Madiba website, October 1996
Rodriguez --- Cult or Crap? The Cold Facts
by Stephen "Sugar" Segerman
During November 1996 the third in the trilogy of
Rodriguez LPs "The Best of Rodriguez" will be released in South
Africa on CD for the first time.
Earlier in '96 the previously unavailable "After
the Fact/Coming From Reality" joined "Cold
Fact" on the CD shelves after Polygram, recognising the huge demand
for this LP, launched a search to find a usable copy of what proved to
be an extremely rare record. "Cold Fact"
has sold steadily through the years and "After
the Fact" has proved equally successful, hence the release of
the "Best" CD. Now if you grew up in S.A. during the 70s then
this could be major news especially if you now live overseas because with
the exception of a few sightings in Zimbabwe, Australia and New Zealand,
these three LPs have been almost totally unknown and unavailable anywhere
else in the world.
There are no references to Rodriguez or his work
in any of the rock (or general music) reference books. Originally released
on Buddah Records in the U.S.A., the masters of the three LPs became the
property of A & M Records when they bought Buddah Records. The three
LPs were subsequently pressed and released in S.A. For an assortment of
reasons, of the three, "Cold Fact"
achieved the most success and sold like the proverbial bushfire.
It nestled in the record collections of practically every home that already
had "Abbey Road", "Bridge over Troubled Water", "Aqualung",
"Leonard Cohen's Greatest Hits" and "Harvest". It featured
a nasal Hispanic-American singing sweet but vitriolic folk-songs about
"DRUCKS", unrequited lust and big city misery; but everyone around
here knew all the words and would sing along without having any idea what
Rodriguez was really moaning about.
When "Cold Fact"
first appeared on CD, it found many of the S.A. Baby Boomers living in
a multitude of new (adopted ) countries where Rodriguez was as well known
as Bles Bridges; so the locally pressed CD was soon on the list of things
to be sent to family and friends overseas, that were "unavailable
anywhere" like fishpaste and biltong..
Hearing "Sugar Man, won't you
hurry, cause I'm tired of these scenes" is like closing your eyes,
clicking your heels together and zooming off back to the old homestead
like Dorothy did, and that essentially is it's appeal. When "After
the Fact" first appeared on CD, it attracted a critical response
largely, and adversely, centering on the fact that Rodriguez (like Cat
Stevens) was just 70's crap and deserves no more mystical perusing then
"Tea for the Tillerman" does.
To them I say "Well I
wonder how many times you've been had, and I wonder if all your dreams
have gone bad…." There is something in these records that resists
analysis and objectivity, you just had to be there! "After
the Fact" is mostly as unknown as "Cold
Fact" is known, so it should be interesting to see how it's judged
by "The old fans". It is a strong LP and bears close comparison
with "Cold Fact". "The Best
of Rodriguez" contains songs mostly from the two "Fact"
LPs with a few rarities thrown in.
Who Rodriguez was or is remains a mystery with even the record companies
still religiously paying royalties to an unknown source or recipient somewhere
in the USA. A query about Rodriguez recently appeared in Q
magazine. A search on the Net has been underway
for some time now as to any information about Rodriguez but none's been
forthcoming. Still, as with all musical mysteries and taste disputes, the
bottom line is the music and you'll just have to judge this for yourselves
by buying and listening to these CDs and that, as Rodriguez says is "A
concrete cold fact !!!!"