Capital 604 – The Miss Parade: 1985

1985 saw a record number of 17 South African releases on the Capital Radio Top 40 Countdown. Yet there were several other songs which we think also should have charted. These included additional songs by musicians who did chart that year: Johnny Clegg’s “Gumba Gumba Jive”, Sipho Mabuse’s “Jive Soweto” and Tribe After Tribe’s “Life Of A Love Song”.

Several overseas musicians in exile released music in 1985 which was ignored or avoided by South African radio stations including Capital. These were District Six (with “Woza Wena”) , Kintone (with “Going Home”), the Malopoets (with “Intsizwa”) and Hugh Masekela (with “Lady”). These overseas releases involved several collaborations with overseas musicians: both District Six and Kintone comprised several overseas musicians while Masekela’s “Lady” was a cover of the well-known Fela Kuti track. Further, John Kongos wrote the theme tune for the British crime drama Cats Eyes and teamed up with British singer Louise Burton to record a vocal version of the theme (featured in this week’s playlist).

Meanwhile, Shifty Records was beginning to record an increasing volume of South African music which otherwise would probably have not been recorded. This week’s mixed tape includes several Shifty artists: The Cherry Faced Lurchers with their poignant “Shot Down”, the Kalahari Surfers (fronted by Tighthead Fourie) singing “Song For Magnus, a sinister cover of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Were Made For Walking”, “International News” by National Wake (Off the 1985 A Naartjie In Our Sosatie compilation album) and Bernoldus Niemand singing a cover of the Radio Rats’ “Welcome To My Car”, which was specifically banned from airplay on the SABC.

There were also several township pop style songs: “Bongani” by Brenda And The Big Dudes, “Heartbeat” by Harari, “Jive Soweto” by Sipho Mabuse and “Skorokoro” – Lumumba and Condry Ziqubu. Zia ventured in that same direction with “Nobody Loves You” and to complete a wide range of South African sounds for 1985, Petit Cheval released the new wave influenced “Once In A Lifetime”.

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Capital 604 – The Miss Parade: 1984

1984 was yet another poor year for South African artists charting on the Capital Radio Top 40 countdown: only nine songs in all. Two bands included in this week’s playlist did chart on Capital’s Top 40: Bright Blue with “Window on the World” and Juluka with “Work For All”.

1984 saw a continuation of some of the themes noted in 1983: there was a steady increase in musicians fusing South African neo-traditional and Western styles of music: Hotline, Juluka and Via Afrika all brought out new albums, eVoid recorded songs possibly for their next album and Bright Blue debuted with their first album. There was also a continuation of the post-punk/new wave scene with songs by Dog Detachment, Niki Daly, The Dynamics and Illegal Gathering. Happy Ships produced the quirky and catchy “Car Hooter” while there were yet again several artists with pop songs based in neo-traditional township forms: Brenda And The Big Dudes, Harari, Joy, Lumumba and Condry Zuqubu, Hugh Masekela, Sankomota and the Soul Brothers. There was also scope for musical styles not often included on our mixtapes thus far: A heavy metal song by Black Rose and Tighthead Fourie & The Loose Forwards contributed the lone country song on this week’s mixtape.

Among the musicians who appear on this week’s playlist there is a reminder of the repressive arm of the apartheid state. The Dynamics, Juluka and Harari were regularly stopped at roadblocks and questioned about people of different race groups travelling together (Harari’s manager was a white woman). Roger Lucey had found it increasingly difficult to find venues at which to perform and broadcasters were not interested in playing his music, and so he changed his name and musical style in an attempt to resurrect his music career. As Tighthead Fourie & The Loose Forwards he hoped to at least get airplay as a country artist. To no avail.

Meanwhile in 1984 Condry Ziqubu had begun to tour in Africa and the USA with Letta Mbulu and Caiphus Semenya, and in 1985 formed the Busa musical with several exiled and South African musicians and they toured several African countries including Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Libya, Senegal and the ‘frontline’ states of Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. On their return from the tour Ziqubu and the other members of the Busa cast had their passports confiscated and were harassed by the security police.

After releasing their debut album in 1984 Bright Blue were forced to take a two-year hiatus while two of their band members – Dan Heyman and Ian Cohen – underwent conscription against which they were strongly opposed. And while touring South Africa in 1984, eVoid’s drummer – Wayne Harker – was arrested by the Military Police because he had gone AWOL in order to participate in the tour. Former eVoid drummer, Danny De Wet, stepped in so that the tour could continue.

Uhuru were a Lesotho-based band who were banned from entering in South Africa because of their political lyrics (and the band’s name didn’t help). To get around this problem Shifty Records ingeniously took their recording studio to Lesotho (in the Shifty caravan) and recorded the band’s debut album there (it was also the first album Shifty recorded). The band in the meantime changed their name to Sankomota, which made it more likely that the album could be released in South Africa without repressive consequences. In time the band relocated to South Africa and continued to perform and release new music from their new base.

Once again, huge thanks to Marq Vas for helping us source a very hard-to-find track.

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Capital 604 – The Miss Parade: 1983

1983 was the year in which the fewest South African songs charted on the Capital Radio Top 40 countdown: only eight songs made it. Yet this week’s playlist reveals that there were many more chart worthy songs. As per usual, there artists who charted but who had further songs that could have been hits, for example eVoid, Juluka and Via Afrika. But there were several others who inexplicably did not chart at all, such as Brenda and the Big Dudes (with “Weekend Special”), Steve Kekana (with “Night Boot Control”), Sipho Mabuse (with “Rise”) and Stimela (with “I Hate Telling A Lie”).

While Juluka had been experimenting with a fusion between western and South African musical styles for several years and Hotline had begun to do so in 1982, 1983 saw such musical hybridity becoming more of a trend than something unusual, especially with the very noticeable arrival of debut albums from eVoid and Via Afrika. In addition, The Dread Warriors and Splash provided a South African influenced reggae sound while The Boyoyo Boys, Steve Kekana, Sipho Mabuse, Letta Mbulu, The Soul Brothers and Stimela performed pop songs based in neo-traditional township forms. Dog Detachment and What Colours released songs influenced by the UK new wave scene and Sue Charlton, Lesley Rae Dowling and The Insisters released more mainstream pop songs. James Phillips, in his Bernoldus Niemand guise, continued the satirical tradition of the likes of Jeremy Taylor and David Kramer by using his voice as a vocal costume, critiquing society from the perspective of what Randy Newman referred to as an untrustworthy narrator.

1983 was also the year in which two members of Splash – Jose Charles and Rufus Radebe – were sentenced to effective four-year prison terms (later reduced to 17 months) for singing ‘revolutionary songs’ at a Wits Free People’s Concert. One of the songs was a cover of Steel Pulse’s “A Tribute to Martyrs”, which included references to Steve Biko and Nelson Mandela. They were charged with promoting violence and supporting the ANC, even though they argued in their defence that they were Rastafarians and as such were anti-violence.

Indeed, it was difficult to perform as a South African musician with left-leaning sympathies in South Africa. Pete Spong of the Dread Warriors noted that it was difficult for a band with a white and black members to travel together, especially when it came to arranging travel documents (including to neighbouring countries). Sipho Mabuse and Johnny Clegg both spoke about being stopped at road blocks and interrogated because of whites and blacks travelling together while touring, with Harari and Juluka respectively (Harari has a white woman manager who travelled with the group).

All the artist here have their stories about how difficult it was to be heard at the time. Fortunately we can give them a listen now.

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Capital 604 – The Miss Parade: 1982

There were thirteen South African songs which charted on Capital Radio’s weekly Top 40 countdown in 1982 but for this week’s mixtape we recommend a further 22 songs which we think should have charted on the Top 40 countdown that year. Of these, three are performed by some the 13 artists who charted in 1982: songs by Steve Kekana & PJ Powers with Hotline, Juluka and Lesley Rae Dowling, all of whom were on a bit of an artistic roll at the time.

As with 1981 we see a wide variety of musical styles with the new wave, ska and post-punk sounds of the Asylum Kids, Corporal Punishment, Dog Detachment , Flash Harry, The Gents, Storm and The Usuals. Once again David Kramer was on song with satirical observations about South African life and there were an increasing number of African styled infusions from the likes of Harari, Joy, Juluka, Kabasa, Steve Kekana & PJ Powers with Hotline, the Malopoets, Marumo, High Masekela, Pett Frog, Sakhile and Caiphus Semenye. Ramsay MacKay contributed another quirky pop song while Lesley Rae Dowling and Mara Louw appear with more conventional pop songs, although not in any way formulaicl.

Some of these songs were playlisted on Capital Radio: “Girl Gone Solo” – Asylum Kids, “Shame on you” – Flash Harry “Nobody Nobody” – The Gents, “State of Independence” – Joy, “Can’t stop myself” – Mara Louw and “Angelina” – Caiphus Semenya. In addition, various other songs by these musicians were playlisted in 1982: “Machines” – Dog Detachment, “Mama’s Leaving” – Lesley Rae Dowling (a 1981 song), “Down At Marlene’s” – Flash Harry, “No Going Back” – Steve Kekana and “Without You” Caiphus Semenya.

Once again, huge thanks to Marq Vas for helping us source a couple of hard-to-find tracks.

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Capital 604 – The Miss Parade: 1981

There was plenty of good South African music in 1981. 14 South African songs made the Capital Top 40 countdown and we think there are 21 more songs which should have made the cut. There was also a healthy variety of musical styles, from post-punk, ska, reggae and new wave to folk, pop, rock, funk and soul, very often with a particular South African flavour such as Juluka’s Zulu folk-rock, David Kramer’s Western Cape klopse folk and the township funk-soul sounds of Harari, Kabasa and the Movers.

1981 saw a continuation of the resurgence of original South African music with the alternative scene rooted in punk, ska and new wave continuing to grow. The Asylum Kids, National Wake, Flash Harry, the Lancaster Band and the Usuals had each been gaining a following on the live music scene and now emerged from the studio with songs worthy of radio play. Mara Louw, who had appeared in musicals for years, made her debut solo recording, as did David Kramer, who brought out the album Bakgat after gaining a strong following on the folk circuit, particularly in the Western Cape. The Radio Rats re-appeared with “Erase” after the success of their 1978 hit “ZX Dan” (see Youtube for the video as it appeared on SABC at the time), Falling Mirror followed up 1980’s “Neutron Bop” with “The Crippled Messiah” and Bite released “Loud Radio” after previous singles had not received much attention. There were also songs from a variety of established performers from Harari, Steve Kekana and John Kongos to the Julian Laxton Band, Marumo, the Movers and Neville Nash. And there were interesting new experiments from the Pop Guns (a minor super group comprising members of the Radio Rats, the Chauffeurs and the Safari Suits) and Soweto Soul Orchestra (a studio project put together by Sipho Mabuse).

Several of these songs were playlisted on Capital Radio but did not make the Top 40 countdown: “Schoolboy” – Asylum Kids, “Loud Radio” – Bite, “Modern Science” – Lancaster Band, “Make A Stand For Love” – Julian Laxton Band, “Crippled Messiah” – Falling Mirror, “Shine On (Brightly)” – Steve Kekana, “I’m Dreaming” – John Kongos and “Rules And Regulations” – The Usuals. Furthermore, some of these musicians were playlisted with songs not featured here: Flash Harry (“Hot blood”), National Wake (“Supaman” and “Bolena”), Harari (“Liven up”) and Neville Nash (“Wind Me Up”).

Meanwhile over at SABC’s Radio 5 some of these songs were prohibited from airplay. The entire Bakgat album by David Kramer was not allowed to be played for various reasons including the way he mixed languages (which went against the SABC’s apartheid policy of cultural purity), his use of inappropriate language (slang and obscenities) and his mild criticism of the apartheid establishment. Flash Harry’s satirical protest song, “No Football”, was banned from airplay because it was viewed as blasphemous, indicating that more people watch football “than go to church”. “Crippled Messiah” by Falling Mirror was also rejected because the SABC censors thought it was blasphemous. The Asylum Kids’ “Schoolboy” was also not played on SABC, because it was seen to encourage a rebellious attitude towards school. The SABC were not yet playing Juluka because they mixed languages in their songs and they sometimes took on political themes critical of the government, for example in “African Sky Blue” they note that “Soon a new day will be born” and that “The warrior’s now a worker and his war is underground”. In 1981 Radio 5 was not playing reggae and so the Usuals and National Wake were not considered acceptable. This was especially true of National Wake given their political edge, with lyrics like “Wake up nation, wake up, ‘cause this might be your very last chance, we’re bubbling up in the new time space with the new time people” (“Wake Of The Nation”).

Fortunately some of these songs were heard on South African airwaves thanks to Capital Radio, but most of all we have the musicians and record companies to thank, for writing and recording these songs, regardless of how the broadcasters would react.

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Capital 604 – The Miss Parade: 1980

As we researched and then listened to the South African music that charted on Capital Radio throughout the 1980s we were surprised at how many good South African songs did not make the station’s Top 40. We were also surprised at how few actually made the charts at all: there were years when there was on average less than one South African song per month on the charts. So our thoughts turned to a second season of mixtapes in which we offer up playlists for each year which feature songs that we think should have made the Top 40 countdown but which did not do so. This exercise is partly critical of the music management at Capital Radio: those people who decided on what music should make the weekly Top 40 Countdown, but the issue is much broader than that: sometimes musicians recorded demos but record companies were not interested in signing them, other times record companies did not market music as well as they could have done, or perhaps they didn’t release songs as singles which had the potential to be popular amongst listeners.

To be fair, several songs on this ‘Missed the charts’ mixtape were play-listed on Capital but did not make it to the Top 40: the sounds of Baxtop, Dog (later Dog Detachment), Falling Mirror, Roger Lucey, Ramsay MacKay & the Bushveld Pygmies, Letta Mbulu, Colin Shamley and Wild Youth all drifted out of the Port St Johns studio back in 1980 (although not very often). And Harari and Juluka did do very well on the countdown charts in 1980 but with only one song each. We think those songs should have been followed-up on the charts with the songs we feature here.

Also included on this mixtape are songs by musicians who, like Letta Mbulu, were living in exile at the time: Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela, both of whom never made it to the Capital charts in the 1980s but who did release music worthy of any South African Top 40 chart. Local stalwarts Blondie And Papa and The Movers who both didn’t survive very long into the 1980s surprisingly also didn’t feature at all.

Fringe artists like Baxtop, Corporal Punishment, Dog, Falling Mirror, Roger Lucey, Ramsay MacKay, National Wake, Colin Shamley and Wild Youth desperately needed extended radio play to become known more widely than in the local areas where they performed and yet they did not receive that support. David Marks at Third Ear Music and Benjy Mudie at WEA were excited by what they were hearing and signed some of these musicians when nobody else would do so, but a record deal needed to be followed by radio play and then hopefully record sales and larger audiences at gigs and concerts. Unfortunately that did not happen and some of these bands imploded, without a viable musical future ahead of them. But in 1980 all the fringe musicians featured here were hopeful that they would get a break. There is an excitement and energy in the music, together with some poignant lyrics commenting on issues of the time. Sadly it wasn’t heard by a wide audience but nevertheless we are fortunate that it was written and recorded and that we can at least listen to it today …

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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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