During early lockdown in South Africa, in May/June 2020 former Capital Radio 604 listeners were invited to vote for their favourite South African songs of the 1980s. 18 people submitted their top 20 charts, in order of preference. For this mixtape we have decided to feature the top 25 songs from that chart. Songs were given 20 points if a number one on someone’s chart, all the way down to one point for a song listed at number 20.
Given that songs need to be known (and liked) by several people to be voted onto a chart like this, it is not a surprise that most of these songs are familiar to us, and are songs we would expect to see on an all-time-greatest chart. It is also not unexpected that many artists feature more than once: Bright Blue, Lesley Rae Dowling and eVoid all have two songs, and Juluka has three songs, with Johnny Clegg’s other band – Savuka – featuring a further song. Probably all of South Africa’s 1980s classics are included here. We hope you enjoy listening to them.
In no specific order, they are:
- Weeping – Bright Blue
- Clowns (See Yourself) – Ella Mental
- Shadows – eVoid
- Taximan – eVoid
- Scatterlings Of Africa – Juluka
- Man On The Moon – Ballyhoo
- Window On The World – Bright Blue
- Paradise Road – Joy
- Jabulani – Hotline
- Burnout – Sipho Mabuse
- Hey Boy – Via Afrika
- Here We Are – Face to Face
- Once In A Lifetime –Petit Cheval
- The Spaniard – Lesley Rae Dowling
- December African Rain – Juluka
- Slow rain – Celtic Rumours
- Johnny Calls The Chemist – Falling Mirror
- Ancient Dust Of Africa – Edi Niederlander
- Weekend Special – Brenda & the Big Dudes
- Baby You Been Good – Robin Auld
- Grips Of Emotion – Lesley Rae Dowling
- Mysteries And Jealousy – The Helicopters
- Lies – Jonathan Butler
- Africa – Juluka
- Asimbonanga – Savuka
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.
Show Playlist + Poll
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.
Show Playlist + Poll