19th January 2021:
Among the bands and musicians of the 1990s that have gone on to be household names and local legends is Arno Carstens, the Stellenbosch boy who rocked our world with Springbok Nude Girls and has continued his successful career (with and without ‘the Nudies’) to this day. Arno’s complete story is way too long and winding for a Tuesday mini-feature and deserves a major article to completely cover his musical journey. With this in mind, I have decided to share some background and songs from the Springbok Nude Girls part of his vast career.
Not that the ‘Nudies’ are gone and forgotten. Since their first hiatus in 2001 they have regularly met up over the years, regrouped and released regular additions to catalogue of great albums and superb EPs without selling out to, yet still encompassing the Adult Contemporary market.
As local South Africans will know, the band named themselves after the famed series of “Springboks Hits” compilation albums that always featured a model dressed as scantily as the censorship laws of the time would permit. The albums contained a selection of Top 20 hits played on Springbok Radio covered by local session musicians and released under the MFP (Music for Pleasure) label.
From initially forming in 1994 it only took 11 months before they independently released their début album, Neanderthal I and the song that made us all sit up and take notice, Bubblegum on my Boots. The emerging popularity of the music festival saw the Springbok Nude Girls become a favourite headline act and they produced a regular stream of EPs to please the fans.
I’m going to start with the hit that fixed them in the musical heart of South Africa and became their signature song. From the 1999 album Surpass the Power, here’s Blue Eyes.
Nobody knew at the time of playing their first gig in a small Stellenbosch bar that this highly focused and quite outspoken band would go on to be the legends they became. Their stage shows became a must-see and the unique musical blend of Punk, Rock, Reggae. Metal, home-grown Funk and a dollop of Jazz brought them to the attention of audiences beyond our shores.
The first album to be released after the band’s 6-year hiatus was the 2006 Peace Breaker. The break had done nothing to diminish their creative genius. The album sounds a little more mature and has an added polish, not that it detracts from the band’s punch. The clever lyricism and musical excitement is as powerful as ever.
In 2007 the DVD Live at the Astoria was shot during one of the band’s electrifying performances in London and to see the response from the UK fans is heartwarming. With solo and personal career commitments the output from the Nudies died off, but 2011 saw some major occurrences.
In February 2011 they opened for U2 during their South African leg of the 360° tour. This followed with them heading back to the drawing board for a planned new collection of songs. Along with this new development, they were also invited to play at the famous Isle of Wight Festival in front of 65,000 people. It wasn’t their first international event having played Belgium’s famous Pukkelpop in 1998 as a young band. The promised release was a result of the band living and writing and recording together for just one week, as Arno put it, a musical experiment.
As Arno Carstens describes it; “The brief was simple: let’s get together and see what happens. If we like what we hear at the end of it, then we can maybe release it. No pressure, no interference. So we pushed the boundaries of what’s supposed to be possible and I think the result is interesting. The resulting 6 track EP was named Apes With Shades and it doesn’t lose one iota of the edgy cleverness that the Springbok Nude Girls are famed for. Let’s listen to one of the gentler tracks, Godlike Man.
The story of the Springbok Nude Girls and the Voelvry movement in local music that evolved during the 90s amongst the South African youth was historically important in the politically charged transitional phase of our history.
The 2015 documentary, simply named Springbok Nude Girls, tells the story of the band’s early beginnings and the crippling censorship of that time through the use of archived performance & interview footage from the last two decades. It is a compelling story & includes interviews with a range of contemporary South African musicians, commentators, journalists & music industry insiders to tell the story of this roller coaster ride.
In the midst of the madness that was 2020 some good news arrived with the release of a new single from these stalwarts, Rolling Thunder, and it hopefully heralds another full collection of new material.
Arno says of the new single; “In the face of adversity, we either falter or adapt, Rolling Thunder is a declaration of determination ‘like a bulldozer, like rolling thunder’”. Lead guitarist and producer, Theo Crous, said “Previous Nude Girls recordings never truly reflected how the band comes across as a live act. I think Rolling Thunder encapsulates the Nude Girls sound as a live act. I tried to approach the production and the mix specifically how the band performs live,”
Enough talking, it’s time for a listen. Here’s the new single from one of South Africa’s favourite acts, Rolling Thunder. Thanks for doing the ‘local thing’ with me today. Catch you soon.
The Loving the Music mini-features are written and compiled by me to support Loving the Music’s Facebook page and group. Join the community for regular themed three-part posts that do do more than just share a song.
The Author owns no copyright on the images or videos in this article. All images and links sourced from YouTube and Google and within the public domain.
Words © Andrew Knapp 2021