Going through South Africa’s top foreign albums sellers of the 70s
Who’s popular in South Africa? A lot of information is available for many countries from Europe or America, but what about the main African market?
The few bits of data which emerged relate to artists from the 80s onwards, with the likes Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, and Celine Dion doing very well there. Who was at the top of the game before them, during the 70s?
Until now, we have focused on countries from different parts of the world, this section in particular has put its biggest interest in the main markets of Latin America and also in Italy, one of the European markets for which we know the least.
Not much has been elaborated about Africa yet, so starting with South Africa sounds like a good opportunity.
South Africa has for long been the biggest market of the continent, at least for foreign / western acts. This is largely due to this country’s European roots, mostly British and Dutch. This last aspect, combined with its own native acts, makes it a more than interesting case.
Some of the same questions that we asked about Brazil, Mexico or Italy also arise here.
How popular were hard rock and progressive rock acts were in the early part of the decade? What level of dominance was achieved by disco music toward the latter part?
Also, what about the usual suspects, The Beatles in the beginning of the decade and Abba from the mid point to the end? Then, more generally, how have the most important icons of the 70s performed overall?
We will try to bear all this in mind and answer all that in the best way possible.
It isn’t as easy as we can think to know who has been popular at some specific moment in a specific area. In fact, for that matter the large majority of the data we use to gauge the success of artists is corrupted by decades of catalog action.
Our CSPC articles encompass everything together, from everywhere, from every format and from every period. Streaming Masters pieces focus on the strength of catalogs in recent years. In their side, global heatmaps display hot markets of artists as of today.
What happens if we really immerse ourselves in the past? What were teenagers, young adults, and older people, listening to in Italy some 45 years ago?
Luckily, Discogs, which happens to be a wonderful tool to put some light on obscure areas in terms of sales, is here to rescue us.
In this article, we will list their top 10 most owned foreign singles releases of each 70s’ year in Italy. The method is far from perfect: some of these songs got multiple releases in this market, in distinct formats, at different times.
Some artists, most notably rock acts, are also collected way more than others in Discogs. Still, results are insightful. Indeed, since CDs took over LPs in early 90s there, the number of owners of these vinyls isn’t corrupted by subsequent catalog sales.
That some artists are more collected than others is annoying, but since we know that, we can account for it in our comments. Also, no matter how much collectors love some artists, the truth is that all of them have been highly successful still to feature inside an annual top 10. Get ready for some real surprises!
South Africa’s top foreign albums sellers of the 70s
As it happened in other countries, but not with such a strong lead, Simon & Garfunkel’s most popular album starts this decade at the top spot. With as many as 164 owners on Discogs, Bridge Over Troubled Water reigns supreme here.
The rest of the Top 10 contains typical classic hard rock acts, which was fairly common at the time and more so in this type of charts since this subgenre is very popular amongst collectors.
Deep Purple’s In Rock manages the number 2 position, The Who’s Live At Leeds makes the number 3, Led Zeppelin’s third album garners the number 4 and there were also two Black Sabbath LPs in it, at number 8 and 10.
Other classic rock acts fair very well as The Beatles but also Crosby, Still, Nash Young and Santana. Among the entries outside the Top 10, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Pendulum and Elvis Presley’s That’s The Way It Is rank very close, with the likes of Neil Diamond, Don McLean and Pink Floyd also appearing in good shape.
A sort of cult favourite among local population, Sixto Rodriguez puts his Cold Fact at the very top in what was, anyway, a mild year, with 87 owners. I can only anticipate that this same LP will feature another annual list very soon, with various reissues.
Pink Floyd make it stronger than in 1970, with Meddle securing the number 2 position for the band.
Jethro Tull achieves another strong position for the progressive rock subgenre, as Aqualung charts at number 3.
Alice Cooper is surprisingly close to the Top 10, whilst other albums by Tom Jones, Santana, Black Sabbath and Rod Stewart’s debut album make all good impressions just outside the Top 10.
With one of the highest amount of owners for the entire decade, David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars tops 1972.
Not only did it accumulate 291 people who own it with only one version, it achieves a second issue in the Top 10 and also more than triples its nearest competitor.
The said competitor is Neil Diamond who’s Hot August Night lands at the runner up position.
For a third year in a row, Deep Purple make headlines, this time with Made In Japan.
The main albums just below the Top 10 are more rock-oriented than pop-oriented as always, especially embodied by Uriah Heep, Pink Floyd -this time with Obscured By Clouds– and more David Bowie stuff. Elton John and Carly Simon, on the other hand, add some balance to this part of the annual chart.
This being said, Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side Of The Moon would be number 1 if its two version inside this Top 10 are combined. They make number 2 and 5 respectively with a combined 168 owners.
One again, the rest of the Top 10 is mostly dominated by classic rock output, such as David Bowie’s Pinups, Led Zeppelin’s Houses Of The Holy, The Rolling Stones’ Goats Head Soup and Deep Purple’s Machine Head.
Elton John and Dutch group Golden Earring also make it high. It’s the first appearance for both acts.
Some of the same acts above also feature strong beyond the Top 10, including Ringo Starr (more Beatles-related), David Bowie or Pink Floyd. Mike Oldfield’s classic instrumental album Tubular Bells fairs strongly too.
Three different version of Cold Fact, by Sixto Rodriguez, make this title huge one more time, in this occasion with an astounding 499 owners counting them all together.
His popularity there in comparison to elsewhere was so high that a lot of his South African pressings were exported abroad by mid-70s.
Supertramp starts to impact the annual charts with Crime Of The Century, whereas most of the rest includes classic rock sound: Bad Company, Deep Purple -for a fifth consecutive year so far- or Eric Clapton.
Among these last few records, we also find the first entry by Queen with Sheer Heart Attack, who would then appear more prominently as will be seen.
As anticipated, A Night At The Opera positions Queen at the very top of a single year for the first time and marks the first of several strong entries to come. With 216 owners, it more than doubles the second one, Wish You Were Here, by Pink Floyd.
While among this last group, another act deserves a mention: Abba gets very high with I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do at number 5, their first strong appearance in the Top 10.
More strong albums charted just outside the Top 10, some by acts that aren’t new to these heights.
The soundtrack to the Rocky Horror Show appears as a surprising number 1 title in 1976, albeit with a relatively modest 132 owners, much less than in previous years.
The rest of the Top 10 looks far closer to what would normally be expected, where Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key Of Life, Abba’s Arrival, Queen’s A Day At The Races and Eagles’ Hotel California boast great chart places.
David Bowie confirms that his number 1 achieved in 1972 was far from a coincidence and a result of both quite a strong popularity and cult appeal.
Chris de Burgh and Heart are new additions to our Top 10 rankings, notably the former making it as high as number 2, just 12 owners behind the number 1.
Two versions of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack secure this LP a very solid and massive chart topping positions, both with a combined 504 owners.
This was achieved in a very competitive years, which makes the gap between the number 1 and the rest all the more impressive.
Dire Straits debuts in these South African charts with a massive chart topping LP, their self-titled album, which reaches as many as 207 owners on Discogs and almost doubles the second one.
Even though they had already made the Top 10 in 1977, Boston’s second album Don’t Look Back makes it even stronger, trailing Dire Straits, at 112 owners, with Bob Seger and Kate Bush ranking just behind, also above the 100 owners.
Whereas outside the Top 10, we find some equally interesting entries, such as The Police’s and Toto’s respective debut albums, Boney M’s Rivers of Babylon while classic rock is represented by Journey, Foreigner and AC/DC.
Queen fail to make the Top 10 for the first time since their debut.
To finish this journey through the 70s decade, there is no surprise in the final chart topper: with 171 owners, Pink Floyd’s The Wall gets that top position they almost got with The Dark Side Of The Moon, after several years doing great business in this country.
Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk is surprisingly strong, just behind The Wall but with two entries in the Top which would give this LP the top position if combined, with 207 owners.
It is a great end for the decade also because some of the biggest names listed in previous years did equally well in 1979.
Apart from the usual suspects outside the Top 10, ranging from Led Zeppelin with their studio album to Chris de Burgh’s Live In SA, one worthy entry belongs to Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall, preparing the field for the 80s.