John Kongos: Kongos

South African prog funk from 1972, with extras.

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Singer-songwriter John Kongos is best known by association these days, either through the Happy Mondays’ cover of Step On or the fact his four sons have been making a fair old stink as roots rock combo, Kongos.

For a brief time in the early 70s though, he looked set for a hugely successful career. His second album, 1971’s Kongos, entered the UK Top 30 on the back of two irrepressible hit singles, Tokoloshe Man and the aforementioned He’s Gonna Step On You Again. Both stomped along on tribal rhythms, the latter making The Guinness Book Of Records for its use of an African drum tape loop (the first sample ever used on vinyl). Produced by Gus Dudgeon, then at the start of his professional tenure with Elton John, the album’s a fascinating conflation of infectious grooves and folksy strangeness. There are traces of Todd Rundgren in the sweepingly ambitious Try To Touch Just One. Flowing from electric wah-wah to quieter acoustics and back again, it’s like a compressed prog suite. Kongos disappeared from view after the album’s release, a one-time contender now an eternal cult figure.

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.