Sound Bites: Claire Johnston

Claire Johnston of Mango Groove has a penchant for The Police and Led Zeppelin, but she is no fan of Black Lace’s Agadoo.

BILLY SUTER with an occasional column in which he chats to popular musicians about their musical likes and dislikes. The spotlight is on CLAIRE JOHNSTON, lead vocalist with hit band Mango Groove, which performs at Marriott Ballito Beats at Sugar Rush Park, Ballito, from 3.30pm on Sunday, July 1. Hit acoustic duo Qadasi and Maqhinga is also on the bill, from 2pm.Tickets are still available at and range from R160 to R180 for adults, R80 for children aged six to 12, and R30 for children under six.

What is some news about you and the band?

Most immediate is that Mango Groove performs at the Marriott Ballito Beats concert at Sugar Rush Park in Ballito, this coming Sunday, July 1. We performed at the first of these events in May last year.

Also, we have a new song and music video due for release. It’s from our Faces to the sun album and is a duet with Kurt Darren, Under African Skies. We are  very proud of it.

More long term projects include a Mango Groove documentary, a big stage musical project, and a lifestyle-related endeavour for me. We’ll keep you posted!

What is your favourite song right now?

The Man by The Killers.

The last album you bought?

The Killers’ Wonderful Wonderful. I love their big sound.

Two of your favourite songs of all time?

Every Breath You Take by The Police and Cry Me a River, either the Ella Fitzgerald or the Julie London version.

Three of the finest albums ever?

Pink Floyd’s The Wall is one. I was 12 years old when it came out and I’d never heard anything like it. It was on repeat in my bedroom for over a year.

Bob Marley’s Kaya is another. Again, I’d never heard anything like it before.

Also, any of Led Zeppelin’s albums. I discovered Led Zepp later in life and I’m just in awe.

Hit band Mango Groove performs in Ballito on Sunday, July 1.

Song you hate the most right now?

I’m too out of touch to answer that, I have to say… with an embarrassed grin.

Worst song in history?

Agadoo by Black Lace. Aargh!

Song you most associate with your teens?

Every Breath You Take by the Police or anything by Duran Duran.

Song you most associate with your early childhood years?

Misty by Johnny Mathis.

The size of your music collection and the artists represented most there?

It’s pretty big (well over a thousand CDs) but these days I mostly download music which I love. Although it’s still nice to have the actual physical artifact.

Favourite radio station and DJ?

I don’t much listen to the radio at the moment.

The artists you most admire?

Anyone with an original sound and an eye on longevity.

Most over-rated people in the recording business?

The blinged- up lip syncers. They know who they are.

Pet hate/s about the music scene in South Africa?

The patronising attitude of certain people in the industry. Leads to a collective sense of low self -esteem.

The one music act you would give the world to see perform live?

Nirvana. Obviously it’s just a dream.

Ever asked a music personality for an autograph?


Music acts you have seen live and loved?

Brenda Fassie, The Rolling Stones, UB40, Santana, eVoid, Bryan Adams, Grace Jones, Tom Petty and Bright Blue.

Best singing star ever?

Ella Fitzgerald.

The greatest musician of all time?

Too many, and so varied. From Mozart through to Jack White… and many more in between.

Best band in history?

Again, almost impossible to answe. Led Zepp, The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac… there are so many.

The styles of music you most enjoy – and least enjoy?

I love most music styles, as long as the songs are strong and they’re performed with conviction.

The most embarrassing artist represented in your music collection?

Barry Manilow. I’m actually a sucker for some of his songs, cheesey as they are

The one song that will always be guaranteed to get you on to a dancefloor?

September by Earth, Wind and Fire.

The musical teaming you would most like to see?

Seal and Stevie Nicks.

Your choice of karaoke song?

Careless Whisper by George Michael. I sang it at a karaoke bar in Hong Kong and the manager asked me to come back the next day.

The first song you ever performed for an audience?

A nursery rhyme at a nursery school concert, when I was four.

Guilty pleasure: a song you really feel you shouldn’t enjoy, but secretly do?

Def Leppard’s Pour Some Sugar on Me.

Worst decade for music?

2008 to 2018,

Hottest-looking celeb?

Not in music, but Tom Hardy.

Instruments you can play?

A bit of guitar and drums (just a little).

The song you’d like to be played at your funeral?

Dream a Little Dream.

The song you find the saddest?

Speak Softly Love by Matt Monro. I associate this so much with my late mum and a difficult time in our lives.

Two dead icons you’d most like to invite to dinner?

Not from the world of music, but Nelson Mandela and Winston Churchill. I’d love to hear their conversation.

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