Read an extract from Carsten Rasch's lank kief memoir, Between Rock & a Hard Place

"Two days later we set off, the kombi packed with Dax, Mick, Larry and Mojo, a lot of gear and copious amounts of drugs"

22 February 2019 - 11:24


How does a middle-class Afrikaans boytjie from Springs, a rebellious product of Christelik-nasionale Opvoeding, end up in the grubby world of protest punk, slap-bang in the middle of the anti-apartheid struggle?

The '80s in South Africa were a mess, a schmangled clusterfuck of a decade.

For some, it was braaivleis, rugby, sunny skies and Chevrolet. For others, it was a one-eyed bumbling about in a world without signage, desperately looking for the emergency exit.

While the black population was becoming increasingly agitated and militant, the white dorps, towns and leafy suburbs of South Africa’s cities were mostly ignorant in their privileged bliss.

Whiteys were like the frog in the cooker, not realising that the temperature was on the rise.

Soon they would slowly, to their terminal surprise, turn white belly-up amid the froth of bubbles boiling from below. Soon it would be too late to get the hell out.

But in tiny pockets of white rebellion, the country was beginning to hum with resistant energy in Joburg, Cape Town and Durban. The '80s counter-culture and the music it produced was anti-establishment, anti-government, anti-apartheid, but not self-consciously so. While the state saw this strange white subculture as a hive of hedonists and drugged-up nihilists, this anarchic clutter of guitar-wielding, pill-munching, dope-smoking musicians and their followers were in fact a second front in the struggle against apartheid.

In brilliantly tragic and hilarious detail, Between Rock & a Hard Place is the epic memoir of Carsten Rasch’s role in the South African counter-culture Punk and New Wave scene in the late '70s and early '80s. Through his eyes as a musician, promoter and enthusiastic participant, it tells the story of those tumultuous and giddy times with heartfelt irreverence.

Veering between lucid moments of desperate innovation and psychotic adventures on the rim of sanity, all the time riding roughshod at delirious speed over the potholes of “culture”, the reader is introduced to half-forgotten heroes, now fast disappearing into the fog of time, and the band of misfits who attempted to disrupt “the system”.

The cast list reads like a South African Trainspotting. Meet Hoffie, co-adventurer, artist, TV personality, supreme womaniser and terrible driver. Meet Lew, brother-from-another-mother suffering from mild delusions of grandeur and low self-esteem, sometimes simultaneously. He’s his own worst enemy. Meet Alison, super groupie, speed-talker and dreadlocked music enthusiast. Always willing to go beyond the final mile. Also, meet A-A-Alan, James Phillips, Dax, Ostrich aka Mom, Shy Di, Heather Mac, Jessica, Gill Gapp, Dr Quirk, Chris Pretorius, Luke Skywalker, Tim Parr, One-Eyed Mike, Willem Moller, Scotty, Mike Lurcher, Brett Napalm and countless other co-travellers on this road of excess.

From music festivals in Port St Johns, to disastrous concerts in the platteland; from Johnny Clegg’s “Juluka” to The Dyslexix and Peach to Mapantsula; from big ideas to narrow escapes; from huge successes to massive fiascos, roadblock to roadblock, gig to gig, Between Rock & a Hard Place is simultaneously a blow-for-blow rock ’n roll story told from the dubious vantage point of being below the underbelly; an aberrant coming-of-age tale set in a time of political madness and mad debauchery; and, finally, a lesson on horses.


Carsten Rasch has been a video camera operator, club owner, maker of earrings, bongo player, poet, pizza maker, music promoter, props master, film director, impresario, film festival programmer, building contractor, occasional dealer in and smuggler of illicit substances, writer for Fair Lady’s pop column, picture framer and the owner of a live music venue. He is presently a music curator and the drummer for a band of unapologetically ageing degenerates called The Time Flies.

The main threads that run throughout his life, however, have been music and a rejection of authority (which has hindered and helped, but no doubt contributed, perhaps disproportionately so, to the person he is today). Between Rock & a Hard Place is his first attempt at writing a book.

Disclaimer: All characters are actually real-life persons. All claims in the story are true, or true-ish, at least as far as the author’s memory is concerned, but, God knows, some parts should be fiction. If you have a problem with any of it, your people are welcome to talk to our people.

Intrigued? Get your taster here:

“HOWZIT, MY BROTHER,” drawls Dax. “Tell me, you still got your bus?” I haven’t seen Dax and the boys for a while. The Other Band has been keeping a low profile, working on new material and generally getting out of it in their hideout in Kommetjie, their preferred drug being LSD. But some Durban promoter has booked them for a New Year’s gig in Durban, providing too little cash for them to fly the band up. Now they’re looking for someone to drive them up, all expenses paid, free accommodation in a hotel and of course a comp to the show.

Jissis, that’s quite a drive, bra,” I say. “Cape Town to Durban overnight. And very short notice...” New Year’s is a few days away.

“It’s worth a grand, my brother, plus we’ll sort you out with a little something,” he says, winking. “What’re friends for? We’re desperate, bra ...” he adds.

I mull it over. Dax is a tjom, and Hoffie and Di can keep the fires burning at Movement Too. I’ll only be gone for three days, anyway. And I’ll have at least a few hundred bucks left after paying for the juice. So I agree.

Two days later we set off, the kombi packed with Dax, Mick, Larry and Mojo, a lot of gear and copious amounts of drugs.

Two days later we set off, the kombi packed with Dax, Mick, Larry and Mojo, a lot of gear and copious amounts of drugs.

Around midnight, somewhere between Colesberg and Bloemfontein, I mention that I need that little something now, expecting to be handed an Obex.

Instead, I get handed a little sliver of a cap of acid, and by the time we reach Bloem, everyone is on a plak, including the driver, me, who has slowed down so much it takes three hours before we approach the outskirts of Winburg, where we run into a combined police/military roadblock, just as a huge spliff is passed my way. Despite being halfway to another planet, I still have my wits about me.

“Roadblock!” I shout, handing the spliff back over my shoulder to Larry, who wants to chuck it out the window.

Dax intervenes: “Nooit, bru, they’ll check the sparks! Chow it!”

Larry promptly chows it. Windows are opened, and Mojo, the only one who uses deodorant, sprays the inside of the kombi with a burst of Ego.

“Okay, everyone, chill. Let Cas do the talking,” Dax says as we pull up to the cop waving us down. I stop the kombi and jump out to meet the cop swaggering towards us in an attempt to keep him away from the window and the smell of dope that might still be lingering. The roadblock is manned primarily by black cops, a few white officers and then white soldiers who keep their distance from everything, R1s at the ready, in case a carload of MK operatives suddenly makes an appearance. Since the attack on Koeberg just over a week ago, the security forces are very jittery, and trigger happy on top of it.

The cop has an eye on Larry...

Meanwhile, Dax has also jumped out and is taking a leak a few metres away, while the rest of the band lounges about inside with the sliding door open.

“What is your destination?” asks the cop with a heavy scowl.

“Durban, Captain,” I say, knowing the dude is a sergeant but that all sergeants like being called ‘captain’. “We’re doing a music festival on New Year’s Eve.”

The cop has an eye on Larry, the bass player, a suspicious-looking character at the best of times, but tonight his eyes are redder and shiftier than usual, probably because he’s had more acid than the rest of us.

“So, you’re musicians?” he says, still eyeing Larry. “Any drugs or weapons in the car?”

Larry, sweating under the cop’s gaze and looking as though he’s about to have a panic attack, tries to say something, but only manages a sub-audible gurgle.

“Weapons?” I say. “No, sir, we don’t carry weapons. Or drugs.”

“No drugs, sir,” Dax confirms, and the others shake their heads innocently – No, sir, no weapons or drugs.

The cop glances around in the kombi. “What kind of music do you play?”

“Cool music, Captain,” I say, latching onto the opportunity to distract him. “Wait, let’s show you. Hey, Dax, want to play the captain a tune?”

“Sure thing, bra, of course ...” Dax drawls, opening his saxophone case while Mick plucks out his acoustic guitar and Mojo finds a tambourine, and in a few seconds they do a rendition of ‘Too Much Resistance’, which draws all the other cops to the car.

The vibe quickly shifts from officious to friendly – in fact, they’re all over us. They ask for another, and the boys oblige. The roadblock is turning into a little party, albeit a segregated one, with all the black cops around the kombi, some of them even doing some dance steps, and the whiteys keeping their distance, but still listening.

“Another one!” the sergeant/captain says, but I shake my head.

“Eish, we’ve got a long way to go, Captain ... we better get back on the road.”

“Drive safe, né! Hamba kahle!” they wave as we pile back into the kombi, by now as straight as mayors of small Karoo towns, thanks to the adrenaline-fuelled half hour we’ve spent at the roadblock, but leaving behind the happiest bunch of cops we’ve seen all year.

“Fuck, bra, that was close ...” Dax says, suddenly weak-kneed at the thought of what could have happened.

“I need a joint.”

  • Extract provided by MFBooks Joburg, an imprint of Jacana Media