Sugar Man song featured in trailer for “Moffie” film

The year is 1981 and South Africa’s white minority government is embroiled in a conflict on the southern Angolan border. Like all white boys over the age of 16, Nicholas Van der Swart (Kai Luke Brummer) must complete two years of compulsory military service to defend the Apartheid regime. The threat of communism and “die swart gevaar” (the black danger) is at an all-time high. But that’s not the only danger Nicholas faces. He must survive the brutality of the army – something that becomes even more difficult when a connection is sparked between him and a fellow recruit.

MOFFIE, is the 4th film by director Oliver Hermanus. It is produced by South African-born producer Eric Abraham who produced the Academy Award-winning films – Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida (2014) and Jan Sverak’s Kolya (1996) and Jack Sidey of Portobello Productions. It is based on the memoir, Moffie, by Andre-Carl van der Merwe and tells the story of a conscript who embarks on his military service in 1981 South Africa. In local theatres on 13 March 2020.

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Sugar Man song featured in trailer for “Moffie” film

The year is 1981 and South Africa’s white minority government is embroiled in a conflict on the southern Angolan border. Like all white boys over the age of 16, Nicholas Van der Swart (Kai Luke Brummer) must complete two years of compulsory military service to defend the Apartheid regime. The threat of communism and “die swart gevaar” (the black danger) is at an all-time high. But that’s not the only danger Nicholas faces. He must survive the brutality of the army – something that becomes even more difficult when a connection is sparked between him and a fellow recruit.

MOFFIE, is the 4th film by director Oliver Hermanus. It is produced by South African-born producer Eric Abraham who produced the Academy Award-winning films – Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida (2014) and Jan Sverak’s Kolya (1996) and Jack Sidey of Portobello Productions. It is based on the memoir, Moffie, by Andre-Carl van der Merwe and tells the story of a conscript who embarks on his military service in 1981 South Africa. In local theatres on 13 March 2020.

Follow us on social media:

https://www.facebook.com/moffiefilm/

https://www.instagram.com/moffiefilm/

https://twitter.com/moffiefilm

Detroit Musicians Remake ‘I Wonder’

Rodriguez.jpeg

Costa Dedes has been producing music for about 10 years in Detroit. After watching the ‘Searching For Sugar Man’ documentary, he was inspired to do a Sixto Rodriguez tune with an all-star line-up of Detroit artists…..

….including:

JRae with some female vocals (she plays The Old Miami where an ominous “Sixto for Mayor” poster hangs!).

Pato Margetic, the local Argentine-born Detroit singer, singing Sixto’s parts.

And Jerome Joyce, the long-time Detroit veteran MC now based in LA.

Give it a listen here:

 

Kapstadt – Searching for Sugar Man

on 21. Januar 2016 at 15:00

Original article at http://www.sirenen-und-heuler.de/kapstadt-searching-for-sugar-man/

[Please scroll down for Google’s translation from German to English]

Eigentlich wollte ich einkaufen gehen. Dann sehe ich im Schaufenster dieses Platten-Cover. Im nächsten Moment saugt mich ein Zeittunnel ein. Ich treffe auf einen totgeglaubten Superstar, Südafrika in den Seventies, treue Fans und ein Stück Musikgeschichte: Searching for Sugar Man

„Was sind die wichtigsten Sehenswürdigkeiten von Kapstadt“, frage ich Stephen “Sugar” Segerman. Er lacht. „Der Tafelberg, Robben Island und Mabu Vinyl“, antwortet er und guckt mich aus seinen großen Brillenaugen an. „Kein Scheiß, wir haben hier richtig viele Besucher“, fügt er grinsend hinzu. „Besonders seit Sugar Man…“

Searching-for-Sugar-Man---Der-Plattenladen-Mabu-Vinyl-in-Kapstadt

Es gibt wahrscheinlich keinen Ort auf der Welt, der mehr über Sugar Man erzählen kann als dieser Plattenladen

Zurück in die Zukunft

Mabu Vinyl ist Sugars Plattenladen. Gemeinsam mit einem Kumpel hat er ihn aufgebaut. Ein paar Regale Bücher, ein paar CDs und DVDs, vor allem aber Vinyl. Überall Kartons mit Langspielplatten. Abertausende! Sein Freund Brian arbeitet auch hier. Sugar Man hat sie zusammengebracht. Und wenn sie von Sugar Man erzählen, dann ist das die Geschichte, die ihr Leben verändert hat.

Ich kenne diese Geschichte schon, als ich den Laden betrete. Ich kenne sie aus dem Film „Searching for Sugar Man“. Einer der besten Dokumentarfilme aller Zeiten, finde ich, und eine fantastische musikalische Entdeckung obendrein. Ohne den Film wäre ich niemals auf Sugar Man alias Sixto Rodriguez gestoßen, und das wäre jammerschade, denn dieser Sixto Rodriguez kreiert nicht nur geniale Songs, er hat auch wirklich was zu sagen. Trotzdem verschwindet er jahrzehntelang in der Versenkung – vielleicht, weil er einen spanischen Namen hat oder weil er aus den Slums von Detroit kommt. Doch dann macht das Schicksal einen dieser irrwitzigen Schlenker und katapultiert ihn aus dem Nichts wieder auf die Bühne, wie im Märchen.

Dieses Wunder verdankt er drei treuen südafrikanischen Fans: Sugar, Brian und Craig. Zwei von ihnen stehen jetzt vor mir und erinnern sich, wie das damals war. Auf einmal ist aus dem Film Wirklichkeit geworden.

Searching-for-Sugarman---Stephen-Sugar-Segerman-in-seinem-Plattenladen

Stephen „Sugar“ Segerman in seinem Plattenladen: Vom Fan zum Musikunternehmer

Searching for Sugar Man

„Sugar man, won’t you hurry, Cos I’m tired of these scenes, For a blue coin won’t you bring back, All those colors to my dreams“

Sugar Man, der Koks-Dealer aus Rodriguez‘ gleichnamigem Song, wird zum Synonym für eine unglaubliche Gralssuche. Sie beginnt 1997. Rodriguez steckt zu dieser Zeit in einer Sozialwohnung in Detroit. Er entrümpelt Wohnungen, jobt auf dem Bau oder an der Tankstelle. Seine Gitarre hat er immer dabei, weil die sonst gestohlen wird. Ab und zu tritt er mit ihr in Kneipen auf.

Mit dem Musik-Business hat er nichts mehr zu tun, nachdem Anfang der 1970er Jahre zwei Alben gefloppt sind – in den USA! Was Rodriguez nicht weiß: Südafrika ist total verrückt nach ihm! Dort wird er zum Helden der Anti-Apartheid-Bewegung, seine Songs treffen das Mark einer ganzen Protestgeneration. Auch Sugar, Brian und Craig hängen am Radio, wenn Titel wie „Sugar Man“, „Cause“ oder „I wonder“ gespielt werden, tauschen Kassettenaufnahmen aus und glauben wie alle anderen, dass Rodriguez sich wahlweise auf der Bühne erschossen hat, verbrannt ist oder an einer Überdosis zugrunde ging.

Die Legende vom frühen Tod des Lieblingsstars hält sich im medial abgeschotteten Südafrika mehr als zwei Jahrzehnte lang. Dann fällt das Apartheid-Regime und das Internet boomt, beides etwa zeitgleich. Anfang 1997 setzen Sugar und Brian unabhängig voneinander eine Website auf. Der eine will wissen, wie Rodriguez nun wirklich gestorben ist, der andere will ihm ein Denkmal setzen und alles über ihn herausfinden. Sie tun sich zusammen. Der dritte im Bunde ist Craig: DJ, Journalist und natürlich auch ein glühender Fan.

Searching-for-Sugar-Man---Kein-Quadratzentimeter-Platz-bleibt-frei

Von Anfang an dabei: Brian Currin am Tresen von Mabu Vinyl

Gemeinsam finden sie das Unglaubliche heraus: Rodriguez alias Sugar Man lebt! Was folgt, ist ein Jahr im Fieber. Schließlich machen sie sich auf die Reise und besuchen ihr Idol. Das Setting erinnert an die Weihnachtsgeschichte: Detroit ist Bethlehem, die schäbige Mietwohnung der Stall und die drei Südafrikaner sind die Könige aus dem Osten, die ihrem Heiland Ruhm, Glanz und Ehre darreichen.

Rodriguez nimmt die Gabe an. Gitarre spielen kann er noch und die harte Arbeit hat den 56-Jährigen in Form gehalten. Die Stimme ist auch noch da. So betritt er die Bühne.

Searching-for-Sugar-Man---Rodriguez-und-seine-Entdecker-1998-in-Kapstadt

When we were young – Rodriguez und seine Entdecker bei seinem ersten Konzert in Kapstadt 1998. Der zweite von links ist der Sugar Man selbst, rechts von ihm stehen Brian und Sugar

Neustart in Kapstadt

„Kapstadt ist Athen, Joburg ist Rom“, sagt Sugar selbstbewusst. Wenn es um Kultur geht, sieht er seine Heimatstadt klar vor Johannesburg oder Joburg, wie hier alle sagen. Kein Wunder also, dass der totgeglaubte Sugar Man seine Wiederauferstehung zuerst in Kapstadt feiert.

Brian kann sich noch genau daran erinnern. Am 2. März 1998 betritt Rodriguez in Kapstadt erstmals südafrikanischen Boden. Nur einen Tag später beginnen die Proben, und am 6. März bringt er das Velodrome in Bellville ganz im Osten der Stadt zum Beben. Was das beim Publikum auslöst, fängt die TV-Dokumentation „Dead Men Don’t Tour“ ein – ansatzweise jedenfalls.

Kapstadt steht Kopf. Dasselbe passiert in Johannesburg, Pretoria und Durban. Ganz Südafrika liegt dem Sugar Man zu Füßen. Und Rodriguez kommt wieder, mittlerweile fast jedes Jahr. Ende Januar ist der nächste Termin, die Konzerte sind fast alle ausverkauft. Mit dem Comeback in Kapstadt hat sich das Leben des Songwriters komplett geändert. Er tourt durch die ganze Welt, hat jetzt auch in seiner Heimat Erfolg und füllt die Arenen von den USA bis Japan. Für Sugar ist klar: Rodriguez ist „der größte alte neue Künstler auf dem Planeten“.

Sugar Man ändert alles

Sugar und Brian erzählen, als könnten sie immer noch nicht glauben, was da passiert ist. „Du musst dir mal überlegen“, sagt Brian, „wir waren einfach nur Fans. Keiner von uns war im Musikgeschäft“. Doch die unverhoffte Begegnung mit Rodriguez macht aus ihnen neue Menschen.

Gemeinsam starten sie 1999 das E-Magazin „The South African Rock Music Digest„, vier Jahre später steigt Sugar mit der Gründung von Mabu Vinyl ins Plattengeschäft ein. Brian, immer schon ein wandelndes Musiklexikon, verdient da noch seine Brötchen als Sales Manager bei Panasonic. 2007 zieht er den Stecker und steigt aus. Heute steht er jeden Tag im Plattenladen, unterhält eigene Websites und Online Shops und bestreitet zwei Musiksendungen im Internetradio.

Searching-for-Sugar-Man---Vinyl-Spezialist-Brian

Vinyl-Spezialist Brian findet jede Platte. Im April letzten Jahres setzte Mashable den Kapstädter Plattenladen Mabu Vinyl auf die Liste der 12 weltbesten Vinyl Stores

Dann taucht aus heiterem Himmel Malik Bendjelloul auf. Der schwedische Dokumentarfilmer hat von der wundersamen Suche nach Sugar Man gehört und will aus dem Plot einen Zehnminüter machen. Auf Zehnminüter ist er nämlich spezialisiert. Als er in Kapstadt ankommt, hat er nur eine Kamera samt Kamerafrau dabei, sonst nichts. Low Budget heißt die Devise.

Doch aus dem Zehnminüter werden rasch 15, 20, 25 Minuten, und immer noch ist der Film nicht fertig. Malik Bendjelloul ist fasziniert von dieser Musik, die mühelos Jahrzehnte und Weltmeere überbrückt. Er erliegt mehr und mehr dieser verrückten Geschichte mit ihrem theatralischen Knalleffekt.

Dazu kommt Sugar, der den Regisseur mit seiner Begeisterung ansteckt. In Südafrika ist Sugar Fahrer, Location Scout und Caterer gleichzeitig. Aus der Zusammenarbeit wird Freundschaft. Am Ende steckt so viel Herzblut in dem Film, dass die Preise nur so hageln. Sogar einen Oskar gibt es, 2013, in der Kategorie „Bester Dokumentarfilm“.

Film-Destination Kapstadt

Der Film „Searching for Sugar Man“ gibt dem Comeback von Rodriguez noch einmal einen enormen Schub. Und Kapstadt bekommt dadurch eine neue Attraktion: die Fahrt vom Stadtteil Clifton an der Küste entlang. „Die Route im Film nachfahren, das machen viele“, erzählt Sugar. Und viele kommen auch zu ihm und Brian in den Plattenladen – nicht zufällig wie ich, sondern weil sie als Sugar-Man-Fans auf der Suche nach Devotionalien sind.

Unter den vielen Postern und Karten, mit denen die Wände von Mabu Vinyl gepflastert sind, hängt auch ein unscheinbares, handgemaltes Blatt mit der Aufschrift „Malik was here“. Darauf ist ein Zettel gepinnt: R.I.P. 13 May 2014. Malik Bendjelloul ist tot? „Selbstmord“, murmelt Sugar, „keiner weiß, warum“. Seine Augen hinter den Brillengläsern glänzen feucht. Ich frage nicht weiter.

Searching-for-Sugar-Man---Malik-was-here

„Malik was here“ – jedes Märchen hat seine traurige Seite

Service

“Sugar Man – the life, death and resurrection of Sixto Rodriguez” heißt das erst letzten September erschienene Buch, in dem alles über die “ Great Rodriguez Hunt“, die Jagd nach Rodriguez, steht. Geschrieben haben es Stephen “Sugar” Segerman und Craig Bartholomew-Strydom. Und Brian Currin? Der winkt ab: „Ich stehe nicht gern im Rampenlicht“, sagt er.

Wer das Buch bestellen will, kann das hier tun. Wer lieber online stöbert: www.sugarman.org ist die ultimative Website zum Thema. Dort gibt es auch jede Menge Infos zum Film „Searching for Sugar Man“.

Die nächste Kapstadt-Reise ist schon geplant? Dann unbedingt zu Mabu Vinyl in die Rheede Street gehen (kleine Querstraße zwischen Kloof Street und Orange Street im Bezirk Gardens). In dem Stadtteil ging’s mal sehr alternativ zu, mittlerweile hat die Hipster-Dichte zugenommen. Das Viertel ist reich an netten Restaurants und Cafés, außerdem ist das Programmkino Labia einen Besuch wert.

 

Cape Town – Searching for Sugar Man

on January 21, 2016 at 15:00

Actually I wanted to go shopping. Then I look in the window of this album cover. The next moment I sucked up a time tunnel. I meet a presumed dead superstar, South Africa in the Seventies, loyal fans and a piece of music history: Searching for Sugar Man

“What are the main attractions of Cape Town” I ask Stephen “Sugar” Segerman. He laughs. “The TableMountain, Robben Iceland and Mabu Vinyl,” he answers, and looks at me with his big eyes glasses. “No shit, we have right here a lot of visitors,” he adds with a grin. “Especially since Sugar Man …”

Searching-for-Sugar-Man --- The record shop-Mabu Vinyl in-Cape Town

There is probably no place in the world who can tell more about Sugar Man as this record store

Back in the future

Mabu Vinyl is Sugars record store. Together with a friend he has built it. A few shelves books, a couple of CDs and DVDs, and especially vinyl. Everywhere boxes of LPs. But thousands! His friend Brian also works here. Sugar Man has brought them together. And if they tell of Sugar Man, that’s the story that has changed their lives.

I know this story, as I enter the store. I know it from the movie “Searching for Sugar Man”. One of the best documentaries of all time, I think, and a fantastic musical discovery into the bargain. Without the film, I would never have one alias encountered Sugar Sixto Rodriguez, and that would be a shame, because this Sixto Rodriguez created not only ingenious songs, he really know what to say.Nevertheless, he disappears from the scene for decades – perhaps because he has a Spanish name or because he comes from the slums of Detroit. But then fate makes one of these absurd Schlenker and catapulted him out of nowhere back on stage, like a fairy tale.

This miracle he owes three loyal South African fans: Sugar, Brian and Craig. Two of them are now in front of me and remember what it was like. Suddenly has become a reality from the movie.

Searching-for-Sugarman --- Stephen-Sugar-Segerman-in-his-record store

Stephen “Sugar” Segerman in his record store: From Fan to music entrepreneurs

Searching for Sugar Man

“Sugar is, will not you hurry, Cos I’m tired of thesis scenes, For a blue coin will not you bring back, All those colors to my dreams”

Sugar Man, the coke-dealer from Rodriguez ‘eponymous song, is a synonym for an incredible Grail quest. It starts in 1997. Rodriguez infected at this time in a council house in Detroit. He cleared out apartments, Job T on the building or at the gas station. He has his guitar always with you, because that is otherwise stolen. From time to time he comes with her on in pubs.

With the music business, he has nothing more to do, after the early 1970s, two albums flopped – in the USA! What Rodriguez does not know South Africa is totally crazy about him! There he becomes a hero of the anti-apartheid movement, his songs strike at the heart of a whole generation of protest. Also Sugar, Brian and Craig depend on the radio, when songs like “Sugar Man”, “Cause” or “I Wonder” played, exchange cassette recordings and feel like any other that Rodriguez has either shot on the stage, is burned or from an overdose perished.

The legend of the early death of his favorite stars keeps more than two decades in the medial insular South Africa. Then the apartheid regime and the Internet falls booming, both about the same time. In early 1997 set Sugar and Brian independently on a website. One wants to know how Rodriguez is now truly dead, the other wants to put a monument to him and find out everything about him. Do yourself together. The third member is Craig: DJ, journalist and also an ardent fan.

Searching-for-Sugar-Man --- No-square centimeter Square-remain-free

From the very beginning: Brian Currin at the counter by Mabu Vinyl

Together they find out the unbelievable: Rodriguez aka Sugar Man alive! What follows is a year in fever. Finally, they set off on the journey and visit their idol. The setting is reminiscent of the Christmas story: Detroit is Bethlehem, the shabby apartment for rent of the stall and the three South Africans are the kings from the east, the proffering their Savior fame, glory and honor.

Rodriguez accepts the gift. He can play the guitar yet and the hard work has kept the 56-year-olds in the form. The voice is also still there. So he takes the stage.

Searching-for-Sugar-Man --- Rodriguez-and-his-explorer-1998-in-Cape Town

When we were young – Rodriguez and his discovery in his first concert in Cape Town in 1998. The second from the left of the Sugar Man is himself, to his right are Brian and Sugar

Restart in Cape Town

“Cape Town is Athens, Joburg is Rome,” Sugar says confidently. When it comes to culture, he sees his hometown clearly in Johannesburg or Joburg, all say how here. No wonder, then, that believed dead Sugar Man celebrating his resurrection first in Cape Town.

Brian can remember still exactly. On 2 March 1998 in Cape Town for the first time Rodriguez enters South African soil. Just one day later start the sample, and on March 6 he brings the Velodrome in Bellville in the far east of the town to the quake. What triggers the audience, captures the TV documentary “Dead Men Do not Tour” a – to some extent anyway.

Cape Town is upside down. The same happened in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Durban. Southern Africa is the Sugar Man’s feet. And Rodriguez is coming back, now almost every year. The end of January is the next appointment, the concerts are almost all sold out. With the comeback in Cape Town, the life of the songwriter has completely changed. He is touring the world, has now also in his home success and filled the arenas from the USA to Japan. For Sugar is clear: Rodriguez is “the largest old new artist on the planet”.

Sugar Man changes everything

Sugar and Brian tell, as they could still not believe what has happened since. “You have to change your mind again,” says Brian, “we were just fans. Neither of us was in the music business. ” But the unexpected encounter with Rodriguez makes them new men.

Together they start 1999, the e-magazine “The South African Rock Music Digest”, four years later Sugar rises with the establishment of Mabu Vinyl into a plate business. Brian, always a walking music lexicon, there still earned his living as a sales manager at Panasonic. In 2007, he pulls the plug and gets out. Today, he is every day in the record store, maintains its own websites and online shops and denies two music programs on internet radio.

Searching-for-Sugar-Man --- vinyl specialist-Brian

Vinyl Specialist Brian finds each plate. In April last year Mashable put the Capetonian record store Mabu Vinyl on the list of 12 world’s best vinyl Stores

Then appears out of the blue Malik Bendjelloul. The Swedish documentary maker has one heard of the miraculous Search Sugar and wants to make the plot a Zehnminüter. On Zehnminüter he is namely specialized. When he arrives in Cape Town, he has only one camera case with the camera woman, nothing else. Low Budget is the motto.

But from the Zehnminüter be quickly 15, 20, 25 minutes and still is not the finished film. Malik Bendjelloul is fascinated by this music that effortlessly bridged decades and oceans. He succumbs more and more of this crazy story with her theatrical bang.

In addition Sugar, which infects the director with his enthusiasm. In South Africa Sugar driver, Location Scout and caterers at the same time. The collaboration is friendship. At the end is so much passion in the film that prices only hail that. Even an Oscar there, in 2013, in the category “Best Documentary”.

Movie Destination Cape Town

The film “Searching for Sugar Man” is the comeback of Rodriguez again a huge boost. And Cape Town gets thereby a new attraction: the drive from Clifton district along the coast. “The route in the film descendants, which make a lot,” says Sugar. And many come to him and Brian to the record store – not by chance as I do, but because they are as Sugar-Man fans in search of memorabilia.

Among the many posters and cards with which the walls of Mabu Vinyl are paved, and a nondescript, handpainted leaf hangs with the inscription “Malik was here”. Then a list is pinned: RIP 13 May 2014. Malik Bendjelloul is dead? “Suicide,” mutters Sugar, “no one knows why.” His eyes behind his glasses shine moist. I do not ask further.

Searching-for-Sugar-Man --- Malik-what-here

“Malik was here” – every fairy tale has its sad side

service

“Sugar Man – The Life, Death and Resurrection of Sixto Rodriguez” is the only book published last September, where everything on the “Great Rodriguez Hunt”, the hunt for Rodriguez, stands. Written have Stephen “Sugar” Segerman and Craig Bartholomew-Strydom. And Brian Currin? The dismissive gesture: “I do not like to stand in the limelight,” he says.

Who wants to order the book, which can here do. Those who prefer Browsed online:www.sugarman.org is the ultimate site on the topic. There is also plenty of information about the film “Searching for Sugar Man”.

The next trip is already planned and Cape Town? Then necessarily Mabu Vinyl go into Rheede Street (small crossroads between Kloof Street and Orange Street Gardens in the district). In the district’s times went too alternatively, meanwhile the hipster density has increased. The neighborhood is full of nice restaurants and cafes, as well as the program cinema Labia worth a visit.

Ghosts Of Berlin by The Lyzyrd Kyngs

Written in Berlin in the Summer of 2013 by Piet Botha. Recorded in South Africa August 2014. Piet Botha on Vocals & Guitar, Arthur Dennis on Guitar. Rudolph Dennis on Drums and Vocals. Adrian John Graham on Bass. Recorded and produced by Peter Pearlson with Charl Wentzel assisting. Footage of their Tour with Freygang in East Berlin.

New Lyzyrd Kyngs album is due in November 2014.

www.lyzyrdkyngs.com

‘Searching for Sugar Man’ star Rodriguez to make his Royal Albert Hall debut | Life at the Hall

Rodriguez

Cult singer-songwriter Rodriguez will return to London in 2015 to make his Royal Albert Halldebut in a special show on 7 May 2015.

Rodriguez’s rise to international fame is perhaps one of the most fascinating stories in music. After the release of two little-sold albums in the early 1970s, Rodriguez’s work became hugely successful in South Africa, Australia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, unbeknownst to him.

Years later a group of loyal South African fans attempted to make contact with their hero; their successful efforts and Rodriguez’s intriguing life story were retold in the 2012 documentary film Searching for Sugar Man. The feature won in the Best Documentary categories at the 2013 BAFTA and Academy Awards and has brought Rodriguez’s music belated international fame and acclaim.

VIDEO: I Wonder from Searching for Sugar Man. Originally on Rodriguez’s debut album Cold Fact

This 2015 show will be Rodriguez’s first performance at London’s most iconic venue and follows sell-out concerts at prestigious venues around the world.

Tickets

Tickets for Rodriguez at the Royal Albert Hall go on sale at 10am on Wednesday 1 October 2014 and will be available via www.royalalberthall.com or by calling the Box Office on 020 7589 8212.

via ‘Searching for Sugar Man’ star Rodriguez to make his Royal Albert Hall debut | Life at the Hall.

Cause It’s the Greatest Last Song Ever Recorded

By Mark Worth ​

Coming From Reality
Coming From Reality

 

One of the most noteworthy final albums ever recorded might never have been made had Steve Rowland not been sitting in the London office of music publisher Freddy Beanstalk one day in the summer of 1970.

Rowland looked on Beanstalk’s desk and saw a copy of an album hardly anyone had ever heard of, by a singer-songwriter from Detroit who was just as obscure. Rowland borrowed Cold Fact and listened to it.

“I said to Freddy, is this guy Rodriguez gonna do another album? Because if he is, I’d like to get in line and be the producer. I really, really am into this,” Rowland recalls telling Beanstalk.

“Freddy said, ‘Be my guest, man, because nobody’s really interested.’ I said, well, I don’t understand that, because this guy is great.”

That fall, Rodriguez was on a plane to London. Within three weeks of meeting him for the first time, Rowland had put together Coming from Reality, Rodriguez’s second and final record. The closing track, “Cause,” was the last song Rodriguez would ever record for an album.

Rowland, who has produced more than 20 albums and dozens of singles that span the musical spectrum, says “Cause” is the saddest song he’s ever heard – sad enough to have made his girlfriend at the time, actress Sally Farmiloe, cry when she heard Rodriguez record it in the studio.

Forty years later, “Cause” nearly brought Rowland himself to tears while being interviewed for the documentary Searching for Sugar Man. The profile of Rodriguez elevated to international fame the near-destitute construction worker whose two albums were total failures in the US, only to learn nearly 30 years later that he was a superstar in South Africa whose anti-establishment lyrics helped bring down Apartheid.

The “Cause” scene is one of the Oscar-winning film’s most lasting moments: Rowland, sitting in his home in Palm Springs, California, plays the song for filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul. Rodriguez’s opening line – Cause I lost my job two weeks before Christmas – visibly stuns Rowland as though hearing the song for the first time. He manages only to shake his head and say, “Oh, man…”.

After collecting himself, he explains that Rodriguez was dropped from his record label shortly after Coming from Reality was released in 1971 – “as if premonition,” Rowland says, two weeks before Christmas.

A song that is held between happenstance and genius, “Cause” has become the five-and-a-half-minute, 239-word anthem for the improbable, almost impossible story of Sixto Diaz Rodriguez.

Setting Sail into a Teardrop

The 10 tracks on Coming from Reality were recorded in the fall of 1970 at London’s Lansdowne Studios, which has also hosted the likes of John Lennon, Maynard Ferguson, Rod Stewart, Sex Pistols and Rowland’s own band, Family Dogg. The studios had been installed inside a former underground squash court with thick walls 20 feet high.

“When the studio was built they didn’t tear those walls down, so the sound in that studio was completely original. You would get a sound that nobody else had. Lansdowne was known for that,” says Rowland. “It provided the overall ambience of the whole album, and you can hear it especially on ‘Cause’. There’s a majestic quality to it, and it comes from that studio.

“I suppose today, with all the digital stuff, you could probably re-create the sound. But nothing is as good as natural.”

Lansdowne, since closed, wasn’t far from Abbey Road Studios, where The Beatles recorded their final album track a year earlier. “The End” evokes emotion with hope: And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make. “Cause” does it with despair:

Cause they told me everybody’s got to pay their dues

And I explained that I had overpaid them…

So I set sail in a teardrop and escaped beneath the doorsill

Cause the smell of her perfume echoes in my head still

It was lyrics like this that moved Rowland to produce “Cause” and the rest of Coming from Reality in a way that completely went against the grain during that era.

With the advent of concept albums and new technologies – not to mention lavish studio budgets – many bands would spend months or even years working on a record. Instrumental tracks were obsessively laid over each other to the point that the instruments drowned out the vocals. An experienced actor who placed a high value on the spoken word, Rowland made sure Rodriguez’s lyrics stood out from the music – so that every word was discernable.

“We tried to get a dramatic effect without overpowering the vocal. That’s so important. Because for my money, good production is: less is more.”

The only music that can be heard on “Cause,” in fact, are Rodriguez’s gentle picking and strumming on his converted, hollow-sounding classical guitar, and a simple, undulating string arrangement composed by a young violinist named Jimmy Horowitz.

“We worked a long time on ‘Cause’. The strings were written and recorded to match Rodriguez’s vocal,” Rowland said. “He seemed to be completely thrilled with what was coming out. He loved those arrangements.”

The strings are orchestrated to coincide so closely with Rodriguez’s lyrics that they can actually influence how you hear the song. Horowitz’s arrangement begins to soar lightly just as Rodriguez sings the line, And give a medal to replace the son of Mrs. Annie Johnson. The gently rising strings conjure the first glimpse of a sunrise, so subconsciously you may hear sun instead of son. The orchestration and melody reach a calming resolution, as though the sun has finally climbed above the horizon.

After this moment passes, you realize what Rodriguez is saying. The government gave Mrs. Johnson a medal because her son had been killed in the Vietnam War.

“Rodriguez is saying it in a sardonic tone, but it’s a front for how he really feels. He’s being very sardonic and cynical. Yeah, give a medal to a mother for the son she lost in Vietnam,” says Rowland. “What he’s really feeling is: how can a country do something like that? The country had no feeling for the actual person himself.”

The juxtaposition of the music and the message brings more power to both. “The arrangement is the complete opposite of the lyrics, and that’s how we looked at it,” Rowland said. “Rodriguez loved it, and it worked.”

Drowning the Sun

The son of a film director and great-nephew of MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer, Rowland was a teen star during the 1950s, appearing in TV’s Bonanza and The Rifleman, and a number films including Battle of the Bulge and the original The Thin Red Line.

After crossing over into music in the ’60s, he went on to produce a string of hit acts including Jerry Lee Lewis, The Pretty Things, P.J. Proby and the British pop band Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich, which charted 13 Top 10 hits. Rowland discovered Peter Frampton and The Cure, worked with Elton John when he was a young session pianist named Reggie Dwight, and had a hit single with his band Family Dogg – the choralized, minimalist “Sympathy.”

It would take an effort on the scale of producing Coming from Reality to overshadow what Rowland achieved at Olympic Studios in London the previous year. In September 1969 he was producing Proby’s album Three Week Hero when Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham played on the psychedelic-tinged “Jim’s Blues.” It was the first occasion all four members of Led Zeppelin, then known as the New Yardbirds and barely into their 20s, performed together in the studio. Days later, they began recording their eponymous first album.

Though he had worked with many musical greats and was himself a top-selling performer, Rowland was aware that the unknown but sheerly gifted Rodriguez would present him with a new set of creative openings and tests.

Rodriguez arrived in London with his manager/girlfriend at the time, Rainy Moore. (The story goes that the album was named spontaneously when Moore was asked where Rodriguez was coming from.) At that first meeting, Rowland remembers, both he and Rodriguez were on guard.

“I was apprehensive about the whole thing because I wanted to do the album so badly. I wanted to make sure that he believed in me as a producer. But when we started to talk, he was very shy, quiet, very introspective. He’s an intellectual. He thinks before he speaks. He’s not a guy who is outgoing. I guess he was trying to suss me out as well.”

Despite having worked and crossed paths with Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Henry Fonda, James Dean and many other legendary figures, Rowland confesses he was star-struck by Rodriguez.

“We as artists and creators have our heroes, too. And we get just as awe-inspired by our heroes as people who aren’t in the business get inspired by big movie stars or rock stars or sports stars,” says Rowland. “And when you meet them, you know, it’s always overwhelming. Well, that’s how it was for me with Rodriguez, because I really, really was into the way he was writing. I was into the way he thought.”

Within a day or two, when Rowland and Rodriguez began going through the songs together, the barriers fell and the two began an intense collaboration. “I said when we were in the studio, let us – in music – show the guy’s soul. Let’s show what this man really is,” says Rowland. “How can I make this guy felt in the music? That was my main objective. How can I get people to feel him?”

In “Cause,” Rodriguez reveals his soul through wrenching lyrics about lost loves, despondent friends, resignation and drugs:

While the rain drank champagne / My Estonian Archangel came and got me wasted
Cause the sweetest kiss I ever got is the one I’ve never tasted…

Cause I see my people trying to drown the sun in weekends of whiskey sours
Cause how many times can you wake up in this comic book and plant flowers?

Rowland, in a way few others have, came know and understand the aloof Rodriguez, the son of Mexican immigrants who earned most of his living demolishing buildings and who reportedly lives in the same broken-down house he bought in the 1970s for $50.

“Sadness can be contained within a whole life of a person, and even some of the happiness that a person remembers in that life makes them sad as well, because it’s no longer there for them,” Rowland said. “This is how I approached Rodriguez. Because I felt, you know, here’s a guy, he lives in Detroit, which is not what you would call a paradise of the world. It’s a hard life in Detroit, and he’s lived in the same house since he was a young guy. He’s seen lots of ups and downs – probably mostly downs.”

Take Rodriguez’s lyrics, which alternate from rebellious to playful to despondent to romantic. Lay on top of this a life story that embodies these lyrics. Now, form all this into songs with melodies and structures that don’t cheapen any of it. For Rowland, producing Coming from Reality was more than a creative exercise. This became a personal responsibility – even a duty to the artist known as Rodriguez.

“I did put a lot of myself into it because I was really knocked out by what he was talking about. I believed in it that much. But actually,” says Rowland, “because I believed in him so much, nothing we did was challenging. It just flowed. I could hear it in my head.”

Perhaps because Rowland could visualize the sound and feel of the album, no song needed more than two takes to get right. The entire album was recorded in about 10 days.

It was 10 days that pushed Rowland to create something that lived up to his image, his idealized portrait, of Rodriguez.

“I wanted to make sure…,” said Rowland, pausing, “It was very important to me that I did the best I could with this man, and that I brought out everything that I saw and felt in the way he writes and sings – that I could bring that out in the record. Each one of those songs was made to give a feeling to Rodriguez. It had to be real, and I would do it again today the same way.”

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