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South African Rock Lists

Classic South African Pop And Rock Songs

A collection of classic pop and rock songs from the history of South African music.

1939-1975 | 1976-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2002


  • Venus - The Stockley Sisters great cover of the Shocking Blue hit by Avril and Miriam Stockley (and long before Bananarama's version).
    Dutch group Shocking Blue had a big hit with the original version of Venus (later redone by SA's Stockley Sisters and by Bananarama). I vaguely remember another SA version by a group who called themselves Shocking Pink.
    -- René Mullenders, Holland, August 1999
  • Celebrate - The Julian Laxton Band also known as 'Celebrate The Rain', this is a funky, upbeat song of celebration.


  • Conquistador - Circus (Reid/Brooker)
    Bernie Millar: vocals/ Ron "Bones" Brettell: keyboards/ Wally Cullis: drums/ Sandy Robbie: guitar/ Gary van Zyl: bass

    A brilliant version of the Procol Harum classic. From the In The Arena album.

  • Tribal Fence - Margaret Singana incredibly powerful song from the pen of Ramsay MacKay combined with the vocal power of Lady Africa herself.

  • Buccaneer - McCully Workshop (Mike McCullagh) [4.47]
    Tully McCully: vocals, bass/ Mike McCullagh: vocals, drums/ Richard Black: guitar/ Rupert Mellor: keyboards A powerful pop/rock song with superb harmony vocals. Charted at #1 on the Springbok Radio Top 20 in November 1977 and stayed in the Top 20 for 15 weeks.
    To use a rock critic's cliche, "a killer tune".
    -- Kurt Shoemaker, September 1999

    More info at the McCully Workshop Website.


  • Substitute - Clout (Willie Wilson) [3.53]
    Glenda Hyam: vocals, keyboards/ Lee Tomlinson: bass, vocals/ Ingi Herbst: drums, vocals/ Cindy Alter: lead vocals, guitar/ Jenni Garson: guitar, vocals
    Session musicians (all from Circus): Ron "Bones" Brettell: keyboards/ Wally Cullis: drums/ Sandy Robbie: guitar/ Gary van Zyl: bass

    Clout were a 5-piece, all-girl group, though this cover version of an obscure Righteous Brothers' song featured members of the band Circus.

    Clout - Substitute LP

    Produced by Graeme Beggs and first released in November 1977, ‘Substitute’ reached UK #2 for 3 weeks in June 1978 (held off the coveted #1 spot by ‘You’re The One That I Want’ by John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John) and achieved top 10 status in France (#9), Austria (#10), Ireland (#1), Denmark (#9), New Zealand (#1), Germany (#1), Belgium (#2), Netherlands (#2), Switzerland (#2), Zimbabwe (then known as Rhodesia) (#1) and South Africa (#1). Went to #67 in the USA for 1 week in September 1978 and stayed 10 weeks in the US charts. For a full history of ‘Substitute’ in the US and UK charts, please see Substitute Chart History.

    Brian Currin

    Apart from its sales in Britain (over 600 000 sales) it was in the Top 5 in France for 4 weeks (400 000 sales); No. 2 in Holland (100 000); No. 1 in Belgium (60 000); and No. 1 for seven weeks in South Africa.

    Million Selling Records from the 1900s to the 1980s: An Illustrated Directory, Joseph Murrells, 1984

    My knowledge of The Righteous Brothers is limited to their oldies radio airplay, so I was able to hear this song as a new one, with fresh ears. I like it. A rocking pop song.

    Kurt Shoemaker, USA, September 1999 (on hearing this song for the first time in 1999)

    A Swedish singer did a cover version of 'Substitute' (in ENGLISH) in the early 90s. A Swiss singer called PAOLA once covered the song in German with the title ICH BIN KEIN HAMPELMANN. There was also a French cover version by French singer Sylvie Vartan with the title ADIEU LA SOLITUDE which was a minor hit in France in 1978.

    Chris Kimberley March 2001
  • Born To Be Wild - Buffalo excellent disco/rock cover of the old Steppenwolf song which coined the term"heavy metal".

  • Reflections (The Good, The Bad & The Ugly) Of My Life - Neil Cloud (Campbell/McAleese/Morricone) [17.38]
    Neil Cloud: drums, percussion, vocals/ Johnny Boshoff: bass, keyboards/ Lionel Martin: keyboards/ René Veldsman: vocals/ Malcolm"Funk" Watson: guitars/ Erwin Keiles: guitars/ John Galanakis: synthesizers/ Ashley Kelly: bass/ Israela Weisser: violin/ Chris Boyle, Lofty Schultz, Hansel van Brugham, Eric Norgate & John Davies: brass

    An interesting mix of the Marmalade's 1970 UK chart-topper 'Reflections Of My Life' and Ennio Morricone's theme from the Clint Eastwood spaghetti western "The Good, The Bad And The Ugly". Works for me. This track took up the whole of one side of the St. Cloux album which came pressed on yellow see-through vinyl. An extracted single edit of this track was played on Radio 5 during 1978/79.

  • ZX Dan - Radio Rats(Jonathan Handley)[4.36]
    Jonathan Handley: vocals, guitar/ David Davies: vocals/ Herbie Parkin: bass/ Leonard Dixon: drums

    The Radio Rats formed in Springs on the East Rand in 1976 and were the first group signed by Patric van Blerk's Jo'burg Records. ZX Dan, their second single, is a wonderful piece of new wave/ space-rock, covering a similar theme to David Bowie's 1972 smash hit, Starman.

    ZX Dan was released on their debut album Into The Night We Slide in 1978 and was a huge SA hit. ZX Dan went to Number 2 on the Radio 5 charts in 1979 and is still considered one of South Africa's greatest pop/rock songs of all-time.

    Despite this success, disillusionment set in, and the Rats disbanded in 1980. Jonathan Handley became a Doctor in Klerksdorp. He later moved to Cape Town. Jonathan owns Radium Wreckords and is involved in archiving SA music and discovering new talent. Herbie Parkin lives and performs in Sweden and maintains The Radio Rats archive website.


  • Jo Bangles - Baxtop great rock song

  • You're Living Inside My Head - John Ireland (John Ireland) [6.25]
    John Ireland: vocals, keyboards/ Jethro Butow: guitars/ Gerald Stockton: bass/ Richard Pickett: drums

    a wonderful adaption of the Greensleeves melody, supposedly composed by Henry VIII (he of the 6 wives). If you like that whistling sound in the 'X-Files theme' you'll love this song.

    John Ireland (real name: John Griffith) studied medicine at Wits with Jonathan "Radio Rat" Handley and became a Doctor in Johannesburg.

  • Better The Devil You Know - Stingray rousing pop-rock from SA's own supergroup. This song reached #4 on the Springbok Charts.


  • Paradise Road - Joy This song stayed at #1 on the Springbok Radio charts for nine consecutive weeks. Joy were: Felicia Marian, Thoka Ndlozi and Anneline Malebo.


  • Grips Of Emotion - Lesley Rae Dowling powerful rock voice and a great guitar solo

  • Man On The Moon - Ballyhoo (S Mahoney/ A van Wyk) (4:41)
    Ralph Martin: lead and backing Vocals & lead Guitar/ Attie van Wyk: keyboards & backing vocals/ Fergie Ferguson: lead vocals, bass guitar & backing vocals/ Derick Drain: lead vocals & backing vocals/ Franco del Mei: drums
    'Man On The Moon' was a huge hit, reaching the top spot on the Springbok Top 20, and deservedly so. It is a great track, with a strong tune, great vocals & harmonies and some excellent guitar work. Addressing the old problem of trying to "choose between one of two pretty ladies" to the Man on the Moon, this classic song should be familiar to most South Africans.
    -- John Samson, July 2000


  • The Bushman - Steve Kekana (Russel Kramer) [5.55]

    Catchy, synthesizer-driven dance track. This is real Afropop, mixing Western dance keyboard sounds and traditional African instruments with the incredible voice of Steve Kekana. Also features the voice of N!xau ǂToma, the Bushman from the Jamie Uys film, The Gods Must Be Crazy.

    The full-length version of this track is on the 'No Going Back' album released in 1982. The single edit (4.49) is available on CD on 'The English Album' released by Gallo in 1999.

    Read the lyrics here...

  • Give Me The Good News - Crocodile Harris (Crocodile Harris/ Geoff Coxall) [3.23]
    Crocodile Harris (Robin Graham): vocals, piano/ Tully McCullagh: bass, drums, harmony vocals Brilliant song, a classic. Sold 650 000 copies in France and won the Midem trophy for Best Ballad of the Year in 1983. Approx 6000 copies sold in South Africa.
    It was featured on a soap opera [in Brazil] called (if I'm not mistaken) "Cocktail" and it was aired in 1983 or 1984 by Globo Television (the 4th largest TV network in the world).
    -- Eduardo, February 2001

    Read the lyrics here...

  • You're So Good To Me - Hotline (PJ Powers) [3.45]
    PJ Powers: vocals/ Alistair Coakley: lead guitar/ George van Dyk: bass/ Patrick van Rensburg: drums/ Geoff Sedgwick: keyboards

    "... I'm not supposed to be alone with you..." sings the 21 year-old P.J. Powers (born Penelope Jane Dunlop in Durban in 1960). Is he married? Or is she? Possibly a same-sex liaison, or more likely the lyrics refer to an inter-racial relationship which was illegal under the Apartheid system of the time. A powerful song which never fails to stir the emotions. From the Burnout album.

  • Help! - Hotline (Lennon/McCartney) [5.32]
    PJ Powers: vocals/ Alistair Coakley: lead guitar/ George van Dyk: bass/ Larry Rose: drums/ Ron "Bones" Brettell: keyboards

    Forget the edited version on the 'Best of...' CD, the full-length album version is the one to hear...
    Literally gives me a shivering chill -- possibly the best Beatles cover I've ever heard, certainly one of the few at the top.
    -- Kurt Shoemaker, September 1999


  • Shadows - éVoid (Lucien and Erik Windrich)
    Lucien Windrich: vocals, guitars/ Erik Windrich: vocals, keyboards, bass synthesizers/ Wayne Harker: drums
    'Shadows' is a song full of feelings and texture. It seems to glide out the speakers at you and transports you through the air above "the Bhundu Bush of Africa". A timeless SA classic.
    -- John Samson, September 2000

  • Hey Boy - Via Afrika
    African rhythms and rock meet in a joyful fusion


  • See Yourself (Clowns) - Ella Mental
    excellent song from Heather Mac and the band

  • Mysteries and Jealousy - The Helicopters
    I was listening to 'Mysteries and Jealousy' a while back and I was stuck with the fact that here was a perfectly excellent tune, you can dance to it, the melody sticks in my head, I give it a 10 as they used to say on Dick Clark's American Bandstand show about a song's dance-ability, it is perfectly in keeping with the radio style of its day, and yet it was not picked up for UK or USA release. I felt the frustration in small degree SA musicians must feel, to work so hard and create something so perfectly hit-worthy, and to succeed with it in one's own country, but not far beyond.
    -- Kurt Shoemaker, Texas, January 2000


  • Damsel As I Went Out One Morning (Damsel) - Tribe After Tribe
    Robbi Robb: vocals, guitars/ Fuzzy Marcus: bass/ Neils Jensen: keyboards/ Bruce Williams: drums

    A great reworking of a Bob Dylan track, never has Bob sounded like this.

  • Superstar - Stewart Irving
    Ballyhoo lead vocalist goes solo. 'Superstar' was written by Mark Gray from US group Exile and reached number 6 on the Radio 5 charts.


  • This Boy - Sweatband
    Wendy Oldfield: vocals/ John Mair: guitars/ Dieter Stutz: bass, keyboards/ Leslie Cook: drums

    Wendy Oldfield and Johnny Mair's classic song, brilliant guitar.
  • Johnny Johnny Calls The Chemist - Falling Mirror (Nielen Mirror/ Allan Faull) [4.48]
    Nielen Mirror: vocals/ Allan Faull: guitars/ Tully McCully: bass, keyboards, drums, backing vocals

    The key track on the album of the same title and a mini-epic all on its own, written by Nielen and Allan in less than 30 minutes. Tully and Allan worked hard on the song, shifting keys and adding bridges to make it more interesting. Nielen explained that "Johnny calls the chemist, but the chemist doesn't come" refers to his approaches to Collette (a pharmacist) and her rejecting of his advances. For these vocals, Nielen deliberately mimicked Bob Dylan, just as John Lennon had done on 'You've Got To Hide Your Love Away', the Beatles tribute to Dylan. Allan's lovely guitar sound on this song leaves it sounding as gentle as a Bread song, but the lyrics are something quite removed from"Baby I'm A Want You", which it slightly echoes.
    -- Stephen Segerman, February 2001

    Read the lyrics here...

    In March 2001 Wonderboom released a looser, rockier interpretation of this classic song. The lyrics have been mildlyadjusted to exclude some dubious concepts. Read the lyrics here...

  • Makin' Out With Granny - Falling Mirror (Nielen Mirror/ Allan Faull) [5.03]
    Nielen Mirror: vocals/ Allan Faull: guitars/ Tully McCully: bass, keyboards, drums, backing vocals

    Re-recording of the track that originally appeared on the 'Zen Boulders' album. Although this song had no relevance to the rest of the 'Johnny Calls The Chemist' album, Tully and Benjy felt it should be on the album and it is loopy enough to add rather then detract from the overall feel of the album.

    The song refers to a store-robbing, shotgun-wielding Granny ("called Marina") who hangs out with her nephew Will, as he explains: "But I'm not William Shakespeare, he wrote a lot of books, Elizabethan England, has turned us into crooks". (?) But this is not a happy gang "Now listen shopkeeper, I hope you're thinking straight, you know my mind is wounded, and my Granny's filled with hate". Not the kind of couple you'd want to "Make out with".
    -- Stephen Segerman, February 2001


  • Scatterlings Of Africa - Savuka ethnic rock at its finest. This is a re-recording of the Juluka track from 1983.

  • Weeping - Bright Blue Bright Blue
    Tom Fox: guitar, vocals/ Ian Cohen: bass, vocals/ Peter Cohen: drums, backing vocals/ Dan Heymann: keyboards/Basil Coetzee: sax
    'Weeping' (voted the number 1 song of the previous century [on the Amuzine/ SA Rock Digest poll]) is the highlight of the album, The Rising Tide. It still amazes me that the SABC did not ban it for it's blatant musical reference to 'N'Kosi Sikelel' iAfrica', let alone for it's political charged lyrics, yet this powerful track reached number 1 on the Radio 5 charts. This is a big song in the same way that Bohemian Rhapsody is big, but without the obscure lyrics.
    -- John Samson, July 2000

    The lyrics are here...


  • Monster From The Bog - Psycho Reptiles
    "Quirky fusion of Ska, blubeat,pop and rock" says Benjy Mudie.

  • Dance Sum More - Mango Groove funky ethnic pop-rock, catchy, cool...

Index | 1939-1975 | 1976-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2002



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