Recollections and Interviews

We have been very fortunate to receive emailed recollections and interviews from people who have been close to the Flames over the years. As much as possible these recollections are published here with the permission of their authors. If you have recollections that belong here please email me and I will add them, normally within a day. If you feel your piece should not be here please email me on and I shall comply immediately.


A Flames story from Roddi

Were you aware the Flames lived for a while in Cape Town during the mid sixties? They used to ride round in a van which had large red flames painted on both sides. They once performed in Crawford's City Park (I remember it rained that day, but not enough to douse the Flames!) More recently they performed at the Luxurama theatre in Wynberg.  

They once went into a shop to buy something, (I saw the van parked outside), and when I later visited the shop I picked up a white, tortoise shell plectrum lying on the ground. I guess one of them must have dropped it.  

On the radio there was a programme called Forces Favourites, dedicated to the 'boys on the border'. The show consisted of requests from loved ones at home for the fighting troops stationed on the border,( Voortrekker Hoogte etc). They were there to guard against so-called terrorists. Guess what the most requested song was on that show - For your precious love by the Flames! That song still gets regular airplay on the radio today. It has to be one of the longest charting songs on Springbok Radio's Top Twenty by a local group, (maybe even the longest). According to some sources, the longest charting hit was by a group of session musicians who did their cover of Mammy Blue.  It has to be noted that the Springbok charts only reflected what the white buying public liked listening to. If not for apartheid the Flames would have been much more famous in their home country. The whites who bought and listened to 'non-white' bands like the Invaders and the Flames did so in secret. What a sad state of affairs, hey.

A Flames story from Cape Town, 1966

I've found the Flames website extremely interesting. I need to congratulate everyone who have contributed. It surely brings back fond memories. I would like to share one such memory with you. I was a student at Hewat Teachers Training College, Cape Town in the year 1966. The group was performing at The Luxurama, a popular show venue for so called 'coloured people' in the 'struggle' years. A group of students with me in the lead knew where the group was staying & decided to pay them a surprise visit on that specific morning. We managed tor drag them out of bed and succeeded in getting them to perform for us. I can still remember they sang "Drive my car" and another Beatle classic at the time. This was surely a highlight of my association with the top band at the time.

I'd thought that I just had to share the information with you.  Lifelong Flames Fan
John T Whiting.

Interviews with Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar

Sylvie Simmons writes for Mojo and is author of books on Serge Gainsbourg and Neil Young. Next year she publishes her first book of fiction, Too Weird for Iggy. In 2002 she interviewed Blondie Chaplin and Ricky Fataar, for articles about the Beach Boys Holland album, which appeard in Mojo and Dutch magazine Aloha. These interviews are copyrighted to Sylvie Simmons and are published on this website with her express permission. It is not permitted to publish these interviews elsewhere. We are grateful to Sylvie Simmons for her friendly cooperation.

Ricky Fataar    March 2002: Interview by Sylvie Simmons (copyright)

(Al Jardine was talking to me about seeing you play in a club in London, Blaise's,  and said he was the one who brought Carl Wilson - who later signed you  to the Beach Boys label - down there to check you out) Yeah, I didn't find that out until recently, when I bumped into Al somewhere and he told me that it was he who had first come down and heard us playing at Blaise's and the following night brought down Carl to see the band. Carl flipped over our band and said he wanted to give us a record deal, come to America, record in America, all of that.

(had you left south africa long before that) We'd been in London a little over a year, just playing around the clubs, looking to find a record deal like everyone else.

(what kind of music were you playing back then) We mainly played R&B stuff and mainly covers - not a lot of original material.

(and you had a different name) We were The Flames - the only thing that changed when we came to the US was Brother Records suggested that, with James Brown and the Famous Flames, just one Flame would be more palatable.

(Can you recall exactly how you and Blondie came to go from being in a group signed to the Beach Boys label to actually joining the band?)I was with Jack Rieley one evening in his home in Topanga and he brought up the suggestion that Blondie and I join the band. And I kind of looked at him as though he was out of his mind. Sure we were playing with the band and all of that, but joining the band just seemed a bit ludicrous.

(Was it a unanimous decision for you to join, or was there any dissension at the idea) He suggested it to the rest of the members and I guess they agreed, and there you go.

(Brian remembered it as being Carl's idea) I just remember how it was presented to me by Jack Rieley, and he obviously went off and asked the rest of the guys if they would go for that.

(it was a pretty drastic change from their early image as the squeaky clean, white, bright, all American band. You two didn't exactly look the part) (laughs) No we didn't. But it was never an issue. We were just a bunch of musicians flung together and playing music.

(Before *Holland* ' you worked on one Beach Boys album *Carl & The Passions: So Tough*. What are your strongest memories of making that album) No particular memories stick out. It was just all done very piecemeal - somebody would be cutting a track over at Village Recorders and somebody else would be recording at Sunset, so it was a very, very piecemeal, in-between touring kind of an album.

(wasn't some of it made in Brian's house studio) Some of it was made there but other things were recorded in other different places, because there was always a deadline that had to be met. Record as quickly as you can and go back out on the road.

(which was very different to working on *Holland*, because you were all in the same place and had six months to work on it) Yeah, except it wasn't like six months from day one because you have to remember that the entire studio was shipped over there and it was assembled on the spot. Half of the time when we were recording, there would be some engineer lying under the console with his legs sticking out, fixing something or moving a channel around because we'd run out of channels to record. There wasn't like a daily schedule or anything like that. What I remember is that Carl and Blondie and myself would get together a lot and play, and then Dennis would come in and play and Al would come in and play. Carl and Blondie and myself seemed to be the core of the group who consistently wanted to play and mess around in the studio.

(and Brian?) Brian wasn't really around that much. I guess he was spending time with his family. The fairy tale was done - I don't even know when that was done; I think it was done after we were all gone.

(he said he'd written it in Holland while homesick for California) I thought it had to do with Mount Vernon Fairway, where he lived. I think that was done after we had to go out and do more dates. Funky Pretty,  that was a song Brian did - I think he might even be playing drums on Funky Pretty. I kind of missed playing on that because I was sick, I had a cold or something that week. I didn't see Brian all that much. I can't even remember seeing Brian in the studio in Holland. Everyone had their own family situation and we'd just go work and occasionally see each other. It wasn't like a one big family thing.

(Al Jardine complained that it was a nightmare getting anything done, with the whole band being scattered around the country) Yes, it was sort of like that. Like I said, the most enthusiastic people seemed to be Carl, Blondie and myself. We just wanted to get out of the house, go to the studio and play. And everybody was scattered around. There was no 'We've got to get this thing done'. It was an album made at leisure. And there were all sorts of obstacles in the way, like 'we can't use the studio today because they have to tear this down' - it was kind of a pioneering thing to do to take a studio to another country back then.

(and put it in a cow-field with a windmill) (laughs) There were times when we were recording when we had to shoo away the cows because they were mooing too loud. No, I don't think a moo made it onto any of the tracks.

(once you were in the studio working, how would you describe how you went about recording: businesslike? chaotic? spontaneous?) Everybody would come in with a piece of a song or a completed song and kind of play around with it and then figure out how we wanted to record it. It was very casual.

(were some of these songs written before you left the US) The songs that I was involved in, no. I remember writing Leaving This Town there, at the piano in the house I was in. I think Carl kind of wrote some songs in the studio - Trader I think. I know for instance Leaving This Town, I had parts of it and Carl in the studio suggested other things, so we were just making it up as we went along.

(is there any way you can describe how you all interacted in the studio) The tracks were always cut with two or three people playing at the same time, and then the vocals were always done later. I used to love to watch when they all sang together. That was a great thrill. People would come up with parts right there on the spot; they'd sung together for so long they could do that, and it was a great thing to see.

(Is it true that Dennis moved to the Canary Islands during the recording and flew in for sessions?) He might have gone there but I don't remember him commuting (laughs). It's not that far though.

(Al remembered Dennis flying to LA to get chilli from Chasens) Maybe he had other things going on and Chasens sounded like a good excuse!

(Sail On Sailor was made in LA) We got back, delivered the album and they said 'No, there isn't any kind of single', and that's where Sail On Sailor came from. Brian wasn't there when we cut the track I believe - again I think it was Blondie, Carl and myself. I remember Carl called Brian to say 'Is this the right chord?' and 'what kind of a groove is it?' and Brian was at home on the telephone telling us what to do with the song. And one of the things I remember is he came up with this idea that Carl should play a part that was sort of like an SOS (morse code) signal dd-dd-dd dd-dd-dd, and Carl went out and played that and it was just right. I'm trying to remember if Brian came down when they did the background vocals, but I don't think so.

(The original running order of 'Holland' opened with Steamboat, then California Saga, with side one ending with a song you wrote with Blondie I think called We Got Love.) It was actually a song that I wrote - I think Blondie got a credit on it; it was all very loose back then.

(Why was that song removed?) I don't think it fit in the programme. I only have a copy of the live version of it, but the recorded version of that song must be somewhere in the vaults.

(because it was a bit of a concept album?) No, the album was titled *Holland* because that's where we were, and I don't see that there was any concept to it, mostly because of the way it was done - 'Hey, what are you doing?' 'Oh I've got this little song, let's record it'. It was just a very loose, loose thing.

(can you describe your song) I can hardly remember it! Having grown up in South Africa, it kind of popped out of that - probably out of reaction to some terrible thing that had happened in South Africa, but I can't remember what - or maybe people going on strike or something. To be honest I can't remember the lyrics.

(Several tracks have your former manager Jack Rieley credited. Do you know why?) Jack was very motivated. It was Jack's idea to go to Holland. I guess Jack had discovered the joys of Amsterdam and it was his idea to set up shop in Holland and record an album, and he was motivated and kind of got it all together. I guess he'd kind of throw in his contributions to the lyrics.

(How would you describe Dennis's contribution to and involvement in the album? He did the song Only With You) I'm sorry, I can't remember.

(Are there any particular stories that come to mind when you think of Brian's behaviour - like the time he left a restaurant you were all in and took his plate to eat in his limo) Brian was just odd that way. There's plenty of stories about how he would just get up and go and do something else.

(was he that way on *Carl & The Passions* too?) I've seen Brian around forever, but he's not really a communicative man - but when it got down to giving everyone their parts and singing and stuff, he knew exactly what he was doing and he played the piano and he sung on different parts.

(How was the band relating at that time - was there friction between Mike and them at that point?) No. When I was in Holland I don't remember any instances were people were put up against the wall or any of that. The studio was there and if you had some music and you wanted to work it out, you'd just go down. Al would call and say 'Ricky, would you come down and play on this?' - all totally casual and leisurely.

(What, to you, was the highlight of making that album?) I guess the fact that it ended up getting done and coming out. (laughs) It hardly seemed like an album was being made because it was just moving along at this leisurely, idyllic pace. I remember having wonderful, delicious summery days lying out in the backyard, and getting in a boat and going fishing, things like that. It was very idyllic and charming and sweet. 

(And the lowlight?) There wasn't one really.

(what did the Dutch make of all this) They were very friendly but of course totally curious to see a recording studio in a barn. That never happened in those days. Of course now everyone and their cousin has one, but back then it was unusual.

(How long after Holland did you and Blondie quit the Beach Boys?) I don't remember (laughs). You'd better ask Blondie. I remember why I left. Joe Walsh had offered me a gig to go play with him and it just seemed an appropriate time to do it. I called up Carl and Jack and said 'I want to leave the band and go play with Joe Walsh'

(and these days you're in Bonnie Raitt's band) Yeah. She's got a new album about to come out and we're rehearsing and getting ready to go on the road.

(other projects you'd like us to mention) You can mention I'm working with a Ghanian singer called Rocky Dawuni in my studio here in Venice. No album yet - I'm not sure exactly when. We've got about eight songs down but I'm going on the road now.

Blondie Chaplin   March 2002: Interview by Sylvie Simmons (copyright)

(What do you remember of your first dealings with the Beach Boys) We were playing at Blaise's in London when they saw us, and they were going to start a label and they said come over to L.A and do an album. And things just went from one to another. It was great to go to America and make an album because we were 19, I think it was.

(how did the idea come up to make you fully paid-up Beach Boys rather than session men)  Brian wasn't going on the road and stuff and they had a couple of other voices that could do it, and I think Carl thought maybe I could do something to help. Pretty much it was Carl - who was the closest to us - that helped push us into the situation; he asked us if we wanted to join up. I think he liked the idea of going out on the road and playing with us.

(you didn't exactly look the part, shall we say!) It was a little different putting us in the band. We understood that too at the time. I think they wanted to get some new blood, stir it up a little bit. I like to think that it was just because of how we played that Carl made the effort. He didn't care about the squeaky-clean look, so to speak. He liked the way we played and I think he just wanted to spend more time with us on the road and in the studio.

(what are your memories of *Carl & The Passions*, the first Beach Boys album you worked on) The stuff that Ricky and I contributed on that was completely different to anything, I think, that The Beach Boys had put out at the time. The first time being in the studio with Carl and them, that was a lot of fun.

(part of that album was done in Brian's house?) I remember doing quite a bit of that album in Brian's house in Bel Air. That was interesting, working in his place. It was a very nice studio and very comfortable - because creating in a house is less pressure. That was the first time I worked with Brian -  - so that was a lot of fun.

(was that when he was up in his bedroom most of the time and you were all working downstairs) Yes. He would come down occasionally and work with us, but most of the time we were down there and he was up there.

(the leader and genius of the band was in bed - wasn't that weird?) I didn't make any judgement, I just thought maybe he needs to recharge his battery or take it easy for whatever reason. I wasn't about to go to his bedroom and say hello. When he came down his contribution was amazing.

(Why would he want to leave his bed and go half way across the world to Holland?) I had no idea that we were thinking about going to Holland. I don't know for sure, maybe he didn't want to come, maybe he just wanted a little push, but when he was there it was a joy to work with him in the studio. He was completely alert, ideas and everything popping out of his head. I don't know what the deal was. I know he didn't like to fly - that was a big part of it. But when he was there he had a good time. The studio sessions were really really fun. So I can't tell you why they dragged him all the way over from his bedroom, but I know that when he got there he was all right  - in the studio; I can only talk about in the studio, because it's not like I hung out with Brian all the time.

(Ricky can't even remember seeing Brian in the studio - he said that a couple of you would be in there but Brian went in by himself at night) On Funky Pretty Brian came down while we were trying to work out the vocals on that, and he was doing a mix that I thought was even better than what eventually came out on the record.

(What were your  impressions of the studio) I was talking with Ricky a couple of months ago about the studio - wow, there's microphones, wires everywhere. Everything was brought from America to be assembled there. You were tiptoeing through like a wire war-zone. And there was a train that ran close by - a couple of hundred yards - and every time you heard the train, you had to stop for a minute because you could pick up the rumble on the microphones. It was funny. And there were tons of cows, because inbetween the train and us was grazing cow land.

(you would have thought someone would have thought of that: barn, train, cows) Yeah, but it just sort of fell into place. And living there for those months was great - it was a lot of fun

(what would a fly on the wall have seen in the studio most days) It was pretty much Carl and Ricky and I most of the time, especially on the backing tracks  - sometimes I'd play guitar, sometimes I'd play bass and Ricky would play drums, Carl would play piano or guitar. Work was really very focused - not chaotic at all. You'd have the song and you'd start playing it and we'd start to fall in and you'd focus on a good groove and just keep it going.

(what involvement would you say Dennis had) Dennis would come in and do a lot of singing and get involved with the group as well. But Carl had his hands on the reins, put it that way. When Brian wasn't around as much, it was up to baby brother Carl to keep everything together. For me it was Carl who was holding things together, completely in charge, the organisation and everything, and played a big part in helping us all keep going.

(on *Carl & The Passions* Dennis seemed to come into his own, but only had one song - admittedly a great song, Only With You. Did he have other songs that didn't get on there) He had quite a few songs actually, but as with all the big bands, sometimes you're not able to display so much of your own stuff. I always thought maybe he should have put out a few more solo things for himself because his songs were completely different from the others'  - very ballady, lovely stuff. He did have quite a few things in the can - whether they'll ever see the light of day we don't know.

(was Dennis peeved he only had one song on the album) No, he was pretty much happy with that. We all loved his song and he wasn't put out by that at all. I didn't feel any bad vibe with him and his brother on that at all.

(do you know anything about him commuting from the Canaries) He might have but I have no recollection of that. It's not to say it didn't happen. It's almost 30 years - my memory is a little foggy.

(were you there when California Saga was being recorded) I played bass on that and I was in on the background vocals, I think Ricky played drums. I think we recorded it in  one - I remember sitting down and it was like playing three mini songs almost, at different tempos. I think Mike and Al were singing just to keep us going. It wasn't the hardest to play, it was just getting used to the concept of different tempos - or different songs - all within one go. I thought that was interesting.

(you wrote a song with Ricky called We Got Love that was dropped. Why) Of course I'd have loved it to be on but thinking back on it, within all the other songs I think it stuck out. Maybe it didn't as smoothly integrate with the others - its lyrics and just musically, it fitted less within that batch of songs. That's a foggy one for me.

(Sail On Sailor was made in L.A. I believe Dennis sang lead first, and then you were brought in to replace him) If I remember correctly, we recorded the track - because the record company wanted some kind of single - and I think Dennis tried it once and I don't know if the timbre was right or whatever, but he wanted to go surfing, so he gave it one shot and literally went off with his board and went surfing. And then Carl tried it. And then Carl looked at me and said, 'I think it sounds pretty good with my voice but why don't you give it a bash'. And I sang it and everybody thought that was the right timbre for the song. So it was just a lucky thing. I think I did two takes on it and I was just getting warmed up -  because there's a whole mouthful of words in that song, and I was reading them and singing them at the same time -and  I said 'I'll give it another shot' and on the second Carl said 'No, that's fine'.

(any recollections of Brian's fairytale) I wasn't involved in that at all.

(Brian said he had a very rough time in Holland, which is why he wrote it) Look, he doesn't want to fly, doesn't want to go any place, and they take him all that way - of course it contributes. I'm sure Brian felt extremely, extremely homesick and just wanted to get back home. That sounds about right to me.

(how was the band interaction at that point - was there any Loves v Wilsons friction) I didn't feel any conflict, just normal band disagreements, nothing bad. It seemed pretty smooth at that point. That was before the whole confrontational thing with Mike and the Wilsons. After, when I left, there was all kinds of stuff flying around and it was going a little nutty. Blow outs and stuff, But that was a pretty mellow time.

(were they into Transcendental Meditation in Holland) I think everybody was into that - Carl, Mike Al, those three big time, and Dennis a little bit. I don't know about Brian. Carl praticed that up until he passed away. I know I would call him sometimes and he'd be having his afternoon meditation time so I'd have to call him back in a few hours. When we were doing the album, people would take a little break and go and meditate and chill out.

(the highlight of the Holland experience for you) Just being in Holland. Living there in a totally different part of the world compared to LA, and I just got into being there. And even the studio, after a while, with its funny wires and everything, it seemed like a very nice idea. Extremely laid back. Because we'd just finished a tour -  we were touring a lot in England and Germany and Holland at the time - and we got these houses and then the equipment came and all of a sudden we were recording. Just being there, it was mellow. And the Dutch really really loved the fact that we called it that - even to this day. And we had a great time just living there, and the whole  concept. The concept of recording The Beach Boys in Holland - that was funny!

(any particularly memorable things about Brian's behaviour) All I know is when he came into the studio, he was always up, and it was a pleasure just learning and working with him. He would come in and pretty much take charge. They'd gather around the piano and he'd play the song and try different things and offer different parts to different people. When he came into work he was working.

(you left after a fight with Steve Love, who took over managing the band) That's true. I don't think it was that long after Holland. We were doing a tour in Madison Square Garden and I got into an argument with him and he landed me a few blows and I pretty much said okay, that's it for me. I didn't show up for the next couple of gigs - I didn't want to be treated that way so I just said 'screw it'.

(now you're working with the Stones, jamming with Keith Richards. Other projects) I've got a solo thing in the can I've just finished 'Fragile Thread' - my second; the first one was so long ago - and I'm in the middle of shopping around. Hopefully it will come out this year. Good soulful songs, some rhythmic stuff, some rock, if I can put a label on my own stuff. I've been working a bit with Keith, who tries out some bits and pieces and puts it in the can, but I can't say he's said to me 'I'm doing a solo thing now'. But I think it would be interesting.

Hi there Bas:

During 1966/7/8/9 I was living in Cape Town and befriended a young singer, Zane Adams. He lived with his family on Grandview Street in District Six and sang at various nightspots around town, including Ronnie Singer's Place (I think it was on Loop Street. During 1969 Zane told us that he was going to London to find himself a recording contract. Later that year I followed, and for a brief time Zane and I shared an apartment at No.3 Radcliff Gardens, just off Fulham Road near EarslCourt. Zane's girlfriend at the time was a girl called Nanette Workman, a Canadian singer who went on to be very successful in Canada, particularly Montreal. At the time when we  were staying in London, the Beach Boys showed up and all hell broke loose. Nanette was doing some recording for the Rolling Stones and the Hollies at Shepherd Bush. Zane did a few gigs with the Flames at a nightclub just off Berkley Square (the reason I can't remember the name is that Marty Feldman frequented the same nightclub and was in the habit of offering me substances that severely affected my memory). We did not go there too often, but in the end it all lead to Steve and Blondie heading over to California. Nanette workman went to Paris and for a while worked with Johnnie Halliday. I'm not sure where Zane went, but I never saw him again. I guess he is back in Cape Town.

Nearly 20 years later I was in a plane between London and Cape Town (can't remember if we were going North or South)and I landed up sitting next to Steve. We had a long chat about the old days. Strangely, a few years after that I was in a bar in Vancouver in the Granville Island Hotel where I was staying and coincidently so were the Beach Boys. Dennis Wilson recognized and again we chatted about London in 1969 and some the time spent in Redcliff Gardens. I remember thinking to myself: holy crap, this guy has an amazing memory considering his reputation. He even remembered my name. So that's my recollection (if it can be called that) - great days in Cape Town, a wild year in London, a plane trip 20 years later, a chance meeting in a Vancouver Hotel, a tragic drowning in California.

I love that photograph of Steve and his daughter - still Steve.

At the end of this year I plan to visit Cape Town with my family. I want find Zane Adams. If you can help me that would be great. I still remember his hot Ford Anglia with the "vet tekkies" and how we used to race up and down Roland Street and Hanover Street at dawn, seconds ahead of the cops, skimming over the glassy cobles where they were exposed from years of wear. Well, now we are all worn from wear, but the sound of the Flames is still very much alive in memory - despite Marty's attempts at erasing it! 

Cheers, Claus (otherwise known as  "Bosco" in those days)

Hi, My name is John Langemann. I am from Cape Town.  

In 1963 I had a band called "The Auroras".We were good vocally but very mediocre musically. We nevertheless landed our biggest gig one day at the Luxurama theatre in Wittebome, Cape Town. It was owned by Ronnie Quibel before he built the 3 Arts in Diep River. It was the only multi-racial venue in Cape Town at the time in the height of Apartheid South Africa. We were part of a show that had about 12 bands on the bill. My memory is faded now, but I remember Bill Kimber and the Couriers playing, Dickie Loader & the Blue Jeans, The Big Beats, Gene Rockwell and the Savages,etc etc. Top of the bill was the Flames. They were unbelievable!! Rickie, the drummer was only 11 years old, his kit was a minature one with orange flames painted on the bass drum. He didn't use it for the show however. He borrowed Cecil Ricca's Ludwig kit. Cecil was reputedly the best drummer in Cape Town at the time.This was before their soul phase, so Blondie Chaplin was not in the group yet. They did Shadows and Beatles covers amongst other numbers. About 4 groups previously in the show played "Little B" from the Shadows, which contained an extended drum solo in the song. The bands played it of course to show the prowess of their respective drummers off to the audience. The Flames also did it. Steve Fataar broke a string during the lead portion of the song, which he continued undeterred, and little Ricky proceeded to blow the audience and other band members away with his drumming. I asked Bill Kimber's drummer backstage what he thought of Ricky. He replied that he was "nothing special". My fellow band members and myself tried our hardest not to laugh in his face. By the time the Flames  did "Can't Buy me Love", the capacity crowd were screaming so hard that you could hardly hear the band. I remember looking at Steve's pink Strat backstage (and playing it) and feeling as if I had arrived in Heaven. I could not afford one. I also remember the afternoon rehearsal. We had fantastic lighting and we played "Don't throw your love Away" by the Searchers. While we were playing, Brother Fataar walked up to the stage from the back of the auditorium and put his ears to the P.A. columns on stage. He was trying to hear the bass guitar. What he did not know (nor did our bass guitarist) that we unplugged the bass because our bass player couldn't play to save his life, on his self crafted guitar, that had frets randomely scattered on the fretboard. The people doing the sound, high up in the projection room, at the back of the auditorium, decided to play us the original record over the system, but Brother was quietly complimentary toward us, and encouraged us.I will never forget that till my dying day. We were unfortunately in a situation in Cape Town at that time, when musicians used to mock and ridicule others if they thought that they were inferior to themselves. Brother bucked the trend whereas he and his brothers had every right to look down on their peers, because they were better by far. All of the members of the Flames were wonderful people and did not let fame make them puffed up. Hope this anecdote is of interest to you, Sincerely, John Langemann

Anton Fig

Drummer on Skollie's The Ostrich Man, the as yet unreleased Fragile Thread album and also to be seen on Dave Letterman's Tonight Show.
(new album out on )

I used to listen to the Flames in Cape Town S.Africa when they came down from Durban to play there. That was in the late sixties - they were always incredible! I have played with Blondie a lot in America [we just did a live gig a few weeks ago] on the Skollie record Ostrich Man and his solo record The Fragile Thread. We also did the last album with Paul Butterfield together. I am honored to have him on my new record Figments which I have just released on my website

Bing Kinsey

Bing Kinsey was closely involved with the Flames during the very early part of their career. He helped them get a contract to record their first album. Later he released records by Edries Fredericks.

Bing recalls:

I think the first "'official" manager that the flames had was Harold Baby Meyers. Then Geoge Mahabeer who was a reporter with The Post. George was also involved with another Durban Band (I think it might have been The Rebels, one of the first bands in SA to use a wireless microphone for the vocalist). Another name that springs to mind was Eddie Gratino, a vocalist that sang with the group for a short while.

The writing of Maniac and Modern Casanova

Maniac was written for Brother Fataar and two of his friends. We referred to them as “maniacs” because, at that time, they were girl crazy.

The song was written in one day. Brother and I had gone to a Saturday afternoon movie matinee. As we left the cinema we saw a pretty girl and Brother whistled at her. At that moment the line

    You’ve just got to see a pretty girl walking down the street

came into my mind. I went home and by Sunday afternoon had completed the song. I took the finished song to Brother and we completed the arrangement before playing it to the other Flames. I think Brother was rather thrilled that a song had been written about/for him.


Modern Casanova was inspired by the Buddy Holly song, Modern Don Juan. I hadn’t heard the song at that stage, but thought it might have sounded like the song I wrote. The original lyrics had  Casanova with “brown eyes”, but Steve thought they might reflect on him so he changed them to “blue”. Steve actually went blank at the recording session and forgot some of the lyrics of the last verse which should have been

Watch him as he holds you while you’re dancing
And whisper pretty little love words in your ear
He’s a modern Casanova
And he’s going to break your heart

Bing Kinsey


A big warm thank you to Bing Kinsey for sharing his memories of the Flames' early days with us and sending a scan of the original lyrics of Maniac as shown below. 



More to come from Bing!

Duncan Russell

Spent time with the Flames in London

I do not know if you know that Ricky and Blondie backed Marsha Hunt on her "Walk on Gilded Splinters" single and appeared on "Top of the Pops" with her, with Tony Visconti producing. This was at the time that Ricky and Blondie were looking to develop original material for the Flames, as there was some comment that they needed to do this. Well they obviously succeeded. Ricky, Blondie and I sat in the back-room in North Harrow and I gave them the first few lines of lyrics for "See the Light" which they subsequently developed and polished to make them their no1 in LA. They came to visit me in 1970 or 71 in Durban whilst on tour, and I was very happy to see them go on to greater things.

As far as I remember the song is from "Hair." Obviously it was an easy leap for Marsha as it took her straight from the stage to a singles career. I have the idea that she became most popular in Germany, and when I was there she approached the Flames to be her backing on the promo. tour, but they could not accept due to prior commitments. I sense she could have been a lot bigger if they had been able to back her. As I said unfortunately I was not there for the original recording. At that time everyone sort of mixed-in and it was often you would get say Clapton or Jeff Beck dropping in to speak to some record executive and ending up playing on someone's session. Later of course the record companies freaked when things like that happened, as they felt they might be losing their marketing edge. That song is I guess pretty much an acid (lsd) song, which is quite strange since Marsha was certainly not into hallucinogens when I knew her.