Mention the group Golden Earring to the casual American rock fan,and more than likely the response if any will be the mention of but two songs, "Radar Love" and "Twilight Zone". Uttering Golden Earring's name to a rock music lover in Holland, however, will probably be met with the kind of enthusiasm usually reserved for the Rolling Stones or the Grateful Dead in the United States. For many Europeans, Golden Earring is more than just another "classic rock" band, they are a rock'n'roll legend.
Because of their limited success in the United States, most Americans are unaware of Golden Earring's remarkable history or the fact that they are still in existence. Of those who do know that the group is still together, few realize that the current line-up has been intact since 1970. The band has had no fewer than 44 hit singles in its native Holland, and has toured every year since their debut single "Please Go" in 1965.
The backbone of Golden Earring is formed by founding members George Jan Kooymans and Marinus (Rinus) Gerritsen. Guitarist Kooymans (born 11 March, 1948) and bassist Gerritsen (born 9 August, 1946) grew up together in the Hague, better known as the Dutch seat of government. They were neighborhood schoolmates who shared a love for music. They began jamming together in 1960, and in 1961 formed a band called the Tornados. The Tornados were an instrumental pop combo, who used homemade amplifiers and played at school functions and local club dances.
The Tornados initial line-up consisted of Kooymans on lead guitar, Gerritsen on bass, Fred van der Hilst on drums, and Hans van Herwerden on rhythm guitar. Their popularity in The Hague grew steadily. When their manager was informed that a band in England had the same name, the group found themselves in need of a new title. They ended up calling themselves the Golden Earrings because they began their first set with a song by that name. Their first gig under this title was so successful that they decided it would be foolish to change it.
In 1963, Peter de Ronde replaced van Herwerden in the rhythm guitar slot. By 1964, the Golden Earrings had began writing lyrics for what had been an instrumental band, and added a lead vocalist named Frans Krassenburg. In 1965, their manager, Freddy Haayen, decided that the group was ready to record, and they signed with Polydor. They recorded "Please Go" in August of that year, with a line-up consisting of Kooymans (lead guitar), Gerritsen (bass), de Ronde (rhythm guitar), Krassenburg (lead vocals), and Jaap Eggermont replacing van der Hilst on drums. The song entered the Dutch charts less than two months after its release, and remained there for twenty weeks, peaking at number ten.
In November of 1965 the Golden Earrings released their debut album, "Just Ear-rings", which was the first album ever recorded by a Dutch rock'n'roll band. It sold well, and in the next year they released four more singles, all of which went higher than number fifteen on the Dutch charts. The Golden Earrings became a sensation in Holland, and in 1966 toured throughout Europe. For the first time, the group thought that this could actually be a way to make a living. That realization led to the dismissal of rhythm guitarist Peter de Ronde, who had failed to progress musically at the same rate as the others.
By 1967, the band was convinced that playing gigs was where the real money was, and wanted to expand to venues outside its homeland. With that in mind, they agreed that vocalist Krassenburg didn't have what was needed to be a frontman for their high-energy live performances. In his place they chose Barry Andrew Hay (born 16 August, 1948). The Golden Earrings wrote and sang exclusively in English, and Hay was a perfect choice for them. Raised by a British father, and living in Holland from an early age, Hay was fluent in both languages, played several instruments, and had song-writing skills in addition to his vocal talents.
By 1968, the addition of Hay was more evident in the change in the band's musical style than in the presence of a new voice. While their earlier music had a strong emphasis on "boy meets girl" lyrics and a "Merseyside" beat, the latest album, "Miracle Mirror", had a distinctive Earrings sound. Kooymans and Hay were splitting the lead vocal work 50/50, and Hay's instrumental contributions were a definite dividend.
1969 was a very special year for the Golden Earrings. The band's success in Europe secured them a record deal in the United States with Atlantic Records. The group released a "rockumentary" film, and embarked on their first tour of America. This was not without its problems, however. In the Amsterdam airport, just before the plane was scheduled to take off, the band was informed that their work permits were not in order. Manager Freddy Haayen left the panic-stricken group, and flew immediately to the States. He returned the following week with the necessary permits, and the Golden Earrings found themselves in America, the first Dutch rock group ever to tour the States. The band's visit to the States included gigs at the Whisky-A-Go-Go, the Fillmore East, the Village Gate, Detroit's Grande Ballroom, and the Fillmore West. Among the acts they supported were Joe Cocker, John Lee Hooker, B.B.King, Led Zeppelin, and the Who.
On their return to the Netherlands, drummer Jaap Eggermont, tired of life on the road, was replaced by jazz percussionist Sieb Warner. With this change came a new musical direction for the band. Pop records were now a thing of the past; the group wrote and recorded exclusively rock'n'roll. Their music bordered on heavy metal, with a dose of acid rock. Evident in this new sound was the dominance of Gerritsen, whose unique style made the bass not just a rhythm instrument but a lead instrument as well. Bass solos were now featured during the live shows, and included an assault on the bass amp, usually ending with Gerritsen lying flat on his back. It was about this time that the band dropped the "s" from their title, becoming the Golden Earring.
1970 began with another tour of the United States, which included four nights at the Fillmore West, opening for Delaney and Bonnie and Eric Clapton. This was Sieb Warner's first visit to the States, and his fascination with the country led to numerous problems. He was late for rehearsals, and often disappeared with no clue to his whereabouts. His on-stage performance also left a lot to be desired. Even before the tour, the band had been feeling uncomfortable with Warner's work, and on their return to Holland he was replaced by another musician from The Hague, Cornelis Johannes (Cesar) Zuiderwijk (born 18 July, 1948). At the same time, the group dropped "the" from their name, and in the summer of 1970 Golden Earring was reborn with a line-up that remains intact to the present day.
The first album released by the new line-up was titled simply "Golden Earring", although fans refer to it as the "The Wall of Dolls" in tribute to the cover art. Like the rest of their work, the album sold in great numbers in Europe, but barely surfaced in the United States. This album earned Golden Earing its first Edison award, the highest record achievement in Holland.
In the latter half of 1971 the group crossed paths with the Who, and was asked to join the British rock legend on a European tour, which continued into 1972. Impressed by the power of Golden Earring's music, Roger Daltry told the band that it was too good to be an opening act. This eventually led to a recording contract with Track Records, a subsidiary of MCA. It was Track Records that funded the 1973 release of the album "Moontan", which contained the song "Radar Love".
(A promotional video to support "Radar Love" was filmed which shows alternate scenes of the band onstage and an automobile racing through the night. It ends with Zuiderwijk jumping spread-eagled over his drumkit, which became a trade-mark of their live performances.)
Because of the extraordinary success of "Radar Love" in Europe, Track was quick to release the LP in the United States. However, the cover of "Moontan" depicted a nude Las Vegas showgirl (not to mention a nude Barry Hay on the inner sleeve), and it caused problems with MCA. The cover was subsequently banned in the States, although the single "Radar Love" soared to number thirteen, making it the band's first chart success in America. "Radar Love" remains an FM staple to this day, and is considered by many to be one of the classic rock songs of all time.
In 1975 the band added another member, Robert Jan Stipps, as keyboard player and arranger. With his advent, the group cut its hair, wore new clothing, and formulated a totally new, "progressive" sound. The change is evident not only in the inclusion of several keyboard instruments, but in a new style of writing which made the album "Switch" very different from its predecessor. The band added a horn section and several tons of sound equipment to its touring production to support that studio sound.
Tired of the hustle and bustle associated with the touring life of international rock'n'roll stardom, Stipps left the band the following year. They were joined by Eelco Gelling, formerly of Cuby and the Blizzards, who was considered one of mainland Europe's finest guitar players. Although this meant replacing a keyboardist with a guitarist, Kooymans felt that Gelling's extraordinary talent, and his mastery of the slide guitar, could add a whole new dimension to the Earring sound. This was most evident during live performances, as Kooymans and Gelling traded licks and fueled each other into guitar frenzy. Their lead guitar styles were entirely different, and complemented each other both on stage and in the studio.
Released in 1977, the double album "Golden Earring Live" sold well in the United States, and paved the way for the band's fifth U.S. tour. During that visit, Golden Earring supported the likes of Led Zeppelin, Kiss, and Aerosmith.
When it came time to record the next album, the band knew that their future with MCA was at stake, and that they needed to produce something with American appeal. They called on American producer Jimmy Iovene to oversee the new project, "Grab It For A Second". The strategy failed in more ways than one. Not only did it not sell well in the States, the new heavy guitar sound adopted for the album actually alienated many of their loyal Dutch fans.
(One song on the album,"Cell 29", was written about an event Hay would not care to relive. Following a concert in 1977, Hay drove his car directly into a police cruiser. Both vehicles were totalled, although Hay escaped wit minor injuries. He was sentenced to jail for a couple of weeks, and the tune was written in his prison cell in the Dutch city of Hoorn.)
Despite the failure of the album, and the demise of the MCA deal, Golden Earring toured the United States again in the fall of 1978. During that trip, Gerritsen's beloved Daneletro bass guitar was stolen from a New York hotel. To say that he was attached to this instrument would be an understatement; roadies even claimed that he cried the night of the theft. It is certain that, while normally a flamboyant and energetic stage performer, Gerritsen stood motionless during several concerts following the incident.
To make matters worse, Gelling was becoming a problem. He and Kooymans were fueding over their respective guitar roles, and Gelling began to feel alienated. Like Robert Jan Stipps, he felt like a sideman with the band, rather than a core member. He left before the end of the tour, and Kooymans had to assume all of the lead guitar work for the remaining shows.
1979 saw the release of the LP "No Promises, No Debts" in both Europe and the U.S., the executives at Polydor having been able to convince their American counterparts to sign the group Stateside. The most remarkable event of the year, however, occurred on tour. As part of their stage show, the members of Golden Earing had magnesium flash bombs affixed to the necks of their guitars. At this particular gig, the flashbomb on Kooymans' guitar ignited prematurely, and literally exploded his instrument. A metal fragment from the explosion hit Kooymans in the neck, just missing his jugular vein. Although he lost a great deal of blood, Kooymans was rushed to a local hospital and escaped with a nasty scar. As a result, the band discontinued the use of the flashbombs. (!)
By 1982, manager Freddy Haayen felt very confident about his overall knowledge of the music business. When he realized Golden Earring's dissatisfaction with the minimal attention they had received over the years in the States, he formed a new label, 21 Records, in New York. Golden Earring was the first band to sign on. The name of the new label reflected the fact that their next release would be their 21st official album release in Holland; fifteen studio albums, two live albums, and three greatest hits compilations had been released by Polydor from 1965 to 1981.
(When the new album was finished, Hay suggested that it should be called "Cut". He wanted very much to hear DJs in Holland announce the album's title, since it meant "cu*t" in Dutch. There was a bit of a fight over this, but Hay and Haayen eventually won.)
The choice of single from the album was "Twilight Zone", and the accompanying video was the first Golden Earring film to be shown on MTV. The single became Golden Earring's fourth number one hit in Holland, and their first American top ten hit.
Between gigs in Holland, Zuiderwijk had become fascinated with electronic drums and produced some home-made instruments, which he added to his already enormous drum set. By 1983 he had enough pieces to literally play in a 360 degree motion around his kit. He also put the finishing touches on his "drum jacket", an electronic drum-lined sport coat which he would don and "play" during his drum solos. Since then, many percussionists have copied Zuiderwijk's "drum jacket".
In 1984, the band was filmed and recorded at a gig in Leiden, Holland, and RCA produced it as the concert video "Live From the Twilight Zone" for release in the United States. It contained all of the show's highlights: the appearance of the leather-clad dancers, Kooymans jumping into the crowd and playing the guitar behind his head, Zuiderwijk performing with his "drum jacket" and playing drums in 360 degree fashion, Gerritsen playing his foot-operated bass synthesizer, and Hay doing a dynamic vocal improvisation of his trade-mark "Long Blond Animal".
Golden Earring was forced to take a hiatus from their 1987 tour while Zuiderwijk served a jail term for a weapons possession charge. During the last American tour, he had attempted to smuggle a hand gun from the United States to Holland in one of his bass drums. Then as now, the Dutch government was very serious about gun control, and when the weapon was located no exception was made for Zuiderwijk's celebrity status.
A retrospective compilation of Golden Earring, "The Very Best of Golden Earring",was released in Holland in 1988. The double album and twin CDs went platinum in Holland, and the band dubbed its journey through Europe that year "The Very Best Of Tour". Freddy Haayen dissolved 21 Records and formed a new label, Jaws Records. Naturally, the first band to sign with the new label was Golden Earring.
In 1990 Golden Earring secured a deal with Columbia Records. This was a breakthrough for the band, as it had been nearly ten years since they had recorded on a major label. Their 1991 release,"Bloody Buccaneers", went gold in Holland within weeks of its appearance. Unfortunately, Columbia/CBS declined to distribute the CD Stateside, and Golden Earring gave up hope of an American release. Also in 1991, Kooymans, Hay, Gerritsen, and Zuiderwijk got their footprints on Sony Star Boulevard Scheveningen, and, in the city of Almere, Golden Earring Street was dedicated to the group.
In September of 1993, a project that Zuiderwijk had been working on for no less than two years finally took place in Rotterdam. The crazed percussionist assembled 1,000 drummers and their 1,000 drum sets on a series of pontoons in the city's harbor. The drummers were divided into four color-coded sections, and each of the percussionists wore caps with drum sticks through them.
The event, simply entitled,"1,000 Drummers", began when Zuiderwijk was lowered to the main stage in a harness from a huge crane. He then conducted the drummers in a series of riffs, rolls, and rudiments which produced somewhat of a Doppler effect among the amazed spectators. Zuiderwijk then donned a "drumstick hat" and played a giant drum set. The show, which included such bizarre stunts as playing drums underwater, culminated with an appearance by Golden Earring, who accompanied the 1,000 drummers on an extraordinary version of "Radar Love".
The concept of an acoustic tour, with which the band had been flirting for several years, became a reality in 1993. The "Naked Truth Tour" was an unplugged journey that lasted from February through May. During this time, however, the group alternated the acoustic with an almost equal number of electric shows. The electric concerts provided a recess from continuously playing acoustic instruments which for Kooymans and Gerritsen in particular was essential, as both were nursing new blisters and developing calluses in places they never had before. Tiring as it was, the successful year earned Golden Earring its name on Rotterdam's "Walk of Fame".
1994 saw the release of "Face It", which went gold in the Netherlands within six weeks of its release. It was released in the United States to coincide with the thirtieth anniversary of the band's first single. Shortly afterward, Golden Earring was approached with an offer to play in the U.S. as the support band for another incarnation of Deep Purple, but they declined. With the enormous success the band was achieving in Holland, they would hardly have contemplated headlining shows in the U.S., much less performing as a supporting act.
In early 1995, "Face It" went platinum in the Netherlands, and "The Naked Truth" went triple platinum. On June 25th, 1995, Golden Earring played for an unprecedented audience of 400,000 at the Parkpop festival in The Hague. Golden Earring, now commonly referred to as the "Rolling Stones of Holland" already has concerts booked well into 1996. At the moment, the band is riding on a crest of its career and shows no signs of breaking up. As Kooymans put it,"We're not doing it because we have to, but because we want to. The excitement is still there with every show we do."
In September of 1997 Golden Earring released the follow-up to "The Naked Truth" called "Naked II". The overall quality and maturity of the band is stunning to say the least. It's not just a re-hash of songs that fans of the band are familiar with, but a whole new approach to some classic Golden Earring tunes.
Tracks: "Who Do You Love", "Buddy Joe", "She Flies On Strange Wings", "Quiet Eyes", "Going To The Run", "Bombay", "Burning Stuntman", "Mood Indigo", "Where Will I Be", "This Wheels On Fire", "Johnny Make Believe", "When The Lady Smiles" & "The Devil Made Me Do It".
The latest Golden Earring CDs, "Naked II", "Complete Naked Truth", "Paradise in Distress", and "Last Blast of the Century" are currently available online at the CD Teleshop®.
Excerpted from "Golden Earring: Dutch Masters", by John Scarpelli, published in Goldmine, Vol.21, No.26, December 22, 1995. Case work by Special Agent Coyote Red. Dedicated to and inspired by Les Scott.