by the Happy Ships

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Jono Partridge - the pocket
Wayne Rath - drums , guitar,vocals
Phillip Nangle - agricultural implements ,vocals, chants
Lloyd Ross - guitar, bass, voice ,studio
Hamish Davidson - sax,voice , implements
Warrick Sony - bass , drums, voice , trombone

This was the last band that I was a fully-fledged member of before I gave up the glamour, bright lights, groupies and wheelbarrow loads full of money that defined the life of a gigging alternative musician in sleepy Cape Town in the early 80’s. What helped the Ships’ rake in even more cash was the fact that we were experimental and played only once a year. As an early indication of how eclectic the Shifty catalogue was going to turn out, this album came out hot on the heels of Shifty’s first release, Sankomota. Listening to “Sound Future” after all these years makes me feel…kinda…proud. It still sounds fresh, full of fab ideas and whacky youthful vigor. Hey, but don’t take my word for it. Read the thoughts of Swami Hamish and Warrick Sony, download the freebees and give the album a wee preview and decide for yourself.

Lloyd Ross


here is a podcast called HAPPY SHIPS LIVE & DISTORTED:
This podcast is really very badly recorded, but its the only existing document that we know of that allows one to experience the barely controlled chaos of a live Happy Ships happening.


released June 16, 1985

As remembered by Hamish Davidson

Cape Town in 1980 was a wonderful place. Warrick Sony and I had just got out of two years of compulsory national service and it felt like getting out of prison. We were ready to party and the New Wave was sweeping the Peninsula. I got into “The Lancaster Band” playing sax in a trilby and shades and Warrick joined “The Rude Dementals” a punk outfit. Lloyd had a band called “Rubbish” in which Wayne Raath played bass or drums or both.
In terms of venues, there was “1886” and later that year, “Scratch” opened. Scratch was maybe the first reggae club in Africa. If it wasn't the first then it was surely the best! Jerry Dixon had an incredible sound rig set up and Henry Coombs imported and spun the latest and hottest disks.

By the end of 1980 we had all left our respective bands and were working in small units pursuing experimental stuff. The units were basically Warrick and I on the one hand and Wayne and Phillip Nangle on the other. If it had not been for Lloyd Ross, the “Happy Ships” would not have happened. He seemed to have the energy, positivity and desire to get us together.

I remember a meeting at Phillip's house where we all just sat around talking music and seeing if we liked each other. At one point in the evening, Lloyd asked Wayne and Phillip to do their 'guitar thing'. Warrick and I weren't expecting to be impressed I can assure you, but what they did was incredible. It consisted of two out of sync and somehow interlocking guitar parts that were positively 'unhinged'. It was pure Captain Beefheart! After that we both thought, “OK we can work with these guys”. That guitar thing became Egg and Bacon Plantation.

I'll talk a bit about Egg And Bacon Plantation to give you some idea of how we worked. Warrick found a slow 3 underneath that guitar thing on drums, in effect turning the piece into a waltz and I put a 'hokey' horn melody on top. In the army where Warrick and I had both been in a military band, I had learned to get this fractured sound out of the saxophone by singing and blowing through the horn at the same time. Lloyd dug it and from then on I was a happy ship only to the extent that I shredded my reeds. The melody goes into a Star Spangled Banner quote that helps to give the tune its 'Yankee Doodle' vibe. We added roosters crowing to complement the manic singing. The whole thing is a bit like a red neck barn dance in the deep South where the moonshine has been spiked with acid!

Towards the end of the piece, the guitar part starts modulating upwards in half steps. On saxophone this was not as easy to do. Being a relatively limited player at that time, you can hear that I lose it after a while. But not to worry, the whole band loses it shortly afterwards and the piece ends in a glorious cacophony. This was a standard Happy Ships type ending. Things fell apart. The centre would not hold.

We did only three live performances at the end of the years 1980, 1981 and 1983. We skipped 1982 because that was the year that Lloyd moved to Johannesburg to set up Shifty Records. The first two were resoundingly successful, the last one, more of a reunion after we had finished recording the album.

The reason for the success of the first two performances had a lot to do with the venue. Scratch Club had an incredible sound system and a large following. To play through that sound rig was a sheer pleasure. Christ only knows why they took a chance on an experimental band like us because, to my knowledge, no one had played that gig before. They seemed to like us. Jerry Dixon had a history of experimental music himself.

Another reason for the successes was the mix of technology and anti-technology. We had several lovely old analogue synths at our disposal, plus effects pedals and drum machines. Then on top of all of this there were a battery of pots and pans and a plethora of kiddies toys. “Not so much Dada as Gaga” I recall one critic saying, which leads on to the final reason for our success....... in a word, 'expectation'. With at least a year between performances, we were well marketed and anticipated so that people came there expecting a wild and unpredictable time.
They got it!



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the Happy Ships Cape Town, South Africa

" the mix of technology and anti-technology..several lovely old analogue synths .. effects pedals and drum machines... of pots and pans and a plethora of kiddies toys. “Not so much Dada as Gaga” one critic said
... at least a year between performances, we were well marketed and anticipated so that people came there expecting a wild and unpredictable time. They got it!"
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see how my fingers are stained
working each day from the ashtray
tarring the roads of my chest
so much more to enjoy
nicotine keeps the matter grey
sucking it in from the outside
cigarette stubs out my brain
lighting another each mile
lyric: warrick
(from a basic Wayne idea)
Track Name: CAR HOOTER
car hooter celebrates
a sound future
the city rocks with sick humour
put your hands together
on the car hooter
revolutionize urban terror
motor wrists unite
for the new era
shatter the peace
with the car hooter

words Warrick Sony
nothing inside silent indifference
swim with the tide
no point of reference
nothing inside
the voice of the speaker
moving the crowd demanding attention

I don't wear gloves
I walk about nude
you speak about love
I speak about food
poetry in style
changes in slow motion
dancing with guns
foreskin protection
ha ha ha
lift up your feet in all the right places
sing with the voices of party dictators
I don't like guns
I don't make news
I wear my life
like I wear shoes
lyric by Warrick
Track Name: TEETHING
who upset the cart
you know I know it wasn't me
who messed with my genes
why do you make me think
day to day life seems as normal as ever
though much more to relax and much less to pressure
affairs of the heart are not affairs of the mind
thats where the beasts are so lucky
they have no meaning to find
what is the meaning of living
am I just teething or
am I getting old
I wonder about this feeling
that makes no sense to me
when I look around - feels good
I can't get rid of this feeling
that science has become something holy
holier than thou
but when the spirit of human nature
no longer grants
will the pressure of a finger
create the pleasure of extinction
get into the egg and bacon plantation
Phillip and Wayne's song
Track Name: MAKING OUT
making out is an easier thing today
in the light of the old fashioned way
tightening up and finding a suitable hole
I find myself disputing my role
if seeing is believing
then seeing is making me blind
my mind is numbed by it all
I don't go to movies I'd rather take a walk in on the beach
I'd rather live in my own little world
here I am
a cross wired ultimatum
here I am
the pride of God's creation
hoping with more than just a little luck
my life is more than just a fuck
lyric :Lloyd