Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Shocking Blue -- "Venus" (1969)

A goddess on the mountain top
Was burning like a silver flame
The summit of beauty and love
And Venus was her name

Not the greatest lyrics in the world, perhaps, but Robbie van Leeuwen -- the founder of the Shocking Blue and writer of this song -- was Dutch, after all.  English wasn't his first language.

Shocking Blue was from the Hague, the third-largest city in the Netherlands, which spawned a number of bands -- it was sort of the Dutch Liverpool.  (One other band from Hague was Golden Earring, best known for its 1973 hit, "Radar Love," which virtually compels you to drive really fast when it comes on your car radio.)  "Venus" was by far the Shocking Blue's biggest hit, selling about 5 million copies worldwide.

"Venus" was released in this country near the end of 1969, and hit #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart in February 1970.  It was also a #1 hit for Bananarama in 1986.  (I didn't buy that album, but I did buy a Dramarama CD in 1991 -- what was I thinking?)  Gillette featured the song in a number of TV commercials for its "Venus" razors.

I remember singing along to "Venus" as it played in the Parkwood High School cafeteria my senior year in high school.  As I recall, our student council had successfully lobbied to have a soda dispenser installed in the cafeteria.

A portion of the proceeds were used to buy a big reel-to-reel tape player, which was turned on during lunch period.

I remember a few of the songs featured on that tape player -- there was "Touch Me" (the Doors), "Communication Breakdown" (Led Zeppelin), and "You Can't Always Get What You Want" (Rolling Stones).  That's all I've been able to pull so far, but I'm hoping that some of the people who come to my 40th high school reunion later this summer will be able to remember some of the others.

Not surprisingly, when my friends and I sang along to this song, we revised the lyrics.  (Think about it -- what rhymes with "Venus"?  We were 17-year-old boys after all.  What do you expect?)

I actually have the Shocking Blue LP that "Venus" appears on.

As I recall, I bought it at a really low-budget discount store in my home town called "Grandpa's" -- it made the local Walmart look positively upscale.  I don't remember how much that LP cost, but it was probably 33 cents.  I do know for sure that I got some others there for 33 cents -- like The Sir Douglas Quintet ("Mendocino") and Messages from the Status Quo ("Pictures of Matchstick Men").

Here's "Venus":

Shocking Blue lead singer Mariska Veres -- her mother was German, her father was a Hungarian gypsy -- died of cancer in 2006.  Here's her last TV appearance:

Here's Bananarama's version of "Venus."  This is a classic 1980's music video -- it is REALLY terrible:

As a special treat for the Parkwood High School class of 1970, here's "Pictures of Matchstick Men" -- it's been covered by everyone from Ozzy Osbourne to Camper Van Beethoven, but the original version by the Status Quo is still the best.  (This song really deserves its own entry.)

To buy "Venus" from Amazon, click here:

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