A night with Rodriguez

I wonder how many times you’ve been had
And I wonder how many plans have gone bad
I wonder how many times you had sex
I wonder do you know who’ll be next

Quote from: “I wonder” by Rodriguez

Sometimes it pays off to just go with whatever it is you love doing and all will be good in the end. Today, we were at a concert of a man who was thought to have committed suicide years ago. After 20 years of recording his first albums, he finally got to see that he had been a celebrity in another country, on another continent, for years.

But let me start a little earlier. A few days ago we were entertaining some of the sailors from our Zululand Yacht Club at one of their Braais (BBQ) with our guitars and angel like voices. We tried our best to put on a nice little performance by playing typical sailor songs, such as “I am Sailing”, “What shall we do with the drunken sailor”, and so on. But at some point our friend Lauren asked us to play some songs by “Rodriguez”. Rod-who now? We did not know who she was talking about and while Benni was trying to figure out who this man was, I used the little break to take another bite of my most scrumptious and perfectly crispy chicken drumstick and then finished the break with a sip from the cold and delicious “Hansa” beer. Ben apparently could not find songs by “Rodriguez” in the song book, and we still did not know who this man was. The locals around us frowned in disbelief and claimed that Rodriguez was a pretty big deal in South Africa.

A few weeks later Lauren came by our place (Marianne) in Simonstown and had the just released movie „Searching for Sugarman“ for us to watch. The three of us got comfortable in the front of the boat with some tasty beer and cigarettes and were ready for this movie about the 70s in Detroit. This documentary is definitely worth watching and shows more than just a few breath taking moments in the search of two South Africans for the U.S. musician “Rodriguez”. Millions of copies of his in the 70s recorded albums were sold in South Africa. But since little information was available on him and his life, the rumor started spreading that he had committed suicide years ago. During protests against apartheid in South Africa, many saw his music as a soundtrack to their lives and he was more famous than Elvis, all the while back home he was an unknown construction worker in Detroit.

But after two South Africans found him in the 90s, they brought him to their home country, where he went on sold out tours at huge venues and could not believe what he was experiencing. And right during the time we were here, the now 70 year old was giving a concert in Cape Town, but of course sold out. Only for his performance in the far away Johannesburg they still had a limited number of tickets available.

Foto: Greg Beadle
Foto: Greg Beadle

A few days later, after we had become well curious and almost anxious to go to one of his gigs, we happened to be meeting up with our friend Damien, a cousin of our good friend and frequently recorded musician, Lincoln. Damien told us that his mom and her boyfriend had tickets for the upcoming Rodriguez event but would not be able to make it and wanted to ask us whether we would like to go. Do we want to go? Are you serious? Heck yeah we want to go. So Damien handed over the tickets and told us to think twice before taking the train, because the area where we would be going was not all too nice and could be a little dangerous. We listened, understood, nodded, and then headed off to catch the next train to the concert at the “Grand Arena”. The 25 bucks we saved were well worth the risk we figured. And to our surprise the tickets apparently had not been exactly cheap either. About 60 USD a piece. Just proves again how popular Rodriguez is here.

zugfahren in kapstadt

During the half hour train ride the two of us discussed what we were going to do after the concert, because there would be no more trains back to Simons Town and approximately 45 USD for a place to sleep in a room with 12 beds is not really how we roll. Our great plan was to make it a long night out in bars and enjoy water in its most valuable form all night (beer!) instead of expensive accommodation.

Just before getting off, a lady who had been sitting next to us for most of the ride, asked us in German with a strong accent whether we were from Hamburg, Germany. My mind started racing, trying to think about whether I had said anything weird or offensive in the past 20 minutes or so. You really have to be careful out here where you think no one can understand you, but actually, a lot of people will. But seemed like I was fine and had behaved during most of the ride. Milli was her name and about a 10 years ago she had had a German husband, and now her 10-year old daughter goes to the Cape Town German International School. She happened to also be going to the Rodriguez gig, and we really started liking her stories when she told us about how back in the day she had been a maid in a Hamburg hotel and had an encounter with Jamiroquai. We chatted away until just before the concert, where our paths would part because of our seating.

From an audio engineers point of view the concert was slightly disappointing. A seemingly exhausted Rodriguez, slightly battered by life and possibly also by one or the other joint, did his best to keep the drummer, a percussionist, a keyboarder, a bass player, and two guitar players in sync. Between the songs it took him a little bit to get ready for the next song. He would play the first few chords to figure out what he was going to be playing and it took him a whole seven songs to begin interacting with the crowd. And for this purpose, he busted out a nice little Mickey Mouse joke. Mickey Mouse is at the divorce court and needs to state the reason for the filed divorce from Minnie Mouse. Mickey Mouse states: “cause she’s fucking Goofy”.

Foto: Mallix
Foto: Mallix

But he did play all his famous hits and a couple of nice blues classics. Cool. So after the concert we actually managed to meet up with Millie again, who was excited about the concert and excited to take us out on a tour through the city, especially the bars of the city. So we hopped into the next bigger taxi with two older passengers already in there, which saved us some more money. You know we are a little cheap and constantly on the lookout for good deals. And that day we were definitely on a roll.

The night life of Cape Towns’ Longstreet was not that impressive on this Monday night, but after a few nice conversations with some more German speaking South African ladies, we ended up crashing on Millis couch. A last white wine to finish off this relaxed night, and we slept like logs.

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