In this May, 1988 High Times story, Jeff Jarema and Jim Wynand discuss early punk music from the Netherlands, and how the British Invasion hit Amsterdam long before it arrived in the States.
Though the musical contributions of ’60s greats like the the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Byrds, to name just a few, is beyond question, there were other groups from that era who made little impact at the time, but whose influence has endured, growing steadily to this day. Anybody who can appreciate these seminal bands knows that it’s underdogs like the Sonics from Seattle and the Remains from Boston who command the deepest loyalty and crazed affection of fans. With this in mind, it’s time to take an in-depth look at the ultimate rock ’n’ roll underdogs: Dutch punks from the ’60s, an entire generation of long-haired, kicks-crazed maniacs who invented “punk” long before lggy donned his first maternity dress. A Dutch influence looms over such current bands as the Tell-Tale Hearts, the Lyres, and the Morlocks (not to mention dozens of less talented “garage” acts).
Someone might ask what gives anybody the right to call these guys the ultimate underdogs. Well, for one thing, there’s the language barrier. One listen to Q’65’s lead vocalist is as good as a thousand when you’re talkin’ about comprehending Wim Bieler’s “command” of the English language. If articulation is your bag, you’d be better off hanging out with a New York cab driver! Secondly, it’s kinda tough (and here’s where the loyalty part figures in) when you’re bragging all the time about your punk hero whose name is Wim or Joop or, for gosh sake, Wally! Lastly, the strongest point to be made for these guys’ underdog status is illustrated on the picture sleeves of their amazing 45s. To spell it out for you, these guys are damn ugly.
During the ’60s, Holland produced visionary rock ’n’ rollers with the same proficiency as Texas. However, while the repressive climate of Texas was enough to drive even an unimaginative nerd to challenge the rules of society, the Netherlands was an open, liberal society with an unwritten policy of “no restrictions,” a policy taken to heart by thousands of free-living teens. It’s no accident that the first “Happening” (forerunner of the Be-In and Love-In) occurred in Amsterdam.
Long before the hippy movement caught on in the States, Holland was known for its long-haired youths who specialized in radical politics. They were called Provos, and they provided a major inspiration for the Diggers, Yippies, and Weathermen. Besides the common sight of their uncombed shoulder-length hair, the Provos wore the wildest, loudest clothes and went for all the untamed sounds of the London R&B scene (Pretty Things, Kinks, etc.). Though some of these former teens are tight-lipped about it today, hash and Heineken were as plentiful then as they are now in Holland.
In the years preceding the British Invasion, Holland was ruled by a number of Shadows-type instrumental bands. Some of the top musicians on the Dutch scene were transplanted foreigners from the former Dutch colony of Indonesia who possessed unique dexterity with electric instruments. Several years later, many of these Indonesians could be spotted with Ringo haircuts, playing in beat groups like Johnny Kendall & the Heralds.
The beat scene in Holland, as might be expected, was born out of the Beatles. Suddenly, a wave of instrumental bands were adding vocalists and the Shadows/Ventures influences were thrown out in favor of three-chord Kinks riffs.
The main difference between the beat scene in Holland and the U.S. was recording: almost every 45 and LP in Holland was released on a major label. While this created fierce competition between bands to be among the select few to acquire a major label deal, this also meant that almost every record benefited from superb studio production. Major labels like Phillips, Polydor, Decca, Relax, and Whamm released singles of exceptionally high standards, almost all of which came in incredible (and very rare) picture sleeves.
Surely the most popular of the Dutch beat groups were the Golden Earrings. From the Hague, they can best be described as Holland’s equivalent to the early Hollies. Like the Hollies, they specialized in uptempo beat drenched in perfect harmonies. ‘‘Please Don’t Go,” the A-side of their debut 45, backed with the non-LP “Chunk of Steel,” is pretty bizarre in its total rave tempo augmented by ultra-exuberant harmonies. It’s unquestionably one of the greatest early beat singles. Besides a second 45 that was recalled by their label, the next release was their classic LP, Just Ear-Rings, which to the world’s betterment is still available (on Polydor).
At this point (’66/’67), their original vocalist Peter de Ronde had been been replaced by Barry Hay, whose earlier recordings with the Haigs is almost on par with the Earrings’ best. Especially worth checking out is the fab “Where To Run” with its kinetic lead break.
Unfortunately, the beat soon softened into a “flower power” sound (“Together We’ll Live, Together We’ll Love”) by late ’67. The group tried several other styles and eventually scored a major U.S. hit with “Radar Love” (as Golden Earring) in the mid-’70s, repeating that success a decade later with “Twilight Zone.” Sadly, “Chunk of Steel” is not part of their current live set.
By today’s standards, Amsterdam’s the Outsiders are considered Holland’s greatest beat/punk group and are often spoken of in the same breath as wider-known ’60s bands like Them and the Easybeats. But in no way can these Dutch gods be directly compared to any other band, anywhere, at any point in rock history. With their unheard-of long hair and wild stage presence, they’re often lumped in with the Pretty Things, but in actuality their music was in a class by itself: a weird combination of folk, R&B and punk.
Their first 45, “You Mistreat Me”/“Sun’s Going Down,” released in 1965, pitted two extreme elements. The top side was all brutal guitars with menacing vocals (compliments of Wally “god” Tax) while the B-side was even better; one of the most haunting ballads known to Beatdom. After one other great single on the Muziek Express label, “I Felt Like I Wanted to Cry”/“I Love Her Still, I Always Will”), the Outsiders graduated to one of the majors, Relax. Their third 45, “Lying All the Time”/“Thinking About Today,” was more folk-oriented than their previous material but it was totally great anyway, with Wally adding a good protest lyric on the flip.
The following three singles form the core of the Outsiders recorded output. The first of these, “Keep on Trying”/”That’s Your Problem,” featured yet another stunning ballad, this time on the A-side, while the flip was total punk. Propelled by the driving rhythm section of bassist Appie Rammers and drummer Buzz, guitarist Ronnie Splinter and vocalist Tax go berserk on this three-chord wonder. The follow-up, “Touch,” was a hit and it’s easy to see why. With incredible guitar interplay between Splinter and Tom Krabbendam, out-of-this-world harmonica and deeply romantic lyrics sung with unusual gusto by Tax, this is considered the band’s finest hour. The flip, “The Ballad of John B.,” was an inside joke with Wally telling a tale of their manager’s sexual peculiarities. Musically, it begins as a sparse arrangement but continues to build until there’s nothing left of Tax’s harmonica and tambourine.
Released in early ’67, the final 45 in this trio of masterpieces, “Monkey on Your Back”/“What’s Wrong With You,” incorporated unlikely instrumentation such as flute while the lyrics on the plug side dealt personally with a friend’s drug addiction. “What’s Wrong With You,” yet another “throwaway” B-side, is a sad, magnificent ballad and one of their all-time best.
An album was next, simply titled The Outsiders, that combined one live side with a studio side of all new, non-45 tracks, excluding one track, “Teach Me To Forget You.” The live side, as a matter of fact, also featured all new, never-recorded songs, with all this pointing to the fact that the Outsiders never relied on, excuse the pun, outside material. Let’s see if the Beatles, Stones, or Who can make that claim!
The Outsiders continued through 1967 with the excellent folk ballad “Summer is Here,” the criminally underrated “I’ve Been Loving You So Long,” and their first sign of exhaustion, “Don’t You Worry About Me.” Bass god Appie Rammers departed at this point, being replaced by Frank Beek, and they made another label switch, this time moving to Polydor. “You Remind Me,” though not their best, featured more of Ronnie Splinter’s great rhythm guitar and was undoubtedly a vast improvement over their previous effort, “Cup of Hot Coffee”/“Strange Things are Happening.”
They next embarked on the recording of a progressive concept LP, CQ, that despite some strong moments ultimately flopped in Holland, fueling the record label’s desire to place Wally Tax as a full-time solo act. After one last single, the totally redeeming “Daddy Died on Saturday” (from CQ)/“Do You Feel Alright?” Amsterdam’s finest dissolved under bitter circumstances.
Much like the Outsiders, Q’65 from the Hague are worshipped on a cult level worldwide largely due to their wild looks and pre-punk approach to playing R&B. In their heyday, they were in direct confrontation with the Outsiders and the fist fights between their opposing fans at shows, if you can believe everything you hear, would make a Run-DMC concert well-behaved in comparison. The biggest difference between Q’65 and the Outsiders though is pretty damn obvious. While the Outsiders were extremely tight in execution, Q’65 were total slobs in their aggression; unintelligible forerunners of the Stooges.
Their first 45, “You’re the Victor”/“And Your Kind,” is total blues mayhem, especially the frantic A-side with its screaming vocals and harmonies. This record couldn’t possibly be surpassed but they managed, first with primitive album tracks like their Bo Diddley rave “I Got Nightmares” (from the LP Revolution), their cover of “Ain’t That Lovin’ You Baby” (from their Kjoe Bloes EP) and then what is possibly the most powerful 45 ever, “The Life I Live”/“Cry in the Night.” Actually, it’s the B-side that demands the aforementioned claim. On “Cry in the Night,” caveman lookalike Wim Bieler more than makes up for his crimes against the English language with an impassioned vocal (though his lyrics are pretty damn obscure) while the lead and rhythm guitars lock horns on the break, resulting in the greatest guitar battle of the ’60s. Surprisingly and as close as the battle is, the nod goes to the rhythm guitar! People who listen to the Feelies have been known to beg, “Turn this heavy metal shit off!!!” That’s a pretty good indication of just how deadly this ’66 track is!
These guys followed “Cry in the Night” with another essential punk single, “I Despise You”/”Ann,” and a couple of other great singles and a second LP in ’69, Revival.
The Motions remain a perfect example of blowing one’s cool. Masterminded by guitarist Robby Van Leeuwen, they started off as a tough mod-beat band, first with “It’s Gone”/”I’ve Got Misery”, a Golden Earrings-style rocker followed by three other great 45s (all included on the group’s first LP, Introduction to the Motions).
Next came their mod-fuzz masterpiece, “Everything That’s Mine”/“No Place to Hide,” with an A-side that rivaled the best British records in intensity. From there, things went drastically downhill, first with phony folk-protest records, then with even worse “flower power.” “Tonight Will Be Stoned,” for one, doesn’t live up to its title.
At this point. Van Leeuwen had split to form the internationally famous Shocking Blue, a band he envisioned as Holland’s answer to the Jefferson Airplane. Though they’re best remembered for the top-selling “Venus,” it’s their first single with singer Mariska Veres (the Grace Slick of the Netherlands), “Send Me a Postcard” that rocks best. As for the late ’60s incarnation of the Motions? The U.S.-released “Electric Baby” is a must to avoid.
One of the more unique bands on the Dutch beat scene was Les Baroques. On their big hit, “Such a Cad,” lead vocalist Gary O’Shannon belts out a superb vocal while the rest of the band tries their damnedest to drown out some kinda goofy reed instrument. The whole thing is so weird that it had to go top ten! Their first single, “Silky”/“My Lost Love” (Europhon) must not have enjoyed the same kinda chart action as “Such a Cad” ’cause only five copies of the record are even known to exist. This fact is particularly frustrating for Dutch Beat collectors as the flip is a non-LP killer. By the way, a first LP was released in ’66 and was extremely good, blending beat with ballads. Apparently, Les Baroques were respected enough in their own country to be awarded an invitation to compete against such heavyweights as the Kinks, Hollies, Marianne Faithfull and Sandie Shaw at the “Grand Gala du Disque ’66” in Belgium.
O’Shannon was drafted in late ’66 and Les Baroques carried on with the addition of new vocalist Michel Van Dyk but like so many other legends of Dutch Beat, they eventually drifted into a softer sound, most notably on that awful album with the great title, Barbarians With Love.
From Hilvursum, the Rob Hoeke Rhythm & Blues Group started out as a boogie woogie combo, recording one LP before moving into the beat scene with a vengeance. Their first rocker, “Margio,” featured a fullness of sound that was unheard of in its time (’65). Though Rob’s vocal is pretty wild, it’s the hard driving groove of the guitar, bass, drums, and piano (not to forget a tambourine that won’t quit!) that makes this one a classic. “When People Talk”/“Rain Snow Misery” followed in ’66 and didn’t disappoint, especially on the top side with its great vocals and piano. The Rob Hoeke R&B Group was made up of older, very straight musicians and eventually the boogie woogie scene took them back as they lost their desire and nerve to rock out.
De Maskers must’ve had some kind of identity problem. Originally an instrumental act, they began adding vocals on to these instrumentals (!) eventually figuring out how to mix beat elements into their sound. One early beat single was a cover of the Animals’ “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” sung in Dutch and they even did some 45s backing Chubby Checker! After Chubby and vocalist Bob Bouber split, the situation improved drastically with their god-like “Three’s a Crowd”/“Living in the Past” single, a two-sided raver of ultra-tight precision (give that drummer a beer!). They followed this with “Masters of War”/“As Long as I Have You” and one other strong B-side, “He Cursed Him,” before lead guitarist Jan de Hont fled to the band Het and released the excellent “She’ll Stay.”
From England came the Scorpions who were so deranged that it was their destiny to take up a five-year residency in the Lowlands. These guys were absolutely without a doubt Holland’s wildest cover band (and this in a country where geniuses like the Motions could take […] “The Boy From New York City’’ and transform it into a mod standard!) Also, the Scorpions singer, whoever he was, is one of the coolest shouters ever. Just listen to him scream and hiccup his way through their action-packed debut, “Hello Josephine”/“(Ain’t That) Just Like Me”; whatta guy! As great as this record is, it’s hard to imagine any country allowing this kind of lunacy into their hit parade but this one actually went top ten.
More covers showed up on their second single while for number three they inked a Manfred Mann-style original with lots of organ and maraca titled “Baby Back Now.” The wildest-ever treatment of “Greensleeves” followed and was backed on the flip-side with another killer, “Hey Honey.” All the Scorpions’ singles and two LPs are highly recommended but legend has it that they were even better on stage!
The Zipps were the most overtly drugged-out band in Holland. The sleeve of their second 45 says it all: “Be stoned! Dig Psychedelic Sound.” From Dordrecht, they were the first Dutch band to employ a light show. Their stage act also included poetry recitation and painting (a la the Creation). They went on to record an anti-pot (???) single “Marie Juana” that includes some hilariously bad lyrics:
My little street Arab, Marie Juana
Architect of the Garden of My Mind
I’m sure to shoot you with my zipgun
That’s when you make me completely paranoid.
Dragonfly was an important pioneer in Dutch psychedelia. These guys were so heavy that at their peak they blew Q’65 off the stage (a claim that comes from Peter Vink of Q’65!). “Celestial Empire” is a driving psych number, and the followup “Celestial Dreams,” was backed by one of the heaviest Dutch songs of all, “Desert of Almond.”
Getting back to guys with weird names, what could possibly be said about Cuby & the Blizzards and their mind melting “Your Body Not Your Soul” that hasn’t already been said? With putdown lyrics that would put Question Mark to shame and a crunching backing track to (almost) rival Q’65’s “Cry In the Night,” this cut still devastates after more than twenty years of obscurity.
Under the helm of gravel-voiced Harry “Cuby” Muskee and guitar wiz Eelco Gelling, C&B, as they were known, released two monumental singles of punk/blues before going totally with the latter form. The first single, released on the CNR-“Beat From Holland” label backed the rocking “Stumble & Fall” with the more R&B-flavored “I’m So Restless” and in the process impressed Decca enough to pick them up for their second release. With “Your Body Not Your Soul”/“LSD (Got a Million Dollars),” Cuby peaked in both rawness and creativity. Their first LP, Desolation (’66), was for the most part long, painfully slow blues with only the occasional raver, “Let’s Make It.” This isn’t to say that the album isn’t worth checking out. Cuby’s ultra-pathetic vocals on “Gin House Blues” are worth the price of admission alone plus the sleeve is real creepy; kinda like the Stooges first album cover except these guys look dead! Cuby & the Blizzards eventually had LPs out here in the States but as with the Motions, purchase at your own risk.
One of the setbacks to digging sixties Dutch beat is that all the attention is thrown to more prolific and admittedly more significant bands like the Outsiders, while the bands who released only one or two records are lost in the shuffle. In the case of such bands as the Caps and the Softs, to leave them out of the Dutch Beat picture would be to commit a crime punishable by mandatory repeated listenings to Focus albums!
Though they only released three 45s, all of Johnny Hatton & the Devotions vinyl is A-1 Beat, especially their first, “I’m Coming Home”/“lt’s a Lie.” After their breakup, Johnny Hatton went on to co-pen one of Holland’s most psychedelic records, lekkk…l’m a Freak by Adjeef (that’s the guy’s name!).
Amsterdam’s Marquees released three absolutely stunning singles, all on different labels (Imperial, Delta, Relax). “Marquees’ Party” is a great three-chord punker with lots of organ and a frantic guitar break thrown in for good measure. The song has a real U.S. garage feel to it. The flip, a cover of “I’m a Man,” is also excellent though they’ve got a bird on the chorus! A second 45 is more standard Beat material but with their third, subtitled on the sleeve as “A Tribute to Them,” they achieve punk immortalization. On one side, the singer screams a cover of Them’s “Call My Name” to a fake live audience but it’s on their own original, “Last Night,” that they make Van and his Belfast gypsies proud. The song totally murders and it’s reported that the fake audience was never quite the same. It’s amazing how many modern garage bands can rehash the same Outsiders’ songs while at the same time no one has made the proper gesture to record a live “Tribute to the Marquees” single.
After a crummy Dutch-sung ballad record, Amsterdam’s Peter & the Blizzards got totally deranged by wearing extremely long wigs and switching over to authentic London-style R&B. Standout cuts from this period include “Sitting in My Room”, “All I Want,” and “Bye Bye Baby.” “Cold as Ice” is almost embarrassing in the way lead vocalist Peter Hollestelle patterns his voice after Wally Tax. Nevertheless, it’s considered a classic these days. As a sad afternote, Peter Hollestelle was seen circa 1985 at a “Beat Revival” show singing “With a Little Help From My Friends,” Joe Cocker-style. The end of the world is near.
“Girl” by Johnny Kendall & the Heralds is possibly the greatest 45 in the whole Dutch Beat spectrum. Imagine the early Kinks jamming with the Remains, although it’s all taking place under the strict supervision of Shel Talmy and there’s an added benefit of four stacks of Marshall amps! It may sound hard to believe but this record is really THAT good! Their other singles are also very good, especially the best ever cover of “Jezebel,” not to mention an LP, On the Move, that sells in excess of $100 (and that’s before the U.S. dollar bit the dust overseas). Though it’s beyond reason, these guys are more famous for their cover of “St. James Infirmary” than “Girl.”
Starting out as the Jumping Jewels, one of Holland’s many instrumental bands in the early ’60s, the Jay Jays went Beat in ’65 with the very Kinks-oriented “So Mystifying’’/“Bald Headed Woman” single. Their second single, “Come Back If You Dare”/”Don’t Sell the Sun,” is one of the finest beat singles of its kind. Both sides are are a perfect synthesis of the Kinks (obviously already there) and the Beatles. The top side rocks while the flip is acoustic, neither indicating what their next musical move would be.
With their next record, though, the Jay Jays bought a fuzz-box and cut one of the all-time garage classics, “I Keep Trying.” Though the lead vocals are little lame on this one, the mod noise of the guitars throw this one into the same ring as Q’65 and C&B. The Jay Jays eventually drifted off into soul music but in the meantime recorded one LP that features early singles plus the brutal “Cruncher.” Despite what some people would like to think, these guys weren’t gay (though it’s likely that the real fat, ugly guy with the glasses would sleep with anything!).
The Dukes were weird in that they started out in ’65 singing about drugs a full year or two before it was fashionable but eventually went for a clean-cut image as everything broke loose in the late ’60s. Their debut single, if translated from Dutch, is all about smoking pot in Istanbul. From here they polished up their sound, switched to English, and cut the upbeat “It’s My Turn”/”Try To Understand.” A cover of “Friday on My Mind” was backed with a folk-rocker, “The Day That Changed My Life” and in the following year (’67) they released a cover of the Lewis & Clark Expedition’s “Blue Revelations” that improved on the original with some good fuzz-guitar. “Join In” was a return to more drug-oriented material but by then everybody and their mother had caught on to the idea.
Though room doesn’t permit, there are countless other Dutch bands deserving of recognition. Many of the best Dutch songs have surfaced in recent years, most notably on such U.S. releases as “Searching in the Wilderness” (Muziek Express), “Trans-World Punk Rave-Up” (Crawdad), “The Continent Lashes Back” (Pebbles), and “Flight to the Lowlands” (Moxie). The Dutch-pressed V-Lips compilation is especially good. Also available as imports are hit packages of the Outsiders, Q’65, and the Golden Earrings. There even exists an Austrian bootleg of the Outsiders’ CQ! So, there’s no excuse for avoiding ’60s Dutch punk; if anything, it would be a show of bad taste.