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THE BATS AT HERITAGE (article first published : 2006-02-28)

Some 40 years on, The BATS are proving their enduring popularity in a show titled Loudly South African at the Heritage Theatre.

South Africa can boast many achievements over the last few years, and one has to be the return of a band that, exactly 40 years after its inception, is back on the road and still pulling in the crowds.

It all started in 1964 when The Bats - Eddie Eckstein, Paul Ditchfield, Pete Clifford and the late Barry Jarman - burst onto the local scene and became, to many ardent followers, South Africa's answer to The Beatles. They toured extensively, both locally and internationally, wowing audiences in South Africa and in the UK, Zimbabwe and Germany with their brilliant music and hilarious comedy show. More than just great musicians, they were also great entertainers, and it was this that kept them at the top of their game for 16 years, an amazing achievement for any band.

In the early 70s they won a Sarie award for Song of the Year with Who’s That Girl, and in 1972 Paul's composition Oh God it's Beautiful was chosen to represent South Africa at the Tokyo World Song festival. Paul took Eddie with him to Tokyo to perform the song and they reached the finals.

In 1980, with many hit singles, including In a shabby little hut and Vat hom Dawie and a whole bunch of long-playing vinyls under their belts, they decided to go their separate ways to pursue solo careers. This break just seemed to hone their talents because after a break of 21 years, they consider they are better musicians now than they were then.

After constant pressure from their fans to get back together again, Eddie, Paul and Pete, minus the late Barry who had decided to retire, were joined by Derek Gordon and got back on the road for what they thought would be a short comeback tour. Little did they know that three years later they would still be on the road, delighting audiences young and old, and releasing a brand new CD. This production by Dennis East and engineer Keith Forsyth is their first major studio production in 25 years. Due to the versatility of The Bats, and because they are predominantly a performance band, they decided to specifically aim this CD at the retail market.

They have included favourite songs they have performed over the years such as Manfred Mann's The Mighty Quinn, great new originals like the catchy Cheeky Face and, because they were one of the first bands to write Afrikaans pop songs, they had to include Bez Valley Breeker and Hoender Jive.

Loudly South African runs from March 1 to 5 with shows Wednesday to Saturday at 19h00 (meal) with curtain-up at 20h30 and Sunday at noon. Booking is essential by calling 031 765 4197.




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