TWO years ago, Cape Town 1990’s noise-pop band The Dollyrockers reformed for two popular shows at The Grand Daddy, and Jason’s in Loop Street. This month, they’re doing it again for three shows in the deep south, the deep north, and the City Bowl.
The band was made up of previous core members, Greg Donnelly (vocals, guitar), Anthony Bull (bass), Arnold Vermaak (drums) Stuart Crawford-Browne (now of UK band Kilter, guitar) and Lonesome Dave Ferguson (harmonica).
“Last time we had Dave; this time we have no idea,” joked Vermaak when we chatted about the second comeback, Ferguson being something of a wild card at the best of times. “It wouldn’t surprise any of us if Dave turns up, nor if he doesn’t.”
After last year’s successful reunion shows The Dollyrockers were approached by One F Music, run by Paul Riekert of Battery 9 and David Sass, to release a double CD retrospective called Dive – A Collection. Disk one consisted of studio material which was remastered by Riekert, and disk two was live material from various shows and included the hard-to-find Live At The Playground recordings which were previously released only on cassette. These recordings are a snapshot into the world of the Cape Town live music scene of the 1990s and also received the remastering treatment from Riekert. The band also released a sexy and highly desirable double A side limited edition 7” clear vinyl consisting of Suicide Annie and Lovesong, which are representative bookends of the early and later days of the band’s music.
“It captures the two definitive career stages,” says Vermaak. “Suicide Annie is very much the up tempo noise pop kind of thrashy song. Lovesong is definitely more considered; everyone had got a little bit older, a bit more jaded, darker and more mature by then.”
The single sold out pretty much instantly, which is partly what prompted the guys to get together again. “CD is not the format it once was and doesn’t have the hipster cred that vinyl does. I know One F have done another run of the seven inch,” says Vermaak.
Which is as good a reason as any to have another set of shows.
Crawford-Browne, who was integral to the early “noisiness”, is making the trip from London again, demonstrating dedication to the band, and while Ferguson’s participation hasn’t been confirmed, the services of Anton Marshall (Long Time Citizen, Era Code) have been employed.
“The Dollyrockers occupy a particular space for South African music fans of a certain age – me, in this case,” says Marshall. “They’re a band from SA music’s glory era and becoming a part of that legacy 16 years ago was the ultimate thrill for me.
“People who remember gigs at places like The Crowbar and The Playground will understand how much local music of the time impacted our youth. To be back again playing these songs feels much the same. I’m immensely proud to put this band’s material on my personal repertoire list, because I still feel it’s some of the finest South African guitar pop and rock ever written.”
Two of the three gigs will be played with Afrikaans punk band Lat Patrollie. “They’re from the Northern Suburbs, and what surprised me, certainly, is that a) they were aware of us and b) they were very keen to join forces with us,” says Vermaak. “I’m going to assume that’s based on the fact they have heard our music. It’s great for us as well. Our core market is definitely a bit older, and theirs is younger, so it should draw a good mixed audience.”
What the Dollyrockers won’t be doing at any of these shows is boring anyone with any new material, says Vermaak. “We are aware this is a legacy outing so we’re going to be playing great songs we enjoy and people want to hear. None of that awkward fourth-album-now-we’re-potbellied-and-bald stuff,” he smiles.
Friday, April 12 at Black Irish, Scher Street, Durbanville with Lat Patrollie
Wednesday, April 17 at Cafe Roux, Noordhoek Farm Village
Saturday, April 20 at Scary Canary, 255 Long Street, Cape Town with Lat Patrollie
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PHOTO CREDIT: JURIE SENEKAL
Formed from the ashes of Penguins In Bondage and Attic Muse, The Dollyrockers preceded the South African rock explosion of the ‘90s with their own brand of noise-pop that produced songs like Suicide Annie, Ziggy Played Bizarre and Walk Right Through Me. They carved their mark into the South African musical landscape with strong performances around the country both on the alternative club scene and at various music festivals.
The Dollyrockers released three full length albums – The Dollyrockers, Glory Glory and The Heat, as well as the vinyl EP Consume Me – all produced by their former guitarist, Pitchie Rommelaere.
Songs like Ziggy Played Bizarre and Suicide Annie rose to the top of Barney Simon’s Alternative Charts. Book I Write was included on a KFM CD compilation and all this was achieved before local quotas existed on South African radio playlists.
Their songs have been used in soundtracks for movies such as Once Upon A Roadtrip and Twist. The band also penned the theme song for TV series Couch Trip and Sleepy Town was used in the TV series Going Nowhere Slowly. Lovesong, off their final album, was listed on the 1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf.