Posted in Latest News

South African Rock Legends: Piet Botha and Jack Hammer

It was 20 years ago….

This was the original entry on the South African Rock Files website (in February 2000) before being expanded into its own website on 21st January 2001.

Piet Botha Gypsy 2000

Discography:

Review:

SA Rock Digest Issue #47, 21 February 2000: The Digest caught Piet Botha and Jonathan Martin’s unplugged set at two different venues in Cape Town recently. First at the Big Tree in the Strand on the 12th February and again on the 17th February at the Whammy Bar in Table View.

These 2 musicians are incredibly talented and they entertained the enthusiastic crowds with songs from all 4 previous Jack Hammer albums, as well as Piet’s 2 solo Afrikaans outings.

They also played a few covers which included Nick Drake’s ‘Northern Sky’, Soul Asylum’s ‘Runaway Train’, Bob Dylan’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’, Led Zeppelin’s ‘Tangerine’, Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’, Guns ‘N Roses’ ‘Sweet Child ‘O Mine’ and Robert Johnson’s ‘Crossroads’.

Two brilliant evenings of Acoustic Afrikaans Alternative Folk Rock (pick one or all of the above) which will never be forgotten…
— Brian Currin, February 2000

Biography:

For over 30 years, Piet Botha has been working, playing and building a legendary reputation on the SA rock scene. He began writing songs and forming bands while still at school and then hooked up with Abner Smith at university to develop their acoustic duo. Botha then connected with the members of Tusk (Doc Barendse, Dino Salvatori and Derek Riley) to establish the band Raven. This hard-rocking four-piece won the “Beat 79” nation-wide competition for new rock groups and released the singles ‘Wheel Of Fortune’ and ‘The Horseman’ on David Marks’ Third Ear Label.

Botha then formed Catherine Wheel with the two members of Wildebeest, namely Dave Tarr and Colin Pratley. With Botha on bass, piano and mouth organ, the group expanded to a five piece and in 1981 the classic ‘Bushrock 1’ album was released. In 1984, Botha’s new band, Jack Hammer, was started with Boet Faber, Jan Maloney and Eric Birckenstock, but the band’s activities were put on hold when Botha relocated to the US in 1985. There he met Billy Bob Thornton with whom he began a strong friendship; Thornton also played drums and sang on the first Jack Hammer album. Twelve years later, Billy Bob Thornton won the “Best Actor” Academy Award for his part in the film ‘Slingblade’.

After returning to SA in 1986, Botha restarted Jack Hammer and for the next ten years they released four excellent and acclaimed SA rock albums – ‘Jack Of All Trades’ (1987), ‘The Judas Chapter’ (1990), ‘Ghosts On The Wind’ (1994) and ‘Death Of A Gypsy’ (1996). During 1995, Eckard Potgieter decided to grow his successful CD club, Mainline Music, into an SA record company, and Wildebeest Records was born with Piet Botha very much part of their plans. Wildebeest released the Jack Hammer albums alongside albums by Valiant Swart, Koos Kombuis, Transformers and the quirky Naaimasjiene.

In 1995 Jack Hammer played support for the Gauteng leg of the Uriah Heep/Deep Purple “Masters Of Rock” South African tour. Jack Hammer also supported one of Piet’s main influences, ZZ Top, on their SA tour. In 1997, Piet Botha and Wildebeest Records released Botha’s first solo album, the All-Afrikaans, “n Suitcase Vol Winter’, which has received critical and public approval. A second Afrikaans album, ‘Jan Skopgraaf’ was released in October 1999 and Piet toured South Africa with Jonathan Martin and Tertius du Plessis during November 1999 to promote this album and his back catalogue.

A Jack Hammer compilation titled simply ‘Anthology’ was released in January 2000 and featured tracks from all 4 previous albums plus 5 new recordings including a re-recording of their classic song ‘Fort Lauderdale’.

Piet and Jonathan Martin toured again in February 2000 to promote the ‘Anthology’ CD.

— Brian Currin, February 2000

Piet Botha

This was the original entry on the South African Rock Files website (in February 2000) before being expanded into its own website.

Piet Botha Gypsy 2000Discography:

Review:

SA Rock Digest Issue #47, 21 February 2000: The Digest caught Piet Botha and Jonathan Martin’s unplugged set at two different venues in Cape Town recently. First at the Big Tree in the Strand on the 12th February and again on the 17th February at the Whammy Bar in Table View.

These 2 musicians are incredibly talented and they entertained the enthusiastic crowds with songs from all 4…

View original post 539 more words

Posted in Blues, Brian's Best, Favourites, Jack Hammer News, Latest News, Music, Playlists, SA Music, SA Rock Digest

Get A Haircut, Get A Real Job

Piet Botha was born on the 18th July 1955 and passed away on the 2nd June 2019 (today a year ago).

Piet Botha

I created a mix inspired by attending a variety of Piet’s gigs over the years, and discovering some of his many and varied influences.

I have only just scratched the surface here, as Piet’s repertoire was vast, including Southern Rock, Metal, Blues, Reggae, Folk and more.

I have chosen some of the songs that Piet covered in concert, but for a bit of variety I have chosen different artists versions, such as The Rolling Stones’ “Dead Flowers” done by Poison and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” by Albert de Wet.

Some other Piet Botha-related mixes

Posted in Latest News

The Golden Age Of Rock & Roll

Classic 35 2

I love many different types and genres of music from many different eras, but for me the Golden Age Of Rock & Roll was the late 60’s and the 70’s. This pretty much also coincided with my pre-teen and teenage years, a very impressionable time.

Many Rock Legends started coming to the fore during this time and cemented their reputations with songs that still endure. The music from this era is not called Classic Rock for nothing, but at the time we just called it Rock.

The Golden Age Of Rock & Roll  is a series of  mixes of songs that I fondly remember, though not necessarily the big hits or well-known tunes. And maybe a track or two from that era that I have only discovered more recently, thanks to Mixcloud, Youtube and Facebook Groups like The Great Unknowns.

35 Classic 4

And then there is a series called Rock Legends.

Classic Rock Title Tracks

And another series called Rock Memories.

TD4

Posted in Latest News

Life Child 2012 Remix has an extra verse

Space Hymns

Take 1 of Life Child, which was an out-take from the Space Hymns sessions was remixed in 2012 with newly recorded guitar, drums, piano and strings, and released in 2014 on the Complete Discography 6CD set.

The sun is fading from your city Life Child
From where I stand it ain’t so pretty Life Child
I see your sun is going down
I see your wreckage on the ground oooh Life Child

Your seas are full of poisoned water Life Child
We took the place that was your daughter Life Child
And as our dirt is spread around
We build our houses off the ground oooh Life Child

EXTRA VERSE (not on original)
Nowhere to go, but going upwards Life Child
And now we know we are nothing Life Child
We spoiled the places that we own
We left an Eden full of sore
mmmm … Life Child

Came down…

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Posted in Latest News, Music, Playlists, Reviews, SA Music, SA Nostalgia, SA Rock Digest

Abstract Truth – 50 Years Ago

It was 50 years ago, round about this time, that acclaimed South African band Abstract Truth released their debut album, Totum. Before the end of 1970 a second album and a compilation had been issued. And then during 1971 the band imploded.

This is their story.

Abstract Truth
Abstract Truth – Ken E Henson, George Wolfaardt, Sean Bergen, Pete Measroch

Adapted from the sleeve notes for the RetroFresh CD release, July 2005

The band Abstract Truth existed only for a very short time, but it was a time of super-creativity. They played a fusion of blues, folk, jazz and Eastern music and lifted South African pop of the early 70’s from the syrupy blare of bubblegum music to new heights of progressive rock.

Abstract Truth (they shunned the prefix of “the” because they didn’t want to sound dogmatic) was the brainchild of one Kenneth Edward Henson (dubbed Ken E Henson by David Marks).

The band Abstract Truth existed only for a very short time, but it was a time of super-creativity. They exploded onto the Durban music scene early in 1969, released 2 studio albums during 1970 (as well as a compilation in the same year!) and, after numerous line-up changes, imploded in 1971.

Henson had been the guitarist in a band called the Leeman Ltd, which had formed in Durban in 1965. In 1966 he and the enigmatic Ramsay MacKay got together with ex-Navarones members Colin Pratley and Nic Martens to create Freedom’s Children, arguably South Africa’s greatest rock band. Clive Calder, who signed Abstract Truth to EMI in 1970, said in the early 2000s that Freedom’s Children in his opinion “was then and probably still is today (over 30 years later) the only South African rock group that, given the right circumstances in the right geographical location, could have become an internationally successful rock band just by being themselves and doing what they did.”

Henson was involved in the early single releases by Freedom’s Children, which were unbelievably credited to “Fleadom’s Children” because the government of the time considered the word “Freedom” as unacceptable! Henson then left Freedom’s Children to join The Bats for a six-week sojourn.

In 1969 Henson and sax-player Sean Bergin were in a jazz group called The Sounds. Henson says, “In February 1969 I was approached by the owner of a local hotel. He had heard that I played the sitar and asked if I could get together an exotic/Eastern-sounding outfit to back a belly dancer in the hotel’s disco/pub.” The pub was called “Totum” and was situated at the Palm Beach Hotel in Durban’s Gillespie Street.

Abstract Truth
Abstract Truth

Robbie Pavid, who had played drums for The Mods in 1967, remembers: “[The club owner] wanted a backing band for a belly dance act that would attract customers to his cocktail hour. Ken got hold of Brian Gibson who would play bass, formerly from the British group the 004’s, Sean Bergin who would play flute and sax, myself on percussion, who was with the band The Third Eye, and Ken on lead guitar and sitar. I was playing in The Third Eye at the same time as Abstract Truth (whose gig at “Totum” was a 5 to 7 cocktail hour gig) and would then rush off to The Third Eye gig…. ahh, what you can do when you are young!!!!”

A quote from a 1969 poster sums it up: “swing to Abstract Truth every night at Totum in the Palm Beach Hotel from five o’clock to seven.”

“To fill out the evening after the belly dancer had done her thing,” recalls Henson, “we started playing a hybrid of jazz standards, folk/rock and Eastern-type jams. We soon replaced the main attraction and the belly dancer was no more.”

“The music seemed to connect and flow from the very first night,” says Pavid, “so the belly dancer was duly dismissed and the band employed to continue in the very different style that evolved. Most evenings were packed out with young people eager to listen and experience the free form of sounds that flowed from the long improvised songs.”

Reporter Carl Coleman described their sound in a news article at the time as “totally unlike any other young group around Durban. They are probably the most advanced group in the country. Their music is exotic, progressive, and not commercial.”

“I suppose we’re something new musically”, said Henson in the same article. “Basically our sound is free-form music – we use the melody line, but improvise on solos. It’s really a fusion of blues, folk, jazz and Eastern music.”

Henson’s self-taught playing of the traditional Indian stringed instrument, the sitar, further enhanced the Eastern feel. “He plays this immensely difficult instrument with comparative ease”, said Coleman.

Brian Gibson came from Wales where he had started in cabaret. “I was into pop for two years then came to South Africa with a group known as the 004’s”.

Future Bats guitarist Pete Clifford was also in the 004’s and the band released a few singles and an album titled ‘It’s Alright’ in the mid-60’s. On the b-side of one of their singles was a version of boogie-woogie pianist Mose Allison’s ‘Parchman Farm’, which was later reworked by Abstract Truth and released on the ‘Totum’ album. This is not the same as Bukka White’s ‘Parchman Farm Blues’, which was recorded in 1937, though it does cover a similar theme.

The album ‘Totum’ was recorded in Johannesburg over a single weekend using a 4-track machine. The album was released in early 1970. “According to today’s standards it’s pretty rough,” says Henson, “but I guess it was an honest interpretation of what we were doing.”

Totum - 1970, Uptight, STIC 101
Totum – 1970, Uptight, STIC 101

In another newspaper review Coleman had this say about the release of Abstract Truth’s debut album: “Sean, Brian, Robbie and Ken have lifted South African pop from the syrupy blare of bubblegum music to new heights of progressive pop. What an achievement!”

The Freak Emporium online store had this brief review of ‘Totum’ on their website: “Excellent early ’70s melodic wistful freak rock blends with African sounds featuring assorted instruments: keyboards, flutes, electric guitars, saxophone, percussion, etc. A refreshing approach.”

Most of ‘Totum’ consists of unusual reworkings of jazz, folk and blues songs. The only band composition is the sitar-drenched ‘Total Totum/Acid Raga’. Donovan, Dylan, Gershwin, Simon and Garfunkel and others all get given the special Abstract Truth treatment that is reminiscent of early King Crimson in places.

at_totum_ad

3rd Ear Music had been involved with Abstract Truth from the beginning and mainman David Marks remembers that he had driven down to Cape Town to fetch Sean Bergin and George Wolfaardt to join a new Abstract Truth line-up. “Sean had been in the original band from mid-1969, but had returned to the Cape. Robbie Hahn had taken over – in what seemed to be a loose manager/friend’s role for Abstract Truth (before Big B Brian Pretorius was appointed manager.)” says Marks on the 3rd Ear Music website.

Brian Gibson left the band to go solo and then became a well-known gospel preacher. Gibson recorded a gospel album in 1981 entitled ‘Special Agent’, which was released on the Revelation label, distributed by WEA Records and co-produced by Hawk’s Dave Ornellas.

“The music of Abstract Truth was quite unique at the time as the line-up was totally different to what was generally happening,” remembers Robbie Pavid. “For me it was one of the best and most rewarding times of musical exploration and satisfaction. Playing with Ken especially was rewarding as we seemed to connect and go places musically.” Pavid then left Abstract Truth to devote his full attention to The Third Eye with Dawn and Ronnie Selby and they released three prog-rock albums between 1969 and 1970, but that’s another story.

David Marks takes up the story again: “Brian [Finch] and I wanted to get our musician friends Mike Dickman (acoustic guitar and vocals) and Pete Measroch (piano and vocals) – two born-and-bred Northern Suburbs Johannesburgers – down to stun Durban.”

“I’d heard George [Wolfaardt] playing with a three-piece Jimi Hendrix look-alike outfit in Cape Town [Elephant with Richard Black and Savvy Grande],” said Mike Dickman in July 2001, “and so, when Dave Marks happened to be going down there for some reason or another, I said to him: ‘Look – there’s this guy called George who plays the bass there. If you come across him, tell him we need him here…’ Oddly enough he did, and in the meanwhile we’d contacted Sean, so – in a single weekend – the band expanded. The band shifted quite rapidly into a fairly Zappa-esque mode, which wasn’t where I was headed, so I left, probably stupidly…”

“Mike Dickman couldn’t handle Durban,” says Marks, “he stayed for a gig or two and then went missing to re-surface in the Golden City back to his solo and wandering ways. Mike emigrated to France in 1985 – with French wife Vera – still playing guitar and translating Buddhist verse into French and English.”

A number of other musicians have played live as part of the ever-changing Abstract Truth line-up (Henson being the only stable factor) including Ian Bell, Eric Dorr, Harry Poulos, Ramsay MacKay and Brian Alderson. In late 1970, however, the line-up that recorded the superb ‘Silver Trees’ album was Ken E Henson (guitar, vocals), Peter Measroch (keyboards, flutes, vocals), Sean Bergin (flutes, sax) and George Wolfaardt (bass, flutes, drums).

Music collector and Abstract Truth fan John Samson wrote in the South African Rock Digest e-mag in 2002: “This is somewhat psychedelic prog that is full of swirling organ, steady rhythmic bass and loads of flute. In fact 3 of the 4 members of the group are credited as playing flute and it this that gives the album a lightness to it. Also of note is that there is only one song over the 4 minute mark, an unusual trait in a prog-rock album. The long song is the title track that features some awesome guitar from Ken E Henson and intricate organ playing from Peter Measroch.”

“Another interesting touch,” continues Samson, “is the African jive sound on the opening track ‘Pollution’ and the harpsichord on ‘Moving Away’, the former placing the album in Africa, the latter placing the album in Medieval Europe, both giving the album a sense of timelessness and universal appeal. It’s this wonderful brew of psychedelic, rock, jazz, classical, blues, funk and jive that makes this a special album that should be sought out, and with the wind instruments playing a major role on the album, this could make a really good (Retro) Fresh Flute Salad.”

“‘Silver Trees’ was an attempt to record our more structured, self-penned songs,” remembers Henson, “to make us a bit more accessible to the record company/record-buying public.” Unlike ‘Totum’, ‘Silver Trees’ features no cover versions and all the tracks were composed by various members of the band. The title track was co-composed by Mike Dickman, who had already left by the time this recording was laid down.

Silver Trees - 1970, EMI, PCSJ 12065
Silver Trees – 1970, EMI, PCSJ 12065

Peter Measroch has some interesting memories about the making of the album cover for ‘Silver Trees’: “The story behind that fuzzy looking cover is that the photo was shot by a Swiss photographer who was in South Africa for a while, Teak Glauser, I believe. Teak had been part of the group that had looked after Timothy Leary in Switzerland while he was on the run at one point apparently.

Anyway, he had come up with a photo technique where on a colour photo everything would appear normal except for objects that moved – these would get a rainbow aura around them, really trippy stuff. So the album cover was shot making sure that we all moved at the critical moment. EMI however refused to spring for a colour photo so it ended up just looking blurred in black and white. Oh well … the good ol’ bad ol’ days…”

Shortly after ‘Silver Trees’, EMI compiled an album called ‘Cool Sounds For Heads’ which featured tracks off both the ‘Totum’ and ‘Silver Trees’ albums and also included a previously unreleased track, ‘My Back Feels Light/What Can You Say’, which was probably an out-take from the ‘Silver Trees’ sessions.

Cool Sounds For Heads - 1970, EMI Parlophone, PCSJ 12070
Cool Sounds For Heads – 1970, EMI Parlophone, PCSJ 12070

The ‘History Of Contemporary Music Of South Africa’ by Garth Chilvers and Tom Jasiukowicz, published in 1994, has this to say: “Abstract Truth produced ‘head-music’ (i.e. inventive, mind-stimulating music) and were one of the most progressive groups in South Africa. Unfortunately not too many other heads were into their music and so, a group which could have gone on to better things broke up in 1971.”

Abstract Truth’s recorded output and short life span as a band is far outweighed by their willingness to stretch boundaries and the fondness with which are they treated by old and new fans alike.

File them under “Classic South African Rock” along with Freedom’s Children, Hawk, Suck and Otis Waygood.

In July 2005, Benjy Mudie from Fresh Music re-issued most of the tracks off Totum and Silver Trees on a single CD and on iTunes.

A final word from Ken E Henson: “The group is dear to my heart as my ultimate musical experience. I would love to have us get together after 35 years and see what transpires musically.”

Unfortunately this will now never happen as Henson sadly passed away on the 24th May 2007.

Brian Currin, July 2005, updated March 2020

Photos courtesy of 3rd Ear Music website, thanks to Dave Marks, June 2005.

abstract_truth350

Musicians (at various times):

  • Ken E Henson: guitar, vocals
  • Peter Measroch: piano, organ, flute, harpsichord, vocals
  • Mike Dickman: guitar, vocals
  • Robbie Pavid: drums, percussion
  • Ian Bell: flute
  • Brian Gibson: bass, vocals
  • Sean Bergin: flute, saxophone
  • George Wolfaardt: Bass, flute, drums, vocals
  • Brian Alderson: keyboards
  • Harry Poulos: guitar
  • Eric Dorr: flute
  • Ramsay Mackay: bass

Family Tree

Abstract Truth Family Tree by Brian Currin, July 2005
Abstract Truth Family Tree by Brian Currin, July 2005

 

Posted in Blogging, Facebook, Online Marketing, Small Business, Social Media Marketing, Technology Made Easy

Why YOU Need a Domain Name… Now!

Cuppa Web Marketing

Having your own domain name for your business is vital, even if you don’t have a website yet!

www

The online name you want could be taken soon… let Cuppa Web Marketing help you register your perfect domain namenow!

A domain name can point almost anywhere! To your Website, your Facebook, your Instagram, your Blog, or almost anywhere you have an online presence and can be changed at any time to point somewhere else as your business grows and your online presence changes.

Benefits:

  • It’s very professional, and actually essential
  • It is excellent for branding and marketing
  • Great for search engines
  • You can have your own personalised redirected email address, for example: you@yourname.com can redirect email to your.own.name@gmail.com

Examples:

www.kobusdurandtours.co.za points to a WordPress website
www.wendyoldfield.co.za points to an Online Music Store
www.webmarketer.co.za points to a WordPress website

Please contact Michelle on michelle@cuppadaisies.com or WhatsApp or use this form.

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