Golden Earring earned a unique place in Dutch music history. The band scored international single hits with the classics Radar Love and Twilight Zone. During the sixties, seventies and eighties the band toured ten times in North America. After a debut single and album in 1965 the band continued to release new material in every decade that followed, with the Dutch number one album Tits ‘n Ass from 2012 as its most recent achievement. The classic line-up of the band came together in 1970 and is still going strong today. Golden Earring continues to perform monthly, performing electric and acoustic shows. No other band in Holland comes near these statistics.
The first outlines of Golden Earring emerge in the early sixties in the Hague when neighborhood boys Rinus Gerritsen and George Kooymans form a band. The young band is initially called The Tornadoes. When it becomes clear that there is already another group with that name they settle with The Golden Earrings, inspired by a song by the British beat band The Hunters. Around that same time the music scene in the Hague starts to thrive, thanks to hundreds of brand new bands who perform in local clubs and halls.
It doesn’t take long for The Golden Earrings to become one of the prominent faces of this new era in Dutch pop music. The band is signed by the Polydor label. In 1965 the five piece releases its debut album Just Earrings and its first single Please Go. Early on The Golden Earrings show their ambition by escaping the notoriously stuffy atmosphere of the Dutch studio’s and record their second single That Day in PYE studio in London
In the years that follow The Golden Earrings show a spectacular artistic growth. The band embraces new influences, while creating their own distinguished sound. Meanwhile the hits keep coming: In My House (1967), Sound of the Screaming Day (1967), Together We Live Together We Love (1967), I’ve Just Lost Somebody (1968), Dong-Dong-Di-Ki -Di-Gi-Dong (1968), Just a Little Bit of Peace in My Heart, Where Will I Be (1969) and Another 45 Miles (1969). The band impress with the full length albums: the ultimate beat record Winter Harvest (1967), the psychedelic Mirracle Mirror (1968) and the adventurous double album On The Double (1969).
The bands’ growth has its consequences: in 1968 singer Frans Krassenburg is replaced by Barry Hay. The newcomer is much better suited for the progressing sound of the band. The fact that the India-born singer speaks fluent English, gives the band an extra edge over many other Dutch groups at the time. In 1969 drummer Jaap Eggermont makes way for Sieb Warner, who comes over from The Motions.
In 1969 The Golden Earrings tours America, a first for any Dutch band. The group shares the bill with illustrious acts like Led Zeppelin, MC5, Sun Ra, John Lee Hooker and Joe Cocker. Later that year the band returns to the States to promote the Eight Miles High album, released in America by Atlantic Records. The long player, with an extended version of the Byrds’ hit as the center piece, shows that the band continues to expand its horizons.
While most Dutch pop bands of the sixties trip over the threshold into the seventies, the Golden Earring – as the band is now called – enter the decade stronger and more confident than ever. The first two American tours provide a wealth of new ideas, musically, visually and technically. With the arrival of drummer Cesar Zuiderwijk in 1970 the classic line-up takes its definitive shape.
The self-titled album – also known as Wall Of Dolls by many fans – that appears in that year, proves that Cesar Zuiderwijk is indeed the missing piece of the puzzle. His skilled and energetic style blends perfectly with well-rounded sound of Golden Earring new style. The straight ahead rock song Back Home becomes a new single hit.
The follow-ups Seven Tears (1971) and Together (1972) show how the band further deepens his sound. Holy Holy Life (1971), She Flies On Strange Wings (1971), Buddy Joe (1972) and Stand By Me (1972) provide the Golden Earring with new single hits. In 1972 the band tours through Europe as special guest of The Who. It proves to be an inspiring experience, which also offers valuable contacts. The result is a record deal with the prestigious Track-label, which released albums of The Who and – a few years earlier – Jimi Hendrix.
It inspires Golden Earring in 1973 to create an album with an international appeal. The band takes its time to write and record songs for the album that is eventually released as Moontan. The mission succeeds brilliantly. Candy’s Going Bad, Radar Love, Just Like Vince Taylor and The Vanilla Queen are among the best songs that the band has written to date. An excellent production and contributions by guests Bertus Borgers (saxophone) and Eelco Gelling (guitar) are the icing on the cake.
Both Moontan and its single Radar Love are a resounding success. First in the Netherlands, than in the rest of Europe and eventually in America – where the album is finally released in 1974. Radar Love even earns the band its first major Billboard single hit, with a 13th place as the top listing. In the following years the song will gain a status as the ultimate car song, that is still being played daily on U.S. radio stations. The songs has been covered by hundreds of international acts, including U2, White Lion, Ministry and Def Leppard. Both the single and the album are a milestone in the Dutch pop history.
To further promote the initial success of Radar Love and Moontan Golden Earring tours America extensively. The band shares the stage with other greats like The Doobie Brothers, J. Geils Band, Boz Scaggs and ZZ Top. In June 1974 Golden Earring even performs in the prestigious Madison Square Garden in New York, together with The Who. Later that year the band tours with bands like Aerosmith and Santana, but is also able to fill halls and stadiums on their own. The world is at the feet of Dutch rock phenomenon.
To add more body to the groups’ sound Golden Earring asks former Supersister keyboard player Robert Jan Stips to join the fold. His presence can be heard loud and clear on the 1975 album Switch, the all-important successor of Moontan. With short songs, an important role of keyboards and more progressive song structures, the album is a departure from the guitar dominated Moontan. Although the reviews are positive, sales are disappointing, especially in the vital U.S. market. Years later the single Kill Me (Ce Soir) is covered by the British metal band Iron Maiden, whose bassist and bandleader Steve Harris is devout Earring fan.
In 1976 To The Hilt sees the light. It’s a rather introvert album, at the same time musically one of the bands’ best efforts. It’s not enough to improve the chances for the band. That same year Robert Jan Stips decides to split amicably from the band. His successor is guitarist Eelco Gelling, a virtuoso who was previously active mainly in the Dutch blues rock band Cuby + Blizzards. His contributions can be heard on the energetic, guitar oriented album Contraband. It also comes out in North America, although with a different title – Mad Love – and artwork, and a slightly modified track listing.
The band is clearly back on top. Golden Earring reaches new heights on the double album Live, which is recorded in concert in London. While live albums are usually bridges between ‘real’ albums, Live- turns out it to be an important record for Golden Earring. It sells remarkably well, both at home and abroad. The international ambitions are alive and kicking when a new studio album is planned. Grab It For A Second is made with Jimmy Iovine, an American producer who previously had success with the likes of John Lennon, Patti Smith, Meat Loaf and Bruce Springsteen.
In artistic and commercial terms, however, the cooperation doesn’t bring the desired result, which is evident during a new American tour. It also becomes clear that there is no longer a basis to proceed with Eelco Gelling. Once back in Holland Golden Earring decides to opt for a back to the basics approach. A simple studio. No more expensive producers. It proves to be the recipe for a strong album: No Promises No Debts. The representative track Weekend Loves turns out to be another national hit for the band, ending the decade on a positive note.
The first album of the new decade, Prisoner Of The Night, is cut from the same cloth as its predecessor. The bare to the bones rock & roll album features the tracks Long Blond Animal and No For An Answer, mainstays of the set list in the years to come. It’s followed by another live album, 2nd Live. Although Golden Earring is still an exciting rock band – especially on stage – all is not well behind the scenes. The group even seriously considers calling it a day. Freddy Haayen, longtime manager of the band, is able to convince the band to end their career with a big bang. The original plan to have all members contribute songs to a concept album is abandoned at an early stage however. The band decides to record a traditional rock album instead and make it the best one possible. And they succeed in 1982 with Cut – the title being a clear reference to the imminent end of the band. Once again Golden Earring sounds revitalized, inventive and current. One of the many highlights is cinematic Twilight Zone, a suspense story put to music by George Kooymans and originally intended for his new solo album.
The songs is the first real international hit since Radar Love. It fairs especially well in America, not the least thanks to the relatively new MTV channel, which puts the video directed by filmmaker Dick Maas in high rotation. This revival allows Golden Earring to tour America again, this time with Rush, among others. The band also plays its own headline shows. The initial plan to quit after Cut is abandoned without much fanfare.
The second youth of the band is extended with NEWS, an album hits the streets in 1984. The new single When The Lady Smiles features another spectacular video by Dick Maas. While the song is shaping up to be another international hit, prudes around the world feel offended by a segment in which a nun is assaulted. Consequently various music channels screen the clip only late at night or in a censored form. Riding the waves of success of Cut the album NEWS still sells good and When The Lady Smiles gets international airplay. It is also the basis for a new and as it turns final American tour.
The new album The Hole comes out in 1986. It does not revive Golden Earring’s international career. The band focusses on the domestic market instead, playing for a record breaking 185.000 fans on the beach of Scheveningen in the summer of that year. The fortunes of the band improve greatly after the release of the compilation album The Very Best of Golden Earring and the accompanying tour. It is followed in 1989 with an album with brand new songs, Keeper Of The Flame. Although it’s another purely domestic success, the single Turn The World Around reflects the changing of the times in Eastern Europe. Especially in Berlin, where the wall comes crashing down.
The first album in the new decade, Bloody Buccaneers, turns out to be another convincing rock album. It is welcomed by many Golden Earring fans with a sigh of relief. This is the band they once fell in love with. One of the highlights of the album is Going To The Run, in which Barry Hay looks back on his longtime friendship with a comrade who recently passed away. The emotional ballad earns Golden Earring another Top 3 hit.
When things start to become quiet again, Golden Earrings career is again revitalized in an unexpected way. The band plays an acoustic set in Amsterdam. The concert is broadcast on Dutch television. A live album with recordings of the show turns out to be one of the most successful releases in the long history of the band, selling over 450.000 units. The acoustic versions of hits and album tracks introduces the band to a new audience and wins back old fans.
The sequels Naked II and Naked III prove to be very successful as well. Due to this overwhelming response Golden Earring continues to perform traditional electric shows in halls and marquees, but to also perform acoustic sets in theaters. The success of the acoustic performances also determines the tone of Face It, the new studio album released in 1994. A year later, the band honors old heroes like Janis Joplin, The Beatles, Bob Dylan and The Beach Boys with a collection of covers: Love Sweat.
The decade ends with some large-scale concerts, with former band member Robert Jan Stips among the guests. A reflection of these shows appear on the live double CD Last Blast Of The Century.
The new millennium
A sabbatical ensures a quiet beginning of the new millennium for Golden Earring. The short break is bridged with a career spanning four CD box set The Devil Made Us Do It. It offers the best of Golden Earring, and more. Enlightening line notes are written by bass player Rinus Gerritsen. In 2002 the band leaves again for America, this time not for a new tour, but to record an album with fellow musician and friend of the band Frank Carillo. The band returns home with Millbrook USA, named after the village where the studio is located. The pure, straightforward album shows how driven the band still is after all these years
In the years that follow Golden Earring mainly focusses on performances, still both acoustic and electric – the latter featuring long time session player Bertus Borgers as guest on the saxophone. Occasional shows Switzerland, Germany and England prove that the band is far from forgotten in these territories. For a long time it seems that Millbrook USA will be the bands’ swan song. With a demanding tour schedule and a music industry in disarray it is not very tempting to invest time and money in another studio album.
Yet it is exactly what the band does. In 2011 Golden Earring books a few weeks in the State Of The Ark studio in London and records a brand new studio album with veteran producer Chris Kimsey, known for his work with the Rolling Stones. A release party is held in a packed Paradiso club in Amsterdam. While Golden Earring typically chooses to largely ignore its 50th anniversary, it blows the loyal fan base away with a vibrant and muscular album. And the bold title Tits ‘n Ass even causes some old-fashioned commotion. The positive response is unanimous. Tits’ n Ass, released both digitally and on vinyl, eventually climbs to the first place of the Dutch album charts. New tracks like Identical and Still Got the Keys to My First Cadillac find their way to the current set list.
The 50th anniversary is celebrated after all on December 12th 2015 with a special Five Zero show in a sold out Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam. With an energy that betrays their age the band performs classic songs like Back Home, In My House, Long Blond Animal, The Vanilla Queen, Twilight Zone, When The Lady Smiles en the inevitable Radar Love for a euphoric audience. It’s a show that draws people from as afar as the United States. A week later the brand new EP The Hague hits te streets. It contains the single Je Regrette. It’s followed in 2016 with a dvd containing the Amsterdam show of the previous year.
In the years that follow Golden Earring continues to perform, delivering every single night. In the meantime various members get involved with a wide variety of projects. A one-off gig by George Kooymans, Henny Vrienten (a.o. Doe Maar) and Boudewijn de Groot at the 65th birthday party of Cesar Zuiderwijk was enjoyed by all involved and leads to the supergroup Vreemde Kostgangers (‘strange boarders’). In 2016 they successfully tour the Dutch theaters. That following year they releas no less than two albums: a partly live in the studio recorded self titled album and Nachtwerk (‘night work’). They both contain well crafted songs, sung in Dutch. It’s an approach that suits George Kooymans, who sang in English his entire career, remarkably well. In 2019 Barry Hay and JB Meijers release the cover album For You baby. One of the many highlights is Blue Bayou, a duet with the well-known singer-guitarist Danny Vera.
On November 16th 2019 Golden Earring once again blows the roof off a sold out Ahoy in Rotterdam. Nobody knows this is will go down in history as their last show ever. A few months later the entire (music) world comes to grinding halt when the corona crisis rears it’s ugly head. All gigs are cancelled – also in the Netherlands. A small bright spot in these dark times is the release of the first EP by Sloper, a band that features two eminent drummers: Cesar Zuiderwijk and Mario Goossens, the latter of the three-headed Belgian rock monster Triggerfinger.
On February 5th all of a sudden the news spreads that George Kooymans suffers form the neurological disease ALS. On that same day the band announces that this tragic situation forces the band to stop immediately. Countless responses from devoted fans and fellow musicians from Holland and far abroad show once more how immensely loved the band is. For many generations of dedicated music lovers the songs of the Golden Earring are an essential part of their life’s soundtrack. They cherish the memories of the concerts, the hits, the albums and the meetings backstage. The end of Golden Earring is universally felt like the end of an era.
In the aftermath it also becomes apparent that this sudden end wont stop individual band members from recording and performing. In the summer of 2021 Sloper releases their official debut album Pulverize, a record filled with explosive, high energy guitar rock, performed by a bunch of musicians that sounds like there are just starting out. Later that year it’s announced that Rinus Gerritsen joins ex-Golden Earring Robert Jan Stips’ band Supersister for a series of live concerts. In September 2021 finally a remastered and expanded edition of the classic Moontan album sees the light of day.
The band may have reached the end of the road, we will still be hearing from various band members in the years to come. There are also plans to release deluxe editions of other albums. Whatever happens, Golden Earring will live on as the biggest, best en most successful rock band ever to come out of the Netherlands.
Text: Robert Haagsma