Released On: 01 Sep 2022, available for over a year
Stephen ‘Sugar’ Segerman’s nickname came from the song Sugar Man by the American singer Rodriguez. In 1970s South Africa, Rodriguez was a household name as his anti-establishment lyrics resonated with many of those opposed to the strict apartheid state. Sugar, a Cape Town record shop owner, was one of his adoring fans. Very little was known about Rodriguez, apart from that he was dead; rumour had it that he’d killed himself during an unsuccessful concert. But years later, when Sugar decided to find out that had happened to him, he uncovered something astonishing.
Presenter: Emily Webb Producer: Emily Webb and Emily Naylor
Scan of the sound engineer’s set list, dated and autographed.
From Sweet Songs To Street Songs
Review by Brian Currin
From the simplistic, yet instantly recognisable bass guitar intro of I Wonder, to the last fading echoes of Thanks For Your Time, this was a show that enthralled everyone from the die-hard old fans with their balding heads and beer paunches to the new virgin devotees.
From sweet songs to street songs,
from bitter to beautiful,
from minor keys to metal mayhem,
from tear-jerker to tear-it-up,
from disgusting songs to rock anthems…this was truly a magic show of vast proportions.
Rodriguez has not released new material in over 25 years, he has no chart-topping singles, yet he opens to a standing ovation – and everybody sings along to all the songs.
Colin Taylor from KFM radio opened the show by shouting with great enthusiasm:
“Cape Town, put your hands together and welcome a true legend on stage – Rodriguez!”
Reuben Samuels started a slow drum beat and when Graeme Currie introduced that classic bass line (de-de de-de de-dum) the crowd went wild in instant recognition and when The Man slipped quietly onto the stage, the Velodrome stood up in adoration for this long-lost legend. I Wonder was wonderful and after the song, Rodriguez just stood and stared at the audience in awe.
Only Good For Conversation was done hard and heavy with great guitar from Willem Möller.
“..you’re so proper and so cute” sang Rodriguez with a smile in his voice.
Can’t Get Away was superb and when he started to sing the second verse again by mistake, the band supported him and the audience forgave him.
All the favourites followed with the arrangements staying very close to the originals and the crowd hanging on every word. Tonia Selley from The Pressure Cookies and Big Sky provided superb backing vocals throughout.
A highlight was the solo rendition of “A Most Digusting Song” sung with great humour. “There’s someone here who’s almost a virgin I’m told” was met with much laughter.
And when he sang “…your government will provide the shrugs” a responsive chord was hit, even though this song was written in 1970!
Rodriguez doesn’t say much, he lets his music and words speak to us, but he did give us one message:
“I want to wish you the best of luck
in everything you do,
you’re gonna do it,
you’re gonna solve it,
you’re gonna heal ’em,
you’re gonna do it“
– perceptive and profound words from this poet and prophet.
And then into an absolutely incredible blues-rock version of Climb Up On My Music. Willem Möller burnt up his fretboard with a classic rock guitar solo and Russel Taylor played a jazzy-blues keyboard solo which left us breathless.
Rodriguez slipped away as the band ended the song, but soon returned to perform a 3-song encore starting with Sugar Man, then Establishment Blues and ending with the perfect show-closer Forget It with those poignant words “Thanks for your time“.
“Thank you, Cape Town” sang Rodriguez.
No, thank YOU, Rodriguez – the mystery and myth may be gone, but the music and memories will live forever and the magic of that night will stay with us always.
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“.
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.
It’s hard to believe the last music we heard from Steve Louw arrived seven long years ago. With the wait now finally over, fans right around the world are already embracing the pop-rock icon’s return with arms wide open. The past year has been a rich and hugely rewarding one for Louw. Not only did Louw record his brand-new album, Headlight Dreams, in Nashville along with his long-time friend and producer extraordinaire Kevin Shirley (John Hiatt, Joe Satriani, Led Zeppelin, The Black Crowes), but Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter and genius guitarist Joe Bonamassa also pitched up and added his magic to the record.
To boot, Sony ATV, upon hearing the finished album, offered Louw his first international solo artist record deal.
The album, which is out now, already has two singles on high rotation, “Crazy River” and “Wind in your Hair”; the latter is the one that’s quite literally blowing up all around the world. In its first week of release in the US, the track landed at the highly coveted number two position on the Billboard ACC Folk Chart, ahead of the likes of the equally commendable Rhiannon Giddens and Francesco Turrisi.
“Wind in your Hair” is the track that sports Joe Bonamassa guitar fills and outstanding middle-eight. The single has had over 100,000 plays on Spotify in under three weeks.
With 10 tracks captured in an arresting three-day recording sprint, producer Kevin Shirley channelled each one of Headlight Dreams’ songs through a vintage Neve console inside of a converted church.
“From the first moment, I loved the acoustics of the studio and the vibe created by the wonderful Nashville musicians with their great feel and playing, drawing you into a world shimmering in the half-light, just out of reach,” Louw shares.
A consummate storyteller, a supremely gifted guitarist and a genuinely wonderful human being, Louw’s Headlight Dreams is a beautiful statement.
I caught up with the Cape Town resident last week.
The new decade means: Radical carbon emission cuts.
Fame is about:An illusion.
Steve Louw and Kevin Shirley
Retirement will happen when: You have lived beyond three figures
I don’t do:Fake people.
My music is about:Everyday experiences.
What is the most enjoyable aspect of your work? Playing live and singing.
The song you must do in every show: “Waiting for the Dawn”
Any funny moments on stage: When the power tripped, half the show was acoustic; we just kept playing. Luckily, the power came back and then we had an electric show.
My style icon: Bob Dylan.
What is your most treasured possession? My 1964 Epiphone as played by John (Lennon), Paul (McCartney) and George (Harrison).
It’s your round, what are you drinking? Glenmorangie Single Malt.
What makes you stand out? The stage lights.
If you were not a musician, what would you do? Conservation.
Who would play you in a Hollywood blockbuster and why? Edward Norton; we both smirk.
Pick five words to describe yourself: Musical, songwriter, guitar player, dendrophile, singer.
Five favourite SA albums: GBB – Eet Kreef Baxtop – Work It Out Juluka – Scatterlings Tananas – Tananas Tribe After Tribe – Power
What is your favourite word? Truth.
Favourite fashion garment: My leather flying jacket.
Give us some real proper slang and what it means: Lank kiff: Awesome, great.
Your greatest achievement: My family.
What do you complain about most often? Dishonesty.
What is your fear? Large puff adders.
Happiness is:Riding motorcycles.
Where would you like to be right now? Where I am.
Do you do charity work and, if you do, what do you do? Yes, conservation.
‘Asem in, asem uit’ and enter the smooth, poetic ambience created by The Buckfever Underground with their latest, spoken word and experimental EP – Satelliet.
Recorded predominantly on cell phones during the creative silence of 2020 – The Buckfever Underground have created a soothing selection of poetry and musical builds that echoes emotions experienced by many of us in recent days. Their EP – ‘Satelliet’ transports listeners through sections of calm tied into subtle frustration with clean acoustic guitar, beautifully spoken poetry and distant ambient tones.
Composed by Michael Currin (guitar), Stephen Timm (production, effects) and Toast Coetzer (vocals, lyrics) ‘Satelliet’ carries through the band’s strong opinions that have been shared with the public since 1998 and exudes characteristics of experimental music with an improvised air. Captivating track names like ‘Love in the Time of Visas’ (2002) and ‘Die Volk’ (featured in the top 100 best protest songs, 1998) engage eyes and ears simultaneously.
The first two tracks of ‘Satelliet’ – specifically: ‘My Geheim Aan Jou’ emits a tone of surrender to whatever the world has in store. This mood starts to shift once the first few seconds of ‘The News’ introduces frustrating topics explored through the media. ‘Ice Pyramid’ creates a transition between opposing moods, exploring both light and dark aspects until the subtle melodies of ‘Een Oog’ drift towards the melancholy. The sounds of ‘Satelliet’ come to an end during ‘The Valley of the Dancing Stones’ which explores all that the world has to offer and leaves listeners in deep contemplation.
‘The Buckfever Underground’ have created a work of art that may leave you feeling strong and somewhat mellow, wallowing in the calm after entertaining the demands of chaos.
Probably Rodriguez’s most well-known song. Rodriguez himself is also often referred to as The Sugar Man. A great song with superb instrumentation. This slow bluesy rock song is a paean to his drug dealer, however Rodriguez said on a TV interview in March 1998 that this song is “descriptive not prescriptive”. Great imagery and use of hippy slang, like “silver magic ships” and “sweet Mary Jane”, ensure the listeners’ interest. The psychedelic freak-out section in the middle reminds me of similar sections in Led Zeppelin’s ‘Whole Lotta Love’ and Uriah Heep’s ‘Gypsy’. – Brian Currin, 1998
“Cold Fact” opens with the ultra trippy Sugar Man, which may well have been straight out of an acid trip. “Sugar man met a false friend on a lonely dusty road, lost my heart, when I found it, it had turned to dead black coal” suggests just where exactly the inspiration came from as he goes on to list jumpers, coke and sweet Mary Jane. More than any other Rodriguez song, it is Sugar Man which personifies the artist in the minds of those who have always wondered. The eerie moog synthesizer, whistling in the background, the lazy and simple guitar chords and the dreamy nasal voice place the listener firmly in an era of fantasy. It sets a perfect tone for the album and the myth. – Andrew Bond, 1998
I’m not for drugs, I never advocated drug taking – Rodriguez, March 1998
What’s that song about anyway? – Rodriguez, 22 September 2001
This track was the first encore song on the 1998 South African tour. It was preceded by much chanting of “Su-gar Man, Su-gar Man…”. Were we calling for the song or the Man? Who knows, but he came and he sang and we loved it.
South African band Just Jinger also did a great cover of this song on their March 1998 EP “Something For Now”.
There have also been cover versions recorded by American band The Monkey Wrench and Australian band Stella One Eleven.
Kris Kristofferson recorded a completely different song called “Sugar Man” in 1972. Released on the “Jesus Was A Capricorn” album.
In 1991 The Escape Club also recorded a song titled “Sugar Man” (no relation to the Rodriguez song) on their “Dollars And Sex” CD.
In 2001 Rapper Nas sampled “Sugar Man” for his “You’re Da Man” track off “Stillmatic”.
In the December 2002 issue of UK music mag, MOJO, in the list “The 100 Greatest Drug Songs Ever!” “Sugarman” was at number 34.
You’d Like To Admit It
Extremely rare b-side of a seven single recorded in 1967 and credited to Rod Riguez.
This classic folk-rock song is the one that most people seem to associate with Rodriguez. Used as the show opener on the 1998 and 2001 SA tours. Simple in composition but penetrating in it’s lyrics.
It came as no surprise then that when “Cold Fact” hit the record racks, it became a hit, simply because it contained a phrase which would muddy the country’s sexually chaste waters and serve as a mantra to the youth: I wonder, how many times you’ve had sex… – Craig Bartholomew, 1997
Generation EXT’s slow hip-hop rap version of I Wonder was released on the compilation CD “Dance Connexion 17” in September 1998.
Only Good For Conversation
Classic fuzz metal guitar riff by Dennis Coffey opens this song, reminds me of Deep Purple’s ‘Smoke On The Water’. A harsh bitter song of lost love (..you’re the coldest bitch I know..), this track really rocks! Great bass line and a superb guitar solo. – Brian Currin, 1998
Climb Up On My Music
My favourite Rodriguez song and also one of my all-time favourite songs. Brilliant title and great lyrics. Excellent rock guitar from Chris Spedding and jazzy piano (by Phil Dennys?) make this song a classic. Wonderful production by Steve Rowland and superb stereo imaging. Listen to it!!
When performed live on the 1998 South African tour this track became a classic rock song of anthemic proportions. Willem Möller’s guitar solo is one of my magic moments in music. – Brian Currin, 1998
A wonderful instrumental duet for acoustic guitar and violin. Used as the intro for “Lifestyles”. Written by Rodriguez for his 2 daughters, Sandra and Eva. Sometimes mistitled as Sundrevan Lullaby.
…the musical part of Sandrevan Lullaby touches my heart (named after my sister Sandra and me)… – Eva Rodriguez, 1997
Rehearsed for the 1998 SA tour, but not performed (I know ‘coz I was there!) – Brian Currin, 1998
Rich Folks Hoax
Great song, what more can I say – listen to the words.
Craig Bartholomew told me that in 1987 when he was busking his way around Spain, this song received the best response, and the most money into his open guitar case!
Not written by Rodriguez, but sure sounds like it could have been. “Hate Street Dialogue” actually refers to the famous “Haight/Ashbury” area of San Francisco, the famous Hippie hang-out during the late 60s “Summer Of Love”.
…for years the title Hate Street Dialogue has been bothering me, when I listened to the song I gathered the lyrics were referring to the famous hippie street in San Francisco: Haight/Ashbury, however the title on the album is spelt “Hate”. Rodriguez said (on a South African radio phone-in show in March 1998) that although the lyrics of that particular song were not written by himself they did refer to the Haight and not to the opposite of love. – Stelios, 1998
Could this be “Janis Pity” – a sort of tribute to Janis Joplin? Read the lyrics and see the similarity to Janis and her lifestyle. Lyrics like “now you sit there thinking, feeling insecure…” and “…don’t bother to buy insurance, coz you’ve already died…”. Great imagery and biting prose. Read more about this song and ‘Like Janis’.
To Whom It May Concern (1979 live version)
A wonderful, almost progressive rock version with jazz-blues flute and even a bass solo. Recorded in Australia in 1979. This track is over 8 minutes long and the band is introduced on this song. Really great version.
Heikki’s Suburbia Bus Tour
After a conversation with my father, I wanted to share a short story…
In the sixties, there were these people called hippies. It can be said that a long hair, dark skin, free thinking musician, like Rodriguez could have been labelled one. In my youth, I recall hearing about how the “rich folks” (those living in the suburbs), would come down to the inner city of Detroit to actually see these “oddities” in their natural environment. Maybe even take a picture or two. This happened to be my neighborhood and some of my people.
Rodriguez had a very good friend named Heikki. I remember a large man with long blond/brown hair. He had a very nice home, a wife named Linda and two huge bull mastiff dogs. Despite stereotypes, Heikki was a mathematician from “Estonia” (Estonia is a republic in North-Eastern Europe, near Finland) who rode a classic motorcycle. In fact, one of the places that Rodriguez played, a “motorcycle funeral”, was for one of Heikki’s friends. The motorcycle club was called “The Penetrators”.
Anyway, someone had made fun of Rodriguez’s friend. Protective of Heikki’s feelings, Rodriguez organized what I consider to be a peaceful form of retaliation. A bus was chartered, full of hippies, four gallons of wine, etc. The group went to Grosse Point, Michigan and surrounding areas where they visited suburbian malls and neighborhoods on a tour of their own. The rest, is in the music. The story made the newspapers in Detroit and also reached Florida (a southern U.S. state). – Eva Rodriguez, 1997
A Most Disgusting Song
In “A Most Disgusting Song” the people are like someone we all know. I think it was a depiction of a place Rodriguez played, a bar called “The Sewer” near the Detroit River, that was demolished a long time ago (In the song “Cause” Rodriguez speaks to Jesus (his brother?) at the Sewer). One of the places that Rodriguez played, a “motorcycle funeral”, was for one of Heikki’s friends. The motorcycle club was called “The Penetrators”. – Eva Rodriguez, 1997
It’s the 50-year anniversary of Sixto Rodriguez’s “Cold Fact,” co-produced with Motown Funk Brother Dennis Coffey. Although the album took off internationally, it’s still a Detroit story.
One of music’s most fascinating stories originated in Detroit, but unfolded in South Africa and Australia when audiences in those countries embraced an album largely ignored in the states.
Sixto Rodriguez, born in Detroit to Mexican immigrants, became a singer/songwriter composing protest songs that reflected the disparities in our society.
This culminated on the album “Cold Fact” released in March, 1970 — 50 years ago this month. Most recently, the Academy Award winning documentary titled “Searching for Sugarman” helped introduce “Cold Fact” to a whole new audience.
It’s one of pop music’s unlikeliest and greatest comeback stories ever: a Mexican-American singer-songwriter from Detroit named Sixto Rodriguez recorded two albums of psychedelic folk rock in the early 1970s that went nowhere in the U.S. upon their initial release; afterwards, he worked in construction. Unbeknownst to him, his music was a huge hit in South Africa, where his unsentimental and gritty outsider lyrics resonated with young liberal Afrikaners during that country’s policy of apartheid. Rodriguez’s impact on South Africa and his subsequent reemergence in the late 1990s–thanks to the efforts of some dedicated fans–formed the crux of the 2012 Academy Award-winning documentary Searching for Sugar Man, directed by the late Malik Bendjelloul. Due to the success of the film, Rodriguez’s music has experienced belated and renewed attention.
On a Saturday night, many gathered for a performance of the legendary singer-songwriter and Oscar winner, Rodriguez, at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex on the Cal State L.A. campus in East Los Angeles. Searching for Sugar Man documented Rodriguez’s story of being a Mexican-American songwriter whose two early ’70s albums bombed in America, but who wound up finding a huge audience in Apartheid-era South Africa. Sixto Rodriguez had no idea he was a legend there until a group of fans found him on the Internet and brought him to the country for a series of triumphant concerts.
A little before 8:00 p.m., attendees were enjoying the reception right outside the theater, complete with a taco stand, beverages and a DJ. But those who were seated promptly at 8:00 p.m. were treated to a stunning performance by singer-songwriter Vera Sola.
“Hello Los Angeles,” Vera Sola greeted the seated audience. “We’re about to have a discussion…” she trailed into song. She played a solo set with plenty of arpeggiated guitar and deep vocals. She wandered and slinked about the stage, never missing a beat as she pierced the audience with her intense gaze. She performed songs from her upcoming album Shades and took time between each song to share a little bit about them. “A lot of these songs are funny,” she shared after a particularly dark love song, “Small Minds,” to which the crowd laughed. But the highlight of her set was a cover of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive,” where she turned disco into folk and showcased the full range of her vocals, from trembling to belting. The crowd cheered during and after the song and she replied, “That’s how I do a disco song.” She performed a couple more songs, each with their own unique story—one about a woman she met in Mississippi named Honey, and another dedicated to her sister with powerful lyrics like, “got the universe inside my body.”
While the audience waited eagerly for Rodriguez to take the stage, a performer by the name of S.K. took the stage, guitar in hand, and performed a couple original songs including “Don’t Go Changing” and “Solution,” as well as a couple covers the crowd got into including Jewel’s “Who Will Save Your Soul” and New Kingdom’s “Mexico or Bust.”
Shortly after, Rodriguez took the stage with the help of his posse, and the crowd cheered as loud as they could. Rodriguez took a seat and was left solo with his guitar on stage. “I always check the tuning—trust no one,” he shared as he re-tuned his guitar. Some phrases he repeated throughout the night included, “I was born in 1942,” “I’m a musical activist” and “I have a few words for the commander in chief,” just to paint a picture. The crowd took the liberty of speaking back to Rodriguez whenever there was a pause. “Rodriguez for President!” One man said, which was followed by cheers. He played a few covers throughout the set, opening with Elton John’s “Your Song” and “Sixteen Tons” by Merle Travis and later playing The Doors’ “Light My Fire.” He performed mostly solo, sometimes accompanied by tambourine or maracas.
Rodriguez shared openly about his political views and activism, sharing that he’d ran for mayor of Detroit, his city of origin. He also shared his distaste for current events, “how about the 300 priests in Pennsylvania?” The crowd groaned along. But he also kept things light at times, joking, “I want to be treated like an ordinary legend.” The crowd hooted and cheered along to songs like “The Establishment Blues,” moving their heads along to the rhythm. “Would you like to know my thesis?” Rodriguez asked the crowd, who were on the edge of their seats hanging on to every word… ” O.R. Oppression will result in revolution!” One audience member replied, “help us, Rodriguez, you’re our only hope!” “Power to the people!” He replied as he got ready for the next song, “You’d Like to Admit It.” About halfway into the set, he put down his hat and put on goggles, which he left on for the rest of the set. “It was only when I left Detroit that I realized people smiled,” he chuckled. The crowd started shouting out the cities they were from… “Berlin!” “East Los!” and Rodriguez looked around the audience, listening with intent. Some sang along to “Sugarman,” one of the more popular songs of the night. Stage lights danced around the audience. After the song, Rodriguez warned, “Sugarman is a descriptive song, not prescriptive. Stay off drugs!”
The stage lights made it appear as though he was playing in a pool of water with flowers bobbing on the surface, adding a soothing element to his folk style performance. Before going into another popular song, “I Wonder,” he shared some words of wisdom: “It’s not kill or be killed, it’s live and let live.” The crowd sang and clapped along. He closed the set with “Forget It,” and everyone waited eagerly for an encore, which they received. He closed the night with a final, “I love you guys and my love is real,” leaving his message of love in the air all night.
Your Song (Elton John cover)
Sixteen Tons (Merle Travis cover)
Inner City Blues
Let’s Think About Living (Bob Luhman cover)
This In Not A Song, It’s An Outburst: Or, The Establishment Blues
Worldwide FM presents ‘Cape Town Sounds’, an audio documentary which explores the rich musical heritage of Cape Town, as part of Lufthansa’s #LHcityofthemonth campaign.
The documentary follows Gilles over the course of the day as he sets out to learn about the history of the city’s music, and infiltrate the dynamic contemporary scene. He begins with the music of the Khoisan bushmen, through to Cape Jazz of the ’60s, onto hip hop of the ’80s and ’90s, through to the spoken word and current musical climate of today.
By discovering where the music is from and where it is going, Gilles discovers what makes Cape Town so special.