‘Rockville’. The word alone would seem to demand a respectful rock-on hand gesture to be waved proudly in the air (lizard-like tongue and crazy eyes optional). However, this is not your average hard-hitting, what-you-expect-is-what-you-get rock musical. If anything, it should be called a peace musical. Inspired by the ‘flower power’ concept of peace and love upheld during the time of the Vietnam War during the 1960s, the message that comes through loud and clear is one of change, hope, and the dire need to preserve our earth for future generations.
According to Rockville composer, Johnny Ray, Rockville 2069 can be briefly described as a “futuristic rock musical that is at heart a love story set against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic world.”
With buzz words like ‘1960’s Woodstock’, ‘sci-fi’, ‘rock’ and ‘post-apocalyptic’ running through my head, I’m not quite sure how to categorise the genre of this production; an umbrella term would simply not be accurate enough.
“The whole amazing Rodriguez story has inspired many people in many ways, specially with the film ‘Searching For Sugar Man’ bringing this moving story of this unique musician and his music to a whole new international audience. My good friend John Samson, an ex-South African now living in London, was inspired a few years ago to write a series of short stories that take the evocative lyrics from the ‘Cold Fact’ album as their starting point, and then proceeds to weave a series of sweet, strange, touching, and sometimes weird tales from this emerging writer’s extremely fertile brain. And always looming in the background of these tales is that man in black with the hat and the guitar, sometimes involved sometimes not, but always relevant, just like Rodriguez.” – Stephen “Sugar” Segerman, August 2012
Had a great evening on Saturday night at the launch of Rockville 2069.
Rockville 2069 is a futuristic rock musical that is at heart a love story set against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic world and steeped in the philosophies that characterise the rebellion of the sixties, the seventies and those that are currently shaping our world.
Rockville 2069 is a fully orchestrated production that sees over 60 artists and musicians from different cultural and musical backgrounds collaborating to bring a new, sometimes discordant, always thrilling voice to the rock musical scene. The result is an emotionally soaring journey of caution, hope, optimism, rebellion and joy. It’s a lyrical roller-coaster ride you’ll want to take again and again.
The music was written by Johnny Ray, arranged by Johnny Ray and Kyle Peterson and masterfully adapted and scored by Darryl Andrews. The album was produced by TLC productions and tracked and mixed at the Nut House Recording Studio, under the musical direction of Andrew Ford and mastered by Tim Lengfeld of TL Mastering. The CD distribution is contracted to EMI, and the release is due in early September. There are a total of 22 tracks on the album.
I often joke with people in the UK that I didn’t leave South Africa of my own free will, but was actually kicked out because I was not fanatical about rugby and I didn’t drink, both activities that white South African males are meant to excel at. I could also have said in 1996, when I moved from South Africa to the UK, that a further reason for my being exiled was that I did not own a copy of ‘Cold Fact’ by Rodriguez. However no one in the UK would have understood what I was talking about.
But now with Malik Bendjelloul’s brilliant film ‘Searching For Sugar Man’ bringing Rodriguez to the world’s attention, I can mention the omission in my music collection and not be met with question mark faces. I am still not a huge rugby fan and have not taken to drinking alcohol, but I did rectify the lack of ‘Cold Fact’ problem on one of my early trips back to SA a couple of years after moving. I had been familiar with the album’s distinctive cover from many an hour spent flicking through the albums at my local record shop, but as a teenager in the 80’s I was hell bent on finding the next big New Romantic band and had no interest in ‘fossil music’ as I thought of it back then.
A further reason for the lack of ‘Cold Fact’ in my collection was that I managed to avoid military training (where a lot of guys were introduced to Rodriguez’ music) and counted my days working at the Receiver of Revenue, which I regarded as the lesser of two evils. Purchasing ‘Cold Fact’ became almost mandatory when I was lucky enough to befriend Brian Currin and Stephen ‘Sugar’ Segerman, both of whom played a part in discovering the fate of Rodriguez. I was drawn into the world of the SA Rock Digest, an online music magazine focussing on South African Rock music, which Brian and Sugar had set up. With two such music aficionados as friends, I quickly discovered gaping holes in my music knowledge, especially regarding the rock scene in South African in the 70’s.
I began to correct this problem so as not to look foolish in front of my new found friends and part of the polyfilla (spackling paste to those not familiar with this brand) to mend the gaps was purchasing a copy of ‘Cold Fact.’ I don’t recall ever having heard the album before that and, given its banned status on the radio, could not have unknowingly heard it there, but as the first chords of ‘Sugar Man’ wafted through my speakers, I knew the song. It was as if it was a part of the ether in South Africa and had just soaked into me whether I had heard it or not. ‘I Wonder’ was also familiar to me and the rest of the album, although less soaked in, was also striking a nagging familiar chord.
Yes, unless you believe in the collective consciousness, I must have heard the album somewhere before that ‘first’ listen, but I cannot for the life of me remember where. That said, a part of me does like to believe that the music was just in the air we breathed in SA, that it was, and will always just somehow be there, as essentially part of life as oxygen and sunshine. This image, to me, seems to fit in with the mystical and almost mythical character that is Rodriguez.
Almost all the recent fan messages on the Sugarman.org website are from people saying they have never heard of Rodriguez before. Many even apologize for not listening to him in the 1970s.
I can’t remember when exactly I first heard ‘Cold Fact’. For me his music just always seemed to have been there. A number of the mixtapes from my teenage years show “Sugar Man”, “Rich Folks Hoax” and “I Wonder” as being from 1973/74 when I was about 14/15.
I was wrong, of course, but didn’t know that until much later.
A long time ago, I compiled a series of C90 mixtapes called The Story Of Rock, with all the information lovingly catalogued and hand-written in hard cover books.
Page 13 of Book 7 shows the track listing for “The Story Of Rock 1973 to 1974” and includes the following songs:
Long Train Running – The Doobie Brothers
We Live – Xit
Sugar Man – Rodriguez
Radar Love – Golden Earring
Smoke On The Water – Deep Purple
Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
The Ballad Of Casey Deiss – Shawn Phillips
Rich Folks Hoax – Rodriguez
We’re An American Band – Grand Funk Railroad
Other artists include Led Zeppelin, The Allman Brothers Band, Yes, Focus, Chicago and more. And Rodriguez was the only one that got two entries! The next page shows “The Story Of Rock 1974 to 1976” and includes “I Wonder” alongside songs by Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, Thin Lizzy, Rory Gallagher, Pink Floyd, Genesis, David Bowie, Frank Zappa, Uriah Heep, Nazareth and others.
I am finding it impossible to imagine what it must be like to not grow up listening to his music alongside all those other well-known classic rock bands. I know I never heard him on the radio, but that wasn’t that strange as a number of my “Story Of Rock” artists didn’t get much radio play any way.
But that he wasn’t famous in the rest of the world, didn’t cross my mind. When I first discovered the internet during the 1996 Festive Season, I could find information on Pink Floyd and Deep Purple, however I could find nothing on Rodriguez. And that started me on a quest, that just seems to be continuously having happy endings.
Without trying to sound too melodramatic, I would not be living the life I do now, and earning my income from doing what I love, if it was not for Rodriguez and all the sparks that he ignited.
Rockville 2069 is a relevant and contemporary rock musical set to create a new shift in this genre. It is a fully orchestrated production that sees over 60 artists and musicians from different cultural and musical backgrounds collaborating to bring a new, sometimes discordant, always thrilling voice to the rock musical scene.
The musical is the creative brainchild of composer Johnny Ray, who dreamed up the concept of communicating the story through a graphic novel after attending a comic festival, having noticed a gap in the market for a production that combines the current zeitgeist taste for sweeping sci-fi fantasies with a decidedly lyrical mode of execution. It was then decided to further explore the sci-fi theme by means of a graphic novel that would serve to launch the new-fangled epic on both the music- and literary scenes.
Concert for the CD Launch of Rockville 2069 takes place on Saturday the 18th of August at Kelvin Grove in Newlands, Cape Town. Doors open at 20h00, show starts at 20h30.
‘Cold Fact‘ by the artist simply known as Rodriguez was one of the world’s great lost albums. It is now gaining attention through the documentary ‘Searching For Sugar Man‘ which tells the remarkable story of this mysterious singer.
‘Cold Fiction’ is a book of 12 short stories, each inspired by the 12 tracks on Rodriguez’ album. The stories are not a re-telling the songs, but rather they take inspiration from a line or lines in the lyrics, the title of the song, and in one case from a rumour that sprung up in South Africa about Rodriguez’ death.
Warning: This book does contain some adult themes and is not suitable for young people.
Below is a brief synopsis of each story as well as a note on where the inspiration for the story came from. All 12 stories are works of fiction and any similarity to any person living or dead is merely coincidental.
The Sugarman was afraid of sugar mice. The Gingerbread man was in search of a fix of sugar and the best quality stuff was found by licking the Sugarman. In return for a few licks, the Gingerbread man tries to help the Sugarman overcome his fear.
(Inspired by the title – Sugarman and the line ‘You’re the answer, that makes my questions disappear)
Only Good For Conversation
A man meets a stunning girl in a pub who turns out to be a friend of a friend. However, all his advances are met with a lack of physical contact. Convinced that, despite this quirk, she likes him, he endeavours to find out why this girl, whom a stranger in the pub had referred to as the coldest bitch he knows, is only good for conversation.
(Inspired by the title and the line ‘You’re the coldest bitch I know’)
Crucify You Mind
James has a brand new shiny secret. He keeps it in a box under his bed, but lives in fear that Tom may find it. James also collects answers, white lies, excuses and such bric-a-brac. Despite Tom warning him about the dangers of keeping other people’s secrets, he still goes out in search of more. This new secret though, ends up causing more problems than it was worth.
(Inspired by the line ‘Secrets shiny and new’)
The Establishment Blues
Major Jim Weatherman is having a bad day. The correct statistics on crime had been released to the press, leading the public to believe that he was honest. It also looks like his main rival D’Aggio (who had been jailed for submitting accurate expense claims) was about to get out early for bad behaviour, and there is a distinct possibility that he may have to lower taxes. The public would crucify him if he did. Could his day possibly get any worse?
(Inspired by the lines ‘Mayor hides the crime rate’ and ‘Public gets irate but forget the vote date’)
Hate Street Dialogue
The Childwoman escapes from the inner city which birthed her and runs into in the wilderness where she meets a pig with a hose tired round his neck. The pig tells her that in order to be free of the hate the inner city has caused her to harbour, she has to find the Hanging Tree of Hate Street and swallow the bitter leaf from the tree. If she succeeds, she will be free, but if she spits the leaf out, she will carry the hate forever.
(Inspired by the lines ‘The pig and hose have set me free’ and ‘I’ve tasted hate street’s hanging tree’)
Dave, the lead singer of South African band The Imaginary Facts performs an impromptu version of ‘Forget It’ on the country’s prime time radio show. The pain and hurt he injects into the vocals send the group spinning into the big time and they are soon selling out stadiums across the country. But Dave is a bit unstable and obsessed with the rumour that Rodriguez shot himself on stage after singing ‘Forget It’.
(Inspired by the rumour that Rodriguez shot himself on stage after singing ‘Forget It’.)
Inner City Blues
A suicide bomber tells of his preparations to explode a bomb on the tube/subway. We follow him from his flat where he has said goodbye to his wife and daughter as though it were a normal day, out onto the streets where he is confronted by all the evils he sees in the world. But all is not as it seems with this bomber.
(Inspired by the lines ‘Going down a dirty inner city side road I plotted’ and ‘Mama, Papa stop’)
Ian Dale’s home is invaded by a group of gangsters. He is tied to a chair in his living room while his wife is kept in the bedroom. He is then offered an impossible choice – if he has sex with an ‘infected’ girl his wife will be set free, if he doesn’t, she will be killed.
(Inspired by the line ‘I wonder how many times you’ve had sex, I wonder do you know who’ll be next’)
A husband and wife, whose marriage is on the rocks, are surprised when their thoughts start being mouthed by a pet monkey in the wife’s case and a young woman patient in the husband’s case. Things get more complicated when they both encounter their spouse’s ‘thought mouthers’.
(Inspired by the line ‘Cos a monkey in silk is a monkey no less’ and Janis in the title that made me think of Janis Joplin’s song ‘Mercedes Benz’)
Gommorah (A Nursery Rhyme)
69 is a Sex M digit, living in a world that is run by thought herders and genetechs. He knows a little of Gommorah, the time before, but his thoughts are constantly monitored by the T-Probes that criss-cross the pen when he lives. He has applied to have a genesplice with 13, a pretty Sex F, but his world is turn upside down when he encounters 220, who had accidentally had too much Gommorahian DNA put in his genes. 220 starts talking of a place he calls ‘outside’ a concept that nearly makes 69 mindmelt.
(Inspired by the lines ‘You know my name well’ and ‘You won’t find in any book’)
Rich Folks Hoax
A war photographer survives a village massacre while covering a story around rebels. The whole village is obliterated along with his fellow reporters. The only other survivors are a local woman and her baby. Together they bury the dead, then head off in search of help, but the rebels return.
(Inspired by the lines ‘The moon is hanging in the purple sky ‘ and ‘Baby’s sleeping while its mother sighs’)
Jane S. Piddy
Jane S. Piddy, an 85 year old, decides to Google her name and is astounded when she finds that a man called Rodriguez has not only written a song, the title of which is the same as her name, but it also refers to Ruth and Rosemary, her sisters. She is further amazed to see that he is playing a concert the next day at a venue not far from where she lives. She decides to attend the concert, but maybe her mind is not quite as good as it should be.
(Inspired by the line ‘Dancing Rosemary, disappearing sister Ruth’)
The greatest benefit of a lifestyle business is freedom. But usually we find that freedom does not just appear out of nowhere; it requires a shift in mindset and the corresponding action. – Chris Guillebeau