Illuminating Headlight Dreams

by Brian Currin, June 2021

Back in early April 2021, I read a press release announcing a new album coming from Steve Louw and it included the video of a song called “Crazy River”. I loved the big open spaces this song evoked (and enhanced by the video) and the subtle African guitar sounds reminded me of early Johnny Clegg.

I first heard of Steve Louw in 1990 when the cassette version of the “Pop Shop 48” album featured the song “Waiting For The Dawn” by Big Sky as a bonus track. There is actually no real band called Big Sky, it is the name Steve Louw has used when he surrounds himself with the cream of the crop of American and South African musicians.

I first met Steve in March 1998, backstage at the first Rodriguez concert at the Bellville Velodrome, outside Cape Town. Steve and that year’s incarnation of Big Sky were a worthy support act. The rest of Big Sky (led by Steve’s old buddy since the seventies, Willem Möller) also backed Rodriguez for his set. That sold-out tour of South Africa is featured in the Oscar-winning film, “Searching For Sugar Man“.

Steve recorded two albums in the 80’s with his band All Night Radio, and then four albums as Big Sky between 1990 and 2008, as well as a compilation album, “Best Of The Decade” (in 1999), and a live concert DVD recorded over two nights in 2008.

And now he comes blasting back with his first solo album (well, technically) in 13 years. As in his Big Sky days, he has surrounded himself with some top players in their fields. So let’s drop a few names; “Headlight Dreams” was recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, produced by Kevin Shirley, mastered by Bob Ludwig, liner notes by Stephen Thomas Erlewine (from AllMusic), and a guitar solo on “Wind In Your Hair” by one of my favourite guys from the more recent crop of Blues guitar-slingers, Joe Bonamassa.

Louw also brought in some of the best musos in Nashville, namely Kevin McKendree (keyboards), Alison Prestwood (bass), Rob McNelly (guitars) and Greg Morrow (drums). Steve Louw wrote all the songs and sings and plays acoustic guitar.

This album is filled with great songs, from the bluesy, lyrically hard-hitting “Get Out Of My Heart” to the bouncy “Queen Bee Maybe” with its delightful Hammond organ solo from Kevin McKendree, however my favourite track on this album is the almost proggish “Train Don’t Run”. Clocking in at seven and half minutes this is an epic tune that you hope never finishes. There is a soaring guitar solo by Rob McNelly that David Gilmour fans will love. No surprise to discover that this track was mixed on the same console as the classic “Dark Side Of The Moon“.

If you immerse yourself in the Steve Louw back-catalogue you will find recurring themes and reappearing characters, in a similar vein to Rodriguez, Piet Botha and many others. It is one of the things I love about listening to music, that there are rewards for paying extra attention.

This album can be played in the background, but if you give it your full awareness and dive into its depths you will be rewarded with poetic lyrics melded with great tunes, recorded by superb musicians.

Steve’s enthusiasm for life and love is expressed in every note in this superb creation. “Headlight Dreams” deserves to be listened to over and over again, and if you do, you will get something new every time.

Steve Louw on Social

The Cold Facts…. A Journey On The Road Ahead, part 3 by Steve Louw

Little Steven - Voice Of America
Little Steven – Voice Of America

It was a hot summer in 1984 in Johannesburg when Little Steven (aka Miami Steve van Zandt) looked straight into my eyes through the lens of my camera. He was listening to the live recording of my band, All Night Radio, and I could see he was into it. His leopard print coat, snakeskin boots and silk bandanna were all too hot for the Johannesburg summer heat, but he looked like the coolest person I had ever seen. 

He was in South Africa to promote Voice of America, his second album. He had recently quit the E-Street Band to launch his solo career and I was interviewing him for a local newspaper. We had been talking for hours about studios, recording and his work as a producer with Bruce Springsteen, Southside Johnny and Gary U.S. Bonds, and his two Little Steven albums, Men without Women, and Voice of America.

The UN cultural boycott of South Africa was in place, and he was visiting South Africa to see for himself what was happening in the country. Voice of America was a political album, and tracks like “Checkpoint Charlie” and “Los Desaparecidos” dealt with the regimes of East Germany and Argentina. The Sun City album would become Little Steven’s natural progression of that work, and after Peter Gabriel’s “Biko”, one of the most significant protest songs against apartheid.

Little Steven’s Sun City video

I thought Steve would be cool with helping me get further up the road. He was, and he suggested we record with the engineer who had just finished his new album, and which I thought sounded great. Six weeks later we were in UCA studios in Cape Town with John Rollo, the engineer on Voice of America, and long-time associate of The Kinks. I had left NYC, figuring that recording and gigging with the great musicians I knew back home would break us through to some sort of recognition. John knew how to make a live rock ’n’ roll record, and we were ready, after a year of gigging in clubs. We stripped the UCA studio bare, brought up the freight lift, put the drums near its metal mouth, stripped off the toms and we rocked. Ten days later we were mixing at the House of Music New Jersey, and in August 1984 All Night Radio made its radio airplay debut.

All Night Radio (left-to-right): Rob Nagel, Steve Louw, Nico Burger, Richard "Dish" Devey, Pitchie Rommelaere
All Night Radio (left-to-right): Rob Nagel, Steve Louw, Nico Burger, Richard “Dish” Devey, Pitchie Rommelaere

We brought in our great drummer, Richard “Dish” Devey along for the tour and rehearsed on the stage of the now-defunct Three Arts Theatre where I had seen Ray Charles, José Feliciano and Tina Turner from backstage, with my school buddy, Dereck Quibell, the theatre owners’ son. 

We hit the road for a national tour, and from where I was sitting, behind the wheel of a VW panel van, the future looked great.

FEBRUARY 2019: “You’ve got songs, Stevie, and before I see you you’ll write more. Just be in Nashville the last three days of February next year, and we’ll make a record”. I put down the phone. Kevin (Shirley) was in Abbey Road studios with Joe Bonamassa, and I had a year to get myself together before leap year 2020 rolled around. The music started playing in my head again.

Kevin Shirley
Kevin Shirley
The Cold Facts…. A Journey On The Road Ahead #3

Read the Complete Series


Steve Louw

Steve Louw is a South African singer-songwriter and rock musician. Winner of Best South African Rock Act, and a member of the SA Rock Hall of Fame, Steve is one of SA rock’s most talented and unassuming singer-songwriters. He and his band Big Sky appeared on stage with Rodriguez on the sold-out South African tour in 1998.

Top Tracks by Steve Louw

The Cold Facts…. A Journey On The Road Ahead, part 2 by Steve Louw

All Night Radio (early 80's) with Steve Louw (centre)
All Night Radio (early 80’s) with Steve Louw (centre)

AUGUST 1981: The Stones’ ‘Start Me Up’ echoed off every wall, and blared out of every cab window and shop door in the hot August weather in New York City. Their groove and the pulse of the city seemed to be superimposed, laying down a thick backbeat. Keith Richards’ guitar owned the city. I had listened to that sound since buying the seven-single of ‘Satisfaction’. His groove felt like the heartbeat of Africa. His sound took me to Elvis and Duane Eddy.

I had arrived from Cape Town, with a guitar, demos of my songs and an intro to legendary engineer and producer Phil Ramone (Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Bob Dylan). I knew I was closer to the heart of the music I loved, than ever before.

Phil owned A & R Recording Studios, where engineers Shelly Yakus and Bob Ludwig began their careers. Our paths would cross, but now as I listened, my music filled the control room of the legendary studio where Dylan had sung the songs which would become the masterpiece Blood On The Tracks. I knew Phil recognised that I still had a long way to go. That was OK, I wasn’t in a hurry, and just being there in that room was good enough for me.

A & R Recording, Inc. Analogue 1/4 inch tape master
A & R Recording, Inc. Analogue 1/4 inch tape master

NEW YORK CITY March 2020. The 5th March 2020 was our wedding anniversary. I had just got back to NYC from Nashville recording the songs that would become the album ‘Headlight Dreams‘ with Kevin ‘The Caveman’ Shirley. We had made five albums together, and been friends since playing small Cape Town clubs in the early 1980s with our bands ‘All Night Radio’ and ‘The Council’. Kevin had gone on to become a world-famous producer and engineer (Aerosmith, The Black Crowes, Led Zeppelin), but he had always looked out for me, and we had had a great time making records together.

I looked at my phone and saw an email headed: Bob Ludwig Master. A wedding anniversary present from Kevin! I clicked on the link and ‘The Wind in Your Hair’ played out across the NYC winter streets. “What a great song, vocal and band, this album sounds extra real like you-all were having a lot of fun” was the note with the link from Bob.

Steve Louw – Wind In Your Hair (feat Joe Bonamassa)

I had written the song after spending a few months alone looking after our farm, and Erna being back in Cape Town looking after our young children. She had decided to make the six-hundred-kilometre road trip alone to come and see me. Walking down the farm road I saw the dust of a car approaching and then stop. Squinting into the sunlight I realised who it was, and my eyes filled with tears. The most beautiful radiant smiling eyes looked back at me.

Forty years later the NYC streets seemed as though they were welcoming me back. It would be the last few days before the city would be locked down, and a global pandemic would strike. I walked out on the streets thinking of myself as the 25-year-old kid trying to hustle his way into a music career. I passed the building where the club ‘The Bottom Line’ had been and where I had seen so many riveting performances by artists I had followed for years from South Africa. I crossed Washington Square and headed uptown to where Phil’s studio had been.

It was great to be alive.

The Cold Facts…. A Journey On The Road Ahead #2

Read the Complete Series


Steve Louw

Steve Louw is a South African singer-songwriter and rock musician. Winner of Best South African Rock Act, and a member of the SA Rock Hall of Fame, Steve is one of SA rock’s most talented and unassuming singer-songwriters. He and his band Big Sky appeared on stage with Rodriguez on the sold-out South African tour in 1998.

Top Tracks by Steve Louw

HAU! #1 feat John Kongos, Jack Hammer, Ramsay MacKay, Tribe After Tribe, Falling Mirror, Rabbitt

HAU!

“Hau!” is a Zulu expression of astonishment.

If you are not from South Africa, I hope you will be astonished at what great music you might have missed.

Hopefully this series of mixes will help to rectify that.

More information about most of these artists can be found at www.Rock.co.za

ARCHIVE:
https://www.mixcloud.com/briancurrin/playlists/hau-series/

1. Riff Valley – Off The Edge
2. Sex – Pressure Cookies feat Willem Moller
3. Mumbo Jumbo – Ramsay MacKay feat Trevor Rabin
4. Tokoloshe Man – John Kongos
5. Tribal Fence – Rabbitt feat Margaret Singana
6. Russian & Chips – Jack Hammer
7. Judas – David’s Confession
8. Johnny Calls The Chemist – Falling Mirror
9. Riders On The Storm – Gordon’s Suitcase feat Piet Botha
10. Sittin’ (Take Me Home) – Toxic Shame
11. Pharaoh’s Tomb – Titus
12. Wild Warrior – Arapaho
13. Swans – Tribe After Tribe
14. Who Killed Kurt Cobain – Koos Kombuis

Colours To My Dreams

This mix opens with a recent cover version of “Sugar Man” by South African singer Rebekah Thompson.

This version plays under the closing credits of the 2019 film “Moffie” which is about a young man drafted into South Africa’s military, but he knows he is different and must keep himself hidden.

1. Sugar Man (from Moffie) – Rebekah Thompson
2. Heart Of Glass (Crabtree remix) – Blondie & Philip Glass
3. Adagio In G Minor – The Doors
4. Oblivion – M83 feat Susanne Sundfør
5. The Black Page #1 (piano version) – Ruth Underwood
6. Love Scene (from Zabriskie Point) – Richard Wright
7. The Rains Of Castamere (from Game Of Thrones) – Ramin Djawadi & Serj Tankian
8. Skyrim (Dragonborn) – Tina Guo
9. Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) – Emily Browning
10. Chasing The Dragon – Epica
11. Nymphetamine (Fix) – Cradle Of Filth feat Liv Kristine
12. Crazy In Love (2014 version) from Fifty Shades Of Grey – Beyoncé
13. Tomorrow Never Knows (from Sucker Punch) – Alison Mosshart & Carla Azar
14. Oh! Darling – Peachy Keen
15. Sugar Man – Barbara Moleko

Jive Talking and Eyeballing #14 [25 September 2020] feat Jack Hammer, Falling Mirror, The Awakening

A series of one hour All-South African mixes to enhance the Public Facebook Group “Jive Talking and Eyeballing”, which is an interview showcase of both South African and International artists.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/623022481618491

1. Bus Station – Fly Paper Jet
2. Morrison Hotel – Jack Hammer
3. Judas – David’s Confession
4. The Boogie Mansion – Martin Rocka And The Sick Shop
5. Vampyre Girl – The Awakening
6. Hammerhead Hotel – Falling Mirror
7. Shade Of A Ghost – Fetish
8. Hello (I Am Ghost Town) – Dance You’re On Fire
9. Gypsy Toy – Ann Jangle
10. Van Tonder – Piet Botha
11. Werewolf In The House – Falling Mirror
12. Ghost Riders In The Sky – Brian Finch & Ken E Henson
13. The Fisherman – Jack Hammer
14. Farewell To Gypsy – Bonekey

More info on most of these artists at http://www.rock.co.za/

ARCHIVES
https://www.mixcloud.com/briancurrin/playlists/jive-talking-series/

Hammerhead Hotel, feat Falling Mirror, Jack Hammer, The Dolly Rockers, McCully Workshop, Radio Rats

Hammerhead Hotel | photo: Michael Currin
Hammerhead Hotel | photo: Michael Currin


Track List

1. Bus Station – Fly Paper Jet
2. Hammerhead Hotel – Falling Mirror
3. Alison – Dolly Rockers
4. Getting Better – Scabby Annie
5. Shock Time For Rock – The Popguns
6. Morrison Hotel – Jack Hammer
7. Werewolf In The House – Falling Mirror
8. Kamikasi – McCully Workshop
9. Mucking About In The Dungeons All Day – Radio Rats
10. Monster From The Bog – Psycho Reptiles
11. Bellville Rock City – New World Inside
12. Psycho Bitch – Toxic Shame
13. Boxstar Kitty – Three Bored White Guys
14. Blue Eyed Devil – Th’ Damned Crows
15. Psycho-Babble – Lancaster Band
16. Britney Spears – Tweak
17. Babydoll Blues – The Ragdolls
18. Psycho – Them Tornados
19. Woo Hoo! – Fire Through The Window
20. Baby Girl You’re Gonna Burn! – Peachy Keen
21. Drakilla – The Psykotix
22. Surfin’ With The Goth Gang – Martin Rocka And The Sick Shop
23. Krokodil – Retro Dizzy
24. Buccaneer – Moyawetu
25. Beethoven Is Dying – Koos Kombuis En Die Warmblankes
26. Only Yesterday – Sharkbrother
27. Boomtown Hotel – Valiant Swart
28. Kitchener – Piet Botha
29. Praha Paradise (2007 version) – Ernestine Deane feat Tim Parr
30. Die Gipsy In Jou Oë – Anna Davel
31. Farewell To Gypsy – Bonekey

Jive Talking and Eyeballing #3 [10 July 2020] feat Ballyhoo, Rabbitt, Stingray, McCully Workshop

A series of one hour All-South African mixes to enhance the Public Facebook Group “Jive Talking and Eyeballing”, which is an interview showcase of both South African and International artists.
https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=623022481618491/

A 70’s mix with the spotlight on Rabbitt and Trevor Rabin.

ARCHIVES
https://www.mixcloud.com/briancurrin/playlists/jive-talking-series/

More information on most of these artists at www.Rock.co.za

1. Rock ‘n Roll Party – Ballyhoo
2. The Boy & The Bee – Omega Limited
3. The Eagle Has Landed – Dickie Loader & Freedoms Children
4. The San Diego Sniping Event – Falling Mirror
5. Charlie – Rabbitt
6. Substitute – Clout
7. Guinevere – McCully Workshop
8. What’s Going On – The Third Eye
9. Telephone Girl – Assagai
10. Hard Ride – Rabbitt
11. Candlelight – Richard Jon Smith
12. Astral III – The Invaders
13. Black Night – Omega Limited
14. Evil Ways – The Attraction
15. Better The Devil You Know – Stingray
16. Jo Bangles – Baxtop
17. Fantasy – Trevor Rabin
18. Born To Be Wild – Buffalo feat Peter Vee
19. The Journey – The Staccatos

Jive Talking & Eyeballing #1 [26 June 2020] feat éVoid, Albert Frost, Roger Lucey, Wonderboom, Peach

A series of one hour All-South African mixes to enhance the Public Facebook Group “Jive Talking and Eyeballing“, which is an interview showcase of both South African and International artists.

This week’s spotlight is on éVoid, read the interview at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/623022481618491/permalink/677305066190232/

Track List

1. Jiving To The Weekend Beat – éVoid
2. Orang Otang – Brian Finch
3. Warlord – Bill Knight with Roger Lucey
4. Lungile Tabalaza – Roger Lucey feat Ken E Henson
5. My Sharona – Void
6. Taximan – éVoid
7. Shadows – Wonderboom
8. A Lot Of Things – Peach
9. Corrugated Iron – Die Lemme
10. ZX Dan – Radio Rats
11. Catfish Blues (live 2003) – Albert Frost
12. Hot Tin Roof – Famous Curtain Trick
13. Harmonijah – Tidal Waves
14. Kudu Junction – Amampondo
15. Jeffreysbaai – Piet Botha

South African Rock Digest Charts #1 [2000 to 2004]

SARD logo

The first in a series of mixes inspired by the charts from the The South African Rock Music Digest (fondly referred to as “The SA Rock Digest” or simply “The Digest”) which was a weekly, free subscription e-mag about South African rock and pop music published digitally from 1999 to 2004.

Founded on 27th January 1999 by Brian Currin and Stephen “Sugar” Segerman.

Re-established in 2009, as part of Sugar Music, embracing social media tools and platforms.

Full list of charts can be found at:
http://www.rock.co.za/files/sarocklists.html

Track list
1. Rise ‘n Shine – Moodphase5ive
2. Africa’s Not For Sissies – Syd Kitchen
3. Set Of Wheels (Karoo Anthem) – Karen Zoid
4. Nkalakatha – Mandoza
5. Gee Raat – KOBUS!
6. Since I Met You – New World Inside (early Fokofpolisiekar)
7. Crazy Over You (5FM Unearthed version) – Zen Arcade
8. Praha Paradise – Ernestine Deane
9. Kakstraat – Battery 9
10. Donkey Rattle – Felix Laband
11. Dig It – Kalahari Surfers
12. Long Holiday – The Sunshines
13. Fragile – Venessa Nolan
14. Stoute Boude – Anton Goosen & Beeskraal
15. Sestien Jaar Met ‘n Vals Kitaar – Koos Kombuis
16. Sweet Stellenganga – Akkedis
17. Beach Girl – Natalia
18. Lovesong – Dolly Rockers
19. Fokofpolisiekar – Fokofpolisiekar
20. Things To Consider – Skwirmish
21. Paralyzer – Ghetto Muffin
22. Gangsta – The Rudimentals
23. Gasoline – Saron Gas (early Seether)
24. Say Goodbye – Scarlet Host
25. Humanarium – Bed On Bricks
26. Indigo Girl – Watershed
27. Life (Theme From Big Brother TV series 2001) – Semisane
28. Vodka – Mathys Roets
29. Strate Van Pretoria – Beeskraal
30. Mooie Vrou – Kaal
31. When I Get The Blues – Delta Blue
32. Only Yesterday – Sharkbrother
33. Go Fuck Yourself – Janie Jones

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