The Songs of Rodriguez

“…Climb up on my music and my songs will set you free…”

Originally appeared on SugarMan.org

Sugar Man

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.

I Wonder

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

Sandrevan Lullaby

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!

Covered by Amanda Strydom in September 2003.
– Brian Currin, 2003

Hate Street Dialogue

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

Read the full amazing story of Hate Street Dialogue.

Jane S Piddy

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

The film is called Searching For Sugar Man

Searching For Sugar Man DVD (SA)

The title of the Oscar-nominated film is “Searching For Sugar Man”.

Here are some names we have seen in various places online, including a few publications that really should know better.

  • Searching For Sugarman
  • Looking For Sugar Man
  • Looking For Rodriguez
  • Waiting For Sugarman
  • The Search For The Sugarman
  • The Search For Sugar
  • Searching For Sugar
  • Finding Rodriguez
  • Searching For Rodrigues
  • Searching For Silver Man

And the film is about Rodriguez.

Here are some common misspellings:

  • Rodrigues
  • Rodriquez
  • Rodriques

The Complete Rodriguez Collection | George “Fuzzy” Fazakas

George “Fuzzy” Fazakas has compiled his idea for a complete Rodriguez box set.

CD1
1)  I’ll slip away (1967 single version)
2)  You’d like to admit it (1967 b-side single version)
3)  Cold Fact
4)  After the Fact / Coming from Reality

CD2
1) I’ll slip away 1972/3
2)  Street Boy 1972/3
3)  Can’t Get away
4)  Live Fact (1998 South African tour)
CD3
1)  Alive (1979 Australian tour, released 1981)
2)  You’d like to admit it (live 2012 sept. 2 Northhampton)
3)  Last Request (Paolo Nutini song) (live 2012 sept. 2 Northhampton)
4)  Live at the Roundhouse November 2012 (You’d Like to admit it – with full band, Like a Rolling Stone, Fever, etc)
5) I’m Gonna Live Till I Die (Frank Sinatra cover) (Live At The Triple Door, Seattle – June 23, 2009)

Rodriguez and his place in The Story Of Rock | Brian Currin

Willem Moller, Rodriguez, Brian Currin, Sugar Segerman | 2 March 1998
Willem Moller, Rodriguez, Brian Currin, Sugar Segerman | 2 March 1998

Almost all the recent fan messages on the Sugarman.org website are from people saying they have never heard of Rodriguez before. Many even apologize for not listening to him in the 1970s.

I can’t remember when exactly I first heard ‘Cold Fact’. For me his music just always seemed to have been there. A number of the mixtapes from my teenage years show “Sugar Man”, “Rich Folks Hoax” and “I Wonder” as being from 1973/74 when I was about 14/15.

I was wrong, of course, but didn’t know that until much later.

A long time ago, I compiled a series of C90 mixtapes called The Story Of Rock, with all the information lovingly catalogued and hand-written in hard cover books.

Page 13 of Book 7 shows the track listing for “The Story Of Rock 1973 to 1974” and includes the following songs:

  • Long Train Running – The Doobie Brothers
  • We Live – Xit
  • Sugar Man – Rodriguez
  • Radar Love – Golden Earring
  • Smoke On The Water – Deep Purple
  • Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • The Ballad Of Casey Deiss – Shawn Phillips
  • Rich Folks Hoax – Rodriguez
  • We’re An American Band – Grand Funk Railroad

Other artists include Led Zeppelin, The Allman Brothers Band, Yes, Focus, Chicago and more. And Rodriguez was the only one that got two entries! The next page shows “The Story Of Rock 1974 to 1976” and includes “I Wonder” alongside songs by Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, Thin Lizzy, Rory Gallagher, Pink Floyd, Genesis, David Bowie, Frank Zappa, Uriah Heep, Nazareth and others.

Cold Fact
Cold Fact

I am finding it impossible to imagine what it must be like to not grow up listening to his music alongside all those other well-known classic rock bands. I know I never heard him on the radio, but that wasn’t that strange as a number of my “Story Of Rock” artists didn’t get much radio play any way.

But that he wasn’t famous in the rest of the world, didn’t cross my mind. When I first discovered the internet during the 1996 Festive Season, I could find information on Pink Floyd and Deep Purple, however I could find nothing on Rodriguez. And that started me on a quest, that just seems to be continuously having happy endings.

Without trying to sound too melodramatic, I would not be living the life I do now, and earning my income from doing what I love, if it was not for Rodriguez and all the sparks that he ignited.

Brian Currin, August 2012

A Selection Of Rodriguez Album Covers

Cold Fact (LP) Coming From

Reality (LP)

Cold Fact (LP) After The Fact (LP)
Cold Fact USA 1970 Coming From Reality Cold Fact After The Fact
USA
1970
USA
1971
South Africa
1971
South Africa
1976
At His Best (LP) Rodriguez Alive (LP) The Best Of Rodriguez (LP) Cold Fact (CD)
At His Best Alive The Best of Rodriguez Cold Fact
Australia
1977
Australia
1981
South Africa
1982
Australia
1986
Cold Fact (CD) After The Fact (CD) Live Fact (CD) Cold Fact (CD)
Cold Fact Coming From Reality / After The Fact Live Fact Cold Fact
South Africa
1991
South Africa
1996
South Africa
1998
South Africa
2002
After The Fact (CD) All The Facts (3CD) Cold Fact (Remastered CD) Sugarman: The Best Of Rodriguez
After The Fact All The Facts Cold Fact Sugarman: The Best Of Rodriguez
South Africa
2002
South Africa
2005
South Africa
2005
South Africa
2005
After The Fact (Remastered CD) Cold Fact
(USA re-issue)
Searching For Sugar Man (soundtrack) Searching For Sugar Man (soundtrack)
After The Fact Cold Fact Searching for Sugar Man (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) Searching for Sugar Man (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
South Africa
2005
USA
August 2008
Worldwide
July 2012
Worldwide
July 2012

The Amazing Story Of Hate Street Dialogue

Originally published on Sugarman.org, 28th September 2001

HATE STREET DIALOGUE

Woman please be gone
You’ve stayed here much too long
Don’t you wish that you could cry
Don’t you wish I would die

Seamy, seesaw kids
Childwoman on the skids
The dust will choke you blind
The lust will choke your mind

I kiss the floor, one kick no more
The pig and hose have set me free
I’ve tasted hate street’s hanging tree
I’ve tasted hate street’s hanging tree

I kiss the floor, one kick no more
The pig and hose have set me free
I’ve tasted hate street’s hanging tree
I’ve tasted hate street’s hanging tree

The inner city birthed me
The local pusher nursed me
Cousins make it on the street
They marry every trick they meet

A dime, a dollar they’re all the same
When a man comes in to bust your game
The turnkey comes, his face a grin
Locks the cell I’m in again.

I kiss the floor, one kick no more
The pig and hose have set me free
I’ve tasted hate street’s hanging tree
I’ve tasted hate street’s hanging tree
I’ve tasted hate street’s hanging tree
I’ve tasted hate street’s hanging tree…

[Song published by Interior Music (BMI)]

This song was not actually written by Rodriguez, but sure sounds like it could have been. It was written by Gary Harvey, Mike Theodore (‘Cold Fact’ producer) and Dennis Coffey (guitarist on ‘Cold Fact’). “Hate Street” actually refers to the famous “Haight/Ashbury” area of San Francisco, the famous Hippie hang-out during the late 60’s “Summer Of Love”.

HAIGHT STREET

…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 SA 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

PIG AND HOSE
In this song Rodriguez sings about being set free by “the pig and hose”. Could this mean a policeman (“pigs” was hippy slang for cops) and a piece of hose-pipe?

The quote: “pig and hose to bust our game” from the song “Hate Street Dialogue”, refers to the continual harassment of the hippy-subculture by the San Francisco police department on the Haight-Ashbury youth in 1967. “Pig” was the referrel to the POLICE, and “hose” was in reference to the length of “garden-hose” used to beat the citizens into submission [usually in the confines of the police station. The title was changed in spelling from “Haight Street”, to “Hate Street” to further emphasize that feeling of alienation, by both sides of the establishment, at that time.
– Gary W Harvey, June 2002

BLACK EYED SUSAN

Back Stabbers & Money Grabbers by Black Eyed Susan
Back Stabbers & Money Grabbers by Black Eyed Susan

South African Indie melodic grunge-rockers Black Eyed Susan recorded the album ‘Back Stabbers & Money Grabbers’ in January 1998 and released it in May 1998. Included on their album is an uptempo remake of this classic ‘Cold Fact’ song. Not actually written by Rodriguez, this song of urban decay and loneliness fits perfectly on Black Eyed Susan’s album of otherwise original material. A great version on an even greater album. If you like your rock modern-but-retro, grungy-yet-tuneful, this album is for you.

 

GARY W. HARVEY
4th September 2001, Darin J. Harvey wrote:

I was amazed that I finally found something about Sixto Rodriguez on the net and that I could finish a long quest with the help of your website.

Two years ago my father, Gary W. Harvey, mentioned while I was visiting him in Detroit, that he received a check for percentage for the lyrics of a song he wrote some thirty years ago! He wasn’t sure about the facts and he could only tell me the name of the song (which he thought was “Haight Street Dialog”) and that he originally wrote that one for a guy named Rodriguez. But the check was for a cover version from a band of South Africa!

Back in Germany, where I live, I started my search with the weak information I had! As I couldn’t find any hint for Rodriguez or that song I stopped my search after a few weeks! Now nearly two years later, I remembered my search and tried again! And yep, I got some hits!

My first hit was, that the song wasn’t named “Haight Street dialog” but “Hate Street Dialogue”, which brought me on the trail of “Black Eyed Susan” and finally lead me to “Sixto Rodriguez”!

So I read the facts you collected in your website and after all I could buy me a copy of ‘Cold Fact’ through Amazon.com, Germany (which was amazing that they could supply it in Germany). Two days later I received the album and now I really love it – as it’s interesting, unique and simply good music!

It turned out that my Dad also wrote the lyrics from the song “Gommorah”. He really was amazed that I could find the stuff we talked about two years ago and as I forwarded the links to him, so he could surf through by himself!

If you ever have the chance, get yourself a copy of the first Rare Earth Album “Dreams/Answer” on Verve Records! You might find some parallels as it was produced by the same team back then!

28th September 2001, Darin wrote again:

I would be pleased if you quote my e-mail on your website and your e-mag!

I’m so happy that I could expose some old stories and connection with the help of your work and website!

Meanwhile I got contact with Francois Bredenkamp from the “Black Eyed Susan” and even with Mike Theodore, the Producer of “Cold Fact”.

Francois Bredenkamp was very surprised and pleased to receive my mail and promised to send me a copy of their album. Unfortunately his band doesn’t exist anymore!

This is what he wrote me:

It’s a great surprise and pleasure to hear from you. We fell in love with the song lyrics and decided to make a remake. We are a South African based independent band, but unfortunately Black Eyed Susan does not exist anymore. I don’t know if you are aware of this but Rodriguez is an legend in our country. He is currently touring here till the end of September and I will watch him in Pretoria this Sunday.

This was definitely the most rewarding mail we have ever received for our efforts as a struggling rock band. (Francois Bredenkamp)

A few days later I received a mail from Mike Theodore (who’s still working as a producer in New Jersey, USA) and I was very amazed, as I didn’t try to contact him! He got information through my Dad, that I searched for Rodriguez and Black Eyed Susan!

Since I have the Rodriguez album ‘Cold Fact’, I introduced it to some friends and co-workers and everyone liked it and thought it’s very unique! They’ve been surprized that he’s totally unknown here, and that he’d never made it in Germany.

Who is Jane S. Piddy? | Brian Currin

Jane's Pity
Jane’s Pity

Though Rodriguez personally denied this when I asked him, I believe ‘Jane S. Piddy’ is a deliberate misspelling of “Janis Pity” – a sort of tribute to Janis Joplin. Rodriguez said in March 1998: “The people [in my songs] are fictional. I tapped on the writer’s poetic licence giving them names and shape. Almost as a caricature works for the visual artist.”

However if you listen to the lyrics of ‘Jane S. Piddy’ you can hear 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…” are echoes of Janis’ well-documented excessive lifestyle. Remember that Rodriguez wrote this song in 1969 before Janis died on the 4th October 1970. And what about “Like Janis” – another reference? Absolutely.

 

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