"Two years in the making, the Wild Youth album is now here. Compiled from original reel to reel, cassette and internet sources it is a labour of love capturing the true spirit of the band. Finding the recordings was a detective story as they were mostly thought to be long lost. It involved a lot of trawling through storage boxes listening to unmarked cassettes.
Pre-school rather than old school!
Wild Youth was the first punk band in South Africa and were in existence from 1977 to 1980. Wild Youth had 2 songs included on the “Six of The Best” compilation in September 1979 and released the first ever South African punk single in December of the same year, “Wot About Me”/”Radio Youth”.
It was the days of do it yourself and we worked from the bottom up organizing our own shows at Caxton Hall Durban and community centres and halls in the surrounding areas. Amongst the highlights were riotous shows at the Majestic Cinema in the Chatsworth Township and the open air freebie in Grey Street. We gigged extensively from 1978 to 1980 including a stint at His Majesties Theatre Johannesburg, the Wit’s Free People’s Concert and the “Riot Rock Tour” with National Wake. We opened the door.
The album comprises ten Wild Youth songs plus 2 demo versions, 6 Gay Marine songs and 4 new recordings, 22 songs in total. The Wild Youth songs were recorded when I was twenty one.
The album is packed with curiosities including two Wild Youth songs recorded soon after we split with Mark Gilroy on drums.
I took responsibility for every stage of the project, song selection, coordination of digitalization, mastering, and cover art. It is the story of my life and I wanted to get it right. I was real touched by how many people pulled together to help put this out on an almost nonexistent budget.
At the mastering stage we decided to stick to the original punk ethic and present it raw and unpolished and not to do a corporate commercial mix. The results are true to the spirit of the times in terms of raw punk attitude and sonic quality, and remarkable considering the time and place we grew up in. It has been said that the recordings are one of the few genuine punk records and that they have an ethic reminiscent of sixties garage punk.
The album reflects the thoughts and angst of a young man growing up in the conservative suburbs of Durban in the late seventies Apartheid era. It is my coming of age story.
Looking back I think what set Wild Youth apart from our contemporaries was the primitive untamed intensity of our live shows and our willingness to plunge headfirst into the unknown. Andrew Peinke and Rubin Rose were the most amazing rhythm section, intense, powerful, primal, brutal and ruthless. I was devastated when it all came to an end.
In 1981 I formed Gay Marines with Franco Rogantin and we are the only consistent members. There have been numerous line ups and the sound is continuously evolving. We are currently working on our next project.
I hope that the listener has the perseverance to listen to the whole album as the post Wild Youth stuff is also interesting, a sound collage of different sources and musicians. People often comment on Gay Marines being a continuation of Wild Youth. The highlight for me are the final 2 songs on the album, the original demo of “So Messed Up” from March 1979 followed by the Gay Marines final recording in 1986, “Blue Light (dub)”. Recorded seven years apart they reveal a lot and segue surprisingly well together.
Also included are 3 new songs, 2 of them done online one with Jim Neversink and the other with Jean Philippe both of whom I have yet to meet in person. The other was recorded live in rehearsal with The Retro’s, the only overdubs being vocal tracks.
True punk do it yourself spirit!
I financed this by selling almost all my music equipment as to me this represents my life and my key to my music going forward. It is a symbol of my belief and dedication in this release.
The response worldwide has been really good and to be now written about in places as far apart as United States and Eastern Europe is something that until “Punk In Africa” was fast becoming a long lost dream. I always suspected deep down that there would be recognition but it took one hell of a long time." Michael Fleck
The Wild Youth - By Dave Chislett
AUGUST 31, 2012 AT 6:15 AM
A couple of years ago I was part of the team making a documentary film called Punk In Africa. I grew up on punk rock from when I discovered it, admittedly a bit late, in 1985. In many ways, its ideas, look and ethos were to become the biggest influence on my choices in my life.
In 1994, I went travelling and was based in London, England. Here I reconnected with the guys from SA psychobilly band, The Psycho Reptiles. It was on a night out on the town with them that I was to meet a gentleman named Michael Fleck… aka Johnny Teen from Wild Youth.
Durban Punk Rock Roots
I had heard of Wild Youth. A Scope magazine article in 1985 name-checked them when assessing punk rock in Durban. But by then they were already a thing of the past, where Powerage had become the political face and image of the scene there. But I had never heard their music, no encountered anyone from the band
The night I met him Michael was chatty and friendly and we got on like a house on fire. Talking music and London mainly if I recall correctly. But it wasn’t until we started pre-production on what was to become Punk In Africa that I reconnected with the man. We needed archive video, pics and interviews for the film, so I tracked him down online and we became facebook friends.
African Punk in London
If you’ve seen the film you’ll know the rest. Michael became an integral part of the story and the film is busy touring the global festival circuit. As a result, a lot of people are asking, where is all this music? Because what you get to hear bits of in the film is amazing!
Fleck decided that the needed to do something about this. Wild Youth had never really recorded or released anything decent. A couple of tracks on a compilation and that was it!
A Leopard Never Changes Her Spots
The result of this decision is a 22-track CD release through Retro Fresh Records in Johannesburg. It is a VERY interesting document! It kicks off with the 3 raw and ready tracks from the early days: What About Me, Record Companies and All Messed Up, remixed and cleaned up so one can really hear how they were intended to be. And they sound great!
More than 30 years on and the power and the fury is still there. Many SA punk bands would be forced to take a step back on confrontation with this stuff. And then the record gets really interesting. Wild Youth were not around for long… 3 years in total. And yet the material on this album shows what a journey Michael Fleck undertook with his song writing in that time. The first tracks are pure punk, but by the last song, the sound has morphed and changed through 80’s post punk and a kind of art-house alternative rock into something that is very much harder to pigeonhole
Gay Marines and Beyond
Part of the reason for this is that the album includes 10 original Wild Youth songs as well as 6 from Michael’s next band, The Gay Marines and 4 new songs. What they all have in common of course is Johnny Teen (aka Michael Fleck).
What this record shows is that Wild Youth were a real talent that held within them the seeds to be way more than just a crash bang 3-chord punk band. Of course they didn’t last, like much from that era. I guess there is a chance that, without Punk In Africa the movie, no-one would ever have paid any attention to them again. If that’s true, it would have been a crying shame. As it is, this is a great document of music under pressure, of how to keep going and how to stay going.
30 Years, 1 Album
It is remarkable that Fleck has expended the time energy and money that he has to bring this record out. But even more remarkable that people have rallied around in support. You can buy the record online through www.freshmusic.co.za and you can also listen to it on Soundcloud.
I strongly recommend that you do. Wild Youth were an integral part of the Durban punk explosion and led almost directly to Power Age who seriously influenced The Psycho Reptiles and so on and so on… it’s all a big web.
So go on, check it out, you know you want to! While you’re at it, you might want to find out more about Punk In Africa too.