental and the Sweat Band, or the deep voiced Gothic punk of No Friends of Harry. Neither have I touched on the quirky pop of the Spectre's 'Teddy Bear' or the strangely bizarre world of Falling Mirror's 'Johnny calls the Chemist'.

Despite the 80's being a politically tense time (or maybe because they were), the local music scene thrived. Although other decades have seen great music coming out of SA, none seemed to produce such a rich crop of fine bands and memorable songs. (Current times, however are looking good too). Benjy Mudie has tapped into this vast vat of 80's classics to bring you 14 of the finest from the decade, but those left in the vat ('Weeping', 'Shadows', 'Give Me The Good News', etc, etc) are testimony to the strength of the music of that era. Just a word of warning, you have to be off your rocker to enjoy this CD.
-- John Samson, April 2002

Sleeve Notes:

éVoid – Taximan
There were very few bands that caught the imagination of the fickle pop public in the early 80's quite like éVoid. Brothers Lucien and Erik Windrich, along with drummer Wayne Harker redefined South African rock with their unique and savvy blend of African soaked pop, fashion and 'ethnotronics' not to mention their exhilarating live performances! Although "Shadows" was perhaps their biggest chart hit it, is "Taximan" that has stood the audio test of time and remains an enduring staple on pop radio to this day…. fuelled by the unforgettably funky pumpin' bass of Bakhiti Khumalo and slamming four-to-the floor beats courtesy of 'Woza' Wayne éVoid's joyous ode to Johannesburg and its people ranks among the greatest pop singles of our time… heya heya heya hey ya! éVoid: Lucien Windrich-guitars, vocals, yelling; Erik Windrich-keyboards, vocals, frying pan; Wayne Harker-drums, percussion, ashtray…
From the Retro Fresh album "éVoid" (Freshcd 106) licensed courtesy of éVoid

Via Afrika – Hey Boy
Fronted by lead vocalist/bassist supremo René Veldsman Via Afrika exploded onto a jaded and unsuspecting public in 1983. Fusing dance beats, whistles, chants, nu- wave synths, dub bass and ethnic rhythms their self titled debut album was an instant hit with both Pop and Black radio, a rarity in those musically segregated times. Their trail blazing sound was both compelling and thought provoking, visually the band were distinctly African in dress, an experience of texture, culture and style."Hey Boy" was, and still is, hypnotic, distinctly fresh and glowing with vitality.
Via Afrika: René Veldsman – bass, drum programming, lead vocals; Lukas Crouse (Luislang) – keyboards; Michelle Rowe – backing vocals.
From the Retro Fresh album "Via Afrika" (Freshcd 107) Licensed courtesy of EMI Music

Bright Blue – Window on the world
You only have to hear one song to know that it's Bright Blue! Their melting pot of township jive, mbaqanga rhythms and simple pop fused with a distinct Cape Town flavour is as South African as Nelson, Table Mountain and Bafana Bafana! The band's perennial classic "Weeping" should rightfully be South Africa's national anthem but "Window on the world" (taken from the band's debut album) is as a joyous piece of pop music you'll hear anywhere!
Bright Blue: Robin Levetan – vocals; Ian Cohen – bass & vocals; Tom Fox – guitars & vocals; Dan Heymann - keyboards; Peter Cohen – drums. From the compilation "Every now and then" (CDSRBL 286146) Licensed courtesy of Universal Music

Tribe after Tribe – Damsel
Born from the ashes of the Asylum Kids, Boys Next and The Gents, lead singer/guitarist Robbi Robb's merry band of musical anarchists were one of the guiding lights in rock music during the mid /late 80's. Their stunning version of Bob Dylan's "Damsel (As I Went Out One Morning)" was a landmark recording with its chopping Afroragga rhythms and anthemic chorus… the band recorded two powerful albums before Robbi decamped to LA where he reconstituted Tribe After Tribe as a three piece and signed to Atlantic Records. Tribe After Tribe still record and release albums. Tribe after Tribe: Robbi Robb – guitars, vocals; Fuzzy Marcus – bass; Bruce Williams – drums; Niels Jensen – keyboards. From the soon to be released Retro T.A.T compilation. Licensed courtesy of EMI Music.

Ellamental – Clowns (see yourself)
Highly regarded by all who experienced the magic Ellamental were one of a handful of bands in the 80's that had the potential to break internationally. Their charismatic singer Heather Mac was not only blessed with an amazing vocal range but also combined elements of mime, theatre, dance and sheer rock showmanship (or should that be showomanship?) into a unique and riveting live performance. Few will forget their amazing set at 1985's Concert in the Park. After releasing their debut album "Uncomplicated Dreams" the band moved to Ireland where they hooked up with mega pop manager Billy Gaff and later recorded an album for Warner Bros with noted producer Stewart Levine.
Ellamental: Heather Mac – vocals; Tim Parr – guitars, vocals; Adrian Levi - bass; Herman Eugster – drums. From the soon to be released Retro Ellamental compilation. Licensed courtesy of EMI Music.

Celtic Rumors – Slow Rain
One of the most enduring rock pop songs of that heady decade is "Slow Rain", the debut single by Durban based Celtic Rumors. Released in 1989 and included on their one and only album "This Day", the band had in lead singer Kevin van Staden a front man with both a great rock voice and matinee idol looks. Despite topping the charts and touring incessantly the band didn't really make the great leap to the next level and disintegrated in the early 90's. Sadly, whilst working on his debut solo album, Kevin was tragically killed in an accident….. the inclusion of "Slow Rain" is dedicated to Kevin van Staden.
Celtic Rumors: Kevin van Staden – vocals; Sean Schulze – keyboards; Gary Turner – guitars; Lars Lofstrand – bass; Geoff Wybrow – drums. From the soon to be released Celtic Rumors retrospective (on Retro). Licensed courtesy of Gallo Music.

Dog Detachment – Waiting (for a miracle)
Pushing boundaries… subversive… uncompromising… single minded… fanatically independent… Dog Detachment's self invented brand of high pressure, storm trooping pop gained them legions of 'Dog' fans throughout the 80's. Abound with pulsating rhythms and steeped in menace and melancholy the band's three albums are still highly regarded by rock aficiandos (and rightly so). Released in 1985 "Waiting ( for a miracle)" was a Top 5 hit on radio that year and is taken from the Retro Fresh album "Best kept secrets" (Freshcd 115). Dog Detachment: Brian Armstrong – guitars, vocals; Terry Armstrong – bass, vocals; Alan Armstrong – drums; Mike Adams –guitar, bass, keyboards.

Petit Cheval – Magical Touch
In many respects it was unfortunate that Petit Cheval came from South Africa in the 80's. Coming from any other country, in any era, they would have been huge worldwide. They had all the right ingredients: fantastic pop songs, great musicians, a phenomenal live show and… Jon Selby. He was a star from day one when WEA's Kim Saville saw the embryonic lineup… no doubt about it! "Magical touch" was their debut single and it has the touch… the magical touch. Petit Cheval recorded and released one album (The voice of reason) and a mini album (The perfect gift) and for a two year period were one of the most exciting bands in the country. From the forthcoming Retro album "Young Lions".
Petit Cheval: Jon Selby – voice; Johan Griesel – bass; Craig Else – guitars; Sheldon Thomas – keyboards; Danny de Wet – drums. Licensed courtesy of Gallo Music.

No Friends of Harry – Competition rules
N.F.O.H can rightly claim the mantle of the first and most influential of the 'alternative/goth bands', for years they stood alone as the spokespersons for disillusioned white youth tired of the pop fodder dished out by radio. Fiercely independent, the band's uncompromising stand led to clashes with both the mainstream media and the record companies. "Competition rules" is a riveting piece of music, driven by the insistent drumming of Annette McLennan and the deep throated growl of husband Rob. From the forthcoming Retro Fresh N.F.O.H compilation. No Friends of Harry: Rob McLennan – vocals, guitars; Dave De Vetta – bass; Ian Wiggans – guitars; Annette McLennan – drums; Mark Williams –guidance. Licensed courtesy of N.F.OH

Asylum Kids – Schoolboy
It is often said that time dims the memory but for this writer Father Time has not eroded the spectacle of the 'Kids' in full fury-fuelled rock majesty! "Schoolboy" must rank as one of the greatest pop singles of all time, up there with the likes of "God save the Queen", "Whole lotta love" and "Rock around the clock". The Asylum Kids recorded two albums for WEA in the 80's,"Fight it with your mind" and "Solid Principles" before splitting up and going their separate ways (Robbi to Tribe After Tribe; Dino moved to LA and Steve Howells to form various bands including the Dynamics). From the forthcoming Retro reissue: "Black Poem Jugglers" Asylum Kids: Robbi Robb – guitars, vocals; Dino Archon – bass, vocals; Steve Howells – drums. Licensed courtesy of Gallo Music

The Helicopters – Mysteries and Jealousy
Sandwiched somewhere between the alternative/political bands and the new wave/punk outfits you will find the crystal clear pure pop of the Helicopters. Sometimes mocked for their fine and snazzy stage outfits and the gelled pompadour hairstyles nothing can detract from the fact that Vereeniging's finest were a great little pop band with catchy tunes and a desire to succeed. The band's string of Top 20 hits in the 80's started with "Mysteries and jealousy", testament to the strongly held opinion that Chief 'Copter Bernard Binns was arguably one of the best songwriters of the last couple of decades. Taken from the soon to be released Retro Helicopters compilation. The Helicopters: Bernard Binns – guitars, lead vocals; Pete Koen – guitar; Martin Ledger – bass; John Mason – keyboards; Franco de Nuzzo – drums. Licensed courtesy of Gallo Music

The Spectres – Teddy Bear
One of the most left of centre hit singles of late '88 was the endearing and somewhat macabre fairy tale story of Teddy Bear. The Spectres came to life in 1984 but it was only when vocalist Tara Robb joined in 1985 that things really started to gel for them. Their solitary album "Be bop pop" produced three great singles including "Ancient" and the title track, but the eternal "Teddy Bear" is the one that the fans still love the most… Sadly Tara passed away in September 2000. The Spectres: Tara Robb – vocals; Gary Rathbone –guitars, vocals; Alan Lusk – bass; Richard Frost – drums. From the forthcoming Spectres compilation on Retro. Licensed courtesy of Gallo Music … dedicated to Tara Robb.

Falling Mirror – Johnny calls the chemist
If there ever was an unlikely candidate for a No.1 pop single it would have to be Falling Mirror… but in 1986 the title track from their third album topped the Radio 5 charts and has gone on to become one of the most played and recognized rock songs of all time. This mini epic with its floating guitars and Dylanesque vocals is deceptively sinister, a love song gone wrong. The Mirror's four studio albums (five if you count the as yet unreleased "Hammerhead Hotel") are laced with dark imagery, psychotic poetry and some of the most beautiful music ever set to disc… in many ways its easy to understand why they are compared to the Syd Barrett period Pink Floyd. Falling Mirror: Neilen Mirror – voices; Alan Faull – guitars, keyboards; Tully McCully – bass, keyboards, vocals & programming. From the Retro Fresh album "Johnny calls the chemist" (Freshcd 112). Licensed courtesy of Spaced Out Sounds

The Dynamics - Thugs
Formed from the ashes of several punk, jive and other rock bands the Dynamics were conceived in 1983 in the City of Gold Fusing elements of ska, reggae, mbaqanga and township jazz they were the ultimate party band, energetic, free flowing, tight and joyous. The timeless and incredibly funky "Thugs" is taken from the Retro Fresh compilation "The Dynamics" (Freshcd 111).
The Dynamics: Harvey Roberts – tenor sax, vocals ; Jimmy Florence – keyboards, bass, trombone; Winston Nyaunda – alto sax; Steve Howells – drums. Licensed courtesy of The Dynamics

Peach – Complicated game
Girl bands? …the Amazons, Clout, The Insisters, etc… great bands but none of them had the smouldering, swaggering sexuality of Durban's Peach. Signed to EMI in 1980 their debut single "A lot of things" topped the charts and was followed a year later by another smash "Nightmare". However it's founder/guitarist Alan Rose's dramatic reworking of XTC's "Complicated Game" that really hits the 'g' spot … all jagged guitars, shuddering beats and breathless white girl on heat vocals of a then 17 year old Angie Peach. Taken from the forthcoming Retro Fresh reissue "On loan for evolution". Peach: Angie Peach – vocals; Alan Rose – guitars, vocals; Carol Wood-Greene – bass; Tini Tims – guitars; Penny Power – drums. Licensed courtesy of EMI Music. Dedicated to Penny Power.

Flash Harry – Shame on you
Combining a driving pop rock groove with biting and often satirical lyrics Flash Harry plied their trade throughout the 80's. Despite cult hits with songs like "No Football" and "Down at Marlene's" and a growing reputation as a live band Flash Harry didn't really break through into the pop mainstream until "Shame on you". Lifted from the band's second album "Take what you want" the song's loping white-boy reggae groove and infectious sing-a-long chorus makes it a great pop single.
Flash Harry: Keith Berel - guitars, lead vocals; Joh Hansen - bass; Gerry Salendis –keyboards; Fred Knowles – drums. Taken from the forthcoming Flash Harry retrospective on Retro Fresh.Licensed courtesy of Gallo Music.

The Sweatband – This Boy
If you had been at Jaggers in the mid 80's and witnessed the power of Sweatband in full flight then you would probably agree that live, there were few bands that could compare with the dynamic pairing of singer Wendy Oldfield and guitarist John Mair. Known for their no-holds-barred, take- no-prisoners approach to rock 'n roll the band exploded onto the scene in 1986 with "This Boy", the first single off their self titled debut album. Touring incessantly the band recorded a follow-up album that sadly never saw the light of day and the band split in the late 80's…Wendy to a highly successful solo career and John to studio and production work in Cape Town. The good news is that the upcoming Retro Sweatband compilation will include not only the debut album, but the entire unreleased second album. The Sweatband: Wendy Oldfield – vocals; John Mair – guitars, vocals; Dieter Stutz – bass; Leslie Cook – drums. Licensed courtesy of Martin Drake/John Mair.

Psycho Reptiles – Monster from the Bog
Call it psychobilly, ska pop, rockabilly punk…whatever! The fact remains that when it came down to having a good time in the last strange days of the 80's the Psycho Reptiles always delivered. Taken from their only album "Have beans will travel" this zany, irreverent five piece tore up the clubs (and radio) with "Monster from the bog". The band had split up by the time the new decade dawned with the Seale brothers crossing the ocean to the UK. Psycho Reptiles: Mike Seale – guitar, vocals; Graham Seale – bass; Adrian Hamilton – keyboards; Sarah Pontin – saxophone; Paul Toomer – drums. Licensed courtesy of David Gresham Records.

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