We remember legendary South African 80s band Cinema

We remember legendary South African 80s band Cinema

The mention of the band Cinema stirs up memories of the 80's and 90's – venues such as Gold Reef City, The Village Green, The Thunderdome, Limelight, Chillers and rock concerts and festivals all around the country. Cinema became a household name during this time thanks to their debut hit single, “My Kind of Girl”.

Legendary 80s band Cinema
The band went on to release seven albums in total and achieved 12 Top 10 radio singles and numerous awards.

Cinema is the definitive band of South African 80’s and 90’s popular music. It consisted of Jarrod Aston on vocals, Mike Todd on guitar, Chris Frank on keyboards and bass and Larry Rose on drums.

In KwaZulu-Natal, the band performed at The Village Green, Rags at Universities in Durban and Pietermaritzburg and clubs such as Nello’s & Club Med. 

Dave Guselli caught up with Jarrod Aston about the band's heyday; how they almost landed a major international contract and whether there are any plans for a Cinema reunion. Listen to that interview below.

Further to their huge success in South Africa with hits such as, “Inside and Out”, “Cynical Heart”, “ The Fire of Love”, “One Look in Your Eyes”, “Dancing Away With my Heart” they also had a No 1 in SE Asia in the mid 90’s with the haunting ballad, “Stranger’s Again”. After touring this region in 1997 they band decided to take a break.

Not only were they a top “live” original act they were also one of the countries most powerful club bands playing songs that defined two decades of music with a electric energy and great on stage presence.

Cinema wasn't born like normal babies; it kind of drifted into existence while no one was watching.

Ian Vile and Chris Frank were part of a groovy little gig band called Memory back in the late 70s. They were writing songs for fun and perhaps some vague distant dream of having hits was in the back of our minds even then - but nothing, no nothing could or would stand in the way of the bloody cover versions we had to rehearse first and of course the original music just simmered away on the back plate. 

Cinema should really give credit to Pierre de Charmoy who asked Memory to back him at that big concert in 1985 at Ellis Park. He was quite big in those days (about 6 foot 3inches).

So there they were - this groovy wedding band on stage in front of 100 000 screaming fans. "E-void E-void" they shouted but hey they didn't mind.

The bug had bitten! So this is what original music can do! Manipulate the masses! Ha!!! Karl Marx turn in your grave!

An hour or so later, back stage whilst sipping Southern Comfort taking drugs and caressing voluptuous groupies (Why spoil a good story with the truth!) a band called 'Face to Face' appeared on stage, mascara and all. 

Now these were really cool "New Romantic" boys and all the fans (13-15) were rather ecstatic shouting things like Keith, Simon and occasionally...Jarrod!

That's where they might have first met.

Cinema 80s band members

So Memory started to fizzle out. Half of the band wanted to settle down and make babies while the other half wanted to rock and roll and practice (making babies)

Ian and Chris plucked up the courage and submitted some demos.

Decibel records offered them a three-album deal and asked what the band was called. "Er Cinema....Yes hmm why not? CINEMA ! it was. If Trevor Rabin didn't want it (for the reformation of YES without Jon Anderson) we would take it. Simple as that. 

Incidentally, the first choice had been The "DOPPLER EFECT" but no one else really liked it. Wonder why? (We just want to mention here that this name was Chris Frank's favorite and NOBODY else’s).

The first Album did really well. It sold 503 copies, mostly to family and friends. But hey they were on the radio and were on their way!

Southern Sun Hotels offered Cinema a residency at Gold Reef City and that's kind of where it all began.

Ian was the drummer in Memory and used to sing vocals from behind the drums. When the Gold Reef City residency came about, he decided to look for a drummer so that he could go out front and perform.

Enter Jarrod Aston. 

Chris and Ian met Jarrod (again) at The Ambassador Hotel sometime in Hillbrow in 1987. Jarrod had recently left his band Face to Face and was playing in various bands around Johannesburg (one of which included the group Chess).

The drum throne was offered to Jarrod and an 8-hour rehearsal later he was the official replacement for Ian who was now the lead singer.

Cinema started off with a line-up that included some fantastic musicians including Alan Lazar (Mango Groove, Keyboards), Lulu Van Der Walt (Keyboards), Terry Meredith (Ex-Copperfield, Guitars), Tony Geden (Keyboards), Nigel Geden (Guitars, after Terry).

The band was playing at the Gold Reef City beer garden and attracted a huge following over a short period of time. The weekends were packed and the repertoire included hits from the 50's to the then current 80's music.

It was on one Sunday afternoon that Jarrod decided to swap places with Ian and sing a song. Ian obliged (big mistake mate!!) and Jarrod sang John Lennon’s Imagine and the crowd loved it, they even clapped and bought him a few rounds of beers.

Shortly after this Chris and Jarrod started recording some new demos for a second album. 

They sometimes would include some of these original songs in their repertoire. They went down fairly well and at least the people didn't leave the dance floor! 

Chris remembers, "One evening we tried out a brand new song on a rather subdued crowd and a strange thing happened. As a joke, Jarrod introduced it as the latest hit from....I can't remember who exactly, maybe Rick Astley and the dance floor packed out and the crowd went crazy. Afterwards it took a little convincing that it was in fact our latest single, My Kind of Girl".

A lot of people were convinced that they had a hit on their hands. Even Boet Pretorius from the record company said this was the one. Boet was a true professional, a South African record legend and was an integral part of the success of Cinema.

People have often asked Chris what inspired him to write the song. “Well apart from a delightful little can can dancer at Gold Reef City it was the desire to find that mysterious common denominator that turns a song into a hit". He continues, “I immersed myself in a lot of 60's stuff at the time and the song first saw the light with a strong 4 in the bar Mersey beat. Very Beatles'ish I suppose. The 6/8 feel came later with Jarrod contributing to the groove and as we began growing the song in the studio". 

And grow it did! They invited friends to add something here and there. Eventually they had a song with 4 introductions, 3 solos (organ, brass and electric guitar) and a hook that could land a whale (In Gus Silber's words). 

It was during the recording of these tracks that Ian decided to leave the band. Jarrod and Chris were writing and recording in the studio and Ian was more focused on family life. Splitting from the Gold Reef City setup, Jarrod & Chris hooked up with Mike Todd. They first met at the Easter Rock Festival in 1987 when Mike was playing with rock group,“Taipan". He was enticed to join Cinema and so began the line-up that made history. (well maybe not but it sounds good anyway).

7-Singles were already being phased out in 1987 but the band persuaded the record company to print a few hundred copies, which they personally took to the influential record bars. They signed copies and gave them to the shops to help promote the track and the forthcoming album. 

MKOG entered the national charts early in 1987 and stayed there for 27 weeks.

Between 1987 and 1996, Cinema enjoyed chart success with 11 number one songs, 6 albums and 9 years of constant touring.

Chris Frank left the band in 1991 and Jarrod and Mike parted ways in 1997 after a successful tour to South East Asia.

In 1996 it was to the great surprise of the band members that they received word that 1994's remix "Strangers Again," had hit the top of the charts all over Asia, pulling sales of From a Whisper to a Scream with it, and generating enough interest for significant record company offers to finance a new album, which resulted in 1996's Once In Your Life and the opportunity to tour the East.

The band finished the tour of Asia and returned to South Africa in 1997 and Jarrod & Mike parted ways shortly thereafter.

In 2006, a greatest hits was re-mastered and released by CSR Records. The album featured the Top 10 single, Nobody Told Me which enjoyed relative success on stations such as Highveld and others.

Notable Singles (all singles became Top 10 hits)

My Kind of Girl - 1987 
Inside and Out - 1988
Cynical Heart - 1988
The Fire of Love - 1990
Strangers Again - 1990
One Look in Your Eyes - 1990
Dancing Away with My Heart - 1990
Heaven - 1990
Every Beat of My Heart - 1993
I’m Gonna Miss You - 1996
Once in Your Life - 1996
Nobody Told Me - 2006

Meanwhile, if you were part of a group that made it big in the 60s, 70s or 80s, connect with us to share your news. Email us your story!

Catch Dave Guselli on East Coast Gold weekdays 5-9pm and Saturdays, 6-10am.

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