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, so you can visit their website here:
All messed up – Wild Youth
Record Companies – Wild Youth
Wot about me – Wild Youth
Radio Youth – Wild Youth
Action Man (live) – Wild Youth
Make up – Wild Youth
So trendy – Wild Youth
Maximum speed (live) – Wild Youth
Avalanche – Wild Youth (Mark Gilroy on drums)
Take off – Wild Youth (Mark Gilroy on drums)
Reaction man -The Gay Marines
My art form -The Gay Marines
When I walk (live) -The Gay Marines
Iron Vest -The Gay Marines
Fork Tongue -The Gay Marines
Wild girl – The Retros
Back to you (solo) – with Jean Philippe
Back to you (solo acoustic)
Bloodless souls (solo) – with Jim Neversink
Record Companies (demo) – Wild Youth
So messed up (demo) – Wild Youth
Blue light (dub) -The Gay Marines