A personal journey of rock music starts with the first riffs and rhythms you listen to growing up. The stuff you raved about with friends. The subtle influences from rock you heard from friends who brought the records with them when their parents settled in the country, the radio charts and local bands.
The exciting part of the rock journey is that it seems to never end as you hear new rock music made here in South Africa by local bands. You can’t help tying up all the influences from that early rock you heard and the echoes in the new stuff of Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple and King Crimson.
I have some friends who’ve been on that rock journey with me. At a time when we were listening to Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Gravy Train and Hawkwind, we went out on a Friday night to see the local band Hawk at the Hartleyvale Stadium in Cape Town. Oh, what a night, seeing heavy rock musicians live with the Cape South Easter blowing gale force and the local crowd going wild for the music.
Another time we met up to see a double-header, Deep Purple and Uriah Heap at Nasrec in Johannesburg. To here and see these bands, the ones we listened to on an old Yamaha turntable growing up in Kalk Bay, vindicated why we had stuck to that special narrow band of heavy rock. Days later we were still raving about the guitar prowess of Steve Morse.
At that gig I met Chris Prior the rock DJ who still keeps the cause alive by playing two hours of rock music on Thursday nights on the local community radio station, Radio Today 1485 AM (also available on channel TV), in Johannesburg. Chris plays many of the old rock bands but also the new music they’ve made and brand-new bands to keep the genre going. It’s fantastic to hear Robert Plant’s latest compositions, John Fogerty, Nils Lofgren and Alvin Lee from Ten Years After.
It gives me goosebumps when I hear local bands such as The Black Cat Bones, a Joburg band, and The Crimson House Blues from Cape Town, playing a double-header in Sandton, Johannesburg. The bands were together recently to launch their new CD album “Red Shack Rock” by the Crimsons. My body memory tingled all over when I heard the powerful numbers by both of these bands playing a tight, energetic and passionate lineup of their own compositions.
It was a small appreciative audience packed to hear these rock musicians. But it’s always been like that. Edgy music. Way off the mainstream. Quality rock that would go down anyway in the world. I love it. You’ve got to believe it: heavy rock is still alive. The Black Cat Bones song says there’s “No place like home”. I’d add, there’s no place like home to hear good heavy rock.