Various articles
from magazines, newspapers and books

Advertisment from a special trade issue of Billboard dated 1970/1971

Karen Lotter spoke to Steve Fataar

In the early 60's, four young Durban boys set the South African music scene alight. They crossed race and age barriers and gained thousands of fans across the country with their mega-hit, "For Your Precious Love." They were The Flames - group leader Steve Fataar, his two brothers, "Brother" and Ricky and Blondie Chaplin. In 1969 they were "discovered" by the Beach Boys and left the country for an international career. The guys became sought after musicians on the international scene, for artists like the Rolling Stones and Bonnie Raitt. But Steve, who was born in Soldier's Way, returned to Durban in the early 70s and has spent his life living and working on the local music scene. He is married to Marianne and they have four children, Tara (19), Dane (15), Camilla (10) and Leila (5). Last year he was declared a "Living Treasure" by Major Obed Mlaba at the Awesome Africa Music Festival at Shongweni Nature Reserve. 

K: You have achieved international success and other members of your band left South Africa permanently to live and work overseas. What kept you in Durban?

S: Actually I wasn't kept in Durban: I decided to come back to Durban. I was living in California in 1970/71 and it was a very hectic time. I had to leave where I was. It wasn't a good climate to be in - too destructive. When I touched down here, I still had that feeling, but Durban was just there. For a long time it was a culture shock. For me it was very traumatic, coming back to the very conservative climate of the early 70's. I originally hibernated at my mother's house. Slowly I came out and found people I could communicate with. I did concerts at the university and it's been like a merry-go-round ever since. But I'm kinda comfortable here.

K: How do you feel about the local music/recording scene? Is there progress? Are local artists getting enough support/airplay?

S: I don't like to think about money - it's such a dirty side track. That's why I like working with the younger generation - you've only got something if you give it away. Yes there is progress in a funny kinda way. I'm looking at it in a way that's close to me. If Tara had been in America at age 13 she would have already been sucked in by the industry and made a star. But here there isn't any infrastructure of support. In the long-term, I think sometimes it's a good thing for musicians to find out from the ground how to do it for themselves. Tara will have to pay her dues. But then she has been singing she was two - and I sometimes feel she should get a break. Radio stations are playing more local music but they are commercially directed. They go with whatever is "credible". There isn't a recognition of the basic innate talent; they wimply play what pays. 

K: You were born in Durban and have been here all yoru life. What are the most significant changes you have seen in the city over the years?

S: If you go to the heart of the city, it isn't like the Durban of 25 years ago. I remember coming back from my tours - you could see someone you recognise from a block away, now it's just a stream, and I don't see an individual anymore. But that is just the flux, it's not a bad thing. I think that everything is moving all the time. I go to the city centre a lot - and for me nothing radical has changed. I'm just sorry about all the beautiful old buidlings that have to be destroyed in the name of progress and expedience.

K: If you were a super Mayor and you could change anything you want, what do you believe are the most important changes we need to make, in ordet to make Durban a better city?

S: That would be scary, I could only be as good or bad as the last one. But if I could change something, I'd remove a lot of the "policing", not the Metro cops or the SAP but all the making rules and losing sight of the big picture. People spend too much time discussing and making rules instead of getting on with living. I would try to make people see that it is their own responsibility to clean up their acts and deal with their lives so that we can get on with living in peace together. Let's find solutions rather than get stuck on the problems. 

I'd declare Durban to be a Festival City like Montreal in Canada. At least once a month, we'd celebrate some or other cultural festival. This would be a great unifying thing for the people of a city - as well as a really good tourist attraction.  I would intoduce life skills education in all schools and teach children what life is all about - the real things. We need to know ourselves, before we can give anything away.

K: What are you plans for 2002?

S: I mostly still play Dad, and from a distance help Tara's career as a fellow musician. I play as much music as I can - and spend time with my family. I have a democratic arrangement in my home and my youngest, Leila, my youngest daughter calls the shots, so I'll be kept busy.

THE FLAMES - Soul and Sitar
Article: Teenage Personality, March 14, 1968 pp.18-20   
Six years on the way up and
going from strength to strength

Durban's well-known pop group, The Flames, will not be gracing the South African scene for very much longer. Recently they ended a 10-month booking at Durban's Al Fresco and they hope their next engagement will be in either Britain or America. They leave for a six-month tour of these countries at the beginning of May, and they have no intention of coming back. After years of relative obscurity in South Africa this talented group suddenly hit the jackpot and their sojourn in Durban has been a story of ever-growing popularity and success. 

As a matter of fact it is no exaggeration to say that they have been one of the most successful pop groups ever to have emerged in this country. Their latest LP, Burning Soul which was released in late November sold so quickly that after only five days an additional pressing was required and the record is still selling furiously. They have been voted by recording studios as South Africa's top group in 1967 and that opinion is shared by Grahame Beggs who has, according to Flames manager Peter Rice, declared the group to be the best ever produced in this country. 

The reasons for the Flames' success are simple - firstly they have talent to spare and secondly they have a sound which is original among South African groups. Steve, Ricky, Brother and Blondie not only have a justifiable claim to be the only true soul group in this country but they have also introduced strong eastern phrasings into many of their numbers. Ravi Shankar and Beatle George Harrison, have made this instrument very popular in England and America. Sixteen year - old rhythm guitarist Blondie Chaplin who joined the group six months ago, is largely responsible for their soul  presentations. He does the vocals in their soul numbers and not surprisingly so since next to playing soul music his greatest love is listening to it. 

Brothers Steve (22), and Ricky (15), and "Brother" Fataar (20), were the original members of the Flames when they started out as a skiffle group six years ago with home-made instruments. In contrast to those days they now have among their equipment a sitar which was specially imported from India and on which Ricky performs several numbers. Normally perched behind the drums, Ricky also sings several numbers in the style of Stevie Wonder. His interests are predominantly musical and like the others he is self taught. Among a wide variety of instruments on which he is adept are the tablas - drums traditionally employed in Indian music and considered most difficult of all to learn. 

Brother Steve is leader of the group, and sings the ballad vocals while handling the lead guitar. Like Ricky he can play the sitar and is also at home on the Bengal flute. Brother is the second oldest member of the group and plays the bass and double bass guitar while lending a hand with the harmony vocals. Burning Soul and the numbers played at shows in Durban are mostly well known but the Flames have introduced their own version and styling to a large extent. They have also been compiling a reserve of their own compositions. Burning Soul will probably be released in the United States and Britain soon. 

Debonair Magazine Vol. 2 No. 1, June 4, 1965
see photo in pictures section

The Flames are burning brightly.

Three years ago, four young boys, all born in Durban, never dreamt that they would gain several thousand friends and fans, earn a lot of money and become recording artistes! The boys are Steve Fataar, "Brother" Fataar, and Ricky Fataar (all brothers) and their cousin, Edries Fredericks - and collectively - these boys are popularly known as  - THE FLAMES. 

When "The Flames" first kindled into existence as a beat group they were acclaimed as "the group with the 9-year-old drumming sensation". The boys admit that this attracted a lot of attention and enabled them to "sell their music" to huge audiences, but strongly deny that the "drumming sensation" bit was a gimmick. 

Although they became well-known, they never made any real progress, for almost 1-1/2 years, mainly due to inexperience, lack of good material and inexperienced management. They have since been efficiently managed by the group "leader", Steve, who chooses their material and arranges their programmes. His judgment is highly respected by the rest of the boys, though they often have tiffs about certain arrangements.

Today Durban's singing, swinging Flames are rated as one of South Africa's top groups on the beat scene - but don't get the impression that their fantastic popularity was achieved in one smooth climb. Their struggle for recognition ha been, and still is, full of obstacles and dissappointments. But, like other big groups, "The Flames" had a lucky break. 

Up to this time, most groups had concentrated on a line-up similar to Cliff Richard and the Shadows, because the success of the Merseyside beat groups had hardly left Britain's shores, although several discs of their music had been plugged in this country. Fortunately for The Flames, the sound of this exciting music was enthusiastically lapped up by Steve. A few months later, Steve's intuition proved correct when, in the "South African National Championship" group contest, they were unanimously voted into first position by the judges and 5,000 people in the audience. 

In this contest The Flames excelled themselves. They were unique: appearing in leather gear, singing as a group and appearing with mop-type hairstyles. When the curtain opened on the boys the roof of the Durban Icedrome was virtually brought down. The crowd went beserk. About 80% of the audience lit safety matches and flicked cigarette lighters to show their appreciation! The Flames still cannot fully explain the feeling they experienced during that reception. Ever since, their appearance on stage is given a welcome with safety match lighting!

They continued without looking back. They toured Natal, winning new fans in Pietermaritxburg, Estcourt, Ladysmith, Stanger, Tongaat, Verulam, Newcastle and several other towns besides Durban. 

Last July they appeared at the Luxurama Theatre with Bill Kimber and the Couriers and Gene Rockwell. This show proved to be another big success for The Flames. They started at the bottom of the bill but after a stunning first night performance when they received a standing ovation, they replaced Bill Kimber and his Couriers at the top of the bill. The Flames couldn't understand why this happened as they considered The Couriers and Gene Rockwell outstanding. 

After the Luxurama stint the boys went home where everybody had heard of their success. They did several gigs at their usual haunts and generally had wonderful receptions. 

"The Flames" regard every performance as something special. They try to improve on all previous performances and they maintain their equipment in excellent condition. The equipment, incidentally, consists of Vox and Fender amplifiers, a specially-built P.A. system, a Ludwig drum kit; their guitar line-up consists of a Gretsch Country Gent, an Epiphone Casino, and a Hofner violinbass - which will soon be replaced by an Epiphone Rivoli bass.

In September The Flames undertook a tour of the Eastern Province, touching on Port Elizabeth, East London and Uitenhage. This proved so successful that they were asked to return. They did so in December and January, this time including more towns such as George and Mossel Bay. Their reception on this trip was fantastic. 

Ricky, the young drummer had to return to his schooling. This is the only reason why the boys leave Durban so seldom. Now the boys are on the move again. They have completed many dates in and around Durban and are planning a week-end stint in Swaziland early this month. A short tour of Cape Town and district is also on their list. 

It seems clear that The Flames have gone from strength to strength - or from sparks to an inferno

Sunday Times 3 September 2000
Flame to set fans alight
Supergroup of the 60's set to play again at festival
Reuben Kinsella

    South Africa's supergroup of the 60's, Flame, are set to reunite for a Festival in Shongweni later this month. While organisers are still trying to find a sponsor to finalise thansport arrangements, band leader Steve Fataar is thrilled with the project and jokes: "It's going to be interesting to see what we play. While there will obviously be a lot of Flame material, after 30 years of us all being involved in other projects, we can hardly just go on stage and remember everything."
    The band quickly rose to fame from humble beginnings in 1965, starting out playing pop tunes from the Beatles, Manfred Mann and Roy Orbison, before moving into a more soul vein. After the release of their first two albums, their careers took a leap forward with the addition of new vocalist, Blondie Chaplin, to complete their classic lineup with the three Fataar brothers, Steve, Ricky and Brother.
    Their careers peaked locally with their interpretation of the Jerry Butler song, For You Precious Love, which was one of many hits which made them become the first black group to smash through the apartheid era radio hit parade charts. Bigger things were yet to come, however, and following a relocation to England in 1968 and television appearances on the Donovan show, they were spotted in a club by the Beach Boys' Carl Wilson.
    Flame were immediately spirited off to California to record an album for the Beach Boys' new label and to tour with them across America and Europe.
    Following the band's split in 1972, Ricky and Blondie were invited to join the Beach Boys permanently in the US, and recorded several albums with them. In later years, Ricky was to work with the Monty Python band, the Rutles, before joining up with Bonnie Raitt, while Blondie contributed to the Rolling Stones.
    Flame will recieve particular honour at the festival when Durban mayor, Obed Maba presents his annual Musical Excellence Awards to several legendary KwaZulu-Natal artists.
    Steve Fataar also hopes that the project will spawn further Flame gigs.
    While Brother Fataar will be missing from the line-up, having passed away in 1978, the reunion may well see the launch of the next generation of Fataars, with Steve's daughter, Tara, joining Flame on stage.
    The Awesome Africa Festival succeeds last year's Living Treasures festival, which formed part of Durban's millenium celebrations. It takes place in the stunning Shongweni Resources Reserve from September 22 to 24.
    Headlining this year's proceedings are Benin's pop diva, Angelique Kidjo, local rival, Busi Mhlongo, and Shongweni's very own Hugh Masekela. The festival also sees about 50 other local and international acts performing, often in conjunction with each other.

A guide-book to South African Rock Music history reports the following about the Flames:

In 1968 the Flames went over to England where they were well received on their TV appearances, including the Donovan Show, and live shows in London's Blaises and Revelation rock clubs.

Jim Carter-Lea, manager of these clubs, arranged for Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys (who were touring Europe at the time) to see the Flames. Carl Wilson was so impressed with the group that he invited them to Los Angeles to record at their studio. This resulted in the album: Flame (1971) Brother Records (the Beach Boys' record label), produced by Carl Wilson. The single of this album: See the Light, reached the American charts.

The Flames were now known as the Flame and, after a concert tour of South Africa, toured the USA as support act to the Beach Boys, between 1970-71.

In 1972 Flame broke up but Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar were invited to become members of the Beach Boys and the two remained with the Beach Boys until 1973, playing bass and drums respectively.

At the end of 1973, Ricky and Blondie left the Beach Boys to pursue individual careers, mainly as session musicians in America. Here follows a list of the recordings (or at least some of them) on which Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar feature, and some of the musicians they have played with:

(note: the list is not repeated here, but can be found in the "solo efforts" section, on...)

Chaplin apparently recorded another album in 1978 but we have been unable to trace it.

In 1975 Ricky played drums in the Joe Walsh band, alongside Bryan Garolafo and David Mason. He has moved to Australia and is still involved in music, with EMI studios in Sydney and with his own record company, Centre Records.

He may not have had such an illustrious career as his brother but the former Flames bassist has a couple of noteworthy credits to his 1973 he played on one-time Rarebird member Nicky James' album: Every Home Should Have One (1973) Threshold. In 1978, Brother toured Europe and England as part of Rab Noakes' band, but sadly passed away in Amsterdam the same year.

Nothing much was heard from Steve Fataar since the break up of the Flames, but in 1978, he resurfaced in Durban with his new group, Further, with younger brother Issy on guitar, Joe Appolin - bass and Brian Curtiss - drums. Issy Fataar later formed his own group, Smack. (see also Roger Lucey)

recorded two solo singles Stand By Me and Look Away in 1967.

November 1997 South African newspaper story

Here is the text of a story published in Tonight on Monday, 17th November 1997, written by Owen Coetzer.
Special note: all factual errors in this article are those of the author. Blondie Chaplin plays bass on only one track on the Rolling Stone's Bridges To Babylon. Jim Keltner was not the drummer of Jefferson Airplane.

SA Flame Rolling with Stones
Blondie Chaplin mixes it on Babylon's Bridge
How Durban Beach Boy Blondie Chaplin hooked up with Keith Richard and made good rocking Rolling Stones music.
And they might yet get to South Africa to play with guitar whiz Steve Fataar.

So howz that my China. There's my mate, Blondie Chaplin, standing in the shadows. And singing with the Rolling Stones. The first time ever a South African has been added to the greatest rock band in the world, and Blondie's clear voiceand undeniable electric bass appear on almost every track on the Stones' new album, Bridges to Babylon, released in Cape Town a few weeks ago.

Blondie, a stunning bassman, is a close friend of Keith Richard and they frequently jam together in New York. Last time I saw Blondie, he was part of South Africa's first supergroup, the Flames, with that other old buddy of mine, Steve Fataar. Along with Brother Fataar and Ricky Fataar, they were on their way to London. The Durban group, founded in 1965 by Steve, rocketed to overseas flaming fame with TV appearances on the Donovan show and did live gigs at London clubs Blaises and Revelation. Steve told me from Durban today: "There were rumours I heard that Blondie had hooked up with the Stones. I mean - a South African? So I faxed him, and he called me. " 'It's true' he said. He had Keith standing next to him, so I invited them to tour here. "But he says he has known Keith for years, and when they were getting the crew ready to record Bridges to Babylon, he was invited to play. "Boy did he jump in.

The Stones album has quite a few musicians in true tradition. There's Waddy Wachtel, Don Was (who produced it with the Stones' old producers, the Glimmer twins) and Blondie. There's Jim Keltner of the old Jefferson Airplane, and a host of others. "It's funny," says Steve, "Blondie called his mother, who is a direct descendant of John Dunn, the white chief of the Zulu's, who was honoured by King Cetshwayo. He set up home in Zululand and produced a virtual nation of children from Zulu wives. "Well, Blondie called his mother and put Keith on the phone. When he finished Blondie asked: What do you think Ma? "The reply was: I don't know who that was. But he spoke funnily."

This is all an aeon from 1968 when Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys, who were also touring Britain at the time, was taken to see the Flames. And immediately took them to Los Angeles to record in their studio. The result was an album Flame (1971) and the group fronted the Beach Boys bewteen 1970 and 1971. When Flame (they has changed their name) broke up in 1972 - both Blondie and Ricky were invited to join the Beach Boys premanently. They went solo a year later - and into a who's who of rock music. Blondie played with Dave Mason, Joe Walsh and Garth Hudson and Rick Danko of the Band, Bob Dylan's original backing group. Ricky appeared in the Monty Python Beatles spoof, the Rutles, playing George Harrison, then moved to play with Gerry Rafferty's Stealers Wheel - and is now a permanent part of Bonnie Raitt's group. Brother's life came to an end in Amsterdam in 1978 when he was part of Rab Noakes band.

As the Flames they recorded a classic - For Your Precious Love in 1968. For the first time a "non-white" song reached the top of the South African hit parade - and it is still being played as one of the superlative sounds of yesteryear. In their time the Flames did 14 singles and 4 albums. On concert tours they packed out venues including Cape Town. Steve became a household name, and still commands much respect wherever he goes. Some years ago, when Blondie visited, they put together a tribute concert to the Flames. Now Steve is producing as much music as he can - and writing for his teenage daughter, Tara, who has inherited his musical genius. Would Blondie and Keith ever come to South Africa? "I'm working it", says Steve.

Mike Love quoted in a British music paper, Spring 1970

"Carl has finished work on the Flames' first album, 'Longplaying.' The Flames are our first signing for the label, and the album should be out in the States in August -- and in the UK just as soon as we can conclude our record deal."

"Flame's Hot Future" by Phil Symes, December 1970, in a British music paper

Flame are currently a very "in" group, much revered by fellow musicians and people in the music industry. They're touring with the Beach Boys, who are credited as having discovered them, and should be well established with the public in general. Originally from South Africa, the Flame came to England three years ago because they figured from Britain they could reach a lot more people, and after 18 months found themselves in America recording on Brother Records after being spotted by Beach Boy Carl Wilson at a London club. Now they're back with an album and single ready for release -- and high hopes!

The time they spent in Hollywood has been a period of change. They say their sound now is a far cry from the sounds they made when they played to packed audiences at London's Blaises club. And Steve Fataar, lead singer, explained why. "In South Africa, our albums were just collections of other people’s songs -- rhythm and blues and rock-n-roll mainly. "Now we're doing our own stuff because while in America we had time to think and write. For the first seven months we didn't have work permits, so while we sat around waiting to work we wrote a lot. We had tried to write while we were in England but we never finished one song; we really had no idea of what we wanted to do. But when we were just sitting around it came easy.

"Some people have compared out sound to the Beatles; we've always been Beatles fans and I think it's a feeling that comes across more than anything else. To us, we sound like ourselves. But if we must be compared to anyone, it’s nice to be compared to the best group." Flame say their sound has progressed so much that they would hate people who are now digging them to hear the hits they had in South Africa ("the only thing that's the same is that it's us"). They attribute much of their progression to Carl Wilson: "We didn't think we'd be able to write but Carl encouraged us," says Steve. "We had a couple of verses of songs lying around which we weren't sure of, and when we played them to him he told us to finish them. He gave us a lot of confidence and really opened up a lot of doors.

"We'd all, personally, like to live in England because we feel at ease here. It's all very strange in Hollywood; it's a mixture of every type of person you can imagine. To cope with it you really have to have tight control of yourself."

"Flame -- South African Rock". December 24, 1970 Rolling Stone magazine.

LONDON -- Two classic publicity riffs crackled and spluttered as a four-piece pop-rock band called Flame arrived in Britain. First, they were the first band (genuinely) to sign with the Beach Boys' Brother Records and were over in U.K. as support band for the Beach Boys tour. As if that wasn't enough, a news story conveniently broke quoting Paul McCartney as saying (to whom?) that Flame is his fave group of the moment. "We know nothing about it," said one of the group. "Somebody said McCartney went to the Whiskey in L.A. and saw us there. But that's ridiculous. If he had, then everyone would have known about it."

Flame are three Asian-African brothers -- Steve, Brother and Ricky -- and a friend, Blondie Chaplin, who's a mixture of African and British blood and who claims to be distantly related to Charlie Chaplin. The band was formed three and a half years ago in their native South Africa. A series of albums, mainly covers of American hits, took them to the top of the local scene before they split to Britain. At one of their gigs in a London nightclub they were spotted by Carl Wilson. The Brother Record deal was fixed and they moved to Hollywood at the end of 1969.

Flame's attitude to the race problem in South Africa will hardly endear them to the Black Panther Party. Moderate is hardly the word. "Some places we couldn't play in because of the laws there and we understood it," says Steve. "I mean, if we'd really got into a hassle about it, it would have been a hassle to ourselves. So if we couldn't play, we didn't play. It never worried us at all." "We've heard more about the race problems in South Africa outside the country, than we did when we were there. We never really had problems." Perhaps realizing that he was beginning to sound like a hip Uncle Tom, Steve added: "I hope nothing's gonna change because of, you know, us being honest. I don't think it will. You see, we were brought up over there with the laws of the land. We more or less knew what we could or couldn't do as far as the law was concerned. There was no problem. In fact, we didn't even try to find out what we couldn't do. We just did what we felt we could do. "The band came in on places that sold liquor. White-owned places with liquor licenses were out. But that was no big thing. I guess there was a reason for it; there must have been. We just never bothered to find out." Possibly the Flame's laissez faire philosophy has something to do with the fact that the members belong to ethnic minority groups which don't represent the largest threat to the white population of South Africa. Out of a total population of 21 million, the African accounts for 15 million, compared to the white's 3,700,000. The Asians (Chinese, Malay and Indian) total about 1,600,000 and the colored (mixed blood) total 1,900,000. Life down on the Beach Boys' plantation holds more freedom.

"With our first album for Brother, it hasn't been like Carl or us producing the group," said Steve. "It's like one whole group together. If we think something that Carl suggest sounds shitty then we'd say that but go ahead and give it a try anyway. Lots of times things have come out sounding not like we wanted but nevertheless good and we've kept it." At their concert at London's Hammersmith Odeon the Flame went down well with their mixture of easy-listening pop and rock. They looked cute-skinny enough to be figures in a dream in Monkee-mastermind Don Kirshner's head. Ricky padded floppily around the stage from piano to drums to the mike for some sweet flute playing. Brother clung to his bass and looked out of it. The others seemed to ingore him, coming on like the Everly Triplets.