Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Dutch Treat

Over the years only a handful of Dutch artists have made it to the American charts. To name a few, one of the first was The Shocking Blue with their 1969 number one hit “Venus.” Next the George Baker Selection had a couple of mid-charting schlock rock tunes: “Little Green Bag” and “Paloma Blanca.”

By 1973, everyone in North America was yodeling along with “Hocus Pocus” by Focus. Golden Earring charted twice with “Radar Love” and “Twilight Zone.” In 1983, Vandenburg just barely made the Top 40 with “Burning Heart,” which was a colossal Album Rock track.

Today it’s a Dutch treat. While some of the groups will be familiar, others will not be. The songs in today’s post were not hits on American radio. Likely it will be first time many in North America will hear these songs although they may have had airplay in The Netherlands and other European countries.

Cuby & the Blizzards: Window of my Eyes

With an ever changing lineup, vocalist Harry Muskee and guitarist Eelco Gelling fronted this Dutch blues band of the sixties and beyond. Their biggest hit was 1967’s “Window of my Eyes” can be heard over the credits in the 2010 movie “The American.”

The Shocking Blue: Waterloo

Remembered in the US for their one hit wonder Venus, vocalist Mariska Veres had a strange resemblance both physically and vocally to the Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick. “Waterloo” certainly had hit potential; however, it was relegated to “B” side status as the flip of their 1971 Dutch hit “Shocking You.”

The photo accompanying this video has bassist Klaasje van der Wal playing a Danelectro Longhorn bass and guitarist Robbie van Leeuwen on a Coral Long Horn (also made by Danelectro).

Golden Earring: Back Home

Before Golden Earring made it big in the US, they had a string of hits in The Netherlands including this one from 1970. “Back Home” sort of reminds me of what Grand Funk Railroad and Jethro Tull might sound like if they were morphed together.

This tune followed up their cover of The Byrds’ “Eight Miles High” which appeared on their first US album as an 18 minute track. Needless to say, ala Iron Butterfly’s “Ina Gada Da Vida,” the single version was edited down. On “Back Home,” bassist Rinus Gerritsen is also playing a Danelectro Longhorn bass.

Brainbox: Reason to Believe

Brainbox was formed by future Focus members Jan Akkerman, Pierre van der Linden, and Cyril Haversman. Their 1969 version of Tim Hardin’s “Reason to Believe” was a Dutch hit single two years before Rod Stewart recorded the song. It was on their self-titled debut LP. Kazimir Lux provided the lead vocals.

A little strange twist of fate told to me after this initial post was made today. My friend John Sellards informed me that thirty years ago today Tim Hardin passed away. Ironically, I had originally picked Brainbox's song "Between Alpha and Omega." I had selected this tune over a month ago to be part of my feature on Dutch musicians.

Last night while composing this post, I wasn't satisfied with my original choice for Brainbox and listened to several of their other singles. "Reason to Believe" was chosen instead in a moment of hasty inspiration. For this to occur in conjunction with the anniversary of Tim Hardin's death is serendipitous indeed. R.I.P. Tim Hardin - the world misses your muse.

Focus: Sylvia

Here’s one I remember hearing as the follow up single to Focus’ classic hit “Hocus Pocus.” Unlike its predecessor that was a top 10 hit in America, “Sylvia” only peaked at #89. It’s a great little tune and it features the characteristic vocal gyrations of Thijis van Leer.

Figuring out the identity of the guitar Jan Akkerman was playing drove me crazy. Originally, I wasn't sure if it is an actual Gibson Les Paul, a Framus copy, a Hagstrom Swede, or a Frankenstein edition made by Akkerman. It had elements of all three but the headstock shape ruled out the Hagstrom model.

The angled fretboard end and pickup were mystifying until I saw another photo of Akkerman playing this baby. It was an early edition of the Gibson Les Paul Recording model. Gibson made this version of the Les Paul from 1971 to 1980.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little Dutch treat of music.

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