By Robert Laing
The title track is filled with wry lines on Jozie life like "take my car, you can't drive me away".
"What we wanted to accomplish with this song is the sense of being a Joburger." Cito told me during an interview on my 1485AM radio show.
"There's so much brutal crime that would scare most people away, yet there's something that keeps us here. A lot of people say it's the money, but I think it's a people thing more than anything else. There's definitely a buzz, a survival buzz that keeps us together."
Cito was born in Los Angeles and raised in New York until high school when he moved to Johannesburg. He considers himself a South African now and Take me Home is a protest song against the land of his birth.
"So many people are dying because of the arrogance of the States imposing policies on the rest of the world. Coming from the States, I find it such an irony there are so many South Africans dying to move there. I want to be far away from that mentality and thinking."
But wouldn't Wonderboom be better appreciated and supported in the US?
"It's a question that keeps popping up: are we in the right place? To me, it doesn't matter where you are in the world. If you've got something beautiful to contribute to the world of music, and you've got the right avenues and the right push behind you, good things will happen.
"As a country, as a music industry we've really started to grow now and starting to develop a nice culture — something new to offer to the world. I think we've been copying too much, doing the band wagon thing too much, where we've lost our identity. Now we're starting to get our identity back."
Wonderboom paid homage to the roots of South Africans music on 2002's Rewind in which they redid local classics in their own style. City of Gold is all new songs, but there is a nod to local rock lore in that the album's producer is eVoid's Lucien Windrich.
Two of City of Gold's tracks are written or co-written by Lucien. My interpretation of the lyrics of Loose End was that the rest of Wonderboom were unhappy with Cito's five months hiatus performing Jesus Christ Superstar. But Wonderboom's guitarist Martin Schofield told me the song actually refers to a London gig the band played while in Europe for the The Global Battle of the Bands competition in which Wonderboom came second to Second (a Spanish band).
Loose End was originally written by Lucien, telling how he had to perform his eVoid Eighties hits like Shadows and Taximan for the first time in years to keep a crowd waiting for Wonderboom to play in London's Halfmoon club entertained because Cito hadn't arrived.
"I got stuck in Manchester, got lost... whole big drama. The Halfmoon was packed, but about half the audience had left by the time I got there because there's a strict curfew law. So I arrived to a very pissed-off band."
"We turned Lucien's lyrics around so it wasn't just about that night in Putney, but with the overall picture of me taking a break with JC Superstar.
"It's so funny because we tied in all these biblical innuendos, and associations and double meanings along with the Wonderboom story in the UK. And it turned out to be a beautiful song, definitely one of my favourite songs."
Another Lucien Windrich song on the album is Brain.
"It's such an expressive song. You can associate to the addiction, the resistance to whatever it is that has been bringing you down. Everybody has their own picture about this song. It has real depth. It's a real masterpiece. I enjoy singing it."
Cito's personal favourite track on City of Gold is Best Side, a song he originally intended for a solo album he plans to complete this year between Wonderboom gigs and playing Jesus Christ Superstar in Greece. The rest of the band and Lucien persuaded him it was a Wonderboom song and should be on this album.
Cito was inspired to write Nice Try playing football in the yard with his five year old son.
"He was playing goal keeper. I'd kick the ball to him and overact 'Oh No!' when he blocked my attempted goal. After a while he started feeling bad for me never scoring, so he started encouraging me "Nice try, dad! Do it again!'. That inspired this track about just having fun."
Fireball is "a life story, my life story. About getting away from any kind of mediocre environment at home or work you're in, breaking out and letting rip, letting all inhibitions fall,"
That attitude cost Cito his job as a Crawford College teacher many years ago. Many local musicians support their rock 'n roll habit by working as teachers, and I've noticed they tend to be paranoid about talking to journalists. They all know what happened to Cito.
"I set a bad precedent," Cito chuckled.
In the early days of Wonderboom, when Cito had worked at Crawford for about three years, the Sunday Times sent a reporter to talk to him about how he balanced his life as a schoolteacher with playing in a rock band.
"I thought the story sounded quite sweet. But then we were driving back from a weekend concert in Swellendam and the Sunday Times had postered everywhere "Nude teacher shocks top school".
Cito had posed for a risque picture in Cosmopolitan magazine. A Crawford mommy who'd twigged Wonderboom is not just a Pretoria suburb sent an anonymous letter to the Sunday Times with this photo prompting the story.
"The phone calls started coming in and everybody wanted to interview me. The press loved it. Crawford's legal team where on me, saying I should make a public retraction of what we'd done. I had feeling it wasn't going to end there, so I resigned. Those were very young days."
Cito initially planned to use a picture of a fireball as City of Gold's cover, but then the Hubble Telescope's images of the Helix Nebula, known as The Eye of God, appeared. Cito digitally integrated this with a picture of Joburg's skyline.
"This is the first Wonderboom album where I'm proud of everything — the cover art, the mixing... it's our best side."
Wonderboom have put what Cito describes as a "surprise track" at the start rather than following Nirvana's Nevermind fashion of tagging them at the end. It's great to be alive came about through divine intervention at the last minute, according to Cito.
"Most of the songs were complete by the time we started tracking This one we left to the last minute. Martin had a chorus riff and a verse riff, and it was up to me to write the lyrics. We were pressed for time, we had early early mornings, late late nights, I had just come off JC...
"When it came to the crunch — the guys said 'okay, we're recording now, what are you going to do?' — I sat on the floor and wrote that song in five minutes. The music just surprised me and flowed through me. It's so nice when that happens because you realise your are just a vehicle of something greater than yourself."
Saw them at Carnival City 24 April 2009
Author: Sally Simmons, 28 April 2009
Brilliant band ... brilliant stage presence. Fantastic concert followed by The Parlotones who were amazing. Hats off to SA bands ... you guys ROCK!!!
cito the rockgod
Author: aileen, 3 May 2009
Saw Wonderboom lastnite & they blew me away. Their performances are always energeticaly explosive! Cito you are absolutely BEAUTIFUL & a huge THANK U for signing my t-shirt!
Author: Stan, 19 May 2009
What started off as an oddly embarassing schoolboy humour front man, doing some stand up, turned out to be a fantasic performance.(Not by the front man).
There was an underlying awkwardness in the crowd,as the drummer, Danny "Somebody", came away from what he is good at,(Drumming), and insisted on telling his sexually juvinile jokes. The embarrasing silences covered by him hitting a drum and cymbal,went on far to long.
WE CAME TO SEE WONDERBOOM!!!!!
The evening was a total success however, soon as the band ,"Got down to Business".
Each of the band members talked to the crowd and made it a very personel concert, as an audience you could not have felt less, than very involved.
Wade as usual, helped to keep Cito and Martin together.
Cito and Wade bumped into each other at every oppertunity,narrowly avoiding the cable guy, Who in my opin ion, should have got payed double for not taking out the fr&^*%in lot of you, on more than one occasion.
All in all a fantastic night out. (Ditch the stand up).
Without a doubt one of the best live South African Bands on the circuit.
I look forward to seeing you guys at the I.P.L.
Stan the man.
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