1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the tag “Ken Levine”

Sha La La – Buttercup

Sha La La – Buttercup

Sha La La – Buttercup

We head back to the start of 1976 with this one and it would be the only new entry on the first Springbok top 20 of that year. Following up Buttercup’s success the previous year with ‘Baby Love Affair’ which went to number 7 on the charts, their second single off the album would not fare as well, only peaking at 15.

While their earlier hit is slightly faster paced and had an introduction not too dissimilar to the Rubettes’ 1974 hit ‘Sugar Baby Love’ with its high pitched vocal introduction, ‘Sha La La’ slowed things down a little with a spoken lyric between the laid back chorus. Song writer Ken Levine, who penned ‘Sha La La’ along with brothers Ernie and Robert Schroder, thinks that it was radio DJ John Novick who did the spoken part. Whoever it was, it has a similar feel to Peanut Butter Conspiracy’s ‘Understanding’ or The Flames ‘For Your Precious Love’, both of which are soulful songs with spoken parts.

However, while it has the familiar spoken bits, the music is more 70s pop than the soul of those earlier hits. It is a relaxed affair with a steady beat that would never set the world alight, but was a solid single of its time.

Where to find it:
Vinyl: Baby Love Affair – Buttercup (1975), EMI Bigadiers, EMCJ(C) 11509


Candy – Geoff St John

Candy - Geoff St John

Candy – Geoff St John

‘Candy’ was Geoff St. John’s second Springbok Top 20 hit and followed the success of his 1975 hit ‘Kiss Me Kiss You Baby’. ‘Candy’ made it to number 9 in the charts in 1976 and enjoyed 10 weeks in the top 20 and its not too hard to see why the nation took to the song. Dare I say it’s a sweet song, with an uplifting pop tune and bubblegum lyrics.

The tune was written by Ken Levine who drafted in song writing partner Ernie Schroeder to provide the lyrics. According to Ken they had very little to do in promoting the song as Geoff St John was very popular at the time and the chart success mentioned above backs this claim up.

Listening to this song years after it was a hit one may be inclined to dismiss it as it is very much of its era, slotting in alongside other light hearted love songs like Brotherhood Of Man’s ‘Save All Your Kisses For Me’ with enough of a beat to be danceable to and a catchy chorus, and perhaps, yes, it has not aged as well as other songs, but there is a certain charm about it that makes me think it deserves another listen.

Where to find it:
Various Artists – The Best of SA Pop Volume 3 (1994) GSP, CDREDD 610


Baby Love Affair – Buttercup

Baby Love Affair - Buttercup

Baby Love Affair – Buttercup

There is no denying that the introduction to Buttercup’s ‘Baby Love Affair’ with Eugene Havenga’s high pitched wails is a little reminiscent of First Class’ ‘Beach Baby’, however the song does not continue to follow the one that it sounds a bit like other than that it, like ‘Beach Baby’, carries on to become a high quality pop song.

‘Baby Love Affair’ was the first hit that the songwriting team of Ken Levine and Ernest Schroder had in South Africa as it climbed to number 7 on the Springbok Top 20. It started life during a lunch break when Ken Levine was messing around with a piano at EMI’s offices. Ernest walked in and 30 minutes later that had a ‘teeny bopper’ hit on their hands, all they needed was someone to record it. Cue Ernest’s brother Robert who was a producer. He drafted in Havenga (who would later be heard on Julian Laxton Band’s hits like ‘Blue Water’) to do the falsetto wailings and a demo of the song.

However when it came to a final product, they kept the falsetto bits from Eugene and Robert drafted in a band from Pretoria that featured Lefty Daniels, Stephen Swann, Philip Colyn, John “Fluffy” de Kock and Boet Spies. At that stage Buttercup were not well known, so a marketing campaign featuring cardboard hearts that contained a lollipop and a message saying “Have you heard Buttercup sing Baby Love Affair” which was sent out to stores and DJs across the country. Peter Feldman of The Star newspaper plugged the song and the rest, as they say, is a lekker local song.

Where to find it:
Singles bins

Ken Levine website:


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