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 – 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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