In our previous mixtape we featured South African musicians covering South African songs. This time we focus on South African musicians covering foreign songs. Anyone familiar with live performers in South African restaurants and pubs will be all too familiar with the countless musicians plying overseas covers for a trade. Many a South African songwriter shakes their head in desperation at the thought of all the cover artists, trying to mimic the singers of the songs they cover, and taking the performance spaces potentially available to more original musicians. However, covers are not always a bad thing. Several musicians who mostly perform their own compositions also include some covers in their live sets or even record them as singles and on their albums. Most often these are viewed as interpretations – where they change the emphasis of the song or switch the song from one genre to another. At times musicians simply cover a song which they think will be a big hit if they adapt it to what seems popular in the current climate, or among their specific fans.
There are examples here which fit into all those categories. Interpreting songs is a very personal thing, and so rather than explain every song’s inclusion here, and fitting it into a particular category of cover, we have just listed the songs here, for you to listen to, think about, and perhaps explore further. We have included the names of the original performers in parenthesis, so that (in case you are not aware of the original) you can go back and listen, and think about the way it has been covered here. In case this sounds like a Musicology 101 course, we won’t ask you to write an essay. But please do leave comments about anything that grabs your attention. In the meantime … enjoy!
Down On The Corner – Miriam Makeba (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
The Voice Of Rage And Ruin – Kalahari Surfers (Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Bad Moon Rising”)
Build Me Up Buttercup – Mean Mr Mustard (The Foundations)
Paint It Black – No Friends of Harry (The Rolling Stones)
1991 saw a dismal number of only eight South African songs on the Capital Radio Top 40 countdown, and two of those were by a single artist: Wendy Oldfield. Others to chart that year were Robin Auld, Big Sky, Jo Day, Little Sister, Mango Groove and the Radio Rats. We have come up with a further 14 songs which we think were good enough to chart that year, and which would have added some welcome diversity to the South African music on the charts.
We suggested a second song by Robin Auld “Charlie Go Crazy”, but the rest of the songs we suggest are by artists who did not chart on Capital in 1991, although most of them have featured in previous “Missed” Mixtapes. There are four artists who had previously featured in Capital Top 40s: Robin Auld (as previously mentioned), Lucky Dube (“House of Exile”), Sipho Mabuse (“Thiba Kamoo”) and Tribe After Tribe (“White Boys in the Jungle”). Manfred Mann had also charted on Capital (“The Runner” by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band) but we didn’t feature that as a South Africa song because the entire group was British apart from Manfred Mann himself. However, Manfred Mann’s Plains Music album from which we feature “Medicine Song” is a neo-traditional South African album which features several South African musicians alongside Manfred Mann. Another new group, not previously featured on Mixtapes.ZA are the Getout, a relatively new band from East London. The song featured here is the title track of their one and only album Emerge And See.
In 1991 Shifty Records featured for the first time on the Capital Top 40 with the Radio Rats’ “Turn on the Radio”, a song from the 1990 Big Beat album, which is why we featured another song from that album in out 1990 Missed Mixtape and not the 1991 Missed Mixtape. Another Shifty artist, James Phillips, features here with “Africa is Dying” a song recorded in 1991 but only released by Shifty on the Soul Ou album in 1997. We have included it here because we think it should have ideally been released in 1991! Former Shifty artists the Genuines feature here with “Love Song”. Other artists who we think should have charted in 1991 are: Yvonne Chaka Chaka (“Who’s Got the Power”), Basil Coetzee (“Monwabisi”), Miriam Makeba & Dizzy Gillespie (“Eyes on Tomorrow”), No Friends of Harry (“Never Seen a Better Day”), Prophets Of Da City (“Boomstyle”) and Sakhile (“Welcome Home”).
This is our last missed tape for now. This is because, as mentioned in the sleevenotes for the Capital 1991 Mixtape, we do not have sufficient copies of charts from 1992 until the closure of Capital Radio in 1996 to determine a full list of the songs that charted in any one of those years. If by some chance we come across those charts we would love to explore the hits and misses on Capital right through to the station’s closure in 1996.
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.
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!