Melody Hill was the Circle Sky Records official magazine while we were open between 2002 and 2010. We published a new issue as often as we could and had a total of fourteen. The following article was written by me and was published in the Premiere Issue of Melody Hill. The smoking cat is mine and is an incense burner with a cone inside. The artwork on the pumpkin, that I bought at Michaels, was drawn by Donnie Thompson and carved out by Richard Golden. The psychedelic font we used is called MAMA and the groovy girl photo I just found on the internet. Enjoy!
It won’t be a surprise, to any one who knows me, when I tell you how much I like bands with girls; The Bangles, Jefferson Airplane, Wendy & Lisa, Sweetwater, The Archies (does Betty and Veronica count?) to name a few of my favorites. Shocking Blue is no exception to this rule.
As a kid, I had the single “Venus” and also loved the B- side, “Hot Sand”. Not too long ago, I saw the video for “Venus” at Donnie’s house and decided to see what I could learn about this band. Shocking Blue was formed in 1967 by Robby van Leeuwen (born in Hague 1944), guitarist for “The Motions”.
The first band lineup was singer – Fred de Wilde, guitar/ songwriter – Leeuwen, bass – Klassje van de Wal and drums – Cornelius van der Beck. This combo had a small hit in Holland with “Lucy Brown Is Back In Town” but Robby had always wanted to try a female singer. When Wilde went off to do his military service, he was replaced with Mariska Veres, a sexy dark haired singer with a voice often compared to Grace Slick.
When Fred returned it was too late to rejoin, as the new line- up was a huge success. Now with Mariska (born in Hague 1949) the bands sound changed with the release of their first record “Send Me A Postcard” in February of 1969 on the Pink Elephant label. It was a top 20 hit in Holland. The second record “Long And Lonesome Road” was a minor hit but soon to follow was their third record “Venus”. Written by van Leeuwen in a tiny room at his parents home, it would change all of their lives forever.
Released in the US on Colossus, “Venus” would reach #1 on the Billboard charts (December 13, 11969) and would remain in the Hot 100 for 14 weeks. It made the top 10 in the UK (# 8 January 1970) but surprisingly would not reach #1 in their home, Holland! This made Shocking Blue the first Euro band to enjoy a #1 hit single in the US. “Venus” would reach #1 once more in 1981 when covered by Stars On 45 and then again in 1986 when recorded by Bananarama.
Now the band was a smash and was in tremendous demand for albums and worldwide touring. Taking their name from an Eric Clapton song “Electric Blue” and their music direction from the west coast sound and well blended pop melodies, Shocking Blue would become one of the busiest and most successful acts of the seventies. They would cover vast distances on tour, crammed together in an uncomfortable station wagon working with such bands as Sly & The Family Stone, Ike & Tina Turner and Three Dog Night.
While other bands of this era were often known for their drug influences, Leeuwen said that they were quite straight. No one was more surprised by their success than the band themselves.
The US tour was a bit of a strain on them and they commented “the country was too big!. “Mighty Joe” was a smash hit in Germany and would reach #43 in the US (3/ 7/ 70) during its 7 weeks on the charts. “Long And Lonesome Road” stayed on the US charts for 5 weeks reaching #75 (6/ 6/ 70).
“Never Marry A Railroad Man” was #1 in Holland and went gold in Germany and Japan. “Acka Raga”, a psychedelic number featured an Indian Sitar as did “Love Buzz”, covered in 1988 by Nirvana. It was said to be a cross between a Hebrew Lament and an Indian Raja. “Inkpot”, recorded in 1972, had somewhat naughty lyrics with a double meaning.
The line goes “Put some love in your heart like you put some ink in your inkpot”. “Let Me Carry Your Bag” would be their first flop. All in all, they would have about 50 hits in Holland! They wrote most of their own songs but since they were in demand to put out so much music, so quickly, they used some cover songs to ease the writing pressure.
They covered songs such as “Jambalaya”, “Will The Circle Be Unbroken” and “Mississippi Delta”. Klassje would leave the band after 5 years on the road and then Mariska would leave to pursue a solo career in 1975.