Old Afrikaner farmer on the terrace of his home
Sits gently in his rocking chair, gazing at this land he owns.
There he sees his memories and there his past
There he smiles his grim smile, strokes his gun, swears he'll make it last.
Someone brings the whisky, someone serves the meal
Like the someone in the township, in the mine and in the fields.
Someone at the graveyard, someone with their tears
Someone who can't forget the freedom lost these 100 years.
Old man, you can boost about the gun that's by your bed
Old man, you can tell me how you're good for all your kaffirs yet
And your guns can fire, and your prisons fill
And you've yards of rope for hanging still
But your guns can shoot and never hit the sky
And there's no rope as long as time.
Mandela in the prison, Biko in the ground
Sharpeville and Soweto voices silenced till the end of time.
Freedom don't come easy, don't come bloodless, don't come fast
But in the hearts of the countless people
No pass law's gonna stop us pass.
Sometimes he'll talk of reasons, economy and cause
Sometimes he'll even talk of changes
Though he clasps the gun and talks of laws.
But power ain't this old man's gift
And freedom's no reform
The old man made the history and the history's made of wars.
An old Afrikaner, a descendant of the Dutchmen who colonialised the country, sits on his farm and swears that nothing will change. The compatriots of his black servant live in the Townships, ghettos of dense populations, such as Cape City or Johannesburg, or in the Homelands, pseudo-independent vassal states, which serve as reservoirs of cheap labour. In order to be able to live in the Townships, they need a residence permit, so say the “pass laws”. In 1960 a peaceful protest against the pass laws in Sharpeville ended in a massacre, 67 black people were killed. Nelson Mandela, leader of the liberation movement ANC (African National Congress), sat in prison for over 20 years. When in 1976 Afrikaans was introduced as compulsory in the schools, the pupils of Soweto started an uprising, that turned into a mass strike. In 1983 the President, Pieter Botho gave the Blacks and Indians some more rights, but the prospect of real reform was unmentionable. The student leader Steve Biko was arrested in 1977 and murdered by the police.
“No Rope As Long As Time” was written after reading the biography of one of the founders of the South African Communist Party: a white guy whose name escapes me as does the name of the book. Sorry to be so vague but it is 16 years ago! The phrase ‘No Rope as Long as Time’ is/was a saying of black South Africans meaning that no amount of oppression could ever halt their eventual freedom. Musically the song was inspired by Bruce Springsteen. After composing so much at that time on keyboards, often using pop-type riffs (“Modern Times”, “Seaport September”, “No Ordinary Return”, “America for Beginners”, “Eddie”, “Truth About John”…) I was listening to Springsteen and thought Jesus! why don’t I get back to strumming a guitar. Actually you don’t hear the acoustic guitar too much on the record, but that’s how it started. Steve Skaith
- AStudio Version (4:28)
- BLive (5:27)
- CStudio Version (4:13)