Steve Louw founded trail-blazing eighties band, All Night Radio, with Nico Burger and Rob Nagel in 1981. (See Steve Louw's Musical Family Tree for more information). All Night Radio released two hit albums, "The Heart's The Best Part" (1984) and "The Killing Floor" (1986), their gritty, bluesy, rock 'n roll sound firmly establishing Steve as a star on the South African music scene.
I was freelancing as a record reviewer for The Cape Times, so that I could get all the new releases from the Record Companies. I offered to interview Little Steven (Van Zandt) for the Cape Times and they said sure. I was really keen to meet him as I loved his work as an Arranger/Producer with Springsteen, Southside Johnny and Gary “US” Bonds. I also loved his debut first album, and he had just released Voice of America his second album. We had a great time talking music, studios and production and a 20 minute time slot stretched into hours. He asked me if I was gigging and recording, and said he would love to hear some of the songs.
I had the cassette of our live 4 track recordings with me, and the band sounded good after a year of gigging. He listened to the set while I took photos to go with the piece on him. I can still see him in his bandana and leopard print coat looking into the camera while listening to ANR on my walkman. It was a great moment in my life. Anyway he liked what he heard and put me in touch with John Rollo in New Jersey. John agreed to come to Cape Town and work with us on Little Steven's recommendation, so that meeting was the start of my career.
The first single from All Night Radio's debut album... "Breaking Hearts" is probably the noisiest and freshest-sounding rock single produced in this country to date.Andrew Donaldson, Cape Times, October 1984
All songs written by Steve Louw
First off, if only for its trail-blazing status, is All Night Radio's double A-sided record, Breaking Hearts and Sea Side Love. This is the much talked-about first product of the Cape Town band's collaboration with producer John Rollo, an Englishman living in the United States who has produced amongst others, Little Steven & the Disciples Of Soul, Roberta Flack, Stevie Nicks, the Kinks and George Benson.The Argus Tonight (3 October 1984) Pop World by Shannon Sherry
While on the subject, some gossip might be in order. The story goes that ANR's Steve "Alltime" Louw just happened to be going to Johannesburg at the same time that Little Steven was in town, a fact mentioned to a local journalist who had been hoping to interview Little Steven but couldn't get to the Golden City to do it. The said scribe then drew up some questions, gave them to Louw and arranged the meeting from Cape Town. Louw, with a formidable nose for a break, grabbed the meeting, dumped the questions and, on meeting the great one asked: "Will you produce my band?" According to the rumor, he also insisted that Little Steven listen to the tapes. "Er, I'd really like to," said Little, "but, you see, I just can't spare the time."
But we are proud to report that, by this time, our Steve had his teeth firmly in the jugular, expressing his band's willingness to wait. Realizing his defeat, Mr van Zandt declared that although he couldn't do it, he could introduce Mr Louw to the co-producer of his album, one John Rollo. Transatlantic phone calls followed, Money was discussed and Music listened to and Mr Rollo winged his way to Cape Town, leaving George Benson waiting nog.
Carefully watched by Louw, he completed the mixing in his New Jersey studio - and voila! More seriously: With local producers coming under a lot of fire recently, the results of their work are going to be carefully scrutinized. Does it really make a difference? You bet. It just leaves local produce miles behind. The sound has presence and immediacy - I have yet to hear a local band sound as good on record as ANR do here. Louw's vocals are commanding and passionate, the guitars have that gritty edge and the whole appears to be strong chart-orientated stuff.
The first single from All Night Radio's debut album was released last week. The double A-sided rocker, Breaking Hearts, c/w Sea Side Love, is a no-nonsense uncompromising recording debut, and an exciting glimpse of what the group intends to offer on its forthcoming album. Produced in Cape Town by New York-based John Rollo, "Breaking Hearts" is probably the noisiest and freshest-sounding rock single produced in this country to date. Guitarist Nico Burger effortlessly establishes himself as wunderkind here in one neat and fluid solo. ANR think they're a great group. They probably are. I will be having words with them about this.Cape Times Review (5 October 1984) Exciting Glimpse by Andrew Donaldson
Back home, All Night Radio's The Heart's The Best Part is a thunderous debut, with its hard-driving snare-drum guitar orientated sound (Springsteen a la mode). Forget the "well-produced, technically perfect" spiel (it is a remarkable album in that aspect) and listen to the songs. Singer Steve Louw displays a talent for crafting songs that are free of obvious and clichéd hooks. They're energetic, they're thoughtfully constructed and, what's important, they have a shelf life that takes you far past the first listening.Cape Times Funfinder (9 November 1984) Music by Andrew Donaldson
A return to basics, that's what Cape Town's All Night Radio wanted on their debut single so it's a no-nonsense double A-sided rocker, Breaking Hearts / Sea Side Love. The group - Steve Louw (vocals, guitar), Nico Burger (guitars) and Rob Nagel (bass guitar, harmonica) - wanted to capture their pent-up raucous and emotive energy without compromising their live spirit. ANR needed a state-of-the art quality studio recording and got it. The album, The Heart's The Best Part, was recorded by New York-based engineer/producer John Rollo (known for his work with The Kinks, Little Steven van Zandt, Stevie Nicks and George Benson), and was completed in 10 days in Cape Town's UCA Studios with the help of session men Richard Pickett on drums, and Brian Seftel, on keyboards. It was mixed at House of Music in New Jersey and mastered by George Marino at Sterling Sound, NYC.Zigzag Rock Etceteras
ANR met at Stellenbosch University, where a common love for the Blues and Rock 'n Roll found them playing with David Kramer and Leslie Rae Dowling in various folk-dives and student one-offs. The three split up - Steve Louw heading for New York City and Rob Nagel going to Hamburg. After two more years of sweaty rock and roll dives, Rob and Steve decided to return to Cape Town and, reuniting with Nico in June, last year, use the city as the base for their assault on the record industry. Then came months of all-night rehearsals, live gigs to test the songs, more rehearsals, more gigs, and skeleton studio and live recordings until April this year, when the band felt they were ready to record. Steve van Zandt, former E-Street Band guitarist, put the band in touch with John Rollo, who had just completed the Little Steven album, Voice of America.
On the strength and spirit of ANR's music on a hissing four track cassette, Rollo decided to pack his bags, fly from New York to the bottom of the darkest continent, and record these South African rockers. Together with Steve Louw, Rollo returned to his home studio in New Jersey, where the album and single was mixed. Rollo then enlisted the support of long-time friend George Merino to master and cut the disc at Sterling Sound. A US distribution deal is currently being negotiated while the band plan to tour in November.
All Night Radio's second album, The Killing Floor, has met with the wrath of the SABC. One of the main tracks, Reign of Fire, has been banned from airplay. Frontman Steve Louw went up to Johannesburg last week to do an interview on Radio5's program Loud and Proud and said he was told several tracks had been banned. "I was stunned. DJ Dave Charles broke the news to me. They also wanted to ban the first cut Bernadette because of the reference to District Six; Prisoners because of the lines 'prisoners of what we are told, prisoners out in the cold and prisoners in this land of gold"." Louw said after some negotiating with the SABC's own censor department only Reign of Fire was banned. The album will be released in Australia shortly.Cape Times Funfinder
It was a fair while ago that we saw All Night Radio's debut The Heart's The Best Part charge off blindly into the night like some wild rambunctious rock 'n roll beast. They'd hired a British engineer to produce them, and he liked to make the boys sound lean and hard and live - I went to visit the studio while they were recording, and he'd put the drum kit in a steel-lined service elevator at the back of the room. Somebody banged on the snare and I had to back off in pain. So that's what it sounded like - very bright and loud. Of course, Stellenbosch yokel Steve Louw made no attempt to hide his Yankophilia, and his voice came roaring out like some weird cross between John Cougar Mellencamp and Tighthead Fourie.Fair Lady (4 March 1987) Etceteras by Jeremy Thomas
Nico Burger's lead guitar tore through some pretty neat melodies, while bassist Rob Nagel contented his deepest ZZ Top fantasies by dyeing his beard red and sporting a baseball cap and shades. Ja, The Heart's The Best Part was a good album. The best ANR concerts had them fooling about with Presley and assorted blues, and their stand-in drummer played standing up. Naturally Steve played 'rock star" without much hint of irony. Nobody laughed too much. We had an excellent time. Now All Night Radio have a second album, The Killing Floor, which kicks up rather a different storm. It fades in with a light acoustic jig, fades out again, then suddenly guns off into territory I would never have thought possible. We're talking The Cramps, deep dark rockability with more than a hint of bad psychosis. I must listen to it again, but that was my first impression.
Then comes their cover of Them's Here Comes The Night - certainly an accomplished effort, but disappointing for adding little to either Van Morrison's lament of David Bowie's Pinups Ham-up. But onward: The Killing Floor is a loose, unhassled kind of album - there may be one too many entirely sappy American middle-of-the-road ballads in the Toto mould, but elsewhere the band's unexpected return to bluesy old rock 'n roll compensates with much rude aplomb.