Capital 604 – 1991

In 1991 there were only eight South African songs which made it onto the Capital Top 40 countdown. The top two songs of the year were both by Wendy Oldfield and only six other artists reached the Top 40 including the Radio Rats, the first ever Shifty Records artists to do so, after seven years of drawing blanks. Robin Auld, Big Sky Little Sister and Mango Groove were all back in the charts and there was a debut from Jo Day, with her first solo single, “Tender Love”.

The Radio Rats were the first previously commercially successful band to sign with Shifty Records and it is perhaps their fame which led to Shifty finally getting a song onto the Capital charts. The Radio Rats had a big hit with “ZX Dan” back in 1978 and this must have played a part in their success on Capital in 1991, especially as the song which made the charts – “Turn on the Radio” – was not even released as a single. It is also noticeable that many artists who charted on Capital over the years did so more than once while songs by other similar artists were overlooked. It seems to suggest that artists’ names as a form of branding certainly helped to spark further recognition.

Wendy Oldfield was the only South African artist to reach number one – for one week – with “Miracle”, while her song “Acid Rain” peaked at number 2. Robin Auld’s “Love Kills”, Big Sky’s “Slow Dancing”, Mango Groove’s “Moments Away” and the Radio Rats’ “Turn on the Radio” all failed to reach the top 20, while Little Sister’s “Peace on Earth” and Jo Day’s “Tender Love” peaked in the top 20 but we are not sure how high they reached because we do not have the charts for December 1991.

1991 is the last year we are able to provide a definitive list of South African songs which charted on Capital. We only have a scattering of top 40 countdowns for 1992 and 1993 and none at all for 1994, 1995 and 1996. The station closed down on 29th November 1996. If you have copies of any Capital Radio Top 40 countdown charts (from December 1979 through to 1996 when the station closed down) please get in touch as these will be able to help us fill some gaps.

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Capital 604 – 1990

Having featured all the South African songs to have charted on the Capital Radio Top 40 countdown in the 1980s we have decided to continue into the 1990s, although we only have compete lists for 1990 and 1991. Capital Radio continued to function until 1996, but we do not have complete chart listings from 1992 until the station closed down.

In order to provide a full reflection of the 1980s songs which charted on the Capital countdown, our 1989 playlist included four 1989 songs which entered the Capital charts in the first two weeks of January 1990. These will not be included in the 1990 playlist, but for the record these were: “Special Star” by Mango Groove, “Dance To Me” by Edi Niederlander, “Matchbox Full Of Diamonds” by David Kramer and “Sorrow (Your Heart)” by Trevor Rabin. Apart from these songs there were 11 South African songs which charted on Capital Radio in 1990, several of which had very successful runs in the Top 40.

“Boyz B Boyz” by MarcAlex and Little Sister’s “Dear Abbie” both spent two weeks at number one while Little Sister’s “Young Hearts” and Cinema’s “The Fire Of Love” spent one week at the top of the charts. All three Mango Groove songs peaked at number two: “Too Many Tears”, “Hometalk” and “Island Boy” (following “Special Star” which had reached number one earlier in the year). “Little Sister” by Little Sister and Jonathan Butler’s “Heal Our Land” both peaked at number 5,   while “Waiting For The Dawn” by Big Sky reached number 17. Cinema’s “Dancing Away With My Heart” only reached number 22, where it spent two weeks.

With the exception of Big Sky and Little Sister, who were newly formed bands, all these artists had charted on Capital in the 1980s, although Steve Louw of Big Sky had been part of All Night Radio, who did not chart on Capital but were around in the mid-1980s. Jonathan Butler first charted on Capital in 1985, Cinema and Mango Groove in 1987 and MarcAlex in 1989.

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Capital 604 – 1989

We end the Capital Countdowns of the 1980s with a bumper year of South African hits, with no fewer than eight songs making the top 5, four of which went all the way to number 1. In order to neatly round up the theme of South African music from the 1980s charting on the Capital countdown, this week’s playlist includes three songs which entered the Capital Countdown in January 1990 but which were released in 1989.

As we look back on the South African artists who charted on the Capital Top 40 Countdown in the 1980s we don’t see any groups who were around at the beginning of the decade but there were several prominent musicians from the 1970s and early 1980s who charted in 1989: Johnny Clegg began the decade on the very first Capital Top 40 performing “Africa” with Juluka and he was there yet again on the final countdown of the decade, this time with his subsequent group Savuka singing “Cruel, Crazy, Beautiful World”.

Trevor Rabin, who reached great heights locally with Rabbitt and later internationally with Yes, was still charting in 1989, this time as a solo artists with two singles from his Can’t Look Back album. Neill Solomon began the 1980s with his Uptown Rhythm Dogs, a band that did not survive very long into the decade but he was back in the late 1980s with the Passengers, who charted in 1989 with “Honeytown”. Lucky Dube released albums throughout the 1980s and finally charted on the Capital countdown in 1989 with two songs. Another musician who had been around throughout the 1980s (in fact from the early 1970s), Edi Niederlander, finally made it on to the Capital Countdown with “Dance to Me” from her second album. And David Kramer, who, like Edi Niederlander, was a popular musician on the 1970s folk scene and who had charted on Capital in 1986 was back again with “Matchbox Full of Diamonds”.

As indicated, four South African songs made it all the way to number one where they all spent one week: “Quick, quick” by MarcAlex , “Your Kind” by Pongolo, “Be Bop Pop” by The Spectres, and “Special Star” by Mango Groove (who also reached number 3 – for two weeks – with “Hellfire”).

“Together As One by Lucky Dube spent two weeks at number 2 but he only reached number 12 with his follow-up single, “Prisoner”. “It’s Only Me” by Rush Hour also peaked at number 2. Savuka’s “Cruel, crazy, beautiful world” peaked at number 5 while “Something To Hold On To” – Trevor Rabin reached number 6 and “Honeytown” by The Passengers reached number 8.

Edi Niederlander’s “Dance To Me”, David Kramer’s “Matchbox Full of Diamonds” and Trevor Rabin’s “Sorrow (Your Heart)” all failed to reach the Top 20.

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Capital 604 – 1988

There were only nine South African songs that charted on the Capital Radio Top 40 Countdown in 1988 but for the first time all the South African songs made the top 10. Several of the artists to chart were not new to Capital: Jonathan Butler, Bright Blue, Wendy Oldfield and The Passengers had all made previous appearances; but there were debuts from South Africa veterans The Rockets (who had been around since the late 1960s), Cinema, The Spectres and The Believers.

We periodically have had difficulty tracking down copies of the South African songs that charted on Capital Radio, which has brought home how terrible the archiving of South African popular music has been. This week was especially difficult. We tried all our usual avenues and nobody we approached had a copy of Wendy Oldfield’s “Dancing in the Forest”, not even Wendy Oldfield herself.!

In the end we managed to track down a snippet of the song from the film in which it appeared, Mark Roper’s Dancing in the Forest (1989), chainsaw sound effects included!*

We also could not easily track down a copy of the “Papa, Please Come Back Home” by The Rockets but fortunately their manager, Alison Watt, was able to send us a copy of the song. It is difficult to imagine songs that reached the Top 10 on national radio station charts in the UK or the USA no longer being available, yet that is the situation in South Africa. We think it is both sad and shocking.

Of the South African songs to chart on Capital in 1988, “Papa, Please Come Back Home” by the Rockets spent two weeks at number 2.

Cinema very narrowly missed out on number 1 on two occasions with both “My Kind Of Girl” and “Inside And Out” peaking at number 2, and each staying there for just one week. Also reaching number 2 for one week was “Teddy Bear” by The Spectres.

Bright Blue’s “Where Would I Go?” spent two weeks at number 6, which was also the highest position reached by Jonathan Butler’s “Take Good Care of Me”, where it spent one week. Wendy Oldfield’s “Dancing in the Forest” spent two weeks at number 7 while “Got to Get Away” by The Passengers reached number 8 and “Romance” by The Believers peaked at number 9.

  • UPDATE: One person on the planet did have a copy and kindly posted it: Marq Vas – South African music super-collector – found a copy in his archive! Astounding! Thanks so much for digging this one out, Marq!
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Capital 604 – 1987

There was a healthy variety of South African music in the Capital Radio charts in 1987 from the wistful South African pop rock of Bright Blue, the Afro pop of Sipho Mabuse and Brenda Fassie to the political energy of Savuka and Hi-NRG Euro disco of People Like us, and the novelty studio sounds of Pocket Lips with several other artists making up the 14 South Africans which made the Top 40 countdown.

If there is one particular theme which characterises several of the performers who charted on Capital Radio in 1987 it is a sense of artistic reincarnation combined with renewed creativity. After over a decade performing with Sipho Mchunu as Johnny and Sipho and then more prominently as Juluka and then a short hiatus as a solo singer, Jonny Clegged re-emerged with his new band Savuka and with a far more overt political orientation to deal with increasingly troubled times in South Africa. This is clearly borne out in the song that charted on Capital – “Missing” – which dealt with the disappearance of political activists opposing the apartheid regime. Neill Solomon had a very short period of success on the Capital charts in the early ’80s with the Uptown Rhythm Dogs but in 1987 returned with the Passengers. Cindy Dickinson, who had first made her mark in South Africa as a solo artist and then with Syndicate in 1987, appeared on the Capital charts with People Like Us, who, like Savuka, were as or more popular in parts of Europe than they were in South Africa. Several members of the early ’80s kwela-ska infused band Pett Frogg re-emerged when they morphed into Mango Groove who developed a sound which captured a growing mood towards a more harmonious South Africa.

Also in 1987, Wendy Oldfield left Sweatband to embark on a solo career in which she could move away from a rock sound dominated by the band to explore her own pop-soul sound as a singer-songwriter in her own right, to create what she referred to as “a new kind of Wendy thing”. Also reinventing herself as a solo artist with her first solo album in 1987 was Brenda Fassie who left behind the Big Dudes and began a hugely successful solo career. Meanwhile, Bright Blue, who charted on Capital in 1984 with “Window on the World”, had taken a forced break of two years while Dan Hartman and Ian Cohen served two very reluctant years of conscription in the South African Defence Force. Bright Blue re-emerged in 1987 without former lead singer Robin Levetan but nevertheless with what was to become one of the anthems of the transition to a post-apartheid South Africa, “Weeping”.

Established artists such as Lesley Rae Dowling, Jonathan Butler and Sipho Mabuse continued to chart on Capital, as did Sweatband (still with Wendy Oldfield as vocalist) and new arrivals on the scene Pocket Lips and 909, both of whom developed more in the studio rather than on the stage.

The most successful of the South African songs on the Capital charts in 1987 were Mango Groove’s “Move Up” and Wendy Oldfield’s “The Real World” which both reached number 1. Surprisingly, “Weeping” by Bright Blue spent two weeks at number 2 but missed out on the top spot. Jonathan Butler also peaked at number 2 with “Lies” but lower down, at number 5, with “Holding On”. “It’s Amazing” by Pocket Lips reached number 3.

Savuka’s “Missing” got as far as number 8 while “Tonight” by Sweatband peaked at number 10, as did Lesley Rae Dowling with “When the Night Comes” and “Hold On” by the Passengers (where it spent two weeks). 909’s “What Are We Going to do About Love” and Sipho Mabuse’s “Shikisha” both peaked at number 20 while Brenda Fassie’s “Mr. No Good” only reached number 21 and “Hiroshima” by People Like Us peaked at number 22.

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Capital 604 – Chris Prior’s Top Picks!

Chris Prior was one of the original dee jays on Capital radio when it first aired in 1979. He spent the late 1960s and first half of the seventies travelling the world before joining the SABC, initially for a brief spell with the news department and then the English Service where he was with Radio Today for two and a half years as a radio journalist and then he was appointed as editor of Audio Mix round about 1978. And then at the end of ’78 Capital Radio took him on as their specialist music presenter, programmer and he was with them for two years. After a brief period overseas he joined SABC’s Radio 5 at the end of ’81, beginning of ’82 and was with them into the early-mid 1990s. During this time he became known as the ‘rock professor’ for his knowledge of blues and rock music which was reflected in his playlists. Since the mid-1990s he has continued to host specialist rock shows through various outlets and is currently hosting The Rock Professor Show every Friday evening on MC90.3 Plettenberg Bay and Knysna 97.0 FM (also available as a Podcast).

Reflecting on South African music in the 1980s he lamented “the type of material that the record companies had chosen to record and the lack of effort that they put behind musicians of real worth and calibre …the type of crap that they thought the listeners should hear. You know, the kind of music that they were selling, that they actually put a bit of money behind – it was never much – was the sort of Euro-centric disco twaddle that really wasn’t worth anything at all. And that in essence was all that South African music consisted of. Fortunately in the ’70s there was the sort of underground element, and I think in terms of Mike Dickman playing guitar, and Abstract Truth were a very nice band. I mean now they’re horribly dated, but in those days they were jolly interesting and innovative. Julian Laxton and Freedom’s Children and all that stuff. I mean Baxtop: great, great, great! And in the ’80s we had bands like Falling Mirror. I mean there were always bands that were just a little outside of the outside. But what was available as a DJ to play was pure shlock.”

Fortunately Chris Prior has been able to provide us with a grooving playlist of South African music from the late 1970s into the early 1990s which we can enjoy, from the Radio Rats, Finch & Henson and Baxtop in the late 1970s to Neill Solomon & the Uptown Rhythm Dogs in the early ’80s, eVoid, Cherry Faced Lurchers, Falling Mirror, Tribe After Tribe and Edi Niederlander in the mid ’80s, the Genuines and Celtic Rumours in the late 1980s and Mauritz Lotz in 1991.

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Capital 604 – 1986

The Info Song (as it was referred to) created strong division in South African musical circles. The government decided to distract people from its politically-motivated deaths, detentions and torture with a song encouraging everyone to get on and work together. To encourage musicians to take part they offered them tempting sums of money. The more politically enlightened musicians refused to take part and warned others not to do so, but there were those who ignored those warnings and got behind the government’s efforts. Musicians from both sides of the divide charted on Capital in 1986: Lesley Rae Dowling and Jonathan Selby (lead vocalist for Petit Cheval) took part, the rest did not.

Taking part was not without its negative consequences. Steve Kekana’s house was burnt down and one of his friends staying there at the time was burnt to death. Others were simply shunned by the musical fraternity. It created divisions within some bands such as Petit Cheval. Selby explained that “there were artists like Steve Kekana, Papa and Blondie and these guys were part of the whole scene, so it didn’t really bother me that much and I really wasn’t tuned into what was going on in the townships, I really wasn’t tuned into the kind of oppression and suppression that was going on. I was raised on Springbok Radio. I was brought up in a protected, middle class Jewish environment. I was more interested in what was going on overseas and trends overseas, that sort of thing … My bent in life at that stage was really exploring myself, my ego, everything was a huge self-centred, I believe a huge self-centred sort of hedonistic journey.” Petit Cheval drummer Danny De Wet noted that Selby’s participation “basically split the band”.

Wendy Oldfield of Sweatband nearly took part but pulled out in the eleventh hour. As she explained:

“When I pulled out I really got a lot of flak from that side. There was a lot of pressure, like ‘Stop, don’t let those lefties influence you’ from that side. And then I had the lefties saying ‘Don’t be bloody mad’. And I was kind of stuck in the middle looking for advice.”

Another of the musicians to chart on Capital in 1986, David Kramer, went further than refusing to take part in the song. He was a witty and insightful satirical singer songwriter but the critique of society within his message was often not detected by a generally conservative audience. Kramer explained:

“I got to a point where I felt quite trapped by my popularity, and by the expectations of what people thought I was going to do and the potential for writing, moving more and more into the ra-ra-ra type of South African song. And I suppose at that point I was becoming quite disillusioned with people misinterpreting what I really was trying to do … and also I got involved with the Volkswagen commercials and I suppose people started seeing me much more as just a comedian. You know, a funny little guy … and I became more and more one-dimensional. And what I was saying there was that I felt people weren’t really listening. And I suppose the edge that I had in the early years – which was very powerful for me – I’d lost that … it was the time of the State of Emergency and the country was really in a bad, bad way – and suddenly I looked at myself and I didn’t like what I saw. This happy-go-lucky guy making everybody feel good, and I decided to try and get back to where I had started. And that’s what led me back to doing Baboon Dogs.”

The Baboon Dogs album included politically overt songs such as a cover of Roger Lucey’s “Dry Wine” and the song which charted on Capital, “Going Away’ which questioned people’s commitment to South Africa. In the process Kramer lost a lot of his conservative fan base but at least this was the first of his songs to chart on Capital.

Of the South African songs that charted on Capital in 1986, “This Boy” by Sweatband reached number 5, “Going Away” by David Kramer reached number 7, “Love Is Knocking” by Petit Cheval,which featured a guest vocal by Lesley Rae Dowling, who also charted this year, reached number 8, where it spent two weeks, and “We Are Growing” by Margret Singana reached number 20. The rest of the songs did not make the top 20.

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Capital 604 – 1985

In 1985 seventeen South African songs featured on the Capital countdown: the most of any year in the 1980s. Although most of the songs could be described as some or other variation of pop or rock there was some variety: the township pop of Sipho Mabuse and Steve Kekana; the smooth pop of Jonathan Butler, the Afro-rock of Tribe After Tribe, the slightly rock-edged pop of Robin Auld, the more mainstream pop of Lesley Rae Dowling, Syndicate, Ella Mental, Stewart Irving and The Helicopters and a turn towards a more international sound from both Juluka and the solo Johnny Clegg.

The top artist on the Capital Countdown in 1985 was Sipho Mabuse with two songs reaching the top 10: ‘Let’s Get it On’ peaked and number 5 and ‘Burn Out’ reached number 6 where it spent three weeks. ‘Fever’ – Juluka reached number 8 where it spent two weeks, as did Lesley Rae Dowling with ‘Give a little’. Also peaking at number 8, but for just one week, was Jonathan Butler with ‘I’ll Be Waiting for You’ while ‘See Yourself (Clowns)’ – Ella Mental reached number 9. Robin Auld peaked at number 10 with ‘After the Fire” and number 15 with ‘All of Woman’. Steve Kekana peaked at number 11 with ‘Paradise’ (Tip Of Africa)’ while ‘Only for you’ – The Helicopters spent two weeks at number 14 and ‘Don’t Go Into Town’ – Syndicate also reached number 14, but just for one week. John Irving’s ‘Superstar’ peaked at number 15. None of the other South African songs made the Top 20.

We would like to thank Marq Vas for his help in tracking down a copy of Lesley Rae Dowling’s ‘Give a Little’. This is not the first time Marq has come to our assistance. We recommend his YouTube channel of South African music – some very rare songs that you are unlikely to find anywhere else. He also has a Facebook page which is a wealth of information.

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Capital 604 – 1984

As with 1983 there were less than 10 South African songs on the Capital Countdown charts of 1984. No artist charted more than once and there was a far more commercial imitative character to the songs that charted than in 1983, with Juluka’s “Work For All” and Bright Blue’s “Window on the World” being the only songs that didn’t sound like the performers were copying USA or UK sounds. Indeed, Benjy Mudie at WEA is proud of the part he played in signing innovative South African bands like National Wake, the Asylum Kids and eVoid but he admits that the Working Girls were “the one time in my life to my absolute and internal disgrace I actually signed a band to make money.”

Juluka and Bright Blue on the contrary involved musicians exploring musical ideas, infusing South African and western musical influences. As Tom Fox of Bright Blue described, he listened to performers like the Soul Brothers and he “wanted to find out about the style, but not in a commercial sense. More like, really interested in the guitar interplay and the vocal harmonies, the chord structures and the rhythms and things like that.”

Many of these musicians were regarded as part of the cream of the crop of South African music at the time. In January 1985 the Concert in the Park (Ellis Park) was arranged to raise money for Operation Hunger to help children affected by hunger in South Africa. To attract a large audience the top acts of the time were invited to participate. Of those who charted on Capital in 1984, Pierre de Charmoy, Ella Mental, Face To Face, Feather Control, Juluka and the Working Girls all performed at Ellis Park. Bright Blue were invited but could not make it and instead wrote the song “Hungry child” and donated it to the cause. On the day it was performed by an ensemble of the performers at the concert and it was released as a single.

It was a generally poor year for South Africa musicians on the Capital Countdown in 1984. Of the most successful South African songs charting on Capital in 1984, Face To Face reached number 1 with “Here We Are”, Juluka spent two weeks at number 7 with “Work For All”, “Working Girls” by the Working Girls and “Mysteries and Jealousies” by The Helicopters both peaked at number 10 and “Window on the World” by Bright Blue reached a disappointing number 11. “Footprints” by Feather Control reached number 17 and the rest failed to make the top 20 at all.

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Capital 604 – 1983

It was fairly slim pickings for South African music on Capital countdowns in 1983 but the year did produce some South African classics. It was the year when different forms of cutting edge music styles developed, alongside a hybrid of music, fashion and language, to create a new identity of openness and togetherness rather than apartheid separation and repression. As Rene Veldsman of Via Afrika described , “even though we had the apartheid laws and that sort of thing, we found freedom in music, and I think lots of groups felt that way, and that’s why we got some great music out in the ’80s. It was kind of like a club, a secret place to go where we could be free.”

Juluka had been around for a while, charting on Capital each year of the 80s so far, and they continued to produce excellent songs out of a mix of neo-traditional Zulu, Celtic folk and rock music, what Johnny Clegg described as “a fascinating adventure in trying to construct a meeting point between different forms of musical expression, rhythm, melody (and) tone.” Clegg also sustained his exploration of Zulu culture with Sipho Mchunu in several other ways, including language, dance and dress. Meanwhile eVoid had started out in Brakpan in the late 70s as Zennith, before becoming Void but by 1982 they were transformed into eVoid: fadgets adorned in a fusion of fashion styles and playing a vibrant form of what eVoid called ‘ethnotronics’, a combination of new wave, rock and mbaqanga grooves. They also developed their own style of new romantic fashion which incorporated Ndebele beadwork and other Southern African influences. At the same time Via Afrika were also expressing themselves through music and fashion. Rene Veldsman described the group as “an explosion of talented people getting together and expressing themselves”. Via Afrika’s ‘curio-pop’ ( a term coined by band member Lucas Crouse) was a combination of pan-African and western music styles, all done with the intention of partying and dancing against the system – of racism, homophobia and separation.

Veteran Billy Forrest and former Pop Shop presenter Karl Kikillus had fringe hits on the countdown, and the novelty act the Soft Shoes who had won the tv “Follow That Star” talent competition entered the charts on the back of that exposure. But 1983 can be remembered as the year in which a fresh fusion of African-western musical styles combined with broader elements of cultural bricolage entered the mainstream of South African music.

Of the most successful songs of 1983, eVoid reached number 1 with “Shadows”, and number 4 with “Taximan”, the Soft Shoes also reached number 1 with “Elvis Astaire”, Juluka spent two weeks at number 7 with “December African rain” but only reached number 17 with “Umbaqanga music” and Via Afrika’s “Hey boy” surprisingly only reached number 11, where it spent two weeks.

*Unfortunately we were not able to track down the original vinyl release of Billy Forrest’s “I loved ’em everyone” in time to include on this mixtape and we have had to rely on a later version.

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