Shocking Blue

TrackAlbum / Single
Hello DarknessPink Elephant PE 22 045
California Here I ComeAt Home
Long And Lonesome RoadPink Elephant PE 22 007
Hot SandPink Elephant PE 22 015
Eve And The ApplePink Elephant PE 22 066
Send Me A PostcardPink Elephant PE 22 004
Never Marry A Railroad ManPink Elephant PE 22 040
Rock In The SeaAttila
Shocking You3rd Album
The Bird Of Paradise3rd Album

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Contributor: Brian Greene

It’s hard for me to enjoy the song Venus at this point. It (the original version, that is) is a fabulous track with a beguiling staccato guitar line and winning, anthemic vocal parts, but it’s just been so completely trivialized via tacky cover versions and its use in TV commercials and such. There’s likely all kinds of people who could recognize the tune in an instant, even sing its chorus word-for-word, but who couldn’t name the band (Shocking Blue) who are its originator. And then there’s some who perhaps could name the band yet think of them as one-hit wonders; and this is maybe even more of a crime than not being aware of them at all. Because Shocking Blue made some of the finest groovy rock and roll anyone was doing in the late 60s and early 70s. They made one album that’s a stone classic and that should be on critics’ all-time best records lists instead of in the den of obscurity where it exists. And while that album, 1970’s At Home (just called Shocking Blue in some versions), is their most fully realized long player, they pulled off two others – 70’s Scorpio’s Dance and the following year’s lazily titled 3rd Album – that aren’t far behind, not to mention a smattering of dazzling singles done through these years.

What even some avid fans of Shocking Blue might not realize is that the Dutch rockers existed for a short time before being joined by the captivating lead singer Mariska Veres, who looked like a model and sang like a soul sister. Robbie van Leeuwen, who was the chief songwriter for the group and really their mastermind, first formed Shocking Blue out of the ashes of his former Hague-based act The Motions, with a guy named Fred de Wilde behind the mic. This incarnation of the band released a self-titled LP (sometimes referred to as Beat With Us) in ’68 and while it does not have the power that the band unleashed when they had Veres in their fold, it is a strong work of West Coast-influenced freakbeat type fare. De Wilde was called off to do military service sometime after the making of that album, and by the time he returned Van Leeuwen – who was transfixed by Jefferson Airplane and wanted a female vocalist a la Grace Slick for his group – had discovered Veres. Fred had to understand.

Soon enough, Venus happened and became a smash hit globally and the band was on its way. What commenced were a series of records quickly churned out over the following handful of years, and non-stop touring to boot. While the first three of the Veres-sung Shocking Blue records are all monsters, by ’72/3 the power of Van Leeuwen’s muse seemed to be wearing down. Despite cutting a good dozen smashing tracks that could’ve/ should’ve been hits through those years, the band hadn’t revisited anything like the chart success of Venus, and this appeared to dampen spirits at the same time that the relentless gigging wore them all down. Meanwhile, Van Leeuwen was weakening from the responsibility of all the songwriting. But having said all that, the Inkpot and Attila LPs, both issued in ’72, while inconsistent overall, had some ace individual tracks. Van Leeuwen finally packed it in in the mid 70s, and while the rest of the band soldiered on for a short time and even made a comeback single in the 80s (one that’s better left not discussed), they had no real vitality without Van Leeuwen’s pen.

The band’s formula, as it were, was as basic as it was enthralling: simple, catchy guitar riffs and steady rhythmic backing and rousing vocal parts. Van Leeuwen wrote in English which was not his first language, and this resulted in some refreshingly innocent lyrics mostly involving boy/girl situations and existential laments. And at the risk of starting controversy here I have to say that, for me, Veres is a much more enjoyable lead singer than Slick, more naturally melodious, more personally likable.

If you like (their version of) Venus but haven’t heard more by the group, go get the At Home album and give it a spin. You’ll hear the original Love Buzz, which Nirvana (the Cobain version, natch) covered, among others. If that works for you, grab Scorpio’s Dance and 3rd Album. And if you’re still smitten then and want more, seek out the Singles A’s and B’s compilation done by the Repertoire label. If you’re interested in reading more about the band, my article on them is the cover feature for Shindig! magazine #31.

Sadly, both Veres and the band’s drummer Cor van der Beek have gone on to the other side. Also regrettably, it seems that neither Van Leeuwen nor original bassist Klaasje van der Wal are interested in discussing the group at this point. So I wasn’t able to do any first-hand interviews for my long form article on them. But there are illuminating quotes from Van Leeuwen via some interviews he did in the 90s, also some from Veres and van der Beek from a Dutch TV show (I’m lucky enough to have a Dutch national friend who translated those interviews).

 

 

Shocking Blue unofficial site

Shocking Blue biography (iTunes)

TopperPost #323

2 Comments

  1. Nairn Davidson
    Jul 21, 2014

    I love “Rock In The Sea”, and I think The Strokes do too.

  2. Rob Millis
    Jul 30, 2014

    I’ll admit to a 45 of Hot Sand somewhere around the house!

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