The roads out of V-Town aren’t particularly inspiring and they don’t really go anywhere; but inexplicably they all go somewhere. Particularly the route down the main drag, out of V-Town towards the North & the Metropolis of Joburg. You know, under the railway bridge and past that multi-unit dwelling monstrosity at the last major intersection on the right hand side that looks like a space ship docking station (probably is!) This was the environment that inspired The Helicopters (known affectionately as the Choppers to their many fans) to pen the wonderfully melodic, catchy, joyous & finely crafted pop tunes from the early to late 80′s. Adjectives & superlatives cannot begin to describe The Choppers music.
To me & many others they remain truly ineffable. You would hear one of their tunes on the radio and you were hooked immediately. Their style was truly inimitable. Ask their hairstylists at the time! They may have looked like their colleagues from Duran Duran & Spandau Ballet but in my books they were infinitely superior listening. Thank God my mother didn’t plaster her face with make-up like some of the “tannies” in the South, where I grew up. Otherwise I may have helped myself to more than her eye-liner which I used ONCE to darken my adolescent moustache for the Midge Ure caterpillar look! I remember very distinctly a timeless morning during the summer school hols.
Back in 1983. House to ourselves, my brother & I. Wannabe rock stars of the future. Radio 5, as it was known then, back then when they were known to play cool tunes. ” Mysteries & Jealousy ” kicks in on the clock-radio just after nine a.m. Hmmm, now that’s a cool memory! What a classic tune. What a wake up remedy! Up goes the volume, up I get, grab the radio, into bruv’s room I go. Wake up; THAT cool tune’s on the radio. Next minute you have two teenagers in their pj’s up on the bed, playing a real mean air-guitar along to The Helicopters! Dinkum true story, I kid you all not! To the person who nicked my ” Love Attack ” tape back then: up until now you have deprived me of some soul-stirring memories.
But may you enjoy this album as much I am going to! Musically, my generation came of age in the 80′s. Thank God for bands like The Helicopters, who along with Dog, The Rats & more than a few others helped changed the perspective of SA Music for the positive. Whoever coined that corny phrase ” Local is Lekker ” deserves to be banished to Timbuktu. Talk about putting our bands at a disadvantage from day one! Imagine my surprise & joy, when around two years back, I find a note on my desk asking me to ring a certain Bernard Binns, who is wanting to know if we @ CD Wherehouse would be able to stock his new solo album,” Physiognomy ” Phew! groupie attack of the trembles. Of course we can, of course we can. So we meet & all I wanna do is chat about The Choppers & V-Town & all those gigs in the 80′s where I stood & watched with awe. A closet groupie, that’s me! A fact I only ever acknowledged after denying it for over a decade. I need someone to accept responsibility for my many dodgy hairstyles over the years.
Reflecting, The Helicopters were icons of the 80′s to many South Africans, they inspired and brought enjoyment us all. May this compilation of ineffable pop tunes stir our souls again & again & again
& may our memories of the greatest band from V-Town…..ever, grow fonder coz the music hasn’t changed in the 20 odd years since they first surfaced through the V-Town smog.
Andrew Rees 9 September, 2002