Steve Louw and his band Big Sky appeared with Rodriguez on the sold-out South African tour in 1998 as featured in the Oscar-winning film “Searching For Sugar Man“.
Here is the official video for “Train Don’t Run”, created by Jacqui van Staden. From the album “Headlight Dreams“, produced by Kevin Shirley and released 7 May 2021.
… 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 McNelley 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“.
My grandfather was a railroadman and in the 1930s my father rode trains looking for work. To me, trains symbolise our attempts to bend nature to our will – and we’re seeing that trying to do that will never work. Silence will always return to the plains, the wind will blow, tracks will crumble and the earth will breathe again. This song has the wide open plains in it; dry cracked earth and a broken land.
The song builds from a driving acoustic guitar and hypnotic bassline to a haunting guitar solo by Rob McNeeley. The production (by Kevin Shirley) brings out the relentlessness of the song and of what we inflict on our planet.
TRAIN DON’T RUN (Recorded February 27, 2020)
The wind blows across empty plains That hold so many bones The rails glow years since the rain Horses roam on broken stones Train don’t run round here no more Train is gone for us all
Put down a coin on the track Saw silver turn through black Seeds thrown all come back Haunt the earth broken and cracked Train don’t run round here no more Train won’t come for us all
I can help you cross if you’ll let me Spirits roam across this broken land What’s been lost you can see Count the cost can’t understand Train don’t run round here no more Train is gone for us all
I like the opening line: “I’d rather walk than drive another mile with you.” Two people who can’t figure out if they love or hate each other, or both . . . It’s different to all the other songs but the in-your-face vocal, acoustic guitar riff and weird time signature sucks you into their personal mayhem. I only had the “get out of my heart” line when I started writing this song, singing along to power chords and a Bo Diddley-type beat, and later wrote the verses. I thought of the song as a rocker and a cry in the dark. We played it that way live and it went down well but I felt the song was too linear for the lyric and I put it aside. About a week before going into the studio I tried playing and singing the chorus in a different time signature and suddenly the song took on the mood of the lyric, which is pretty dark – and the story came into stark relief. Once we got the time signature nailed down in the studio I found I could sing the lyrics with the space it needed. I love the sound of the vocal.
GET OUT OF MY HEART (Recorded February 28, 2020)
I’d rather walk than drive another mile with you More dead than alive, I need room to move To get you out of my heart, won’t you let me be Right from the start, you let me bleed Keep you out of my heart Keep you out of my mind Since we’ve been apart I can see I was blind
No way of knowing if this turns out bad or good Got to get going, I’m heading for the woods Keep you out of my heart Keep you out of my mind Since we’ve been apart I can see I was blind
You set me free, and I keep crawling back Only thing that we do, stay on this one-way track Keep you out of my heart Keep you out of my mind Since we’re apart I can see I was blind
I’m lying across this cold empty bed I’m not feeling lost, I’m sleeping like the dead First time since the start that I got peace of mind Stay out of my heart For the last time Keep you out of my heart Keep you out of my mind Since we’ve been apart I can see I was blind
Pat Thrall called me from Atlanta in September 2003, where he was working with Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart. They were coming to Cape Town and wanted to record with local musicians, in preparation for an album and concert to raise funds and global awareness to help fight the AIDS tragedy. I knew Dave Stewart as a great producer, musician and songwriter, and I looked forward to them coming to Cape Town.
Brian May walked into UCA, carrying his red guitar by the neck, plugged into a VOX AC30 amp and the sound of Queen filled the room. He was adding guitar parts to a track that Dave had finished the night before. Pat had called me that morning, laughing. “You lucked out Steve, after you left last night, Dave decided to work on the track you guys did together and it’s come out great! He is going to finish it today.”
I stood backstage at the Green Point Stadium on the 29th of November 2003, where 40 000 people had to come to watch the first-ever 46664 concert. Johnny Clegg was singing “Asimbonanga” and “The Crossing” to Nelson Mandela in the audience. It was a riveting performance and a highlight of the concert. We had sat in the sunshine, outside the rehearsal venue, the day before and spoke about the years since 1985, when we had played together, the death of my mother, South Africa, and Johnny’s upcoming US tour. When he walked off stage, I hugged him. “You’re out the van, and in the big tour bus after that, Johnny!” We laughed, happy to be together on such a great night.
I had been on my farm for a few weeks working on my songs in early 2019 when I heard a crazy buzzing outside the window where I was sitting writing. I got up and looked up into the eaves at a watermelon-sized blob of hanging buzzing bees about to move into a new home. There were bees everywhere, and I locked down all the windows to keep them out. I phoned my buddy who was a beekeeper to come around and help me out. He calmly stuck his hand into the middle of the swarm, extracted the Queen, put her in a wooden box, and watched as the whole swarm followed her in. It was sunset, and I had the tag for the song I was working on. “You’re my Queen, my Queen Bee maybe, I’ll stick with you ‘til the sun goes down.”
I love the sound of a Hammond organ and its rotating Leslie speaker working together. Steve Winwood, Richard Manuel, Benmont Tench and Kevin McKendree can each make that sound. I heard it as Kevin played his solo on “Queen Bee Maybe”, the first song we recorded in Nashville in February 2020. I knew then that we were going to have a great time making this record.
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.
This documentary was shown on South African Television this week, 20 years ago.
Footage from this documentary features strongly in the Oscar winning film, Searching For Sugar Man.
Directed by Tonia Selley and featuring Big Sky, “Dead Men Don’t Tour”, was first broadcast on SABC 3 at 9.30pm on the 5th July 2001 just after ‘Ripley’s Believe Or Not’.
This film features wonderful concert footage, backstage antics, interviews with Craig Bartholomew Strydom and Stephen “Sugar” Segerman, Rodriguez and his family, the promoters, the fans and the musicians.
All live footage was filmed at the concerts in Pretoria, Durban and the Blues Room in Johannesburg.
The soundtrack for the documentary is based on the Live Fact CD with video collages from the various performances. The concert footage is linked with interviews, backstage antics, rehearsals, etc.
Inner City Blues
Jane S. Piddy
A Most Disgusting Song
Climb Up On My Music
I Wonder by Generation EXT (filmed during the studio recording)
Produced by Incha Productions Executive producers: Georgina Parkin and Charles Watson Directed by Tonia Selley Edited by Cathy Winter
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.
Anyone who supported local South African music will remember All Night Radio, the blues rock band from Stellenbosch who were truly world class. I have been meaning to interview Steve for the longest time and now that he is about to release a new album it seemed like the perfect time to interview him now. I would like to give a big shout out to Martin Myers and the sterling work he is doing as CEO of Music Exchange and Triple M Entertainment. Martin is handling the PR for Steve Louw and is also his manager. I contacted him about doing this interview. Thanks Martin 😀
By way of introduction many of you should remember this song, recorded live at Ellis Park Stadium, 1985….
Ernesto: Howzit Steve, hope you are doing well? No need to ask if you are still rocking as I am really thrilled to hear that you have a new album coming out soon but more about that later… I believe ANR started at Stellenbosch University where you met Nico Burger and Rob Nagel and your combined love for the Blues and Rock ‘n Roll got you out there and playing with David Kramer and Lesley Rae Dowling in various clubs and student venues. When was this exactly and what songs did you play at those early gigs? Did you play any covers or only original songs? How did you get involved in music and who were your main influences?
Steve: Hi Ernesto, Great to hear from you! I met Rob Nagel and Willem Moller in 1976 at the Stellenbosch Folk Club and we have been friends ever since. It was great place to get heard and there was always an enthusiastic audience of music lovers. Most of the artists wanted to showcase their own songs, but there were also versions of other artists’ songs. I can remember doing a cover of Gallis Pole (Gallows Pole) on 12 string guitar, thinking I was covering a Zeppelin song! I never dreamed that 25 years later my bud Kevin Shirley would be working with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant! My Dad had a DJ friend in Johannesburg, and one day he brought home a copy of Duane Eddy, ‘Have Twangy Guitar Will Travel’ and I was mesmerised by the sound. Another of my earliest memories is hearing Fats Domino sing Blueberry Hill on my Mom’s car radio and I felt that I was being taken to another mysterious and beautiful place. I started playing piano when I was 8, and when I found my brother’s discarded GalloTone guitar that was it. Willem and I had a band called Rockaway which gigged doing originals and covers. Willem was always into recording, and we started doing demos of our songs between gigs.
I formed ANR in 1983 with Rob, Pitchie Rommelaere and Nico (Burger), as Willem had left Cape Town for Johannesburg with his band Nothing Personal, which had started to do well. Our first drummer was Ronnie Milne, a great Scottish drummer. I had started recording with Willem at a Studio in Cape Town in 1979 and 1980, and we did demos of my songs and then focussed on two songs which we thought had a shot. I finished them up when I moved to New York City in 1981. After trying to get going in NYC, and having some interest from A+M Records, I decided to come back to Cape Town and form All Night Radio.
E: ANR broke up and Steve headed for New York City and Rob Nagel went to Hamburg, Germany. Two years later Rob and Steve decided to return to Cape Town and, re-uniting with Nico, used the Mother City as the base for their assault on the record industry. Then came months of all-night rehearsals, live gigs to test the songs, more rehearsals, more gigs, and live recordings until the band felt they were ready to record.
Why did the band break up? Did you and Rob intend going overseas to gain experience before returning to give it a full go in South Africa? Did either of you play live while overseas or did you go and see as many bands as you could, or both? What bands really blew you away and inspired you with All Night Radio?
S: So we formed ANR, when I came back to Cape Town in March 1983. When I was in NYC, I saw so many great bands! It was a really inspirational time and also quite tough to survive! I met lots of musicians and recording engineers, and we would go into their studios during quiet times, like a Sunday afternoon, and work on songs. I remember walking in the streets of New York in 1981 hearing the Stones’ Start Me Up blasting from every car, shop and taxi wherever you went. It was incredible! Springsteen released Nebraska in 1982 and it played over and over on my cassette machine. The songs really resonated with me and I realised that the art of songwriting and storytelling were one.
That album really inspired me and I bought a 4 track cassette recorder and started making demos. All the first demos of the songs that were released on the first ANR album The Heart’s the Best Part were recorded on that machine, which I still have! I also remember a stand out gig by Elvis Costello, during his Imperial Bedroom tour which was just mind blowing. I knew that I had to really focus on songwriting to connect with people.
All Night Radio’s first release was the double A sided single: Breaking Hearts/Sea Side Love which was released on 1st September 1984 and what a great song it was…
This was on the other side and my own personal favourite…
E: That was a really good single Steve and though the blues influence was there these tracks have a real ’80’s feel. Were you listening to ’80’s music at the time because I can hear a little Billy Idol, Springsteen and Simple Minds influence on these tracks; meant as a compliment of course 😉. I believe your intention was to go back to basics with your sound and this was the first result of that….
S: Yes, the 80’s; what happened was the sound of drums completely changed. Everybody was competing to be heard on the radio and the drums, particularly the snare just got massive! When we recorded The Hearts the Best Part, we put a mike on the metal freight elevator wall, took all the toms off the kit, and placed the kit in front of the lift’s gaping mouth! It seemed like a good idea at the time, and that why the drums are so in your face. Luckily the 80’s passed!
E: The single received a very favourable review from Andrew Donaldson in his review in the Cape Times of 5 October 1984: “The first single from All Night Radio’s debut album was released last week. The double A-sided rocker, Breaking Hearts, c/w Sea Side Love, is a no-nonsense uncompromising recording debut, and an exciting glimpse of what the group intends to offer on its forthcoming album. Produced in Cape Town by New York-based John Rollo, “Breaking Hearts” is probably the noisiest and freshest-sounding rock single produced in this country to date. Guitarist Nico Burger effortlessly establishes himself as wunderkind here in one neat and fluid solo. ANR think they’re a great group. They probably are.” All Night Radio Released their first album, The Heart’s the Best Part in 1984 and you can listen to the album in full here but please go out and buy the album….
E: There is a very interesting story connected to the first ANR single and album and I can remember reading about that in the Argus Tonight newspaper and instead of repeating that article I will try to tell the story in my own words. So, Steve Louw was going to Joburg at the same time as Little Steven (Van Zandt) was in South Africa. A local journalist from Cape Town could not go to Joburg so he drew up some questions, arranged a meeting with Little Steven and gave these to Steve. Louw saw this as the perfect opportunity to promote his own music and looking for a break, dumped the questions and when he did meet Little Steven he asked “Will you produce my band?”.
Steve also insisted that Little Steven listen to the tapes (of the first album) to which Steven replied: “Er, I’d really like to,” said Little, “but, you see, I just can’t spare the time…” Unperturbed, Louw expressed his band’s willingness to wait. The persistence and determination paid off as Van Zandt told Steve that he could not do it but he could introduce Louw to the co-producer of his album, John Rollo. (Rollo was a British producer who lived in the USA who had produced: Little Steven & the Disciples Of Soul, Roberta Flack, Stevie Nicks, The Kinks and George Benson amongst others). Transatlantic phone calls followed, finance was discussed and after listening to the tapes, Rollo came out to Cape Town while leaving George Benson waiting…. Watched by Louw, Rollo completed the mixing of the single and subsequent album in his New Jersey studio, and that is why it sounds so good.
E: Phew Steve, that must have taken a lot of guts. Were you nervous meeting Little Steven but also determined not to miss out on this career altering opportunity? Did you really just drop the interview questions completely and just ask him to produce your first album? He must have been dumbfounded and impressed at the same time?
S: No, I was freelancing as a record reviewer for The Cape Times, so that I could get all the new releases from the Record Companies. I offered to interview Little Steven for the Cape Times and they said sure. I was really keen to meet him as I loved his work as an Arranger/Producer with Springsteen, Southside Johnny and Gary “US” Bonds. I also loved his debut first album, and he had just released Voice of America his second album. We had a great time talking music, studios and production and a 20 minute time slot stretched into hours. He asked me if I was gigging and recording, and said he would love to hear some of the songs. I had the cassette of our live 4 track recordings with me, and the band sounded good after a year of gigging. He listened to the set while I took photos to go with the piece on him. I can still see him in his bandana and leopard print coat looking into the camera while listening to ANR on my walkman. It was a great moment in my life. Anyway he liked what he heard and put me in touch with John Rollo in New Jersey. John agreed to come to Cape Town and work with us on Little Steven’s recommendation, so that meeting was the start of my career.
E: Rollo must have been impressed right off the bat with your sound that made him come out to South Africa and produce your album though I am sure a few words from Little Steven helped that project on its way 😉. Do you know if Van Zandt ever heard the album and I sure hope that you sent him a copy…..?
S: Yes, he came back to South Africa for a second visit in August 1984, (I first met him in May 1984), before starting on his Sun City project. I brought the album, which had just been pressed, (literally hot off the press), to him at his hotel in Johannesburg. Journalist Andrew Donaldson also published a review of the album in the Cape Times Funfinder of 9 November 1984; “All Night Radio’s The Heart’s The Best Part is a thunderous debut, with its hard-driving snare-drum guitar orientated sound (Springsteen a la mode). Forget the “well-produced, technically perfect” spiel (it is a remarkable album in that aspect) and listen to the songs. Singer Steve Louw displays a talent for crafting songs that are free of obvious and clichéd hooks. They’re energetic, they’re thoughtfully constructed and, what’s important, they have a shelf life that takes you far past the first listening.”
E: Jip, I agree. It is a true South African classic. The second ANR album; The Killing Floor was released in 1986 on Previous Records and was produced by Cape Town’s own Kevin “Caveman” Shirley who has produced albums by Journey, Iron Maiden, Rush, Led Zeppelin, Joe Bonamassa, Beth Hart, Marya Roxx, Dream Theater, The Springbok Nude Girls, HIM, Tyler Bryant, Mr. Big, and Europe.
Did All Night Radio ever play any gigs with Kevin’s band The Council or did you only meet him later on as a producer? Your album must have been one of the first albums that he produced?
S: Yes we were often on the same bill at festivals, and he had been blown away by how our first album sounded, and was keen to do our second album. Kevin had already done a lot of albums. He has always been really busy.
E: Awesome. Did the above musicians come in and do their parts or did you jam and record with them in the studio? Who were the Glee Singers? Rob Nagel had left the band at that stage to join the Blues Broers hadn’t he?
S: We used Richard Pickett on our first album, and Richard Devey played live with ANR in 1984/1985. ANR stopped gigging in early 1986, but I still kept writing, and I love recording, so Kevin offered to produce an album with me. He put the band together and we cut all the tracks live. I love Tim’s solo on The Killing Floor. The Glee Singers were a gospel group that came in and sang Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrica in the studio. Rob formed the Flaming Firestones after ANR.
E: The album contained seven Louw originals with a storming cover of Here Comes the Night by Them (which featured Van Morrison) (also covered by David Bowie on his Pin Ups album) and The Killing Floor by Howlin’ Wolf and here is the original of the latter…
E: Listen to the album in full here but please go out and buy people. Support our own…
E: The Killing Floor features the cream of South African musicians including: Steve Louw: Vocals and acoustic guitar, Nico Burger: Electric Guitar, Slide Guitar, Dobro, Mike Campbell: Electric Bass, Tony Drake: Piano, Organ, Synthesisers, Herman Eugster (of Ella Mental): Drums, Mike Faure: Saxophone, The Glee Singers: Choir on ‘Fire of Reign’, Tim Parr: Guitar on ‘The Killing Floor’ and André de Villiers, Tracey Dogon, Mynie Grove, Tam Minter: Backing Vocals.
What made you decide to include those two covers, though you do them really well? Were they live favourites perhaps?
S: Kevin thought they would be great songs to cover, and he was right!
E: When and why did All Night Radio stop/split and when did you start with your Big Sky project/band? Big Sky was essentially your band, a solo project where you were joined by some of South Africa’s finest. Would I be right in saying that?
S: ANR stopped touring in April 1986, and The Killing Floor was recorded after that. I just kept doing what I always do which is write songs, and when you have ten good ones you can make an album! Some times it just takes longer to come up with at least ten good songs. Kevin and I just started making another album, and both Rob and Nico play on the album. I had come across a great band in Johannesburg, Ymage, and I thought it would be great to cut the tracks with them. So we recorded with Godla Mgcinga (drums) Jimmy Mngwandi (bass) and Don Laka (keyboards) at UCA Studios in Cape Town where I recorded the two ANR albums.
E: The first Big Sky album, Waiting for the Dawn was released in 1990 on Gallo Records and re-issued in June 2001 on the Epic label and it is indeed epic! The album was produced by Kevin Shirley again and features more of the top South African musicians including; Steve Louw: Acoustic Guitar, vocals, Nico Burger: Guitar, Honest Rod Nagel: Harp (previously on bass), Don Laka: Piano, keyboards, Robbie McIntosh: Guitar, Slide guitar, Rupert Mellor: Accordion, Piano, McCoy Mrubata: Sax, Steve Newman: Acoustic Guitar, Jimmy Mngwandi: Bass, Godla Mgcinga: Drums, Benmont Tench: Piano, Hammond organ, Waddy Wachtel: Guitar, Roy Bittan: piano on ‘Here Comes The Night’, Cape Town Highlanders (The 1000 Pipers): bagpipes on ‘Waiting For The Dawn’ . The Atlantic City Horns: Horns (arranged by Mike Campbell), The Long Street Gang: Backing vocals.
Stunning selection of South Africa’s top musicians and the legendary American Guitarist Waddy Wachtel who has played with the Everly Brothers, Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Warren Zevon, Bonnie Raitt, Randy Newman, Don Henley and Jackson Browne and co-writing songs with Keith Richards in the X-Pensive Winos. How on earth did you persuade Waddy to play on your album? Did you meet him when you were in the USA or did you send him some demos?
S: When we were mixing the album, the engineer Shelly Yakus thought that ‘Diamonds and Dirt’ would sound great with Hammond and another rhythm guitar, so he called up Benmont and Waddy, and as a favour to Shelly, they came down to the studio and played on the song.
E: This is the brilliant Waiting for the dawn title track and the album also features a Radio Edit towards the end…
Another great song off the album is this one but every track off Waiting for the Dawn is really good…
and another which has a lekker South African sing along chorus…
E: The second Big Sky album, Horizon was released in 1995 and with it Louw clinched the “Best Rock Act” of 1996 award at the FNB Music Awards. The album was mixed by Rob Jacobs and Shelly Yakus and produced by Steve Louw himself. Horizon featured: Steve Louw: vocals, acoustic guitar, Scott Crago: drums, percussion, Mark Harris: bass, Benmont Tench: Hammond organ, piano, Tommy Girvin: electric & acoustic guitars, backing vocals, Mona Lisa & Terry Young: backing vocals on ‘One Cut With A Knife’, Kip Lennon & Mark Lennon: backing vocals on ‘Bye Bye Johnny’ & ‘Kathleen’. This is one of the great tracks off Horizon…
The album sold over 10,000 copies…
E: Well done Steve, that is probably your most successful album then?
S: Yes, ‘One Cut with a Knife’ connected with people, and ‘Kathleen’ got a lot of Airplay. My favourite is ‘Strange Room’, so there were three songs that got people listening.
E: Going Down With Mister Green, the third Big Sky album was released in 1997 by Polygram and was produced by Steve Louw. The album featured: Steve Louw: vocals, guitar, Scott Crago: drums, percussion, Mark Harris: bass, Benmont Tench: keyboards, Tommy Girvin: guitar, Tim Pierce: sitar on ‘Wasted’. Another really good selection of songs and you can listen to all of them here but please buy if you like…
E: Great album and you must have been really pleased with the result but also sad to learn that your former All Night Radio guitarist Nico Burger had died (sometime in 1996). How did that affect you and did it change or inspire the recording of this album?
S: It was really sad, and I wrote ‘Wasted’ for Nico. He was an incredible musician, really just genius! He was very intuitive both live and in the studio and came up with some incredible performances. His playing really makes the ANR albums as does his playing on ‘Waiting for the Dawn’ .
The 1999 album Best of the Decade featured the best songs Big Sky recorded and every single song is a classic. Pick your own favourite. Mine is probably Diamonds and Dirt but that changes, which shows how good the songs really are.
Were any of the songs on this best of compilation CD re-recorded, remixed or remastered or changed in any way from the versions on your previous Big Sky albums?
S: No, they were just taken from the albums, but I recorded two new songs for the compilation with Kevin, ‘Destiny’ and ‘Skin Deep’.
E: Louw returned with an album of new Big Sky songs with the Beyond the Blue album on 9 September 2002 and the album was produced by Kevin Shirley again. The album featured the ex South African musicians; Anton Fig: drums, percussion, Keith Lentin: bass, harmonica, acoustic guitar on track 9, Blondie Chaplin (The Flames/ Beach Boys/ Rolling Stones): guitars, vocals, Pat Thrall: guitars, Adam Holzman: keyboards and of course, Steve Louw: vocals, acoustic guitar. In 2003 Steve Louw composed Amandla for Madiba’s 46664 benefit concert with Dave Stewart of The Eurythmics, Anastacia and Brian May of Queen. The song was performed by Bono and Beyoncé. Here is that song from this historic concert…
E: Wow, aside from co-writing that song were you involved in Madiba’s 46664 benefit concert and did you perform there? Did you ever get the opportunity to meet the great man?
S: I was lucky enough to be on stage for the performance of the song Amandla, and it was great being backstage and watching so many incredible musicians perform. I think the highlight for me was watching Johnny (Clegg) sing ‘Asimbonanga’ for Nelson Mandela in the audience. It was a riveting performance.
E: The Trancas Canyon album was released in 2008 by Sony Music and was recorded in a house in a canyon in Malibu, California, over three days. The album featured: Steve Louw: vocals, acoustic guitar, Blondie Chaplin: guitar, backing vocals, Pat Thrall: guitar, Rick Melick: keyboards, Anton Fig: drums, Keith Lentin: bass. You can listen to the here but please buy…
E: Always thought that this album has a real warm, easy flowing homely sound as it was with the Travelling Wilburys. It sounds like you all had a lot of fun making this album. Can you tell us about the recordings?
S: The studio is up in hills above where Kevin lived in Malibu. It was done over a weekend as Anton had to get back to NYC to do his Letterman show on Monday. Its always great when Keith, Blondie and Anton get together as they are all friends for over forty years, so it is a lot of laughs ,and of course brilliant playing, from them.
E:Heart & Soul was a live DVD “Recorded live in front of a sell-out crowd at Cape Town’s historic Little Theatre. The show captures iconic South African songwriter Steve Louw and his band performing classic material from their other albums as well as previously unreleased songs.” This took place in 2009 and the recording featured : Steve Louw: Acoustic Guitar and Vocals, Willem Moller: Electric and Slide Guitars, Jacques Steyn: Double Bass, Electric Bass and Mandolin, Simon Orange: Keyboards, Tea-Chest Bass, Rob Nagel: Harmonica These are the videos from that show…
E: So good to see you at home in Cape Town playing with your blues buddies and having fun. Did you enjoy that performance? Did you do any more shows like that at the time or was this a once off performance?
S: It was a once off show at the Little Theatre, and as you can see we had a blast!
E: What have you been doing since this live performance and the release of your latest album? Were you in South Africa during the Covid-19 lockdown in South Africa in 2020?
S: Yes I have been living in South Africa the whole time trying to come up with ten good songs! Yes, I left New York on March 7  right at the very end of the beginning of the time before.
E: On 6th April 2021 Steve Louw returned with a new single; Crazy River and you can watch that right here…
E: Louw says of the song “once took a long canoe trip down the Colorado River, through the Grand Canyon and out again. It was a very spacy spiritual place and it felt like I was on a journey to the middle of the earth. I wrote this after the trip. On one level the song is about the river trip and the journey deep inside the raw power and beating heart of nature, but it also reflects on time, our time on Earth, how we experience it, and how the bonds of deep personal relationships with our fellow travellers nurture our souls. I played the acoustic guitar using a few African-style riffs and the band picked up on that feel. Guitarist Rob McNelley contributed beautiful slide guitar.” The song is from Steve’s new album; Headlight Dreams which is due to be released on May 7, 2021. The album can be pre-ordered right here…. https://orcd.co/SteveLouwHeadlightDreams
The album was produced by Kevin Shirley and mastered by Bob Ludwig.
Can you tell us about the latest album Steve? I believe the song, Wind In Your Hair features the legendary Joe Bonamassa on guitar. Awesome, who else plays on the album with you? Where was the album recorded?
S: We recorded in Nashville with a great band that Kevin put together. Greg Morrow on drums, Alison Prestwood on bass, Rob McNelley on guitar, and Kevin McKendree on Keyboards
E: Are you going to have a South African launch for the new album or at least a few shows in Cape Town? I know a lot of people would like to see you perform live in Cape Town again…
S: I would love to, it just depends on how things pan out.
E: Well, I think we have pretty much covered your career and recordings but if there is anything we left out please tell us about that. What would you say has been the highlight of your career, the defining moment that you will never forget? Also, any funny incidents during recordings or live shows that still make you smile?
S: I think meeting Stevie van Zandt in 1984 was a career defining moment for me.
E: Any last words for all the people who have followed your career? What do you still hope to achieve musically and do you have any future plans after this latest album has been released?
S: Keep looking forward to the next ten good songs.
E: Thanks so much Steve and I wish you everything of the best for your future endeavours. Check out Steve Louw’s website here…. http://www.stevelouw.com/ Soundcloud… https://soundcloud.com/stevelouw Twitter @stevelouwmusic Thanks everybody. It is always a humbling experience interviewing someone as good as Steve Louw because he is just as good as any international musician out there. I can not stress how important it is to support our artists like Steve because the music was made by a South African and mostly recorded in South Africa for the South African people which means you and me.
Ernesto Garcia Marques, Hout Bay, Cape Town, South Africa, 9th April 2021
In less than 3 weeks since the single release with Joe Bonamassa entitled “Wind in your Hair” Spotify figures reveal over 68 000 listeners and over 98 000 streams of the song “Wind in your Hair “ – a remarkable feat!
Steve Louw shines on Headlight Dreams
Cape Town, 7 May 2021 – It’s hard to believe the last new 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 Steve. Not only did Steve 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 Steve his first international solo artist record deal.
The album now out and with two singles already 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.
Along with its spellbinding video, “Wind in your Hair” is the track that sports Joe Bonamassa guitar fills and outstanding middle-eight. What makes this song all the more special for its maker is the fact that Kevin sent it to a friend to master, thereby adding the final piece of magic to this blinding brilliant musical statement.
Steve’s wedding anniversary was coming up two days after the album wrapped and, unbeknownst to Steve at the time, Kevin had sent the track to mastering legend, Bob Ludwig and within a day he’d mastered it and sent it on to Steve on the day as a gift to celebrate his nuptials. “When I got it, I played it on my little Bose speaker out into New York. It was one of the greatest moments ever!” Steve recalls. To top it off, Bob sent an email with the final mastered track saying, “What a wonderful song, what a wonderful vocal performance, I loved working on this”. “I practically did a giddy summersault,” he recalls.
As to the creation of the track, Steve points to how, lyrically, he sings of love changing and building between two people as life throws up detours and bridges. “It’s a love story exploring how two people, who love each other but have different needs and desires, travel through their life and love. The chorus kicks back to the joy of love, while the verses take you on a journey of rough and smooth roads and winding passes, ending at the place they set out for.”
With ten 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…,” Steve shares.
With the promise of future live shows in support of the album’s release, fans can look forward to sharing what is the greatest ride of Steve Louw’s life. A consummate storyteller, a supremely gifted guitarist and a genuinely wonderful human being, Steve’s Headlight Dreams is a beautiful statement, endorsed and applauded by everyone it touches.
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
Hello I am Danny Tyrell a local Detroit musician. When you were making the movie I was working with Dennis Coffey as keyboardist. I recall Dennis and Mike meeting in the breaks of a gig And Dennis briefly mentioned the project. As years went on I left the group and Went on to develop a music program in 4 rehab centers helping people recover from drugs. One day early on I played your movie at an evening session and the response was magical. A few guys weeped. Great discussion ensued. Over time I believe I showed your story 100’s of times. Frequently we would split it into two nights. The patients write success stories and write to you. Dennis agreed to deliver these to you when he joined your tour at one time. I could not get clearance to release them. It did not happen. I always wanted to let you know how your story affected others giving them hope. There IS a part 2. A few years I had health challenges And found your movie once again as inspiration to go on. You have been a blessing to many. I can testify to that. Thank you for the generous story
My name Geisa and I am from Brazil. I believe as many people around the world, I had never heard about you until last week.
Last Friday 30th October, I was watching a TV program about Africa, and the host talked about the famous Vinyl shop, where she talked about a man called Sixto Rodriguez, whose documentary won the Oscar. And she also mentioned that you are more famous than Elvis. It trigged me, by the way I am a fan of him.
Immediately I started to search about you. My Saturday morning was watching the doc, Saturday afternoon watching many videos on YouTube. Sunday – watching your 1st visit to Africa.
I have to confess I became a fan of yours, sharing your history among my friends, who unfortunately have not heard about you yet.
It is difficult to explain why, but I do believe your life has been MUCH better now, living in anonymous and then find your fans in other part of the world.
Your lyrics have touched me profoundly as well as your history.
I know I am just another fan, but believe me I am your Brazilian fan who will promote you even more.