I’m sometimes asked what kind of music our old band, Atlantic Show Band, used to play back in South Africa during the 1970s and 1980s (we were together for over ten years, with the occasional break while band members did their Army National Service and other musicians filled in). When we played clubs, we weren’t allowed to play our own stuff — covers only — and when we quit clubs and played gigs like proms and office parties, guess what? we still could play only covers. Good thing, too: none of us could write music worth a damn.
The really good thing was that as music changed between the mid-70s to the mid-80s, we changed with it, so we never got bored playing the same old stuff night after night, and of course we became better musicians by playing such a variety of music. At a rough guess, we could play over four hundred pop/rock songs of the time (and much more if we include the old jazz standards), and I don’t think we ever played the same 45-minute set of songs unless by coincidence. We practiced at least once a week, and learned about three or four new songs a month — and we were note-perfect, no sloppy approximations for us, although we did change the arrangements sometimes to suit our sound.
Anyway, here’s a non-chronological sample — about one set’s worth — along with a one-line comment for each. Enjoy.
Stratus — Billy Cobham (when we played nightclubs, this was our opener — minus the opening drum solo; we wanted people to dance, not be bored)
Hey Mr. Dream Maker — Cliff Richard (I think our arrangement was better — more powerful — than Cliff’s)
Sometime World — Wishbone Ash (the bass part in the second half of the song made me sweat blood, and I had to sing backup harmony vocals)
Samba Pa Ti — Santana (we didn’t play too many instrumentals, but we loved this one)
July Morning — Uriah Heep (this song was what made humping a damn Hammond B3 upstairs all worth it)
Vienna — Ultravox (what can I say? it was the 80s)
Fox On The Run — Sweet (I nearly pinched my scrotum off, hitting that high note in the harmony before the chorus)
Lady Madonna — Beatles (we only did a few Beatles numbers, as I recall, but we liked playing this one the most)
Listen To The Music — Doobie Brothers (one of the dozen or so songs we played from the beginning of the band till I left for the United States; we loved it, and so did our audiences)
Only When You Leave — Spandau Ballet (another 80s song, but we loved it)
December ’63 — Four Seasons (another song we played for ten years — people liked our rendition of this one so much, we sometimes played it twice in a gig)
Couldn’t Get It Right — Climax Blues Band (soooo cool — and it was a Brit band, FFS)
Happy Together — Turtles (except that we did the Mothers Of Invention version, as linked)
For a few years, we had a girl singer: a 5’2″ little blonde thing named Gillian, who wore the shortest miniskirts in the Western World and had a voice that could stop a Sherman tank. Next time I do this, I’ll feature some of her songs off the playlist.