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 – 1981

In 1981 Capital Radio was still broadcasting from Port St Johns in the Wild Coast, and still charting a new way forward with music policy. They continued to select songs from a broad spectrum including reggae (still not played on Radio 5), funk, soul, disco, pop, rock, country and post-punk influenced new wave. Juluka , whose ‘Africa’ was playlisted on Capital from the outset , offered a unique combination of Celtic folk rock and mbaqanga to add to the already eclectic mix of music Capital listeners got to hear on their radios.

Some of the South African acts which charted on Capital in 1980 did so again in 1981: City Limits, Joy, Juluka, Lastique and Peach but 1981 offered up songs by artists new to Capital Radio. Margaret Singana was already well-known to the South African audience but Capital introduced several musicians and groups on the release of their debut albums and singles. These included Lesley Rae Dowling, Hotline, Kariba, Morocko and Neill Solomon & The Uptown Rhythm Dogs.

Such was the difficult and transient nature of the South African music industry that on occasion some groups shared musicians who were either trying their luck with two or more bands at once or who had jumped ship in the hope of something more successful and lucrative. On many occasions a musician’s group broke up and they sought a new group to play in.

For example, of the groups who charted on Capital in 1981 Jethro Butow was a member of both Kariba and Morocko and Mike Faure was a member of Morocko but after they broke up he briefly joined the Uptown Rhythm Dogs (in 1982). By 1981 one-time Ballyhoo drummer Cedric Samson had become initially drummer and then vocalist for Morocko. After Clout broke up in 1981 Bones Brettell became the keyboard player for Hotline and Gary van Zyl became the bass player for Juluka, who were expanding from a duo to a fully-fledged band. Another member of the newly expanded Juluka was keyboardist Rick Wolf who had been a member of City Limits until their demise earlier that year. In turn, Wolf was replaced in 1983 by former Clout keyboardist Glenda Millar (formerly Glenda Hyam).

In 1981 no South African songs reached number one or two in the Capital charts. Of the top performing songs on the Capital Top 40 countdown “When you gonna love me” – City Limits peaked at number 3, “Nightmare” – Peach reached number 4, “Love chain reaction” – Joy spent two weeks at number 6 and “Impi” – Juluka spent two weeks at number 7. “Bowtie boogaloo” – Morocko reached number 10.

This mixtape plays from number 14 through to the number 1 South African song of the year as per performance on the Capital Radio weekly countdowns. 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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