Shocking Blue Biography

Formed in 1967 by ex-Motions guitarist Robbie van Leeuwen (1944), this Dutch quartet originally featured lead vocalist Fred de Wilde, bass player Klassje van der Wal and drummer Cornelius van der Beek (d. 2 April 1998). After one minor hit in their homeland, ‘Lucy Brown Is Back In Town’, there was a major line-up change when the group’s management replaced De Wilde with Mariska Veres (b. 1 October 1947, Den Haag, Netherlands, d. 2 December 2006, Den Haag, Netherlands). With her solid vocals, long dark hair, heavy make-up and low-cut garments Veres brought the group a sexy image and another Netherlands hit ‘Send Me A Postcard’. Next came ‘Venus’, a massive European hit, which went on to top the US charts in February 1970 after Jerry Ross had signed the group to his Colossus label.

With the talented van Leeuwen dominating the composing and production credits, Shocking Blue attempted to bridge the gap between the pop and progressive markets. Their 1969 At Home set contained such lengthy cuts as ‘California, Here I Come’, ‘The Butterfly And I’ and featured a sitar on the innovative ‘Acka Raga’. They remained largely a pop unit in the UK market however, where they enjoyed another minor hit with ‘Mighty Joe’, which had reached number 1 in Holland. Thereafter, the transatlantic hits evaporated although they managed another Dutch chart topper with ‘Never Marry A Railroad Man’. Personnel upheaval saw van der Wal replaced by Henk Smitskamp in 1971, and van Leeuwen withdrawing from many group activities two years later with Martin van Wijk brought in as cover. The band split-up the following year when Veres embarked on a solo career.

Chief songwriter van Leeuwen later re-surfaced in the folk/jazz group, Galaxy Lynn. His most famous song ‘Venus’ was frequently covered and was back at number 1 in the USA in 1981 and 1986 by Stars On 45 and Bananarama, respectively. The occasional Shocking Blue reunion led to a more permanent arrangement in the mid-90s, with Veres leading a new line-up on the festival circuit. Veres died of cancer in December 2006.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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