Using the lyrical brashness of the punk rock movement, without adopting the fashion, their songs were often menacingly sarcastic political statements. Lyrically they often touched on South African topics, notably the milieu in which young, white, South African man found themselves at that time. This milieu was dominated by conscription, Calvinism, suppression of political debate and intolerance off non-conformism. He's a supervisor, takes a lot of skill to be in charge of 40 kaffirs, that's responsible he doesn't mind that he get's all the pay Mr Arri Paulus says "they're just baboons anyway" BRAIN DAMAGE (1980) CORPORAL PUNISHMENT The Corporals gained a small but fiercely loyal following, but lack of venues; airplay and their raw aggressive music meant they were either anonymous to or completely ignored by the mainstream. Despite this Phillips never questioned whether he was doing the right thing or not, as he himself said, “It was just something that had to be done, someone had to sing about what was happening in South Africa”. After doing his initial two years in the army Phillips became a conscientious objector, making any chance of having any kind of musical career even more remote, speaking in later years he said “ You try and have a career as a musician, when you’re trying to keep your face out of the newspapers because the army is looking for you”. Also at this time South African government were wielding ever-tightening control over the media, especially radio and television.
In particular songs by local musicians were often subject to heavy scrutiny before being added to radio station play lists. The expectation of censorship made record companies nervous about spending money on local artists who might make any kind of social or political comment. Some companies went as far as running their own censorship departments that would vet songs and artists before a recording budget was assigned. By 1980 the security forces were starting to keep an eye on any performers considered “subversive” and would spy on such performers and sometimes disrupt performances or impede careers. Thus Phillips, along with several of his contemporaries, found himself in a position in which the prospects of a recording contract or airplay were remote. However, Corporal Punishment caught the attention of the small, independent Shifty label.
Shifty had a reputation for signing groups that no other South African label would touch, but that usually meant that airplay was unlikely (almost by definition acts signed to Shifty were considered “subversive”) and promotional budgets would be small. In 1980 shifty released the EP “Fridays And Saturdays”. Corporal Punishment had a recording released, but sales and exposure were negligible and the band split soon afterwards. After the break-up of Corporal Punishment Phillips formed a new, short-lived band “Illegal Gathering” before embarking on studies towards a bachelor’s degree in music, initially at Rhodes and then at Wits University, before forming The Cherry Faced Lurchers. Starting initially as a novelty band, playing songs like ‘Do the Lurch” or “That’s my Shirt and I Want it Back”, things really started when the band got a residency at the then unknown, Jameson’s. By July 1985, when Lloyd Ross of Shifty Records put Live at Jameson's down on tape, they were an extraordinarily tight three-piece with a repertoire of songs exceptional for their strength. I’m a white boy who looked at his life Gathered in his hands and saw it was All due to the sweat of some other man, The one who got Shot down in the streets. SHOT DOWN (1984) CHERRY FACED LURCHERS As the political landscape continued to get darker as the 80’s dragged on so too did Phillips’s lyrics with songs like ‘The Branch’ (a song about the viciousness of the security police) and ‘Detainees’ (about the various death’s in detention during the time) these songs show Phillip’s anguished concerns during this time of apartheids darkest oppression. Away from Jameson’s Phillips was putting the finishing touches to another project that of his alto ego, Bernoldus Niemand, and his Wie is Bernoldus Niemand? Album (1985). Targeting the monolithic Afrikaner “cultural establishment” the album was promptly banned by the SABC although the song Hou my vas Korporaal would became an anthem for the anti conscription movement.
In its time it was utterly new, inspiring "alternative Afrikaner" performers like Johannes Kerkorrel and Koos Kombuis who would spearhead the Voëlvry boerepunk movement some years later. James in fact was invited to join the Voëlvry bandwagon for a successful if controversial tour of the country in 1989. How do I live in this strange place? REGGAE VIBES IS COOL BERNOLDUS NIEMAND 1989 saw the controversial Voëlvry tour which featured musicians who sang in Afrikaans and had been inspired by the Bernoldus Niemand album. Phillips and an expanded Lurchers lineup were added to the Voëlvry bill under the name “Bernoldus Niemand en die Swart Gevaar”. Phillips had always regarded the Niemand alter-ego as a side project and had abandoned the songs on the Niemand album.
He was now performing to the biggest audience of his career, but under another name and singing songs that he no longer considered part of his repertoire. Phillips and the Lurchers continued to evolve and maintained a reputation as a compelling live act. By the early 90s Phillips was concentrating on the piano rather than the guitar and his compositions became more sophisticated. His lyrics were sometimes more personal, but other songs showed that he continued to remain relevant and vital even as South Africa moved towards democracy – a transition which had left some of Phillips’s contemporaries with little to say. In 1994 he released the Sunny Skies album – recorded with an enlarged band that featured a horn section and several highly-regarded guest players.
Once again the album was released by Shifty, but a deal was negotiated by which BMG Music would undertake promotion and distribution. Despite BMG's efforts (allegedly hamstrung by Phillips's own disinclination towards promotional work), sales remained poor. In the same year Phillips stood in South Africa's first democratic election as a candidate for the eccentric Soccer Party. He’s life ended early when he of injuries sustained in a motorcar accident, just outside of Grahamstown, where he’d been doing a series of solo concerts at the festival. He died never having gained the recognition from the public over was essentially an important body of work. In his memorial concert a few weeks after his death, Vusi Mahlasela, Johnny Clegg, David Kramer, Lesego Rampolokeng and Johannes Kerkorrel and others, gathered to pay tribute to James' influence as an artist. And yet to the majority of South Africans he remains completely unknown, with this documentary we hope to rectify that. Just when we thought it's over, we found it's only just begun just when we thought it's over, we're still dying like flies underneath the sun It's still going crazy just like its always done Cause when it all comes down the time has come to pay the bills and count the change'' FUN'S NOT OVER (1993) In1995 Shifty Records released a career retrospective compilation “Made In South Africa”.
In 1997 the same label released “Soul Ou”, a collection of demo tapes of mostly new songs that Phillips had planned to perform at Grahamstown in 1995. These stark, unaccompanied recordings show that Phillips was still evolving as a songwriter and player and are regarded as some of his best work. All titles released on the Shifty label. * Fridays and Saturdays (EP) - Corporal Punishment (1980) * Hou My Vas Korporaal b/w My Broken Heart (single) - Bernoldus Niemand (1983) * Wie Is Bernoldus Niemand? - Bernoldus Niemand (1984) * Live At Jamesons - The Cherry Faced Lurchers (1985) * The Voice Of Nooit - Corporal Punishment & Illegal Gathering (1986) * The Otherwhite Album (Best of Cherry Faced Lurchers, 1985-1989) - The Cherry Faced Lurchers (1992) * Sunny Skies - James Phillips & The Lurchers (1994) * Made In South Africa (compilation 1978-1995) (1995) * Soul Ou - James Phillips (1997) * Voëlvry: Die Toer - various arists, including Bernoldus Niemand en die Swart Gevaar (2006) 2) James Phillips is a Canadian multi-instrumentalist, producer and engineer hailing from Tyne Valley, Prince Edward Island. He has performed as a member of many acclaimed Island acts including the Saddle River Stringband, the James Phillips Trio, Sweetheart Jim and the Brothers Grim, The New Drifts, La Funk 6 and many more. He has also worked closely with an assortment of talented maritime artists including Catherine MacLellan and Nathan Wiley.
He has won an ECMA for his work on Saddle River’s self-titled debut as well as a PEI Music Award for Best Bluegrass Recording & Best New Artist (Saddle River String Band). Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
show me more