Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The Oddly Forgettable Existence of Golden Earring!

It's January. You're trying to sleep in the back of a van after a sweaty, riotous gig, but are awakened by the sound of the driver slapping themselves in the face and rolling down their window every five minutes, which immediately drops the cabin temperature by ten degrees.

Then comes the blur of radio stations as the driver searches for something, ANYTHING to help keep them conscious and on the right side of the yellow line.  Just as you're about to ask if they need any help slapping themselves in the face, you hear that monolithic bass line rising above the surface like a loch ness monster.

Is it?...Can it be?

YES, praise Jeebus!

It's "Radar Love".

For the next six minutes and twenty-six seconds, you can feel the van weaving to and fro, but only because the driver is also playing air guitar to a song that has probably saved more lives out on the highways and bi-ways of this great country than an entire team of EMT's.

As you drift between varying degrees of half consciousness, you ponder the question that has long plagued the greatest minds of the universe:

"Why weren't Golden Earring more popular in the States?"

Consider for a moment how much different your own musical career might have been had "Radar Love" been YOUR first U.S. single yet the band has done little to nothing in recent years to capitalize on the song's continuing popularity in the U.S. market.

Can you say "nostalgia bucks?"

If not for the band being Dutch and, therefore, not speaking English, one suspects Golden Earring would have made more of an effort, but if the prospect of screaming fans and suitcases full of cash isn't motivation to learn a language, I dunno what is.

Listening to the rest of their 1973 album Moontan (their ninth studio effort, but first to see release in the States), one is left scratching their head as to why "Candy's Going Bad" wasn't also a massive U.S. radio smash.

The only obvious strike against any of the album's FIVE songs is that the tunes themselves are just too damn long. Even back in the glory days of rock, commercial radio stations were resistant to playing longer songs, yet "Radar Love" almost seems not quite long enough, especially at 4AM when the only other option is to slap yourself silly for the next three hours.

The band could and should have ruled the U.S. with an iron fist, packing arenas with their Bic lighter-worthy anthems and giving the likes of Wings and Peter Frampton a run for their money.

Instead, "Radar Love" became an indelible part of '70s American pop culture while the band itself was reduced to the answer to a trivia question.

How could this have happened?

Oh, right! They were signed to MCA Records.

This makes their dramatic escape from One Hit Wonderdom all the more impressive than the initial fact that, almost ten years after the success of "Radar Love", the band reappears out of nowhere with "Twilight Zone" and, voila, they reclaim their crowns as rightful kings of '70s album-rock radio.

What was different this time around, however, was the fact that the band was now with Polygram in the U.S. and that a substantial amount of airplay came via the new kid in town, MTV.

As a result, "Twilight Zone" hit #10 on the Pop charts, making it a bigger hit than "Radar Love" but, alas, there were no further U.S. hits from the album Cut.

The band played it smart by sticking to the exact same formula for their next two albums N.E.W.S. (1984) and The Hole (1986).

Unfortunately, of the three worst major labels in the U.S. during the '70s and '80s, the band had been signed to two of them, thus ensuring that whatever success they attained was short-lived.

Things worked out just fine for the band otherwise, as they remain ginormous in their homeland of The Netherlands, where the same line-up that first formed in 1970 continues to play to sold out audiences and has just released a new single called "Say When" to commemorate their 50th anniversary.


  1. My introduction to Golden Earring was their 1969 album (on Atlantic, no shoddy label at the time), EIGHT MILES HIGH, featuring a 15+ minute version of ... well ... EIGHT MILES HIGH, which got some airplay on NYC FM stations. At a college radio station in 1972, I discovered that another of the band's albums had been released in the U.S. between EIGHT MILES HIGH and MOONTAN (which overall was not a bad album), called GOLDEN EARRING, on a small label, and which I recall only because it had a song on it called THE LONER, which until I heard it thought it might be a Neil Young cover. I also find it hard to believe that none of the Golden Earring members spoke English. I have a number of post-WWII-born Dutch relatives, and three-fourths speak English, and they tell me that their children all speak English. Some better than others, of course. Still, Radar Love is that unique song, like Born To Be Wild, that through commercial usage in film, commercials, and TV, conveys a time and place to ideas represented visually.