For Tales of The Hague, SFN‘s editor Jack Cinnamond takes a look back at some of the finest music from Holland area The Hague and tells the history of three bands from that region specifically, Golden Earring, Shocking Blue and Earth and Fire.
The Hague, the third largest city in Holland and is very well known for its political ties and known for being Holland‘s “real capital” in terms of practically holding everything the capital should. However, the Hague is important for a more cultural reason, the music.
In the graceful days of rock n’ roll, The Hague produced some of the finest and underappreciated bands, many of which still play exclusively in the region. Bands like Golden Earring, Shocking Blue, The Outsiders, Earth and Fire, The Motions came from the place known as The Hague.
The early sixties outside of the Netherlands saw bands like The Beatles rise and begin to draw into different styles rather than the early music of The Beatles themselves. Midway through 1965, The Beatles‘ “Ticket To Ride” had reached the Number One spot in the Dutch Top 40, but only nine places behind it was Golden Earring (then The Golden Earrings) with their debut “Please Go” single.
In 1966, local act The Motions were simply breaking a sweat, the act worked hard to get where they wanted to be. Led by guitarist/songwriter Robbie Van Leeuwen, the act wasn’t the best gun in town but they weren’t the worst as proven by songs like “Make It Legal” and their ’66 cult hit “Everything That’s Mine”.
Towards the end of the 1960s, everything had changed. A swift line-up addition of Barry Hay to Golden Earring and Munuela Berloth to Earth and Fire helped both acts find what they were looking for. Earth and Fire began to focus their listening on American acts like Jimi Hendrix and very closely to Jefferson Airplane while they worked on improvising their sound. Van Leeuwen had disbanded The Motions and started the act Shocking Blue yet was struggling to find a name for himself with the band until vocalist Mariska Veres took over vocal duties.
All three acts were pushing to make their name and gain international success, something each wanted. 1969 proved to be a breaking year for the three, Golden Earring had fought their way onto the North American airwaves after the release of their first Number One “Dong Dong Diki Digi Dong” the band took to making the Eight Miles High (Polydor, 1969) record, which was primarily psychedelic within the trends of the year. On the record was the 18 minute long title track (a cover of The Byrds‘ “Eight Miles High”) which was a centrepiece for which the band built their live performances around, often playing it for way over 45 minutes taking cues from similar akin to Iron Butterfly.
In September of 1969, Jerney Keergman replaced Manuela as the vocalist of Earth and Fire due to a serious eye disease affecting Manuela, finally securing their classic line-up. The following month, Shocking Blue would get to Number Three on the Dutch charts with their song “Venus” and in February 1970 the song reached Number One in the United States as Golden Earring completed their classic line-up by adding Cesar Zuiderwijk on drums and embarked on a major U.S tour to support the Mootan (Polydor, 1970) album and their hit single “Radar Love”.
Earth and Fire struggled to keep to the high standards other Hague acts like Shocking Blue and Golden Earring were setting, their self-titled album Earth and Fire (Polydor, 1970) spawned three local hits with “Seasons” reached Number Three on the Dutch Top 40 but their success never went international unlike Golden Earring and Shocking Blue, although Golden Earring took a liking to the act and took them on tour of Europe with them as opener.
After the success of “Venus”, Shocking Blue quickly attempted to stay on top by releasing the songs “Never Marry a Railroad Man” and “Mighty Joe”, each becoming hits. However, the songs following these would fail to gain recognition in North America (however most kept the band known within Asia, South America and Europe).
The early seventies seemed like they would be great for the three, but soon all three began failing to chart. Golden Earring continued to work in the United States more and more, opening for acts like King Crimson, Santana, Led Zeppelin. Their peak would hit in 1973 when “Radar Love” was on-fire within the U.S Billboard Top 100, the act toured the U.S as a headliner with then-upcoming bands Aerosmith and KISS as their opener.
Earth and Fire fell into obscurity once again, struggling to find themselves the act finally settled into a symphonic prog-rock genre with the release of Atlantis (Polydor, 1973), a four-part concept album. The lead single “Maybe Tomorrow, Maybe Tonight” landed at Number Three in The Netherlands. The act struggled for the next six years to make a significant impact, but kept in the Top 40 of the Dutch, Belgium and German charts, were they were most successful.
Golden Earring opened the ’70s with a strike of international stardom, but failed to keep it. The band mostly retracted to the Hague for the rest of the ’70s while occasionally touring America with The Doobie Brothers, RUSH and others. Shocking Blue disbanded in the Summer of 1974 when Mariska became dissatisfied with the band’s unsuccessful ways and wished to attempt a solo career.
The end of the seventies saw a change in the tide, the classic rock bands of The Netherlands began to die out as disco and new wave was taking shape. The once prog-rock act of the Hague, Earth and Fire, moved into the disco era with the release of Reality Fills Fantasy (Vertigo, 1979) which spawned off the lead single “Weekend” which topped the charts in The Netherlands, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, and Denmark. Shocking Blue made their first reunion several years after disbanding and recorded “Louise”, yet for still unknown reasons the single was never released and the band weren’t ready to preform again.
Golden Earring made their comeback to the U.S charts with the release of their 1982 hit “Twilight Zone”. The act made a smart choice to allow young Dutch filmmaker Dick Maas film a music video for the song, which became one of the first rock videos aired on the new MTV, pushing the song into the top ten in the Billboard 100.
The band followed this with their 1984 hit “When The Lady Smiles” which charted in Canada and most of Europe. The band hoped they’d break America‘s Top 100 again by creating a controversial music video, which was banned by MTV for featuring nudity and the depiction of the rape of a nun. By the time the band’s management had created a edited music video that MTV allowed, it was no-use. The song eventually caught the 77 spot in the U.S but more notably knocked Queen‘s hit “Radio Ga Ga” of the Number One spot in the Netherlands to claim their fifth and final Number One.
Also in 1984, Shocking Blue reunited following the success of Bananarama‘s cover of “Venus”. Veres became majority the band’s leader as guitarist and founder Robbie Van Leeuwen stepped away from the band and refused to reunite, primarily due to his distaste for Bananarama‘s success.
Throughout the end of the 1980s, Shocking Blue made two more reunion attempts with each failing. Earth and Fire moved towards disco but most band members had left and in 1990, Earth and Fire finally disbanded. Shocking Blue would begin touring the world once again in small bursts throughout the 1990s without Van Leeuwen, however Leeuwen would produce their studio work. Shocking Blue preformed for the final time on March 11th 2006 just a few months before Veres passed away following a battle with cancer.
Golden Earring still preform in the Hague and Germany, their last performances in the UK were two dates in 2009, which were the first in 30 years. The recently released the critically well accepted EP The Hague (Polydor, 2015).