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Steve Linnegar's SnakeshedClassic Epics

Label:Snake Records (16) – none
Vinyl, LP, Album
Country:South Africa
Style:Psychedelic Rock, Prog Rock


A1Tao Ch'ang Wu Wei
A2Tao Riders
A4Kamakura Dragons
A5Lamplight Shines
B2I Will Cry

Companies, etc.



Selected details of this release are often mistakenly ascribed to the other South African Classic Epics LP, and vice versa - or the two are conflated as one release.

Barcode and Other Identifiers

  • Matrix / Runout (Side A runout, etched): SRLP C 09 A B5.
  • Matrix / Runout (Side B runout, etched): SRLP-C-09 B-1.

Other Versions (5 of 7)View All

Title (Format)LabelCat#CountryYear
New Submission
Classic Epics (LP, Album)Snake Records (16)LK 1000South Africa1982
New Submission
Classic Epics (LP, Album)Parallel WorldPW-1US1995
New Submission
Classic Epics (LP, Test Pressing, White Label)Parallel WorldPW-1US1995
Recently Edited
Classic Epics (LP, Album, Reissue, Remastered)GuerssenGUESS132Spain2014
Recently Edited
Classic Epics (CD, Album, Reissue)GuerssenGUESSCD053Spain2014


landofmilk's avatar
Discogs music database has invited rock-related submissions since 2005. Classic Epics, an album recorded in South Africa by a band called Steve Linnegar's Snakeshed – which now sells for thousands of rands – duly showed up seven years ago. But another early local version of this LP has been on the database for mere months. Why?

There are various reasons, but scarcity doesn't rank highly among them. Most people interested in owning Classic Epics, and many who already do, simply don't know that two SA versions exist, because they've been fused into one for decades by record dealers and article writers. Oddly, the differences between the LPs aren't negligible, they're numerous and obvious – once you start looking for them.

Before proceeding I should reiterate that this commentary specifically concerns two Classic Epics LPs released in South Africa more than thirty-five years back. The area they occupy is grey enough without the Parallel World and Guerssen reissues or any bootlegs wading in and muddying the waters (mixed metaphor intended).

The nitty-gritty: their fronts are the same but the inside-left panel of the gatefold cover of the ‘Black Version’ has a black background with white text, whereas the ‘White Version’ has the opposite, a white background with black text. The BV's back panel has everything the WV's has on it, including a proverb exemplifying the influence of martial arts on this creative work. But in addition the BV has a Snake Records logo and the catalogue number LK 1000, as well as marketing and distribution credits. The sticker on some copies, amending the latter, is just another twist in the Classic Epics tale.

As for the records themselves; there are differences between what's printed on their respective dark green labels, and between what's etched into their dead wax. In short, the BV again carries more data than the WV.

One last (I think) distinction is that the WV typically comes with a separate insert full of Oriental calligraphy. My BV doesn't have this, nor have I seen it in photographs of others. So when an online Classic Epics seller says, ‘insert missing’, I give them props for trying to be honest, but reckon, ‘It's probably a BV and the insert was never there.’ Then I focus on their pictures.

Regarding release dates, a general internet search reveals past and present traders spinning claims ranging from 1976 to the late-80s! But the year most commonly assigned to both versions is 1982, often accompanied by badly formatted clumps of words copied from elsewhere, or occasionally retyped with fresh glitches, Chinese Whispers-style. All of which might have been avoided if even one version had an actual date on it.

So what's the story, which is the Master release, which came first? The egg. No, it was the chicken. It was definitely the egg, I'm telling you. Absolute rubbish, the chicken came first! Suddenly another weirdly vitriolic spotters' spit-spat is going great guns…

Who cares? Well, hopefully the virtual world's pre-eminent music database does. But it will no doubt require more than standard admin procedures to mitigate the confusion, both intentional and incidental, that has cloaked Classic Epics for so long. It's worth bearing in mind too that Discogs doubles as a marketplace, and this piece of Africana is valuable as well as sought-after. In my view, though, it's more important to declare an item's unknowns than to parrot ‘received wisdom’ just to fill a blank cheque, er, I mean space.

Digging miracles do happen. Classic Epics was new to me when I freed it for a song from a box of dreck at a retirement-village fête a few years ago – proggy gatefold cover, local release, intriguing.

I'd used Discogs casually beforehand but now I joined it. However, the submissions protocol was quite tricky. Was I supposed to enter my version separately, and/or add notes to the existing entry, or what? I stuck to less complicated contributions for the time being, especially as I was still decoding anomalies between appearances of ‘the original’ Classic Epics on the net at large. (I noticed that some sellers of the album's much-later reissues also arranged the heritage-angle like smoke and mirrors around their wares, to slyly boost their appeal.) But with one or two experienced Discoggers' help, I progressed.

Then I discovered that Steve Linnegar's Snakeshed was on social media, and maybe irrelevantly, that we lived in the same part of the real world. I managed to make contact. It turned out that the frontman was extremely ill, but his family was open to correspondence.

Sadly, in June 2017, Steve Linnegar passed away. The correspondence and my research continued initially, but dwelling on such minutiae felt increasingly inappropriate under the circumstances. I soon set the whole matter to one side.

Until recently, in fact, when I resumed some old lines of investigation and started a couple of new ones, towards finishing with this question – answered or not – of the South African Classic Epics duo. My involvement with Discogs had tailed off considerably in the interim, but thankfully somebody else had put the BV on the database. Time to add my two cents and be done with it.

Ultimately, after consulting people's opinions, historical sales and current listings, ink and digital articles plus some private documents and other interesting snippets, I have an informed idea of what probably went down, not concrete evidence of exactly what did.

I don't mind. It's been a good trip, and the open-endedness of it echoes the inscrutability that pervades diverse aspects of Classic Epics, I understand now. Not least the songs, with their alluring strata of guitars, ringing keys and sometimes keened, sometimes murmured – almost whispered – falsetto harmonies. A near but far-off sound, familiar and lulling until it gives you the slip.

By the way I wouldn't classify it as psych or prog rock myself; it's too strummy and jangly. But let's leave that by the way. Only a proper masochist would get into a genre debate on Discogs at the same time as a release-date palaver.

What do I think happened? In one long paragraph, something like this: after years of writing and reworking material, recording a little here and there, Steve Linnegar assembled a band at Emcee Studios in Joburg to lay down the bulk of Classic Epics. The album (maybe the WV but maybe also means maybe not) went public in 1980. Partly because it eschewed musical and image-related flavours-of-the-minute, it didn't do very well. And so when Classic Epics (probably the BV but some collectors would disagree) was released again in 1982, it was hyped harder – and as brand new. It got more radio play, even an award nomination, but scored no hits. It's possible that there were persistent independent-label hassles, problems with big dealmakers and breakers, the usual industry let-downs. Snakeshed morphed, and that was that. But nothing loved by anybody really sinks without trace. People played the LP at social gatherings, and made tapes for friends that were in turn taped, or nicked and then transported and enjoyed repeatedly by listeners far away. And they all incrementally propelled Classic Epics into ‘cult album’ territory. Lacking visible and audible anchors in time and space (unless you had a cover to scrutinize and knew that Interpak was a South African printing company), its geographic home was much more moot; the globe's poster-kid for urgh! made practically nobody's guess-list, until 1994 anyway. Later the double-edged internet operated on Classic Epics too: more info = more misinfo. Besides, the two early versions' songs had always been identical, and the sleeves, featuring Chinese text and martial arts dudes outdoors, might as well have been, particularly if you had nothing but second-hand descriptions and blurry photos to go on. Once in a blue moon somebody quibbled about a discrepancy – but hey, that's what happens with cult albums that have been copied and reissued and so on…

I haven't read all the reissues' liner notes. Did they collectively miss a trick, a chance to set the record/s straight? Perhaps their motivation wasn't to iron out the history but to allow old and new fans to officially own and revel in the music. Which, of course, is what everything should boil down to, the music.

Classic Epics' slowburning snowball effect wouldn't have surprised Steve Linnegar. Of the ethos favoured by himself and closest collaborator Martin Kopelowitz, he said, ‘We are mostly concerned with composing and recording music that will stand up to time spans… A song or symphony must still sound original in ten, thirty or fifty years time. All classic music is like that. Great melodies never die, they just keep on rolling. Today, music is big business… Songs are written for the immediate taste of that year! We don't work like that…’

So, not surprising, but presumably immensely satisfying nevertheless, witnessing a steady increase of international enthusiasm for your music – an extended last laugh of sorts. Actually, I'm sure it played squarely into Linnegar's sense of humour because any songwriter (aiming for eternity or not) who gives their debut a title like that is having a bit of fun with it. The urge to skylark surfaces in his Taoist lyrics as well, strengthening rather than subverting their koan-esque irresolvability.

It's pretty funny too that the version of the ancient proverb about synchronicity and personal development, which Steve Linnegar put on the back of his two first albums in the 80s, also applies precisely to the prosaic issue of their hierarchy in a digital database now. When the time is right, the Master will appear.