Censorship – Capital Played What SABC Would Not!

The first mixtape in our censorship series featured songs which Capital Radio played but which were banned from airplay on the SABC. We end our censorship series with a sequel to that first mixtape: focusing on 20 more songs which charted or were playlisted on Capital but which were ‘avoided’ by the SABC.

Back in September 1980, Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” was playlisted on Capital Radio. It is not clear whether or not the SABC censors realized the drug reference in the song, or even if they checked the lyrics at all, because the entire album was banned by the apartheid government’s Directorate of Publications. And so the SABC shelved the whole bang shoot, including “Comfortably Numb”.

“Tyler” by UB40 reached number one on Capital Radio on the 20th of June 1981, and stayed there for one week. As far as the SABC censors were concerned, UB40 were guilty of recording a politically provocative song. The song was about the racially-biased trial of 17 year old Gary Tyler who was convicted of murder by an all-white jury in Louisiana, despite several irregularities in the prosecution’s evidence and the lack of a murder weapon. The chorus lamented, “Tyler is guilty, the white judge has said so; What right do we have to say it’s not so.” The censors believed that the song was too similar to the apartheid context to be spun on South African radio. And so it wasn’t.

“Ghost Town” by the Specials spent two weeks at number one on the Capital Countdown on the 19th and 26th of September 1981. It reflected the dire situation in inner cities in England, including urban decay, unemployment, and violence. Its release coincided with the riots in places like Brixton and so became a soundtrack to the riots. Lines like “Government leaving the youth on the shelf”, “No job to be found in this country, can’t go on” and “The people getting angry” also spoke to the South African situation. Out of fear the SABC censors decided not to play it.

“Reggae Man” by John Miles peaked at number 22 on the Capital Top 40 on the 2nd of January 1982. Despite John Miles claiming “the reggae man good for you”, the SABC censors banned the song from airplay because it mentioned marijuana use, especially because the reggae man was “growing weed” and could “take you so high”.

“Golden Brown” by the Stranglers spent one week at number one on the Capital Countdown on the 24th of April 1982. Many listeners regarded ‘golden brown’ as an ode to heroin, as did the SABC censors who consequently ‘avoided’ it. Perceptive listeners interpreted ‘golden brown’ as referring jointly to a woman and heroin, both of whom help the protagonist to escape into peaceful, distant places. Or perhaps the SABC censors DID realize that the song was about a white man singing about a black lover …

In late 1981, Epic released Dutch band Quick’s song “Zulu” in South Africa . It was playlisted on Capital Radio in May and June 1982 but banned from airplay on the SABC because the censors believed its contentious lyrics hinted at a Zulu uprising, even though the lyrics seem to be referring to a bygone colonial era: “Pick up that spear and fight; Now that the time is right; Zulu man; Sound of the burning flight; Run like the wind tonight; Zulu man.”

Third World’s “Try Jah Love” spent two weeks at number four on the Capital Countdown on the 19th and 26th of June 1982. The SABC censors viewed Rastafarianism as a false religion or cult, and being uptight conservative Christians they banned anything that promoted Rastafarianism, including songs with the word ‘Jah’ in them. So it was goodbye to “Try Jah Love”.

There was no doubt about the drug reference in Rita Marley’s “One Draw” which was playlisted on Capital in July 1982. Marley begins the song by singing “I wanna get high, so high, I wanna get high so high, I wanna get high, so high, I wanna get high, so high, one draw, one draw”. This also turned out to be the chorus, so the SABC prevented the song from getting anywhere near the South African airwaves.

Rita Marley’s late husband, Bob Marley, also got jilted by the SABC censors in 1982. His song “Natural Mystic” was playlisted on Capital in August 1982. The song warns of the approaching apocalypse as described in the book of Revelations, with reference to trumpets blowing and “a natural mystic blowing through the air”. While the song is quite vague it does have political undertones, especially to the paranoid ear. Marley refers to “Many more will have to suffer, many more will have to die” and “can’t keep them down”. The SABC censors must have feared that this could be interpreted as an overtly political song applicable to South Africa, so they banned it from airplay.

Pink Floyd’s “Not Now John” reached number 25 on the Capital Top 40 on the 18th of June 1983. It is a critique of western global politics and corporate greed. The SABC censors, primed as they were to detect swear words, would have had no need to go beyond the first two lines: “Fuck all that we’ve gotta get on with these; Fuck all that, Fuck all that”. Which pretty much summed up the SABC censors’ sentiments towards the possibility of airplay for the song.

“She’s Sexy (And 17)” by the Stray Cats peaked on Capital Radio at number 23 on the 29th of October 1983. The word ‘sexy’ no doubt raised the suspicions of the censors who went on to ‘avoid’ the song because of its rebellious tone and suggestions of promiscuity. This included mildly rebellious sentiments such as “I ain’t goin’ to school no more; It starts much, much too early for me; I don’t care about readin’, writin’, ’rithmatic or history” and slightly sexual allusions like, “Acts a little bit obscene; gotta let off a little bit of steam”. It would have been viewed as irresponsible to air such sentiments on public radio with a large school-going audience. So it was avoided.

Despite spending two weeks at number one on Capital on the 28th of April and 5th of May 1984, “Relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood was barred from airplay on SABC. The song was far too sexually overt for the narrow-minded censors to accept: “Relax don’t do it, when you want to come; Relax don’t do it, When you want to suck it, chew it” and then later in the song: “Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow, ow uh, I’m coming, I’m coming yeah.” Well, Frankie my dear, not on the SABC.

Bright Blue’s “Window On The World” peaked at number 11 on the Capital Countdown on the 10th of November 1984. Given that the SABC was an ideological wing of the apartheid state it is not surprising that they objected to the song. It commented on the disquiet which many white South African males felt about being conscripted into a war they did not want to fight. While the rhythm is upbeat and even jovial, the lyrics lament the situation of “The young men marching everywhere, trying their best to escape” and “The young men marching everywhere, not sure how to cope.” Capital had the perceptive foresight to air the song.

“Steel Claw” by Dave Edmunds was playlisted on Capital in early 1985. While being a fairly cryptic song the SABC nevertheless objected to the political lines, “The politicians have forgotten this place”, and “So many people hanging onto the edge; Crying out for revolution, retribution.”

Don Henley’s “All She Wants To Do Is Dance” peaked at number 25 on the Capital Top 40 on the 27th of July 1985. The song is generally viewed as a critique of Reagan-era USA intervention in Central and South America. The woman in the song is seemingly oblivious to all the military shenanigans going on around her because “all she wants to do is dance”. The song includes lines like “Rebels been rebels since I don’t know when; But all she wants to is dance” and “Molotov cocktail – the local drink; When all she wants to do is dance”. For the SABC censors these references to war resembled the guerrilla warfare South Africa was involved in. They thus decided it was safest to ban the song from airplay.

Night Ranger’s “Sentimental Street” peaked at number 23 on the Capital Countdown on the 28th of September 1985. It is not immediately apparent why this song was ‘avoided’ by the SABC censors. It is about a person watching someone else walking down a street called Sentimental Avenue, and reflecting on their life. Perhaps the censors thought the line “Did you get your fill? Did you think you had to pay?” referred to prostitution. But it seems a flimsy reason to censor a song.

“Your Latest Trick” by Dire Straits peaked at number seven on the 14th of June 1986. The protagonist in the song describes the down town scene in a city: “And most of the taxis, most of the whores; Are only taking calls for cash”. That, together with reference to the prostitute’s “latest trick”, was enough for the SABC censors to ‘avoid’ the song.

Tone Loc’s “Wild Thing” went to number one on the Capital Countdown on the 3rd of June 1989, where it spent one week. The ‘wild thing’ referred to by Tone Loc was inconsequential sex for fun. The song describes various scenarios where this happened to the central character. In one scenario, for example, he describes how he “Couldn’t get her off my jock, she was like static cling; But that’s what happens when bodies start slappin’ from doin’ the wild thing.” The SABC censors promptly slapped the song with an airplay banning order.

In “Together As One” Lucky Dube asked the question, “Too many people hate apartheid, why do you like it?” The SABC censors’ answer was to ban the song from airplay. However, on Capital it reached number two, where it spent two weeks, on the 3rd and 10th of June 1989.

If anything, Salt N Pepa’s “Let’s Talk About Sex” is a positive song about the importance of sex education. It charted on Capital in late 1991, reaching number 6 on the 7th of December 1991 (we’re not sure if it moved further up the chart because we are missing some charts). In the song they sing, “Now we talk about sex on the radio and video shows; Many will know, anything goes; Let’s tell it like it is; How it was, and of course, how it should be; Those who think it’s dirty have a choice; Pick up the needle, press pause, or turn the radio off.” Talk about inviting the censors to the party! They needed no second bidding and couldn’t get to the record player quick enough … and picked up the needle for the entire nation.

Fortunately Capital Radio didn’t waste money and time on censorship committees and sticky pieces of paper with ‘avoid’ written on them. Capital listeners got to hear a wider array of music both musically and lyrically, often not even realizing that the SABC wasn’t playing some of their favourite songs. They were encouraged to be more open-minded and free. Which is exactly what the apartheid censors were trying to repress. This mixtape goes out to Capital Radio, for being there when South Africans needed you most!

  1. Window On The World – Bright Blue
  2. Not Now John – Pink Floyd
  3. Relax – Frankie Goes To Hollywood
  4. Let’s Talk About Sex – Salt N Pepa
  5. All She Wants To Do Is Dance – Don Henley
  6. Steel Claw – Dave Edmunds
  7. She’s Sexy (And 17) – Stray Cats
  8. Sentimental Street – Night Ranger
  9. Your Latest Trick – Dire Straits
  10. Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd
  11. Golden Brown – The Stranglers
  12. Ghost Town – The Specials
  13. Tyler – UB40
  14. Reggae Man – John Miles
  15. Natural Mystic – Bob Marley
  16. One Draw – Rita Marley
  17. Together As One – Lucky Dube
  18. Try Jah Love – Third World
  19. Zulu – The Quick
  20. Wild Thing – Tone Loc

Capital 604 – The Miss Parade: 1990

In 1990 a fair range of South African musicians charted on the Capital Radio Top 40 countdown, 15 songs in all, including four released in 1989 but which charted in early January. These included Big Sky, Jonathan Butler, Cinema (two songs), David Kramer, Little Sister (three songs), Mango Groove (four songs), Marc Alex, Edi Niederlander and Trevor Rabin. We have come up with a further eightteen songs from 1990 which we think ought to have charted on Capital.

Of those musicians who did chart in 1990 we have included an additional song by Big Sky (“Diamonds and Dirt”) but all the other musicians whose songs we recommend escaped Capital’s attention that year.

In February 1990 Nelson Mandela was finally release from prison and to celebrate this Bright Blue recorded the song “Madiba” but unfortunately did not release it at the time, which is a pity because it would have perfectly captured the celebratory feel so many people experienced on that momentous occasion. Another song that captured that moment was Brenda Fassie’s “Black President” which Capital mysteriously did not promote, despite the significance of Fassie’s sentiments. Roger Lucey made a welcome comeback to music in 1990. His “Cape of Storms” was written at the time of Mandela’s release. Lucey, who was then working as a TV cameraman recalls, “I came to Cape Town in 1990 to cover Mandela’s release and I swear the wind blew without a break for four months. I spent a lot of time out on the Cape Flats. Then winter came and the rain started …”.

Shifty Records began the new decade with some significant releases, including Tony Cox’s In.To.Nation (from which we have included “Dinaledi”), Jennifer Ferguson’s Untimely (from which we have featured “Where you gonna be tomorrow”) and the Radio Rats’ Big Beat (from which we have included “Diary of a Diseased Coke Rep”). We also feature former Shifty artists, Tananas with their songs “Shake” (originally recorded with Shifty before Tananas switched labels).

3rd Ear Music made a big comeback in 1990 and deservedly also feature in our choices for 1990. They released new albums by Juluka’s Sipho Mchunu, Umhlaba Uzobuya (The World is Coming Back), (from which we feature “Jomane”), former Shifty artist Simba Morri, Celebrating Life,( from which we have featured “Unity”) and Roger Lucey, Running For Cover, including (as mentioned) “Cape of Storms” . There was also a recording comeback from Tony Bird, who, back in the 1970s used to play alongside many of the folk musicians associated with 3rd Ear Music. Here we have included his song “Wings Like Vivian’s”.

South Africa’s first notable hip-hop group, Prophets Of The City released the Our World album from which we feature the title track. There were also great songs released by Yvonne Chaka Chaka (“Umqombothi”), Bakithi Kumalo and Robbi Kumalo (“African woman”), Mike Makhalemele (“The Guys”), Mahlathini and the Mohatella Queens (“Music of Our Soul’) and the Soul Brothers (“Umhlola”).

Finally, Piet Botha’s band Jack Hammer released their second album of polished blues-rock.

Capital 604 – The Ones We Missed

In the course of putting together our series of songs that thought should have charted on Capital Radio in the 1980s, we missed out on a few songs that surely should have made it. Most of these we left off because we decided to restrict ourselves to one song per artist per mix tape.

These include songs by Bright Blue, Dog, eVoid, Jennifer Ferguson, Harari, Koos Kombuis, Mapantsula, Simba Morri, Edi Niederlander, No Friends Of Harry, Nude Red, Colin Shamley and Savuka. We like the Nude Red album so much that we decided to include two songs here, thus breaking our rule at the last opportunity! In addition, we have included Dudu Pukwana and The Softies because they ought to have been included to begin with, but they weren’t.

Thank you to anyone who gave us suggestions on what to include on this mixtape. We have you have enjoyed the series, and most importantly, we hope you enjoy this final selection for this series.

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Capital 604 – The Miss Parade: 1988

1988 was a poor year for South African musicians on the Capital Countdown: only eight artists with nine songs made the Top 40 (there were two songs by Cinema). As always, we have put together a playlist of additional songs which we think should have charted.
Once again, we have Shifty Records to thank for recording various musicians who otherwise would not have been recorded and thus more easily forgotten: The Gereformeerde Blues Band, The Kêrels, Koos and Tananas. Shifty got behind the Voelvry tour in 1988 and three of these groups: the Gereformeerde Blues Band, The Kerels and Koos were included on the Voelvry compilation album of that year. As the Voelvry spirit of white Afrikaans rebellion swept through the dorps and cities of South Africa it is strange that Capital missed out on the opportunity to capture that moment.

1988 saw further releases from now established artists: Bright Blue, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Dog Detachment, Sipho Mabuse, Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens, Malopoets, Mango Groove and Savuka all released great new music, while David Kramer was back with music from the Cape Town musical, composed by Kramer and Petersen. Veteran folk guitar player, Steve Newman, was back with a group formed with two established Shifty artists, Gito Baloi and Ian Herman. 1988 also saw the emergence of Ralf Rabie (Johannes Kerkorrel) who was the main force behind the Gereformeerde Blues Band. Both of these Shifty initiatives went on to greater mainstream success over the next decade and a half. 1988 also saw a once-off album from the Jazzanians. While they did not record another album Zim Ngqawana went on to enjoy a successful solo career.

The Psycho Reptiles also recorded their first and only album in 1988, and are still remembered for their single “Monster From The Bog”. Bakithi Kumalo had risen to fame through his collaboration with Paul Simon on the Graceland album and tour and he released his first solo albumin 1988. Shake Baby was one of several Carl Raubenheimer initiatives after his collaborations with James Philips (Corporal Punishment and Illegal Gathering) but although they were a popular band on the live circuit in Cape Town they never went on to release a full album. Koos were a bilingual English-Afrikaans avante garde punk band who sadly also only brought out one album. The Kêrels released their debut album in 1988 and their “Golden Days” single has ended up on the occasional compilation album.

This eclectic mix of songs makes for interesting and enjoyable listening. Sit back, turn up the volume and have fun!

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Capital 604 – The Miss Parade: 1987

There were fourteen South African songs that charted on the Capital Countdown Top 40 in 1987 and we suggest another sixteen which we think should have joined them. Two of these songs are by groups (Bright Blue and Savuka) who made the Top 40, but with only one song each. The rest were well-established musicians who somehow or other escaped the Capital music manager’s radar.

Once again their was a cluster of Shifty Records artists with some iconic songs deserving of a wider audience: Cherry Faced Lurchers, Jennifer Ferguson, Kalahari Surfers and Mr Mac and the Genuines. Syd Kitchen had been around for a decade and a half and finally recorded his debut album Waiting For The Heave, but he had to keep on waiting because his music was ignored by virtually everyone other than a few campus radio stations. All Night Radio had been around for a few years but were also battling to be noticed by radio stations. Bayete’s debut album also escaped Capital’s attention, as did anything ever released by Chicco, Mahlathini And The Mohatella Queens, Hugh Masekela, Sabenza, the Soul Brothers and Zia. Gothic band No Friends of Harry released an impressive debut EP but also failed to make the Capital Top 40.

The elephant in the room was the fear of the security branch and the possibility of losing the license to broadcast and so it almost went without saying that Capital would not playlist an overtly anti-apartheid song like Savuka’s “Asimbonanga” (although the slightly less obvious political song, “Missing” did chart in 1987). Perhaps this is why Capital ignored Shifty’s music, even though there were several classic songs which they released which would not have interested the security branch in the slightest, “Bay Of Bombay” by Jennifer Ferguson being one of them. Interestingly, the SABC sponsored a video of the song which they screened:

Capital could have got away with Chicco’s clever “We Miss You Manelow” in which he playfully laments the absence of someone called Manelow, but which everyone knew was Mandela.

Sadly, a lot of the exciting musical contests of the day seemed to bypass Capital. Be sure to give these a songs a listen now, they deserve your attention!

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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 – 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 – 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 – Darren Scott’s Top 20


Darren Scott is the first guest DJ on Mixedtapes ZA, offering us his choice of South African music; in this case his Top 20 South African songs of the 1980s, including songs from 1979 which were around at the beginning of 1980.

This is the first of our occasional series of Guest DJ mixed tapes compiled by former Capital Radio DJ s.

These are ranked from No 20 through to number 1 on the mixed tape. Enjoy!

If you want to see the play listing prior to listening to the countdown you can view the order of the songs in this week’s poll below.

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