Shocking Blue - Biography
By Nick Castro
Shocking Blue were one of the few Dutch bands to crossover to the American pop charts. Although the band went through various changes during their career, it was with singer Mariska Veres that they scored their biggest hits with songs like, "Venus", which is still played regularly on American radio, as well as songs like, "Send Me a Postcard", Long and Lonesome Road" "Mighty Joe", "Never Marry a Railroad Man" and "Hot Sand". "Send Me a Postcard" is a dancefloor classic with fans of 60's rock. Though they were famous rockstars in Holland and Europe, their success only mildly carried over the the US markets.
Their story began in 1967, when Robbie van Leeuwen, guitarists of popular Dutch rock band, The Motions, formed the itial line-up of the group with fellow musicians Cor van Beek, on drums, Klaassje van der Wal, on bass, and Fred de Wilde as the band's singer. By early the next year they were signed to record label Dureco, It was on Dureco's subsidiary label, Pink Elephant, that the band released their initial single, "Lucy Brown is Back in Town", which went up the Dutch charts, landing well into the top 40. This early lineup did not last long. The band's manager had scouted out Veres while she was singing with another band called the Bumble Bees. She had already released a single as a solo artist before taking the place of de Wilde, as the band's singer. She also beautiful, as well as having a unique American blues style and powerful voice. Her place in the band was the final piece they needed to be catapulted to fame. They soon released the song, "Venus", which would become their signature tune, and garner them success abroad. This song took them up the charts in countries as varied as the USA, France, Spain, Germany and Belgium as well as their native Holland.
Shocking Blue soon released their first album with Veres soon after the success of the "Venus" single. The album At Home (1969 - Pink Elephant), is often remembered as their classic album, which contained many of their strongest songs, including Long and Lonesome Road" and "Love Buzz", which was later covered by the American band, Nirvana. van Leeuwen can be heard throughout the album playing his sitar, as on songs like "Acka Raga", which is actually the only song on the album that he did not write. Already, one can hear the hard rock and country rock influences on van Leeuwen's song writing. Although the group achieved tremendous success with their singles, it is the remainder of the album tracks that has garnered them respect and attention by record collectors.
Shocking Blue quickly followed up on their success with "Venus", by releasing the song, "Mighty Joe", which, although not the tremendous international hit of its predecessor, attained number one status in Holland. They then released the song, "Never Marry a Railroad Man", which also became a hit with Dutch audiences. They also released a second album, Scorpio's Dance (1969 - Pink Elephant), which did not score any big hits, but is now considered a strong album by many music fans. It is another example of the prolific song writing abilities of van Leeuwen, who can also be heard playing his sitar again on the song, "Water Boy". Part of the album was recorded in New York, since the band had been recently signed to American record label, Colossus, and was spending increasing amounts of time in the US.
Shocking Blue continued to enjoy success with songs like "Hello Darkness" and "Shocking You". Although some of these songs charted in the US, they did not get into the top 40, where European bands had to chart to maintain any notoriety there. Their singles and strong albums took them throughout Asia, North and South America and Europe as they heavily toured to support their releases. Van Leeuwen became increasingly stressed by the pressures of writing material for the band, to make their three albums a year commitment to their record label, and the heavy tour routine. He began to instigate quarrels with the other band members until they began to leave the group, one after the other.
In 1971, Shocking Blue released the record 3rd Album (1971 - Pink Elephant), which again was mainly comprised by van Leeuwen compositions. With many of the changing styles of the times though, they began to suffer in terms of chart hits. Many of the popular groups of the times, were closely associated with the hippie drug scene and the Shocking Blue were graduates of the beat rock scene, and comparatively clean cut compared to their contemporaries. They forged ahead with the album, Attila (1972 - Pink Elephant), which van Leeuwen had written every song for, as he also did on the majority of the next albums, Inkpot (1972 - Pink Elephant) and Dream on Dreamer (1973 - Pink Elephant).
By 1973, both van Leeuwen and Veres had departed the ranks of Shocking Blue. The band tried to go on without them. Veres released a solo song, "Too Young", which was produced by van Leeuwen. Van Leeuwen continued to enjoy success with a variety of projects, including studio group Mistral and his jazz rock band, Galaxy Lyn. He soon retired from the music business in the mid 80's and did not play publicly again for almost 15 years.
Shocking Blue fizzled out of existence in the mnid 70's, although they did have a short reunion in the mid 80's, which included both Veres and van Leeuwen. Veres continued to use the band's name to tour throughout the world in the 90's, as Shocking Blue. Unfortunately, Veres died in 2006 from cancer.