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
This live performance includes three original Steve Louw songs that have never been released as studio recordings: “Mama”, “Bound And Chained” and “Ten Men”.
Heart & Soul was recorded live at The Little Theatre, Cape Town on 31 October and 1 November 2008. Released on DVD in 2009 by Sony Music Entertainment, catalogue number: DVBSP3211. Recorded by Johan Griessel. Mixed by Neil Snyman. Directed by Glen Thomas and Mark Siebert. Staged by David Kramer.
The Wind Blows
Bound And Chained
Diamonds And Dirt
Raise Up Your Hand
The Road Ahead
Bye Bye Johnny
Bring The Night On
One Cut With A Knife
Waiting For The Dawn
Take My Heart
John The Revelator
All songs composed by Steve Louw except “John The Revelator” (Traditional)
Steve Louw: vocals, acoustic guitar
Willem Moller: electric and slide guitars
Tim Rankin: drums, percussion
Jacques Steyn: double bass, electric bass, mandolin
Simon Orange: keyboards, tea-chest bass
Rob Nagel: harmonica
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.
Steve Louw, sanger van die groep Big Sky, is al vir 25 jaar een van die mees gerekende liedjieskrywers in die land. Die groep se langverwagte DVD, Heart & Soul het musiekliefhebbers in hul noppies.
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.
Old rockers never really retire; in fact if there’s still a flame burning in them they get better and better as the years go by. Steve Louw is such a rocker, and his new album, Headlight Dreams, is note-for-note proof.
In each of the guises we’ve come to know Louw over the years he’s shown a desire to grow and move on from his previous incarnations. The journey from All Night Radio to Big Sky to this album captures a lifetime of musical inspiration. And this album doesn’t have any fillers.
The collaboration with guitar legend Joe Bonamassa on the track Wind in Your Hair is exciting news. The entire album is a guitar-driven affair, as can be expected from Louw, but when Bonamassa lets rip the notes reverberate through your skull.
His appearance is thanks to Louw’s friendship with his long-time producer, sound maestro Kevin Shirley. Shirley had just finished recording Bonamassa’s Royal Tea album at London’s Abbey Road Studios when he and Louw met up at a Nashville studio to start work on Headlight Dreams. In between Shirley was putting the finishing touches on Royal Tea, so when Bonamassa popped into the studio Louw grabbed the moment and asked him to play on Wind in Your Hair. The result is a pure joy.
The songs on Headlight Dreams had their roots in a 8 000-km motorcycle trip Louw had undertaken across the length and breadth of South Africa. There are also references to trips across the US, along with introspection on the cruel, wonderful, crazy turns life sometimes takes. Louw says the motorcycle trip put him in a strange frame of mind, as if he was experiencing the open road and vast plains in slow and hyper motion at the same time.
Recorded in just three days in an old Nashville church building that had been converted into a studio, with Kevin Shirley behind the controls of a vintage Neve console, each track on the album is imbued with a warm, intimate sound. The combination of the building’s ambience and vintage equipment bring the best out of these recordings – just listen to the hard-hitting The Lost and Found.
Track by track
Crazy River: About a boat trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, featuring an impressive blend of rock and typically South African guitar patterns. The slide guitar is by studio ace Rob McNelley.
Wind in Your Hair: This track featuring Joe Bonamassa is about the contours of a long relationship. Glorious music with an amazing solo by Bonamassa, who’d only ever heard the song once before.
Don’t Wait: About thoughts experienced during a long road trip. The layered guitars have a lovely Tom Petty-feel and Louw’s vocal performance is among the best on the album.
Train Don’t Run: Louw is an ecology activist, as is clearly evident in the lyrics of this song. Excellent solo by McNelley.
Seven Roses: Heavenly rock with a tinkling piano; a buttkicking rocker that slides back into high gear every time it sounds as if Louw’s about to calm down.
Get Out Of My Heart: Can one ever understand love? I love the opening phrase: ‘I’d rather walk than drive another mile with you’ – after which Louw avoids her embrace. The ringing notes make one wonder if he ever did get that woman out of his system . . .
The Lost and Found: Inspired by his experiences on a Greyhound bus trip across the US. The energy and sheer oomph of the music makes it one of my favourites. #u*+ it, this song cooks!
Headlight Dreams: The first track recorded for the album. In a less frantic vein then The Lost and Found, yet the song gradually builds as Louw’s lyrics take in the contrasts between people, habits and their dangers. The multi-layered production includes guitars, organ and that welcome old sound of excellently recorded drums with each hit punching you in the stomach. Turn the volume up to eleven!
Heavy Weather: This song could be about the water crisis that hit Cape Town a few years ago. The music builds into a groovy boogie and McNelley’s guitar takes it to another level.
Queen Bee Maybe: There’s something of a swamp rock thing going on here. Louw says it was inspired by his attempts to remove a swarm of bees that had moved into the roof of his house – without getting stung. And just when you think the guitars are about to gather for a final showdown, Kev McKendree interrupts with a sweating, crying Hammond B3 solo, before letting the guitars finish the deal.
I absolutely love this album. I just hope we don’t have to wait another seven years before the next one – Louw should continue to travel and bring us the sounds they inspire!
Steve Louw – Headlight Dreams
Ou rockers raak nooit werklik stil nie. As hulle die ou vlam nog binne in hulle voel brand, raak hulle net beter met die jare. Steve Louw is een van hulle. Sy nuwe album, Headlight Dreams, bewys dit, noot vir noot.
In al die gedaantes waarin ons hom deur die jare leer ken het, het Louw met elke sprong vorentoe gebeur, en verbeter op sy vorige inkarnasies. Van All Night Radio na Big Sky na hierdie album het hy ’n lewe van musikale besieling vasgevang. En hierdie keer is daar geen snitte waarop hy die pas markeer nie.
Uiteraard sal die samewerking met die legendariese kitaarspeler Joe Bonamassa meeste mense laat regop sit. Die snit is “Wind in Your Hair”. Die hele album is kitaar-gedrewe, soos mens van Louw verwag – maar wanneer Bonamassa inklim, galm die note dwarsdeur mens se skedel.
Bonamassa se deelname geskied danksy Louw se vriendskap met die klank-maestro Kevin Shirley. Shirley het pas in Londen se Abbey Road-ateljees die opnames van Bonamassa se Royal Tea-album hanteer, en is toe na Nashville saam met Steve Louw, om Headlight Dreams op te neem. Shirley moes terselfdertyd laaste retouching doen vir Royal Tea, en Bonamassa moes laaste toevoegings bylas. Net daar slaan Louw toe, en praat Bonamassa om om op “Wind in Your Hair” te speel. Die resultaat is suiwer plesier.
Headlight Dreams se wortels lê in ’n baie lang road trip wat Louw op ’n motorfiets kruis en dwars deur Suid-Afrika onderneem het; daar is ook verwysings na reise in die VSA, asook die soort retrospeksie wat mens doen as jy nadink oor die wrede, wonderlike, waansinnige draaie wat jou lewenspad gemaak het. Louw sê sy motorfietsrit het hom in ’n vreemde skedelspasie geplaas, waar hy op die langpad deur die vlaktes dinge tegelyk in slow motion en hyperspeed beleef het.
Opgeneem in die bestek van drie dae in ’n ou kerkgebou in Nashville, met Kevin Shirley agter die kontroles van ’n ou Neve-klankbank, word elke snit op die album omgeef deur ’n warmte van klank, ’n ander soort intimiteit as wat met digitale opnames geskep sou gewees het. Baie van die klank-kombinasies baat baie meer by die analoog-opnames. Luister maar hou daar gat geskop word op “The Lost and Found”
’n Kort kyk na al die snitte:
“Crazy River” – Oor ’n kanoe-rit op die Coloradorivier, met ’n indrukwekkende vermenging van rock met tipies Suid-Afrikaanse kitaarpatrone. Slide-kitaar deur Rob McNelley.
“Wind in Your Hair” – Die snit met Joe Bonamassa. Handel oor die kontoere van ’n lang liefdesverhouding. Verruklike musiek, en die solo van Bonamassa is absoluut amazing as jy in gedagte hou dat hy die liedjie net een keer vantevore gehoor het.
“Don’t Wait” – Oor die gedagtes wat opkom tydens ’n road trip – met ’n heerlike Tom Petty-gevoel in die lae en lae kitare. Louw se sang van die beste op die album.
“Train Don’t Run” – Louw is ’n ekologie-aktivis, wat hier baie duidelik spreek. Uitstekende solo deur Rob McNelley.
“Seven Roses” – Hemelse rock, tintelende klavierklanke en absolute gatskop rock elke keer net wanneer dit klink of Louw gaan kalmeer.
“Get Out Of My Heart” – Kan mens liefde ooit verstaan? Ek’s mal oor die openingsfrase, “I’d rather walk than drive another mile with you”, en daarna maak Louw hom skaars uit haar omhelsing in ’n liedjie waarin die hangende note ’n mens laat wonder of hy die vrou heeltemal uit sy gestel gekry het. Musiek en melodie wat baie lank in jou gemoed bly draai. Louw se sang van die beste wat ek hom nog ooit hoor doen het.
“The Lost and Found” – Geïnspireer deur sy ondervindinge tydens ’n Greyhound-reis in die VSA, en die energie en oemf van die musiek maak dit een van my gunstelinge. Hierdie liedjie kook, #o* it!
“Headlight Dreams” – Die eerste snit wat vir die album opgeneem is. Veel meer bedaard as “The Lost and Found”, maar dit bou stelselmatig op soos Louw se lirieke die kontraste tussen mense, gewoontes en gevaarlikhede opbou. Hier is baie lae musiek te hoor, van die kitare tot die orrel tot die ou-ou genot van tromme wat baie goed opgeneem is, sodat jy die slae op jou maag voel. Draai die volume oop tot by elf.
“Heavy Weather” – ’n Liedjie wat vermoedelik Kaapstad se waterkrisis van ’n paar jaar gelede in gedagte het. Die musiek ontwikkel in ’n lekker boogie en McNelley se kitaarspel lig ’n mens uit jou gestoelte.
“Queen Bee Maybe” – Daar is iets van ’n swamp=rock gevoel hier aan die gang. Louw vertel dat dit geïnspireer is deur ’n ondervinding wat hy gehad het toe bye in sy huis se dak ingetrek het, en die proses om die swerm ongeskonde uit te lok. En net wanneer ’n mens begin verwag dat die kitare gaan saamkom vir ’n sluitende magsvertoon, tree Kev McKendree na vore met ’n solo op die Hammond B3 wat sweet en skree. En daarna sluit die kitare die verrigtinge af.
Ek is heeltemal versot op hierdie album. Ek hoop nie daar gaan weer sewe jaar van stilte hierop volg nie – Louw moet meer gaan reis, en klank aangee na ons!
Steve Louw is a storyteller. From the slow train of 1990’s ‘Waiting On The Dawn’ that “takes us back to the dreams and hopes we had when we were young”, to the restless wanderer of 2008’s ‘The Wind Blows’, the singer-songwriter has created imagery as vivid as the music that accompanies it.
Inspired by such adventures as an 8000-km motorbike jaunt around Southern Africa, a canoe trip through the Grand Canyon, and a two-month Greyhound bus trek across the United States, its 10 tracks are the soundtrack to a 1974 National Geographic photo-essay on the US heartland. There are winding rivers, dusty roads, sweeping plains, muddy waters, railway tracks, one-horse towns, and rocky mountains, populated by renegades, broken gamblers, dreamers, loners, and an outlaw couple.
Theirs are stories of hope, despair, loss, and redemption, amplified not only by the beauty and desolation of their settings, but by how they’re conveyed. Louw’s voice and acoustic guitar are intentionally front and centre of the landscapes created by four A-grade Nashville session musicians and Kevin Shirley’s warm, earthy production.
So, no matter how uplifting the kwela-style guitars and jaunty keys of album opener ‘Crazy River’, they’re almost no match for the joy in Louw’s voice as he sings of campfires, full moons, and senoritas.
On the title track, Kev McHendry’s rich organ swells, Rob McNelley’s nimble guitar licks, and the swaggering groove of drummer Greg Morrow and bass player Alison Prestwood are the perfect backdrop to an impassioned vocal about lovers on the run.
Summer-in-a-song ‘Wind In Your Hair’ joins the pantheon of top-down, foot-down highway anthems with McHendry’s glistening keys, McNelley’s perfectly placed runs, sizzling Joe Bonamassa solo, and lines like “I look down the road/ I see you standing there/ With the sunlight on your face/ And the wind in your hair”.
No-nonsense honky-tonk rocker ‘The Lost And Found’ kicks up some real dirt as it gallops along to images of too much red wine, deals with the devil, and hearts left layin’ around town, while the steamin’ ‘Heavy Weather’ makes the inspired pairing of vintage blues and climate change.
But it’s seven-minute ‘Train Don’t Run’ that best sums up the combined genius of Louw and Shirley, friends since the 1980s. Lyrics that are both personal – the singer-songwriter’s grandfather was a railroad man – and global – the idea that railways symbolise humans’ misguided attempts to tame nature – are paired with slow-building music that can best be described as cinematic.
The producer, using his years of experience with the likes of Led Zeppelin, Black Crowes, Australian superstar Jimmy Barnes, Bonamassa, and especially the triple lead guitars of Iron Maiden, knows just how to create enough space to let each individual musician shine, while maintaining the right tension needed to hold together an epic masterpiece that, in turn, anchors Louw’s first album in seven years.
Steve Louw is something of a rare South African treasure. This naturally gifted singer-songwriter is responsible for some of the past four decades’ finest pop and rock airtime, thanks to a disarming humbleness that’s afforded him the ears and respect of some of the music industry’s true heavyweights.
Headlight Dreams was released globally by SONY ATV on 7 May, testament that this one-time All Night Radio lead singer and celebrated solo artist in his own right, is still achieving extraordinary feats, in part due to his rich network of fans — many of whom are world-renowned producers, mastering legends and multi-platinum selling musicians.
STEVE LOUW’S ‘HEADLIGHT DREAMS’ JOURNEY
Chatting with him from his little slice of heaven in the Tsitsikamma, along with his dog, Ringo, Steve unpacked his Headlight Dreams journey.
SEVEN YEARS OF PERCOLATING AND THREE DAYS IN NASHVILLE
It took seven years to realise his latest body of work, which was recorded in Nashville along with his long-time friend and producer Kevin Shirley (John Hiatt, Joe Satriani, Led Zeppelin, The Black Crowes). Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter and genius guitarist Joe Bonamassa also pitched in.
“It’s really about the songs,” Steve defends the delay. “Having something to say, so yes, it took a little longer, but strangely enough, since making this album and working with Kevin (Shirley) again, it’s made it so much easier for me.”
“I’ve since written a whole batch of songs and, in writing those songs, I now know the band I’m going to play with, and I can imagine what they’ll do with them, so the Highlight Dreams journey has been such a great experience. Kevin did such a great job and we managed to make a good album in only three days!”
Having the confidence to leave the house and present the songs to the group of musicians Kevin had corralled, was equally disarming for the respected veteran.
“When I wrote these songs, I was too close to be objective as to each one’s merits. Especially after seven years.”
These songs had been percolating for an extended period.
“That’s the thing,” Steve agrees. “That’s the thing. Can I still do it? And right up to the time that I got on the plane to fly to Nashville, Kevin just wouldn’t listen to the songs. I said I’ll send you 15 songs, and he said, no. Just come to the studio with your 10 best songs; and when we walked into the studio on the first day, he said right, what’s your first song?”
SEIZE THE MOMENT
On that day, Steve played and sang his first pick to the band. “I was well prepared,” he recalls. “Upon listening to it, they said ‘cool!’. I mean, these guys score it down as you play it. They write themselves notes and 15 minutes later, there’s a recorded track. It’s mind-blowing!”
Working with that level of expertise is sobering, but one needs to remember Steve and Kevin have been working together since 1986’s second All Night Radio album, The Killing Floor, so this was common ground for both titans.
KNOCKING ON HEAVEN’S DOOR
To record Headlight Dreams, Kevin chose a converted church that offered a classic analogue Neve console which saw Steve recording his latest album as he would have captured his earlier albums in the 1980s.
“Kevin likes that studio,” Steve says of the decision to record in God’s house.
“He said to me, a year before, when are we going to make an album again? At the time I kind of shrugged and said that I didn’t know,” he continues.
“Kevin then reminded me that he’s booked up a year in advance, so best I commit to a date if Headlight Dreams was ever going to see the light of day. He then said he was due to be in Nashville on the 28th of February 2020, to produce Joe Bonamassa’s next album, now remember this was in late February 2019.”
That was that. The dates went into the calendar and Steve bought his ticket to fly.
At that stage, Steve already had 10 or 12 songs ready, while three more were written in the build-up to flying out to the US. “I was concerned that the tracks might not be strong enough. Kevin had to remind me that I could write great songs because he’d produced so many of them in the past,” he recalls.
With lingering self-doubt, even after a nearly 40-year career in music, Steve’s quick to point out just why that was for him. “It’s such magic or ephemeral process that you think to yourself that I was lucky then, it’ll surely never happen again?
“People go to law school and become lawyers, they know what that is and what it means, but because music is such a magical thing; you’re taking something out of the air and turning it into something other people can hear, there’s nothing that guarantees a positive outcome.
I kept thinking, I know I did it before, but that was just luck,” he recalls.
LADY LUCK AND STEVE LOUW
That said, four decades in luck has never left Steve’s side.
Fast-forward to February 2020, pre-lockdown: Steve arrives in Nashville and heads into a studio where the only person he knows is Kevin. The rest of the band brought together to record are strangers to him.
“I felt like I was exposing myself and I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of people who are at the top of their game,” he remembers. “You don’t want to be “that guy”, seen as a hack who’s only there because he’s Kevin’s friend from way back when. You just don’t.”
GOING FOR BROKE
“I always knew they’d play their part, and it would be a good sounding record,” Steve adds. “People will always be polite and kind, but you can see in their eyes whether they’re getting off on it, or merely going through the motions. Fortunately for me, when we all walked away, the consensus was we can’t wait to do the next one. Getting that kind of affirmation from your peers is worth its weight in gold.”
“Kevin is the kindest, most loyal, greatest friend you could ever have,” Steve asserts. “He’s busy, everybody wants to work with him and yet he’s so invested and committed to everyone and everything he touches.
“So, after we’d said our goodbyes, I headed to the terminal with my guitar and backpack when suddenly, over the PA, I heard my name being called because I’d forgotten my carry-on luggage. And when I got to it, Kevin was wearing a big smile because he had convinced the airport staff to break protocol to alert me.”
I flew to New York on the 3rd of March, en route back to South Africa, and Kevin headed to LA to film with Trevor Rabin who was scoring Joe Bonamassa songs with a full orchestra for a live concert film they were going to film last August at Red Rock in Colorado.
Steve’s wedding anniversary was coming up two days later and unbeknownst to him at the time, Kevin sent “Wind In Your Hair”, the track Joe Bonamassa played on, to mastering legend, Bob Ludwig and within a day Bob had mastered the track and Kevin sent it on to Steve on the day of his anniversary.
“When I got it, I played it on my little Bose speaker out into New York. It was one of the greatest moments ever!” To top it off Bob sent an e-mail with the final mastered track saying, “What a wonderful song, what a wonderful vocal performance, I loved working on this”. “I practically did a summersault,” Steve recalls.
What Headlight Dreams confirms, at every step of the journey for Steve, is that his work is worthy, even before it’s released to the world. If anything, the calibre of not only the players, its producer and mastering engineer, all endorsed Headlight Dreams as the extraordinary body of work that it is, and soon you’ll get to applaud it too.