It might surprise you to learn that a tiny European country like the Netherlands has a strong tradition in pop music, but there have been numerous examples through the years. Golden Earring is probably the most famous, with decades of success and lots of hit records, but there have been many other popular groups. Still, you’d have to dig to find one of them chalking up a #1 hit on the US pop charts, a feat that was accomplished by a quartet that rose to popularity in the late 1960s. Calling itself Shocking Blue — a name that fit in perfectly with the psychedelic era — the group had a huge hit with a song that carried the deceptively simple name of “Venus.” (Not to be confused with Frankie Avalon’s 1959 megahit.)
Shocking Blue had already been around for a couple of years by then but had enjoyed only limited success in its original form, which included lead guitarist Robbie van Leeuwen, bassist Klaasje Van der Wal, drummer Cornelius Van der Beek, and lead vocalist Fred DeWilde. However, when DeWilde left and was replaced by sultry songstress Mariska Veres, the group had a distinctly different look and sound.
When “Venus” was recorded in 1969 it became a best-seller all over Europe and peaked at #3 on the charts in Shocking Blue’s home country, the Netherlands — but it really took off when it reached the US market. Even though it was based on an earlier song by a folk trio known as the Big Three (which featured Cass Elliot, later to be a part of the Mamas & the Papas), American fans went for it in a big way and it hit the top of the charts in early 1970. It eventually sold five million records world-wide. (A couple of decades later, English ‘girl group’ Bananarama would also have a #1 record with the song.)
Although the group kept performing, racking up minor hits on songs like “Mighty Joe” and “Long and Lonesome Road,” it was never able to duplicate the success of “Venus.” As the 1970s progressed personnel changes occurred, and everyone eventually went their separate ways, although — like many others from the era — they did reunite in various combinations in later years.
Shocking Blue – “Long And Lonesome Road”