Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Shocking Blue: Venus

Although the Shocking Blue had been in existence for two years and released albums and singles in their native land The Netherlands, they burst onto the American pop scene in 1969 for one brief moment. Then they vanished from the American charts forever.

I decided to go with “Venus” today to honor planet that appeared between the sun and the earth yesterday in what is called the transit of Venus. While I did not get to view it first hand as the sun was obscured by clouds in my region, I did view it live from NASA’s stream from Hawaii.

Although today’s one hit wonder was about the mythical goddess from which the planet was named, I thought it fitting to use the Shocking Blue hit for One-Hit Wonder Wednesday. What a hit it was as it charted at number one in the US, Canada, Spain, Belgium, France, and Italy. It peaked at #2 in Germany and Japan and was a #3 record in The Netherlands. A top 10 hit in the UK, the single charted at #8.

The song features the vocals of the late Mariska Veres and the guitar of Robbie van Leeuwen. Klaasje van der Wal plays the memorable bass runs and Cor van der Beek handled the drums. The keyboardist, who actually contributes greatly to the record’s sound, was not credited. I believe an RMI Electra-Piano was used on this cut.

Robbie van Leeuwen is seen playing a Fender Telecaster in the accompanying video; however, other performances have him playing a Coral (by Danelectro) Longhorn thin-line electric six string.

The Big Three Big Ripoff

It is apparent that Robbie van Leeuwen was greatly inspired by a 1963 recording of “Banjo Song” by the folk group The Big Three. The Big Three consisted of Tim Rose, Cass Elliot, and her then husband James Hendricks. If you listen, it is obvious that their interpretation of Stephen Foster’s “Oh! Susanna “was the inspiration for the Shocking Blue’s hit.

Had Tim Rose pushed it, he would have been much richer from song royalties for “Venus” due to copyright infringement. He had a much better case than Ronald Mack’s claim that George Harrison stole from “He’s So Fine” as the basis for “My Sweet Lord.” That claim was tentative at best, but was close enough to win big for Mack and his publisher. The Big Three’s song, although an arrangement of a public domain composition, makes a much stronger case.

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