Posted in Music Research, My Favourite SA Songs, Reviews and Interviews, Sleeve Notes & Biographies, South African Music, Videos, What Am I Listening To?

Radio Rats – ZX Dan

Radio Rats – Into The Night We Slide
Radio Rats – ZX Dan
Radio Rats – ZX Dan

‘ZX Dan’, the album’s opening track, is a wonderful piece of new wave space-rock whose similar lyrical theme is a nod to David Bowie‘s 1972 smash hit, ‘Starman’. The song was also inspired by the 1977 Stephen Spielberg film ‘Close Encounters Of The 3rd Kind‘, and has a more polished production than the rest of the album, which is a closer reflection of the band’s raw live energy.

‘ZX Dan’ is still considered one of South Africa’s greatest pop rock songs of all time. In “The SA Rock Digest/Amuzine End Of The Century Big Vote” held at the end of 1999, ‘ZX Dan’ received the second most number of votes in the “All time favourite SA song” category, just behind Bright Blue’s classic, ‘Weeping’.

‘ZX Dan’ was released as a single (backed by ‘Rocking’) and it entered the Radio 5 (now 5FM) charts at number 15 on New Year’s Eve 1978. The song implores the listener to “turn up your radio, and play me that rock and roll”, and it seems that is exactly what the public did. The song scuttled up the charts until peaking at No. 2 on 28 January 1979, where it stayed for two weeks. It was kept off the cherished No. 1 spot by Michael Jackson.

The original album version of ‘ZX Dan’ featured a brilliant, lengthy play-out guitar solo by Jonathan Handley, but sadly this was edited on the single version, which later appeared on the ‘Best Of SA Pop Volume 2‘ CD.

All the songs on ‘Into The Night We Slide’ were generally written by Handley in the Wimpy Bar, The Palladium, and a café in Springs. The album contains references to some very weird and wonderful characters and places, based on his observations of life in this East Rand town. ‘Plague Cafe’ is about a real place on 3rd Street and ‘A Visit To The Cinema’ is a reference to the old movie house ‘The Palladium’.

Lyrics

My name is ZX Dan, I am a spaceman.
My galaxy is doomed, so I’ve moved to your moon.
So turn up your radio, and play me that rock and roll,
Stop feeling so blue – I’m coming down to you.

I’ve watched you on my screen, you’re sweet, sweet sixteen
I’ve monitored your mind, You’re just the loving kind…
So turn up your radio, and play me that rock and roll,
Stop feeling so blue – I’m coming down to you.

Meet me tonight at your window;
Dress warmly for absolute zero
And I’ll come down as quiet as the snow
And we’ll go for a glide in my U.F.O.

The whole of outer space, is tuned into the human race
From pole to frozen pole, your world transmits rock & roll
So turn up your radio, and play me that rock and roll,
Stop feeling so blue – I’m coming down to you.

Written by Jonathan Handley 12 April 1978


Die Lemme – ZX Dan feat Radio Rats, released 10 October 2013


Radio Rats Family Tree
Radio Rats Family Tree | Brian Currin, November 2002

Website

radiorats.co.za

Posted in Charts, Cover Art, Music Research, Reviews and Interviews, Sleeve Notes & Biographies, South African Music, Updates

McCully Workshop: After More Than 50 Years The Workshop Is Still Open

McCully WorkshopMcCully Workshop 2016

McCully Workshop is arguably one of South Africa’s finest pop rock bands. They started way back in the ’60’s, had their first hit single in 1970, dominated the South African airwaves in the ’70’s, continued through the ’80’s and ’90’s and in the 21st century are still going strong.

IN THE BEGINNING

When asked about their beginnings, vocalist, bassist and producer Tully McCullagh had this to say: “My brother, Mike, who plays drums and myself would play around and record ourselves in the lounge, I was about nine at the time. We recorded a track called ‘Swinging Time’ with some other friends when I was thirteen and sent it to a record company. The track didn’t get anywhere but it was quite interesting. We grew a bit more and when I was sixteen we started a band called McCully Workshop and a whole string of other bands and I started a garage studio.” McCully Workshop has had many line-up changes over the years, but these 2 talented brothers have always surrounded themselves with superb musicians. In 1965, the McCullagh brothers, Tully (born Terence on 31st May 1953) and Mike (born Michael on 7th April 1947) started as a folk-rock trio with Richard Hyam and called themselves the Blue Three. Hyam had previously been in a folk duo, Tiny Folk, with his sister Melanie. After a few personnel- and name-changes, like The Blue Beats and Larfing Stocke, the line-up settled down (for a while) in 1969 and they called themselves the McCully Workshop because they used to rehearse in Mrs McCullagh’s garage. Vocalist Glenda Wassman later married Richard Hyam, and then formed the pop band Pendulum who had a big hit with ‘Take My Heart’ in 1976. Glenda Hyam then went on to major success with the all-girl group, Clout, who had a worldwide smash hit with ‘Substitute’, which went to #2 in the UK in 1978.

McCULLY WORKSHOP INC.

Their debut album, ‘McCully Workshop Inc.’ was produced by great South African singer and producer Billy Forrest (born William Boardman). The album features a variety of styles and influences including The Beatles, Frank Zappa and early Pink Floyd. The Forced Exposure website has this quote: “A superb South African band’s stunning debut album. ‘Sgt. Pepper’ influenced psychedelic music blended with R&B, garage punk tunes. Great songs, lovely vocals, strong harmonies, great distorted guitar work.”
Why Can't It Rain
Why Can’t It Rain
‘Inc.’ was released in June 1970 and included the epic and powerful ‘Why Can’t It Rain’, which went to #12 on the Springbok Radio charts in July 1970 and reached #13 on the LM Radio charts. This hit single featured a fiery guitar solo by Allan Faull who went on to form the eclectic Falling Mirror with his cousin Nielen Marais. Tully McCullagh was also very involved with Falling Mirror, but that’s another story… McCully Workshop also played on country-pop singer Jody Wayne’s ‘The Wedding’ in 1970 which hit #1 for 3 weeks on the Springbok Radio charts.

GENESIS

Genesis
Genesis
The follow-up to ‘Inc’ was the album ‘Genesis’ released in June 1971. This was a concept album based on the book of Genesis from the Bible and included a number of long tracks with sub-sections, typical of other prog-rock albums of the time. ‘Sweet Fields Of Green’ was released as a single, reaching #2 on the LM Radio charts in August 1971. The follow-up single ‘Birds Flying High’ (actually the flipside of ‘Rainbow Illusion’), recorded during the ‘Genesis’ sessions, but not included on the album, peaked at #9 on the LM Radio charts. Crocodile Harris (born Robin Graham), recorded the haunting pop classic ‘Miss Eva Goodnight’ (Springbok #5, April 1974) which was written by the McCullagh brothers and featured the musicianship of all the then current McCully Workshop members. Harris’s classic pop hit ‘Give Me The Good News’ released in 1982 was co-composed by Crocodile Harris along with Geoff Coxall. Tully McCully produced this single and played on it.

RICHARD BLACK

Richard Black (born 9th December 1946) joined McCully Workshop on guitar in 1975. Black had been playing since the early 60’s in bands like Rigar 5 and the Nu-Trends. In 1969 he had been in Elephant with Savvy Grande (who went on to form Suck) and George Wolfaardt from Abstract Truth.

AGES

Ages‘ was released in 1975 which reflected musical styles from the different ages of music and various influences could be heard: Uriah Heep, The Beatles, The Kinks, The Beach Boys, etc. The vocal harmonies are superb throughout. ‘1623’ is a wonderful violin-led instrumental and the keyboard-dominated ‘Guinevere’ reached #10 on the LM Radio charts and the band even appeared on the very early days of South African TV playing this hit song.

RUPERT MELLOR

In 1977 the best-known incarnation of McCully Workshop was formed with the addition of Rupert Mellor (born Anthony Rupert Mellor, 7th August 1947). Mellor had been in a variety of bands including The Difference, First Acquaintance, Hell’s Disciples, The Hedgehoppers and The Claude Larson Singers (yes, really).

WORKSHOP REVISITED

The 4th McCully Workshop album, ‘Workshop Revisited’, released in late 1977 shot them to prominence when it introduced South African fans to the hits ‘Buccaneer’ and ‘Chinese Junkman’.
Workshop Revisited
Workshop Revisited
‘Buccaneer’ entered the Springbok Radio charts on 11th November 1977 and spent 15 weeks on the charts, reaching the coveted top spot on 30th December that year and staying there for 2 weeks. ‘Buccaneer’ also hit #1 on the Radio 5 charts and Mike McCullagh won the 1978 ‘Songwriter Of The Year’ award for this composition. The follow-up single ‘Chinese Junkman’ entered the charts in March 1978 and peaked at number 9, spending a total of 8 weeks in the top 20. However on the Radio 5 charts it followed ‘Buccaneer’ to number 1. The next single which was released in 1978 was the non-album track ‘Villa Muddy Water’ which unfortunately did not chart.

CANTERBURY TALES

Canterbury Inn, Fairmead Hotel, Rondebosch
McCully Workshop used to play in the late ’70’s at the Canterbury Inn at the Fairmead Hotel in Rondebosch, Cape Town. They were famous for their comedy, ripping off many of the politicians and sportsmen of the day. On Saturday nights McCully Workshop were the resident dance band, and on Sunday nights wonderful renditions of classic progressive rock tunes could be heard. Chicago’s version of The Spencer Davis Group’s ‘I’m A Man’ (with a very long percussion section including all the band members), Barry Ryan’s ‘Eloise’, Traffic’s ‘Feelin’ Alright’ and of course their own songs like ‘Buccaneer’, ‘Fame And Fortune’, ‘Come Let Me Love You’ and ‘Dancin’ Tonite’ were all included in the set list. Of course no dancing was allowed on a Sunday in those dark days, so the audience had to just sit and listen… and listen they did (I know, ‘cos I was there).

THE EIGHTIES AND NINETIES

During the turbulent ’80’s a number of singles were released including a powerful re-recording of ‘Buccaneer’ featuring the guitar talents of Jethro Butow, but with no chart success. Richard Black co-founded Street Level Productions with James Stewart. Black released an instrumental solo CD ‘Skadu Dans’ (Shadow Dance) in 1997. In 1998 the line-up from the late ’70’s reformed and re-recorded the McCully Workshop classics and hits as well as 6 new songs and released the album ‘Buccaneer‘. ‘Why Can’t It Rain’ also received a make-over losing none of its power and gaining an even stronger production. Allan Faull again featured as guest guitarist.

IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM

Tully McCullagh kept running his extremely successful Spaced-Out Sounds Studio in Cape Town. He wrote most of the songs and played bass on the highly acclaimed 2003 release by Cape Town rockers BlueScream. Mike McCullagh had directed many popular musicals since 1988, most notably “Tribute To Bob Dylan”, “Beatlemania” (for Artscape), “Station 70”, “Sixty Something”, “Eighty Something” and “Milestones To The Millennium”. Rupert Mellor, a sort-after session musician, could be seen performing in and around Cape Town. Mellor and Black along with Flibbertigibbet’s Dave Williams on fiddle, released ‘Sheriff Bush and Deputy Blair’ as an mp3 single in January 2003. Calling themselves the Nukular Stompers they saw this novelty song topping the SAmp3.com charts for 3 weeks and they even appeared on eTV.

BIG IN KOREA

In 2003 a Korean label, Beatball Records, re-issued the first album, ‘McCully Workshop Inc.’ in a mini-gatefold cover. This CD re-issue included detailed sleeve-notes and a printed version of the online Family Tree.

THE WORKSHOP RE-OPENS

McCully Workshop re-formed in 2003 doing a large outdoor concert at Buitenverwachting which attracted over 2000 patrons. Then in 2004 they performed at Grand West for the Reach For A Dream foundation and raised more than R70000 for them. Other gigs followed in Paarl and Stellenbosch over the next 4 years.

REACHING FOR A DREAM

In 2005 McCully Workshop finally released a much-demanded ‘Best Of‘ CD. All tracks were newly remastered by Tully McCullagh at his Spaced Out Sound Studio, though in some cases the master tapes were missing, so the original vinyl had to be used. A brand new song, ‘Reaching For A Dream’ was also included on the ‘Best Of’ CD. This uplifting song was composed by all 4 members of McCully Workshop with lyrics by Alistair King and was used as part of a campaign for the Reach For A Dream Foundation.

LIVE!

McCully Workshop at Die Boer
L-to-R: Richard, Mike, Tully, Rupert
McCully Workshop at Die Boer, L-to-R: Richard, Mike, Tully, Rupert
In early 2008 McCully Workshop played gigs at Die Boer in Durbanville & the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens to capacity crowds. A live album recorded at these venues, ‘McCully Workshop Live!’ was released in March 2008 and launched at a series of concerts at The Barnyard Theatre in Willowbridge. This album also included a new studio recording, ‘The Aliens Are Landing’. “Our version of ‘Blueberry Hill’, well known from Canterbury days became an on-demand classic again and is on the ‘Live!’ CD” said Mike McCullagh.

TO INFINITY AND BEYOND

Work In Progress, 2013
Work In Progress, 2013
In 2009 McCully Workshop started working on a new album using new mics developed by Tully, which gave the sound an American feel. The album was scheduled for release in 2010 but ‘Work In Progress‘ eventually only saw the light of day in 2013. Journeyman musician Gordon Mackay, who with his brother Duncan, had started in the late 60’s with the band Tricycle, was added to the line-up playing guitars, keyboards, violin and also singing. Gordon had appeared on the acclaimed 1974 Prog Rock album ‘Chimera’ by Duncan Mackay. In 2015 the band won best South African group in the annual Wawela Awards with ‘Money In Your Pocket’ (featuring the rapper Brown) voted the best song off the ‘Work In Progress‘ album. They travelled to Johannesburg to receive the award and discovered that many black musicians held them in high esteem!
Infinity, 2019
Infinity, 2019
Tully sold his studio in Cape Town and built one at his home in Camps Bay which was finished in October 2019. A new album ‘Infinity‘ was released in October 2019 to critical acclaim. In January 2020, Richard Black emigrated to the UK. During 2020, Tully and Gordon, as McCullagh MacKay, recorded an album of all new keyboard-driven songs in the style of 70’s Prog Rockers Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Rick Wakeman. After more than 50 years the Workshop is still open for business… Brian Currin, Cape Town, South Africa, July 2020
McCully Influence The music industry has felt our influence world wide as the Tulmic [microphone developed by Tully] is now generally accepted as the world’s best guitar mic and my son James … who started doing live sound from the age of 17 and worked extensively with Tully in the studio has now become one of the world’s top sound engineers having worked with top artists like JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE, USHER, MILEY CYRUS, JOURNEY, JOE BONAMASSA, ADELE, KATY PERRY, ROGER TAYLOR AND QUEEN EXTRAVAGANZA and many more … and is held in very high esteem overseas. He is currently with THE BACKSTREET BOYS  and 2 years ago when he joined them he innovated their live sound by re-recording all their original tracks with a live band so it sounds like they have a real band behind them as he can mix all the tracks separately … shortly after other artists using tracks copied him … now they all do it … he has also appeared on the cover of the top Sound Magazine in the US last year. And we all know how successful KEVIN SHIRLEY has become having been taught by Tully. Mike McCullagh, 22 July 2020
 
At The Movies ‘Buccaneer’ was used in the movie ‘Moffie’ this year and 2 songs  ‘Hardcase Woman’ and ‘Gunpoint’ were used as soundtracks in the ‘Space’ movie …… we also had a track from ‘Work In Progress’ called ‘100 miles per hour’ by Rupert (Mellor) used in another movie ‘Shepherds And Butchers’ in 2017. Mike McCullagh, 22 July 2020
Posted in Cover Art, Music Research, Sleeve Notes & Biographies, South African Music

Piet Botha 18 July 1955 to 2 June 2019

Piet Botha was born in 1955 and shared his birth date of 18th July with Nelson Mandela. He began writing songs and forming bands while still at school and his first professional gig was as an acoustic duo in 1974 at a local drinking hole in Pretoria.

Piet Botha was the son of the former South African Minister of Foreign Affairs Pik Botha (not to be confused with P.W. Botha). Pik Botha, who served during the last years of the apartheid era was considered to be a liberal, at least in comparison to others in the ruling National Party and among the Afrikaner community at the time.

From 1981 to 1983 Piet Botha was involved with Wildebeest which was one of the first bands to mix rock music with Afrikaans lyrics and recorded ‘Bossies’, a song about the South West African / Angolan Border War, which was very much a no-no during those Apartheid times.

In 1984 he co-founded the Blues Rock group Jack Hammer which was more than just a band, it was a collective of musicians that somehow survived the strange machinery that is the South African music industry and produced some sterling original albums over the years. Since their first performance the one constant factor in the band had been the man affectionately known as “Hammer”, Piet Botha.

During 1985, Piet Botha lived in Los Angeles, working construction, and other immigrant jobs by day, and writing and recording by night.

During the 1990’s Jack Hammer opened for Deep Purple and Uriah Heep on their “Masters of Rock” tour and were also privileged to be the supporting act for ZZ Top (one of Botha’s prime influences) on their South African tour.

During 1997 Botha was asked to write and record an Afrikaans album. The result was the all-Afrikaans ‘‘n Suitcase Vol Winter‘ album, which is considered a classic by many and a superb example of the groundbreaking Alternative Afrikaans genre. A second Afrikaans album ‘Jan Skopgraaf’ followed in 1999. The Jack Hammer ‘Anthology’ album was released in early 2000.

Botha was one of the first musicians inducted into the South African Rock Hall Of Fame in January 2002.

In August 2003, another Afrikaans album, ‘Die Mamba‘, was released and received much critical acclaim, including being voted the best album of 2003 by the influential SA Rock Digest e-mag.

In February 2006 a “Tribute To Piet Botha” gig was held in Pretoria to celebrate the music and life of Piet Botha. This whole day event included performances by many South African artists, all paying tribute to the influence, friendship and mentorship of this humble musician.

On the 6th May 2006 Piet Botha was awarded a South African Music Awards Lifetime Achievement Award for his contribution to South African music. He was also awarded a Prestige Award by the FAK in September 2006 for his contribution to the Afrikaans language.

In May 2008 at the annual STRAB festival in Mozambique, Jack Hammer released the critically-acclaimed album, ‘Highway 13‘.

In 2011 Botha appeared in the television series “Wie Lê Waar” (Who Lies Where) on the Afrikaans TV channel kykNET. In the programme he visits the graves of famous Afrikaner icons and tells about their lives. The series led indirectly to the recording and release of the very popular ‘Spookpsalms‘, Botha’s first solo album in 8 years.

In 2012 Piet cemented his over two decades of friendship and brotherhood with the Akkedis band, by releasing a collaborative album under the name “The Lyzyrd Kyngs”. The name comes from a Jim Morrison poem, “The celebration of the Lizard King”. The weird spelling is a combination of ancient English and a serious reference to Lynyrd Skynyrd, a band that has been a source of inspiration for more than thirty years.

A second Lyzyrd Kyngs album ‘A Few Grains Of Sand‘ was released in October 2014.

Jack Hammer’s ‘Handful Of Rain‘, released January 2016, came after many years spent touring, and is an ode to the road, a book of songs, a collection of quiet reflections of a man looking back on his life as a touring musician. Songs of rivers, highways and impossible love: these are the main motifs of this album.

In February 2018 Piet Botha released ‘Die Middernagtrein‘, an album of gypsies, ghosts and other stories of life and living.

Piet Botha played as often as he could. Sometimes solo or as duo, sometimes with Jack Hammer or The Lyzyrd Kyngs. He played not only because his fans loved to see him, but as John Lee Hooker sang, “it’s in him and it got to come out”.

Piet Botha passed away on the 2nd June 2019 after a short battle with cancer.

On the 18th July 2020, to celebrate Piet’s birthday, a digital live album ’13 Towns’ was released.

by Brian Currin, October 2012, updated July 2020

[Reprinted on 20th July 2020 in Saffer Worldwide magazine]

Posted in Cover Art, Music Research, Playlists, Reviews and Interviews, Sleeve Notes & Biographies, South African Music, Updates

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 - Ken E Henson, George Wolfaardt, Sean Bergen, Pete Measroch
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.

Spotify

Mixcloud

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.

Totum Advert
Totum Advert

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 Truth CD
Abstract Truth CD 2005

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 Cover Art, Music Research, Playlists, Reviews and Interviews, Sleeve Notes & Biographies, South African Music

McCully Workshop Inc.

McCully Workshop Inc.
McCully Workshop Inc.

Tracks:

1. Why Can’t It Rain [4.12]
2. Hardcase Woman [2.34]
3. Ice Lover [3.05]
4. Four Walls [2.40]
5. Stargazer [2.48]
6. Rush Hour At Midnight [3.42]
7. Jackin’ Around [2.04]
8. Head For The Moon [4.00]
9. The Circus [4.00]
10. Years Of My Life [3.19]
11. Fast Car [3.41]
12. Séance [3.05]

 

Release information:

LP: June 1970, Trutone, STO 727
CD: February 2003, Merry-Go-Round Records,
a division of Beatball Music (Korea), BMRC-0001
CD: October 2009, Fresh Music, freshcd167

Musicians:

  • Tully McCully: Vocals, bass, guitar
  • Mike McCully: Vocals, drums
  • Richard Hyam: Rhythm and acoustic guitars, vocals
  • Glenda Wassman: Organ, vocals
  • Ian Smith: Trumpet, flute, flugelhorn

Additional musicians:

  • Allan Faull: Lead guitar on ‘Why Can’t It Rain’, ‘The Circus’, ‘Hardcase Woman’ and ‘Stargazer’
  • Alan van der Merwe: Vocal harmony and organ on ‘Why Can’t It Rain’ and ‘Stargazer’
  • Melanie Hyam: Vocal harmonies on ‘Why Can’t It Rain’ and ‘Rush Hour At Midnight’
  • Produced by Billy Forrest

Sleeve  Notes:

“Of all the albums we’ve heard from South Africa this one scores top. What a beautiful masterpiece. Pepper-influenced underground music with great songs, lovely vocals, strong harmonies, great distorted guitar work.” — review on Psychedelic-Music.com website.

The McCullagh brothers, Tully (born Terence on 31st May 1953) and Mike (born Michael on 7th April 1947), have been an integral part of the South African music scene for five decades now.

In 1965 they started as a folk-rock trio with Richard Hyam and called themselves the Blue Three. Richard had been in a folk duo, Tiny Folk, with his sister Melanie. After a few personnel and name changes, like The Blue Beats and Larfing Stocke, the line-up settled down (for a while) in 1969.

“I had my own studio in the garage since I was 12” remembers Tully. It was a single garage in the garden of their home in Plumstead, in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town. The brothers’ father, radio personality Michael Drin (his stage name), painted the name “McCully Workshop, Inc.” on the garage wall. “McCully” was an easier-to-spell version of McCullagh and the “Inc.” was a tongue-in-cheek addition. “We had been playing music for 6 years” remembers Mike McCullagh. “In 1969 I was 22 and Tully was 16, along with Richard Hyam, his sister Melanie and Allan Faull the group started.”

“We all wrote our own songs”, continues Mike, “and we just took the best ones for the album. Tully wrote ‘Why Can’t It Rain’ in the middle of the night and this became a hit single putting McCully Workshop on the charts for the first time.” This song went to number 12 on the Springbok Radio charts in July 1970 and also reached number 13 on the LM Radio charts.“Why Can’t It Rain” drew the attention of the Gallo label, and they said they wanted an album. McCully Workshop signed probably the first independent licencing deal with a major label in South Africa.

Billy Forrest (born William Boardman in Kimberley in 1940) was the “top guy” at the time and was appointed as producer. He had recently had chart success with The Staccatos ‘Cry To Me’ and many others including The Dream Merchants and Quentin E Klopjager (one of his many pseudonyms).Tully remembers Forrest’s catchphrase at the time was “could happen”.

The “Inc.” album shows a variety of styles and influences including The Beatles, Frank Zappa and Pink Floyd. “’Sgt Pepper’ was very important, as were the pop charts at the time”, recalls Tully.Another big influence, according to Tully, was The Moody Blues ‘Threshold Of A Dream’ which was released in April 1969. Echoes of Graeme Edge’s poems can be heard in Mike McCully’s spoken words during the moon landing-inspired ‘Head For The Moon’. A photo of the garage was used as the album cover. The photo was taken by Sigurd Olivier from the Argus newspaper and the cat’s name was Sirikit.

When asked to name his favourite song on the ‘Inc.’ album besides ‘Why Can’t It Rain’, Tully says without hesitation, ‘The Circus’. This song is an up tempo psychedelic pop-rocker with strong vocal harmonies, distorted guitar sounds from Allan Faull and great flute playing from Ian Smith. Asked about an interesting studio story, Tully remembers feeling a few tremors and stuff falling off the walls one day during recording. “Everybody got a fright and rushed outside”, says Tully, “we thought it was a passing train.” Turned out to be the Tulbagh earthquake of 29th September 1969. The sessions were done, but another song was needed to complete the album, so a studio jam called ‘Jackin’ Around’ was added. Great organ sounds from Glenda Wassman, and a drum solo play-out from Mike McCully.

Alan van Der Merwe was a music teacher friend of Mike’s and was responsible for the vocal harmony arrangements. Tully cites South African band ‘The Sandpipers’ as an inspiration. This folk quartet, which consisted of two girls and two guys, and not be confused with the US folk trio, released an album titled ‘A Bird in Hand’ in 1967.

After “Inc’

McCully Workshop, with the McCullagh brothers always at the core, released a number of albums over the years including “Genesis” and “Ages” and of course are best known for their big 1977 hit ‘Buccaneer’ . 40 years after those first recording sessions in late 1969, Tully is still involved in recording and runs his successful Spaced-Out Sounds Studio in Cape Town. Mike regularly packs out concert halls with his various nostalgic revue shows including ‘Sixty Something’, ‘Station 70’, ‘Music Of The Millennium’, ‘Country Classics’ and many, many others. McCully Workshop still perform live on occasion and their first hit ‘Why Can’t It Rain’ is almost always included in the set list.

Glenda Wassman later married Richard, and they formed the pop band Pendulum and had a big hit with ‘Take My Heart’ in 1976. Glenda then went on to major success worldwide with the all-girl group, Clout, who had a huge hit with ‘Substitute’ which went to number 2 in the UK in 1978. Allan Faull formed Falling Mirror in the late 70’s with his cousin Neilen Mirror (nee Marais).

The legends of South African pop and rock live on…

Brian Currin

Cape Town, September 2009

www.McCullyWorkshop.co.za

Family Tree

McCully Workshop Family Tree

Complete Family Tree at the South African Rock Encyclopedia website.

Posted in Cover Art, Music Research, Reviews and Interviews, Sleeve Notes & Biographies, South African Music

McCully Workshop Inc

McCully Workshop Inc.
McCully Workshop Inc.

Sleeve Notes

“Of all the albums we’ve heard from South Africa this one is topscore. What a beautiful masterpiece. Pepper-influenced underground music with great songs, lovely vocals, strong harmonies, great distorted guitarwork.” — review on Psychedelic-Music.com website.

The McCullagh brothers, Tully (born Terence on 31st May 1953) and Mike (born Michael on 7th April 1947), have been an integral part of the South African music scene for five decades now.

In 1965 they started as a folk-rock trio with Richard Hyam and called themselves the Blue Three. Richard had been in a folk duo, Tiny Folk, with his sister Melanie. After a few personnel- and name-changes, like The Blue Beats and Larfing Stocke, the line-up settled down (for a while) in 1969.

“I had my own studio in the garage since I was 12” remembers Tully. It was a single garage in the garden of their home in Plumstead, in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town. The brothers’ father, radio personality Michael Drin (his stage name), painted the name “McCully Workshop, Inc.” on the garage wall. “McCully” was an easier-to-spell version of McCullagh and the “Inc.” was a tongue-in-cheek addition.

A photo of the garage was used as the album cover. The photo was taken by Sigurd Olivier from the Argus newspaper. The cat’s name was Sirikit.

“We had been playing music for 6 years” remembers Mike McCullagh. “In 1969 I was 22 and Tully was 16, along with Richard Hyam, his sister Melanie and Allan Faull the group started.”

“We all wrote our own songs”, continues Mike, “and we just took the best ones for the album. Tully wrote ‘Why Can’t It Rain’ in the middle of the night and this became a hit single putting McCully Workshop on the charts for the first time.” This song went to number 12 on the Springbok Radio charts in July 1970 and also reached number 13 on the LM Radio charts.

“Why Can’t It Rain” drew the attention of the Gallo label, and they said they wanted an album. McCully Workshop signed probably the first independent licencing deal with a major label in South Africa.

Billy Forrest (born William Boardman in Kimberley in 1940) was the “top guy” at the time and was appointed as producer. He had recently had chart success with The Staccatos ‘Cry To Me’ and many others including The Dream Merchants and Quentin E Klopjaeger (one of his many pseudonyms).

Tully remembers Forrest’s catchphrase at the time was “could happen”.

The “Inc.” album shows a variety of styles and influences including The Beatles, Frank Zappa and Pink Floyd. “’Sgt Pepper’ was very important, as were the pop charts at the time”, recalls Tully.

Another big influence, according to Tully, was The Moody Blues ‘Threshold Of A Dream’ which was released in April 1969. Echoes of Graeme Edge’s poems can be heard in Mike McCully’s spoken words during the moonlanding-inspired ‘Head For The Moon’.

Alan van Der Merwe was a music teacher friend of Mike’s and was responsible for the vocal harmony arrangements. Tully cites South African band ‘The Sandpipers’ as an inspiration. This folk quartet, which consisted of two girls and two guys, and not be confused with the US folk trio, released an album titled ‘A Bird in Hand’ in 1967.

When asked to name his favourite song on the ‘Inc.’ album besides ‘Why Can’t It Rain’, Tully says without hesitation, ‘The Circus’. This song is an uptempo psychedelic pop-rocker with strong vocal harmonies, distorted guitar sounds from Allan Faull and great flute playing from Ian Smith.

The sessions were done, but another song was needed to complete the album, so a studio jam called ‘Jackin’ Around’ was added. Great organ sounds from Glenda Wassman, and a drum solo play-out from Mike McCully.

Glenda Wassman later married Richard, and they formed the pop band Pendulum and had a big hit with ‘Take My Heart’ in 1976. Glenda then went on to major success worldwide with the all-girl group, Clout, who had a huge hit with ‘Substitute’ which went to number 2 in the UK in 1978.

Allan Faull formed Falling Mirror in the late 70’s with his cousin Nielen Mirror (nee Marais).

Asked about an interesting studio story, Tully remembers feeling a few tremors and stuff falling off the walls one day during recording. “Everybody got a fright and rushed outside”, says Tully, “we thought it was a passing train.” Turned out to be the Tulbagh earthquake of 29th September 1969.

McCully Workshop, with the McCullagh brothers always at the core, have released a number of albums over the years and of course are best known for their big hit ‘Buccaneer’ from 1977.

40 years after those first recording sessions in late 1969, Tully is still involved in recording and runs his successful Spaced-Out Sounds Studio in Cape Town. Mike regularly packs out concert halls with his various nostalgic revue shows including ‘Sixty Something’, ‘Station 70’, ‘Music Of The Millennium’, ‘Country Classics’ and many, many others.

McCully Workshop still perform live on occasion and their first hit ‘Why Can’t It Rain’ is almost always included in the setlist.

The legends of South African pop and rock live on…

Brian Currin
Cape Town, September 2009

www.McCullyWorkshop.co.za


Release information:

LP: June 1970, Trutone, STO 727
CD: February 2003, Merry-Go-Round Records,
a division of Beatball Music (Korea), BMRC-0001
CD: October 2009, Fresh Music, freshcd167

Tracks:

  1. Why Can’t It Rain [4.12]

  2. Hardcase Woman [2.34]

  3. Ice Lover [3.05]

  4. Four Walls [2.40]

  5. Stargazer [2.48]

  6. Rush Hour At Midnight [3.42]

  7. Jackin’ Around [2.04]

  8. Head For The Moon [4.00]

  9. The Circus [4.00]

  10. Years Of My Life [3.19]

  11. Fast Car [3.41]

  12. Séance [3.05]

Musicians:

  • Tully McCully: Vocals, bass, guitar
  • Mike McCully: Vocals, drums
  • Richard Hyam: Rhythm and acoustic guitars, vocals
  • Glenda Wassman: Organ, vocals
  • Ian Smith: Trumpet, flute, flugelhorn

Additional musicians:

  • Allan Faull: Lead guitar on ‘Why Can’t It Rain’, ‘The Circus’, ‘Hardcase Woman’ and ‘Stargazer’
  • Alan van der Merwe: Vocal harmony and organ on ‘Why Can’t It Rain’ and ‘Stargazer’
  • Melanie Hyam: Vocal harmonies on ‘Why Can’t It Rain’ and ‘Rush Hour At Midnight’
  • Produced by Billy Forrest
Posted in Music Research, Reviews and Interviews, Sleeve Notes & Biographies, South African Music

The Tidal Wave

Tidal Wave
The Tidal Wave

The Tidal Wave was one of South Africa’s foremost exponents of psych-influenced pop music in the late ’60s and early ’70s with hits like “Spider Spider”, “Mango Mango” and “With tears in my eyes”. They also experimented with both brass and prog rock influences and although they existed for a relatively short time the band is regarded by many as the bridge between pop and the then developing ‘underground’ rock scene. This compilation gathers together, for the first time on one album, all the hit singles, b sides, and rarities.

Tidal Wave is probably best known for their bubblegum pop hits ‘Spider Spider’ and ‘Mango Mango’ in 1969 and 1970 respectively, but they were so much more than that.

Yes, they did play pop and they had a few hits, which were featured on the top radio stations at the time, Springbok Radio and LM Radio. Both stations are long gone, but sadly missed and fondly remembered by many South Africans who grew up without TV. However, Tidal Wave also played some very interesting psychedelic pop rock enhanced by the fuzz guitar sounds of Mike Pilot, who formed the hard rock band Stingray in the late ’70s. They also played backing for various musicians.

It all started with a man named Terry Dempsey, songwriter and record producer. Dempsey was born in England and came to South Africa in 1968. He wrote and produced The Staccatos first song, ‘Butchers And Bakers’ in 1968. This song had originally been recorded by UK freakbeat band Les Fleur De Lys in 1967, though they called themselves Chocolate Frog at the time.

Dempsey recalls; “Early in 1968 I met Roy Naturman at Gallo studios with Grahame Beggs, South Africa’s young pioneer record producer on a Flames recording session. Roy was playing piano and he was cooking – so was the recording! Shortly thereafter Roy invited me to a popular night spot to hear the band he was playing with, The In Crowd where I met a very impressive soul singer called Peter Vee, lead vocalist with the band.”

“The bass player was a man who many years later became one of the world’s biggest music men, Clive Calder”, continues Dempsey. “A few weeks later Roy Naturman phoned me to tell me that the band was breaking up and would I be interested in recording a new band he was putting together with the drummer from The In Crowd, Mike Koch, Ken Haycock as bass player and lead guitarist/singer Mike Pilot both of whom came from The Brackets.

“Mike Koch was in a band called The Creeping Greens, much cooler and hipper than The Brackets,” recalls Russel Pope, guitarist for The Brackets.” Pope adds, “The Brackets were basically into covering a lot of ’60s, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, melody pop as opposed to people like The Navarones, The A-Cads and The In Crowd who were all into R&B. They probably thought we were a novelty act although they all recognised that Mike Pilot was a phenomenon of some sort. Clive Calder wrote a b-side for one of The Brackets singles, who knew he would end up a billionaire.”

“What a hot unit this proved to be,” says Dempsey about Tidal Wave, “they were the first band to be released on my newly formed independent record label STORM with the title ‘Man On A String’.” Dempsey formed the STORM label in November 1968 and later formed a second label, MAP (Management, Agents, and Promotions). ‘Man On A String’ with ‘That’s Why The Girl Is Crying’ on its b-side was released in 1969 but failed to make an impression on the radio charts at the time, however, it is fondly remembered by many fans.

‘Man On A String’ was followed by ‘With Tears In My Eyes’ which also failed to trouble any of the radio chart compilers. ‘With Tears In My Eyes’ was also released as a single in the UK in October 1969 on the Decca label, but failed to garner any interest from UK fans.

Music collector Peter Alston wrote in the very first issue of the SA Rock Digest e-mag in January 1999, “Their best ever (in my humble view) was ‘With Tears In My Eyes’ which was vaguely popular in late 1969 (pre-“Spider Spider”) but which is extremely hard to find; frustrating for me as it is well within my personal top 10.” In fact when asked to provide a list, ‘With Tears In My Eyes’ appeared at number one in Alston’s All-Time South African Top Ten with ‘Man On A String’ at number ten, sandwiching artists like Freedoms Children, The A-Cads, The Dream Merchants, The Staccatos and David Kramer.

“In Kimberley in 1971”, Alston continues, “Tidal Wave and Otis Waygood appeared as a double bill. Probably the second best concert I’ve attended. (The best was undoubtedly Barclay James Harvest). Tidal Wave – in concert – were asked to do ‘With Tears In My Eyes’ but declined, saying the acoustics weren’t right and a full orchestra was needed to do it justice.”

“Dempsey considers Tidal Wave as one of the country’s top groups – ‘I’d say within the top five’”, wrote Earl Moorhouse in an article published in the Teenage supplement to Personality magazine on 9th October 1969. “’I’d say within the top five’”.

Moorhouse was writing about the Storm Power Circus, an idea of Dempsey’s to combine jazz and pop. Moorhouse wrote: “Storm Power Circus made its big splash at Ciro’s, Johannesburg’s hot pop night-spot, in July this year. The place was a sell-out, crammed with teenyboppers and the usual in-crowd of pop critics. They didn’t say much; they never do. There was the Tidal Wave grooving it up front, the Brass Explosion punching out their big sound and the go-go girls working up a sweat. And the teenyboppers loving it.”

“Tidal Wave comprises Mike Pilot, Mike Koch, Roy Naturman and Kenny Haycock, all pop veterans,” continues Moorhouse’s article, “They have played in some of the country’s best-known groups including the Brackets, Birds of a Feather, the Peanut Butter Conspiracy and the In Crowd. As a result, they have few illusions about the pop world; they know how superficial it is. They believe in hard work. In fact, to interview them I had to gatecrash a practice session and, while I was talking to one of them, the other three went on with their music. Group leader Roy Naturman (organ/electric piano) told me; ‘We all understand one another. None of us has particular ideas about personal gains. Sure we’ve made money. We get along. But we’re not doing this for money.’”

Moorhouse also refers to Brass Explosion’s Robin Netscher. “Netscher is the driving force behind the fat brass sound that is becoming a feature of STORM singles. He handles all the musical direction at recording sessions and also arranges the jazz-flavored music for the Storm Power Circus. Commenting on the welding of pop and jazz, he said, ‘The type of music played by Blood, Sweat, and Tears is very popular but, up to now, when the kids have asked a group to play something off their LPs it hasn’t been complete. The brass has been missing. Now, for the first time, they’ll hear the whole music. This – the meeting of pop and jazz – is a great thing. It just had to come.’”

“At a given point in time,” recalls Terry Dempsey, “We all went to bed in mono and woke up in stereo and the world never looked back. ‘Spider Spider’ saw Tidal Wave go to number one for the first and only time, although ‘Mango Mango’ outsold ‘Spider Spider’ by a long way.”

‘Spider Spider’ hit the number one spot on the Springbok Radio Charts in April 1970 and also achieved number eight on LM Radio. ‘Green Mamba’ which was released in late 1970 followed this hit and it managed to get to number 16 on the Springbok Radio charts.

In August 1970, an album titled simply ‘Tidal Wave’ was released and included ‘Spider Spider’, ‘Green Mamba’ and their next big hit ‘Mango Mango’. This song, with its nonsensical lyrics and repeated phrase of ‘sixty-nine, sixty-nine’, hit number seven on Springbok in late 1970 and achieved top five on LM Radio in January 1971.

In 1971, according to the History Of Contemporary Music Of South Africa by Garth Chilvers and Tom Jasiukowicz, Tidal Wave supplied the music for the soundtrack of the movie, ‘Lindi’, composed and produced by Terry Dempsey.

Mike Koch and Roy Naturman left Tidal Wave and the last single was released in 1971 titled ‘Money Baby’ (b/w ‘I’ve Got To Get Away’) that featured drummer Kevin Kruger and keyboardist Aidan ‘Dooley’ Mason. This song went to number 15 on the Springbok charts and did even better on LM Radio going to number nine. After a couple more line-up changes, sadly, Tidal Wave was no more.

As an aside, Terry Dempsey was referred to as the “music machine” at the time and was never far from the Springbok and LM Radio hit parades with songs written and produced by him. Dave Mills, Lance James, Lauren Copley, John Edmond, and others all enjoyed chart success thanks to Dempsey’s involvement. Teenage star, Lauren Copley recorded a Terry Dempsey song ‘Daydreamer’ in 1972 and when covered by US teen sensation David Cassidy it went to number 1 in the UK. It sold well over a million worldwide with in excess of 250 000 copies in Britain alone, according to Joseph Murrells’ ‘Million Selling Records’ book.

There is a wide variety of music styles covered on this Tidal Wave retrospective CD. Lovers of end-of-the-sixties psychedelic pop and rock will discover many hidden gems here including the progressive rock sounds of ‘Get It Out Of Your System’ which would not have been out of place on an Abstract Truth album. This CD also includes the funky soul sounds of ‘Town Girl’, featuring Peter Vee’s lead vocal, which was previously unreleased.

Tidal Wave is fondly remembered by many and now all their music; the hits, misses, and rarities can be found in one place.

Brian Currin, April 2007
Thanks: Terry Dempsey, Mike Pilot, Roy Naturman, Tertius Louw, Russel Pope.

The Tidal Wave Family Tree


PRODUCER’S FOOTNOTE

Early in 1968, I met Roy Naturman at Gallo studios with Grahame Beggs, South Africa’s young pioneer record producer on a Flames recording session. Roy was playing piano and he was cooking – so was the recording!

Shortly thereafter Roy invited me to a popular nightspot to hear the band he was playing with, THE IN CROWD where I met a very impressive soul singer called Peter Vee, lead vocalist with the band. The bass player was a man who many years later became one of the world’s biggest music men CLIVE CALDER. A few weeks later Roy Naturman phoned me to tell me that the band was breaking up and would I be interested in recording a new band he was putting together with the drummer from The In Crowd, Mike Koch, Ken Haycock as bass player and lead guitarist/singer Mike Pilot both of whom came from “The Brackets”.

What a hot unit this proved to be, they were the first band to be released on my newly formed independent record label STORM with the title “MAN ON A STRING”, followed by “WITH TEARS IN MY EYES”. These were mono recordings, but at a given point in time, we all went to bed in mono and woke up in stereo and the world never looked back.

“SPIDER SPIDER” saw the band number one for the first and only time, and although “MANGO MANGO” only made the number 2 spot it outsold Spider Spider by a long way – there is an intriguing story behind that!!!

Enjoy.
Terry Dempsey

Tidal Wave at Retro Fresh