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Haarlem Renaissance.
October 19, 2007 7:35 AM   Subscribe

Just lately I was thinking of the Dutch Invasion. No, not this one. Not this one either. I mean this one. There was, of course, Shocking Blue, with their classic hit, Venus, and their lesser-known Never Marry a Railroad Man and Mighty Joe. Then there was the George Baker Selection, with Little Green Bag and Una Paloma Blanca. Then you've got the very, er... unique Ma Belle Amie, by Peter Tetteroo and the Tee Set. And how 'bout that Golden Earring, eh? Radar Love? Amirite? And of course, the inimitable Focus, with their mega-hit instrumental, Hocus Pocus. By now you're probably asking yourself "Why didn't they ever put a bunch of these Dutch bands out on little platforms sticking out of the ocean, and throw in some go-go girls, and film the whole thing from helicopters?" Well, THEY DID! Those crazy Dutch!

Songfacts page for Venus.
Lyrics for Venus.
Lyrics for Never Marry a Railroad Man.
Lyrics for Little Green Bag.
Songfacts page for Ma Belle Amie.
Lyrics for Ma Belle Amie.
Focus Wikipedia page.

One more Golden Earring clip: Mad Love. Check out those lights inside the drum kit! Cool!
One more Focus clip: Sylvia / Hocus Pocus. "Sylvia" is one of the dumbest tunes I've ever heard.

And... one more Dutch instrumental act: Ekseption. More dopey prog oddness. That's Bach they're playing, right?
Plus... Popfestival in de Warrekam. Check out the Dutch hippie vibe of 1971.

Looking back over all this material, I'm struck by the unlikeliness of it all. Virtually every song from every one of these bands is a hodge podge of influences and musical ideas thrown together in entirely unexpected ways. In ways that are... wrong. This is mirrored in the lyrics as well: with their uniquely good grasp of English, Dutch songwriters were able to write and sing in English, but most all of these songs, at one point or another, utilize some phrase or lyric connection which is just, well, wrong. Oddly wrong. All this combined is what, I think, makes so much of this stuff interesting. Kind of makes you wish more Dutch bands had really kept at it, or had more luck in the international arena. With these few efforts, some of these Dutch bands showed a proclivity for experimentation that, while not necessarily always successful, at least pointed toward a unique interpretation of the the language of rock and pop music.
posted by flapjax at midnite (52 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

I'll chip in Doe Maar, the best of cheesy dutch Ska and, of course, that dynamic dutch duo Sven and Miker G doing the Holiday Rap!

Ring ranga dong for a hol eee daaay

posted by phrontist at 7:44 AM on October 19, 2007

The dutch bands on platforms thing is amazing. I like to imagine this is what would happen if they were doing some big festival and the dykes broke.
posted by phrontist at 7:48 AM on October 19, 2007

There's also this, errrr, "classic".

Golden Earring Live has a certain pot-smoking plaid-shirt grubby teenage vibe that makes it one of the few 70s double-live albums I can still listen to.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 7:51 AM on October 19, 2007

wow! genius post, as usual.
posted by agent99 at 7:53 AM on October 19, 2007

Don't be forgetting the classic Gompie.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:53 AM on October 19, 2007

And Herman Brood.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 7:55 AM on October 19, 2007

also, at least one Dutch band HAS kept at it
posted by agent99 at 7:56 AM on October 19, 2007

Stars on 45, too.

The Dutch rule!
posted by zek at 8:00 AM on October 19, 2007

This one was pretty unforgiveable.

Lots more at The Dutch Rock And Pop Institute.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:00 AM on October 19, 2007

damn, beaten to the punch
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:01 AM on October 19, 2007

Go Dutch indeed!
posted by DenOfSizer at 8:08 AM on October 19, 2007

Luurrrving that last link! (bands on platforms)
posted by amyms at 8:10 AM on October 19, 2007

This post did not happen.

This thread is not real.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:15 AM on October 19, 2007

Man, I miss Golden Earring. Since they had a hit in the 70s and then the 80s, I waited in vain for their 90s hit. Don't forget the Twilight Zone video.
posted by tommasz at 8:18 AM on October 19, 2007

Get ready for this!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:21 AM on October 19, 2007

And the wider Dutch contribution to dance music.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:24 AM on October 19, 2007

Heh, MC Miker G & DJ Sven. Very funny, phrontist! Me and my german colleague where quoting this recently to each other. Hilariously bad.

Some more Golden Earring Twilight zone and When the lady smiles. Nice videos from a pre MTV age.

Has anybody outside of the NL heard of Anouk? Very popular with people who have a thing for strong women.
posted by jouke at 8:25 AM on October 19, 2007

Darn Tommasz.
posted by jouke at 8:25 AM on October 19, 2007

No no no, PeterMcD.
Heh, Eurotrash.
posted by jouke at 8:29 AM on October 19, 2007

Oh no, you did not make a post about Dutch bands without including Diesel and the megahit, can't get it out of your head, awesomness of Sausalito Summernight.
posted by euphorb at 9:20 AM on October 19, 2007 [2 favorites]

I've caused eyes to roll by whistling "Una Paloma Blanca" while washing the dinner dishes. The definitive cover still seems to be the Slim Whitman version -- I'm at work, or I'd hunt around YouTube to see if they have a SW performance.
posted by pax digita at 9:23 AM on October 19, 2007

Haha, pax. Exactly. You can annoy people at work by just whistling a few lines of Una Paloma Blanca because it will get the insane dwarfs in their heads whistling along and these dwarfs won't quit.
That song is the quintessential earworm.
posted by jouke at 9:27 AM on October 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

To some people it is a US Air Force base, but to the Dutch it's just a common surname. And of course it's a Dutch hair metal. Vandenberg in Tokyo.
posted by jouke at 9:36 AM on October 19, 2007

This guy should probably count as Dutch as well -- if only by adoption.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:44 AM on October 19, 2007

Y'all forgot the vengaboys ... the biggest thing out of holland since the ... erm ...
posted by jannw at 10:07 AM on October 19, 2007

I'm guessing you may need a unicorn chaser after this post, so here's some contemporary, suck-free Dutch music:

Alamo Race Track
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:20 AM on October 19, 2007

Suck-free music is boring since it presupposes the stuffy notion of 'good taste'.
Boo gnfti!
posted by jouke at 10:31 AM on October 19, 2007

More importantly: thanks for this post, flapjax, especially the Warrekam Festival link. And you're right about the English lyrics bit. I've always felt there is a certain complacency factor involved: generation upon generation, the Dutch are used to having their English language proficiency complimented upon, resulting in a deeply ingrained devil-may-care attitude towards writing songs in English, implying that one's direct target audience "doesn't really pay attention to the words anyway".

Now, this may be equally true for native anglophone songwriters, but those at least may have a more innate, acute sense of impending linguistic embarrassment among their peers.

Or this is my theory. The intricate workings of this cultural oddity I will perhaps never quite grasp, but I find it endlessly fascinating.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:35 AM on October 19, 2007

The venga boys, I'm ashamed to say, are Belgian. (you insensitive clod!)
posted by phrontist at 10:35 AM on October 19, 2007

Terrific post. I grew up in Holland in the 70s. Thought I'd mention The Nits. Someone already mentioned Herman Brood, who's from my hometown of Zwolle. And, speaking of Zwolle, the town is now known as the hip-hop capital of The Netherlands, mainly because of the guys from Opgezwolle (in Dutch).
posted by monospace at 10:40 AM on October 19, 2007

jouke: "Suck-free music is boring since it presupposes the stuffy notion of 'good taste'."

"Your favourite band sucks! cannot be your favourite band because preferring one band over another implies that there are bands that are more likeable than others! Don't you see the logic quagmire you're getting yourself into? After the Revolution, all bands will be equally good! (Except your least favourite band, who will still be fucking brilliant.)"
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:43 AM on October 19, 2007

phrontist: "The venga boys, I'm ashamed to say, are Belgian. (you insensitive clod!)"

I can't believe I'm fencing over nineties Eurodance here, but it was basically the brainchild of Wessel van Diepen and that Danski guy, so yeah, basically Dutch.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 10:46 AM on October 19, 2007

I had no idea the George Baker Selection were Dutch, but it makes perfect sense (little green bag, indeed).

Do not forget the very important contribution the Dutch have made to the electronic music scene as well! Artists such as Tiesto and Armin van Buuren were at the forefront of trance, changing techno forever.
posted by goo at 10:52 AM on October 19, 2007

So many versions of Venus. Christ, do ya think they ever got tired of playing it? Those smiles looked pretty forced on some of the vids.

Oh, and Nirvana kicked ass on a cover of another Shocking Blue tune: "Love Buzz".
posted by birdhaus at 11:35 AM on October 19, 2007

I'm told the members of Rage against the machine met at a concert by Dutch band Urban Dance Squad. They had a softer side too. More recently, Amsterdam-based Moke are jumping on the 80s revival bandwagon. Then there's The Gathering, a gothic rock outfit who have been around ages and are apparently big in... Mexico.
posted by prolific at 11:44 AM on October 19, 2007

gnfti: No quagmire at all: your basic "your band sucks" comment was below you.
That you have a subjective preference is natural, pretending that you have to cleanse comments made by others is an obnoxious thing to do.
Pretending that you have logic as an unassailable objective grounding on your side reinforces that obnoxious impression you're creating. Please don't do that.
And I'll leave it at that.
posted by jouke at 12:34 PM on October 19, 2007

The intricate workings of this cultural oddity I will perhaps never quite grasp

Similarly, the forty year persistence of the mullet in The Netherlands is a question that warrants some investigation. It's at least as traditional as those enormous moustaches that old Dutchmen wear.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:36 PM on October 19, 2007

Hey monospace. Opgezwolle indeed. Lachuh.
posted by jouke at 12:37 PM on October 19, 2007

John Dowie's song about The Dutch
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:39 PM on October 19, 2007

posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:46 PM on October 19, 2007

The songfacts link to Ma Bell Ami above finally explained the mysterious, to me anyway, French lyric in the middle of the song. Izzmo wrote:"Ma belle amie Apres tous les beaux jours Je te dis merci merci Translate literally to: My nice friend After all fine weather I say to thank you thank you you." Thanks Izzmo and thanks Flapjax for a great set of links.
posted by Sculthorpe at 1:08 PM on October 19, 2007

What, no Gruppo Sportivo?
posted by newmoistness at 1:17 PM on October 19, 2007

Those crazy Dutch!

Wow. That Beat Behind the Dykes clip, done on the platforms, is something (I especially like the beginning). You know, flapjax, you've got a whole big bay where you are, too — I think you're the one destined to introduce such an event to the other side of the world.

... a hodge podge of influences and musical ideas thrown together in entirely unexpected ways.

Hocus Pocus is a remarkable example of that. I can just see the focus [so to speak] group: “Thijs, we want you to play the organ for awhile, then move on into some falsetto screaming, and some scat singing gibberish. Then why don't you yodel a bit, play the flute, and end up with some jazz whistling. It'll be a huge hit!”

p.s. Off the subject: I always thought Thijs was a really cool name. Back on topic: great post title, too.
posted by LeLiLo at 2:15 PM on October 19, 2007

Come on, jouke, I would have imagined your sarcasm detector would have been better calibrated by now. And I don't mean this patronisingly, but the "Fixed that for you." type of joke is a bit of a tradition around here, isn't it, and I was merely taking it to an extreme. (The "logic" comment was part of the hyperbole, not my actual opinion.) If this wasn't immediately obvious then I apologise, but please don't mistake my feeble attempts at comedy for my ill-informed opinions, for that would be an insult to both.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 3:41 PM on October 19, 2007

never saw this, never heard anything about it and i should have.

great find, great post, thanks!
posted by Substrata at 4:30 PM on October 19, 2007

No Outsiders? ?
posted by jonmc at 5:50 PM on October 19, 2007

Don't forget the Van Halen brothers, who are half Dutch and were born in Holland but moved to the US as children.

Now I'm going to check out some of the links.
posted by Devils Slide at 6:40 PM on October 19, 2007

Jeez, jonmc, Lord knows we don't see eye to eye on all things musical, but still - you know the Outsiders??

Thanks for mentioning them - I must be frank and say I had all but forgotten about them. To make good I'll share you this bit from the Dutch Wikipedia:

Tax passed away at age 57 in his Amsterdam residence. After his death, a neighbour told [local TV] that Tax had been wont to stop by to 'borrow' small amounts of money. Never any rounded figures, but rather the exact amount he was short of buying a beer. So used had the neighbours grown to this form of artists' subsidies that they referred to it sub rosa as the "Wally Tax".
[transl. mine]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 7:16 PM on October 19, 2007

Hi folks, and thanks for your contributions and links. Allow me to address some of the "No ________ ?" comments...

jonmc: the Outsiders are cool, never heard of these guys, thanks for the heads up! Found some on the Tubes, too, right here and here. Not to be confused with these Outsiders, of course...

Devils Slide: Sorry, but even if I'd thought of the Van Halen brothers, I reckon I couldn't have brought myself to link to them. A man has his limits...

newmoistness: Gruppo Sportivo? Didn't know about 'em! Found 'em just now on YouTube though, a TV spot from England's Old Grey Whistle Test. They're kinda campy, but any band with a line like "I shot my manager" can't be all bad.

PeterMcDermott: T-Spoon. Oh dear.

prolific: You're living up to your username with all those links! But 80's and beyond bands were too late for the "Invasion". They're more, uh, boat people, or something. Thanks for the Dutchness anyway, though!

euphorb: Actiually, I did know about the Diesel hit, Sausalito Summernight, and the video is kinda great: just rolling down the interstate at night. As perfectly mundane as the song itself! The solo section did sorta step into some oddly unexpected melodic areas, so perhaps it could've fit in with the total gestalt of the post, but, I dunno... At any rate, thanks for the linkage.

And everyone else, once again, DANK U VELL!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:40 PM on October 19, 2007

Devils Slide: Sorry, but even if I'd thought of the Van Halen brothers, I reckon I couldn't have brought myself to link to them. A man has his limits...

Heh. How about Captain Beefheart? He's of Dutch ancestry.
posted by Devils Slide at 8:42 PM on October 19, 2007

Actually, Beefheart has no ancestry: he just appeared one day at the doorway of a little shack beside the railroad track, with full moustache and beat-up fedora on his head, shaking his fist and growling about x-ray gingham dresses.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:14 PM on October 19, 2007

Hey for anyone still watching this thread (or for posterity) I just came across this clip of a very *serious* song by The Motions, with Robbie van Leeuwen, who would go on to being one of the Shocking Blue. It's called Wasted Words, and it namedrops none other than Martin Luther King!

Also, another Outsiders tune, Thinking About Today, with convenient Dutch translations (in subtitles) of the English lyrics being sung by a Dutch person!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:33 AM on October 21, 2007

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