The Tidal Wave was one of South Africa’s foremost exponents of psych-influenced pop music in the late ’60s and early ’70s with hits like “Spider Spider”, “Mango Mango” and “With tears in my eyes”. They also experimented with both brass and prog rock influences and although they existed for a relatively short time the band is regarded by many as the bridge between pop and the then developing ‘underground’ rock scene. This compilation gathers together, for the first time on one album, all the hit singles, b sides, and rarities.
Tidal Wave is probably best known for their bubblegum pop hits ‘Spider Spider’ and ‘Mango Mango’ in 1969 and 1970 respectively, but they were so much more than that.
Yes, they did play pop and they had a few hits, which were featured on the top radio stations at the time, Springbok Radio and LM Radio. Both stations are long gone, but sadly missed and fondly remembered by many South Africans who grew up without TV. However, Tidal Wave also played some very interesting psychedelic pop rock enhanced by the fuzz guitar sounds of Mike Pilot, who formed the hard rock band Stingray in the late 70s. They also played backing for various musicians.
It all started with a man named Terry Dempsey, songwriter and record producer. Dempsey was born in England and came to South Africa in 1968. He wrote and produced The Staccatos first song, ‘Butchers And Bakers’ in 1968. This song had originally been recorded by UK freakbeat band Les Fleur De Lys in 1967, though they called themselves Chocolate Frog at the time.
Dempsey recalls; “Early in 1968 I met Roy Naturman at Gallo studios with Grahame Beggs, South Africa’s young pioneer record producer on a Flames recording session. Roy was playing piano and he was cooking – so was the recording! Shortly thereafter Roy invited me to a popular night spot to hear the band he was playing with, The In Crowd where I met a very impressive soul singer called Peter Vee, lead vocalist with the band.”
“The bass player was a man who many years later became one of the world’s biggest music men, Clive Calder”, continues Dempsey. “A few weeks later Roy Naturman phoned me to tell me that the band was breaking up and would I be interested in recording a new band he was putting together with the drummer from The In Crowd, Mike Koch, Ken Haycock as bass player and lead guitarist/singer Mike Pilot both of whom came from The Brackets.
“Mike Koch was in a band called The Creeping Greens, much cooler and hipper than The Brackets,” recalls Russel Pope, guitarist for The Brackets.” Pope adds, “The Brackets were basically into covering a lot of ’60s, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, melody pop as opposed to people like The Navarones, The A-Cads and The In Crowd who were all into R&B. They probably thought we were a novelty act although they all recognised that Mike Pilot was a phenomenon of some sort. Clive Calder wrote a b-side for one of The Brackets singles, who knew he would end up a billionaire.”
“What a hot unit this proved to be,” says Dempsey about Tidal Wave, “they were the first band to be released on my newly formed independent record label STORM with the title ‘Man On A String’.” Dempsey formed the STORM label in November 1968 and later formed a second label, MAP (Management, Agents, and Promotions). ‘Man On A String’ with ‘That’s Why The Girl Is Crying’ on its b-side was released in 1969 but failed to make an impression on the radio charts at the time, however, it is fondly remembered by many fans.
‘Man On A String’ was followed by ‘With Tears In My Eyes’ which also failed to trouble any of the radio chart compilers. ‘With Tears In My Eyes’ was also released as a single in the UK in October 1969 on the Decca label, but failed to garner any interest from UK fans.
Music collector Peter Alston wrote in the very first issue of the SA Rock Digest e-mag in January 1999, “Their best ever (in my humble view) was ‘With Tears In My Eyes’ which was vaguely popular in late 1969 (pre-“Spider Spider”) but which is extremely hard to find; frustrating for me as it is well within my personal top 10.” In fact when asked to provide a list, ‘With Tears In My Eyes’ appeared at number one in Alston’s All-Time South African Top Ten with ‘Man On A String’ at number ten, sandwiching artists like Freedoms Children, The A-Cads, The Dream Merchants, The Staccatos and David Kramer.
“In Kimberley in 1971”, Alston continues, “Tidal Wave and Otis Waygood appeared as a double bill. Probably the second best concert I’ve attended.
(The best was undoubtedly Barclay James Harvest). Tidal Wave – in concert – were asked to do ‘With Tears In My Eyes’ but declined, saying the acoustics weren’t right and a full orchestra was needed to do it justice.”
“Dempsey considers Tidal Wave as one of the country’s top groups – ‘I’d say within the top five’”, wrote Earl Moorhouse in an article published in the Teenage supplement to Personality magazine on 9th October 1969. “’I’d say within the top five’”.
Moorhouse was writing about the Storm Power Circus, an idea of Dempsey’s to combine jazz and pop. Moorhouse wrote: “Storm Power Circus made its big splash at Ciro’s, Johannesburg’s hot pop night-spot, in July this year. The place was a sell-out, crammed with teenyboppers and the usual in-crowd of pop critics. They didn’t say much; they never do. There was the Tidal Wave grooving it up front, the Brass Explosion punching out their big sound and the go-go girls working up a sweat. And the teenyboppers loving it.”
“Tidal Wave comprises Mike Pilot, Mike Koch, Roy Naturman and Kenny Haycock, all pop veterans,” continues Moorhouse’s article, “They have played in some of the country’s best-known groups including the Brackets, Birds of a Feather, the Peanut Butter Conspiracy and the In Crowd. As a result, they have few illusions about the pop world; they know how superficial it is. They believe in hard work. In fact, to interview them I had to gatecrash a practice session and, while I was talking to one of them, the other three went on with their music. Group leader Roy Naturman (organ/electric piano) told me; ‘We all understand one another. None of us has particular ideas about personal gains. Sure we’ve made money. We get along. But we’re not doing this for money.’”
Moorhouse also refers to Brass Explosion’s Robin Netscher. “Netscher is the driving force behind the fat brass sound that is becoming a feature of STORM singles. He handles all the musical direction at recording sessions and also arranges the jazz-flavored music for the Storm Power Circus. Commenting on the welding of pop and jazz, he said, ‘The type of music played by Blood, Sweat, and Tears is very popular but, up to now, when the kids have asked a group to play something off their LPs it hasn’t been complete. The brass has been missing. Now, for the first time, they’ll hear the whole music. This – the meeting of pop and jazz – is a great thing. It just had to come.’”
“At a given point in time,” recalls Terry Dempsey, “We all went to bed in mono and woke up in stereo and the world never looked back. ‘Spider Spider’ saw Tidal Wave go to number one for the first and only time, although ‘Mango Mango’ outsold ‘Spider Spider’ by a long way.”
‘Spider Spider’ hit the number one spot on the Springbok Radio Charts in April 1970 and also achieved number eight on LM Radio. ‘Green Mamba’ which was released in late 1970 followed this hit and it managed to get to number 16 on the Springbok Radio charts.
In August 1970, an album titled simply ‘Tidal Wave’ was released and included ‘Spider Spider’, ‘Green Mamba’ and their next big hit ‘Mango Mango’. This song, with its nonsensical lyrics and repeated phrase of ‘sixty-nine, sixty-nine’, hit number seven on Springbok in late 1970 and achieved top five on LM Radio in January 1971.
In 1971, according to the History Of Contemporary Music Of South Africa by Garth Chilvers and Tom Jasiukowicz, Tidal Wave supplied the music for the soundtrack of the movie, ‘Lindi’, composed and produced by Terry Dempsey.
Mike Koch and Roy Naturman left Tidal Wave and the last single was released in 1971 titled ‘Money Baby’ (b/w ‘I’ve Got To Get Away’) that featured drummer Kevin Kruger and keyboardist Aidan ‘Dooley’ Mason. This song went to number 15 on the Springbok charts and did even better on LM Radio going to number nine. After a couple more line-up changes, sadly, Tidal Wave was no more.
As an aside, Terry Dempsey was referred to as the “music machine” at the time and was never far from the Springbok and LM Radio hit parades with songs written and produced by him. Dave Mills, Lance James, Lauren Copley, John Edmond, and others all enjoyed chart success thanks to Dempsey’s involvement. Teenage star, Lauren Copley recorded a Terry Dempsey song ‘Daydreamer’ in 1972 and when covered by US teen sensation David Cassidy it went to number 1 in the UK. It sold well over a million worldwide with in excess of 250 000 copies in Britain alone, according to Joseph Murrells’ ‘Million Selling Records’ book.
There is a wide variety of music styles covered on this Tidal Wave retrospective CD. Lovers of end-of-the-sixties psychedelic pop and rock will discover many hidden gems here including the progressive rock sounds of ‘Get It Out Of Your System’ which would not have been out of place on an Abstract Truth album. This CD also includes the funky soul sounds of ‘Town Girl’, featuring Peter Vee’s lead vocal, which was previously unreleased.
Tidal Wave is fondly remembered by many and now all their music; the hits, misses, and rarities can be found in one place.
Brian Currin, April 2007
Thanks: Terry Dempsey, Mike Pilot, Roy Naturman, Tertius Louw, Russel Pope.
Early in 1968, I met Roy Naturman at Gallo studios with Grahame Beggs, South Africa’s young pioneer record producer on a Flames recording session. Roy was playing piano and he was cooking – so was the recording!
Shortly thereafter Roy invited me to a popular nightspot to hear the band he was playing with, THE IN CROWD where I met a very impressive soul singer called Peter Vee, lead vocalist with the band. The bass player was a man who many years later became one of the world’s biggest music men CLIVE CALDER. A few weeks later Roy Naturman phoned me to tell me that the band was breaking up and would I be interested in recording a new band he was putting together with the drummer from The In Crowd, Mike Koch, Ken Haycock as bass player and lead guitarist/singer Mike Pilot both of whom came from “The Brackets”.
What a hot unit this proved to be, they were the first band to be released on my newly formed independent record label STORM with the title “MAN ON A STRING”, followed by “WITH TEARS IN MY EYES”. These were mono recordings, but at a given point in time, we all went to bed in mono and woke up in stereo and the world never looked back.
“SPIDER SPIDER” saw the band number one for the first and only time, and although “MANGO MANGO” only made the number 2 spot it outsold Spider Spider by a long way – there is an intriguing story behind that!!!