zaterdag 29 augustus 2015

On the Double. Golden Earrings

In his series on albums released in 1968 and 1969 Wo. is recently digging into the Dutch section of these albums. After Tee Set, The Cats and Shocking Blue, it is time to write about Golden Earrings. The last album released with the 's' behind the band's name. 46 Years old this spring, what surprises does it hold? Other acts in this series are e.g. Chicago, Spooky Tooth and Donovan.

On the Double is an album I've never heard before, but holds that single which I still think is the most beautiful, impressive and fullest of grandeur the band has ever made: 'Just a Little Bit of Peace In My Heart'. Let's start with the beginning.

Who are Golden Earrings is 1969? Only three quarters of the band is the band we know today and the 's' is still there. The drummer is Jaap Eggermont, who soon after left the band and became a world famous producer, e.g. with 'Stars on 45'. The question also holds merit, as the band is not yet that rock beast it would soon become. 'Back Home' is still two years away at the release. Up to 1969, the band has scored several hits since 1965, Nederbiet singles, with the extremely poppy 'Dong-Dong-Di-Ki-Di-Ki-Dong' that turned into the band's first number one hit in the spring of 1968, as the most popular one with the larger audience. It is not on the album. In hindsight it didn't hurt Golden Earrings at all, but let's face it. The song is not Golden Earring worthy. The list of hits from that date onwards reaches straight into the early 90s, including four more number ones.

On the double was a term that with a native English speaking parent in the home we heard regularly. Every time we were dragging our feet having to go to bed, school, wherever, we heard "On the double". I had nearly forgotten that, until I read the title of this album.

On the Double is somewhere in between I notice while taking my first listening. There are some songs moving towards a harder sound and there are songs that are still reminiscent of the band's earlier hits in 1965-1968. Real pop like 'My Baby Ruby'. There are some horns there, but this is pure Nederbiet. Barry Hay may have a somewhat more rocking sound, Frans Krassenburg could have sung this one very convincingly. Hay is forcing himself the whole way.

On the Double is a double album. 19 songs in all and only one single. One of the songs. 'Murdock 9-6182' was covered and became a minor and only hit for the band Alles. This was all ("Alles") for the band. That is a lot of songs for a band of which I own a lot of albums, but never truly like most. I always think of Golden Earring as a fantastic singles band. Of that they have such a great list. That makes the greatest hits albums my favourite issues of the band, with 'The Devil Made Us Do It', as the ultimate one. With that comes that Golden Earring has always been a band that followed trends, never set them. Followed them in extremely brilliant ways, but followed.

On the Double is also too much to listen to all in one go I notice soon enough. And then comes that brilliant, totally fantastic single. Something came together in the production, the arranging and playing, the brilliant singing, that created a moment of sheer magic. 'Eloise' wasn't there yet, at least in NL, so I doubt whether the band followed here. Producer Freddy Haayen went out all the way. Bringing in a whole orchestra and captured the sound in and of the room, this space in it. A harp in a rock song! The acoustic guitar sounds as if it sits here next to me. Over that Barry Hay and George Kooymans sing their hearts out. Then there is the outro in which bass player Rinus Gerritsen is allowed to go out on a spree. 'Just a Little Peace In My Heart' never, never fails to amaze me. For nearly 47 years this single is one of the best songs that I've heard in my life. The impression this single made, together with a few others in that small time frame of three months at the end of 1968, is a stamp, a mark to which all other songs are compared. Other musical shrines have been erected since, but 'Just a Little Bit of Peace In My Heart' is a milestone for me.

Strangest thing is that I've never heard that big reference before. Of course, 'MacArthur's Park'! Unfortunately Golden Earrings were following again. It doesn't matter, this discovery doesn't take anything away from the quality of this song.

Having written that, the conclusion for On the Double is an unfavourable one. To quote Sinéad O'Connor (and Prince of course) "Nothing Else Compares". How could it? Golden Earrings made several other fantastic singles that hold up, but there just isn't one on On the Double. At best a good effort, but that is all I'm going to say about it.

Well, that's not totally fair, is it? I put on the album again, skipping the Big One. What I hear in 2015 is a band trying out different sounds, seeing what fits it best. Golden Earrings is clearly in transition. Some songs come close to what The Cats were trying at the time. This may sound strange, but isn't that far beside the point. It is in the way of singing, the instrumentation that is wider and just as poppy. The difference is when it is time for something distinctive, The Cats make things sticky sweet and Golden Earrings throws in a guitar or two and a fiery organ.

Rockwise Shocking Blue is way ahead of Golden Earring late in 1968. Even Boudewijn de Groot is wilder in his songs at this point in time. There is no 'Wie Kan Me Nog Vertellen' on this album. What can be heard on On the Double is not necessarily bad, but it is not full of zest nor fantasy. Most songs are so neat. Producer Freddy Haayen seems to have decided to keep the lid on the band. The experimentation in sound is in adding organs and pianos, not a rock sound. Was rock out of vogue when recording On the Double? It may just have been. Records like 'Summertime Blues', 'Born To Be Wild', 'Lazy Sunday' and 'Jumping Jack Flash' still had to be released. It is a pleasant surprise when 'Backbiting Baby' sets in with its distorted guitar in the semi-background. The kind of song that spans a bridge between 'That Day' and 'Back Home'.

By the time a John Rowles like ballad sets in, 'I Sing My Song', again I've seemed to have enough. And that after 'I'm a Runnin'' gave me the impression of two rocking songs at the end of side c there would be more in store. But no, I expected too much. Golden Earrings is doing a The Motions kind of song here, as they do a The Shoes piano thing elsewhere on the album. Nederbiet bands influencing each other the whole way. 'Mitch Mover', AAAARRRRGGGGHHH. A more rocking song, 'God Bless the Day', a ballad, a ... The final song, 'The Grand Piano' has some magic in there though. One of those songs that Golden Earrings lifted up and made something memorable of.

There hardly is a Golden Earring(s) album that I can sit out in one go, I'll admit. For me this band is one of the ultimate hit single machines of all time. A near endless list of great songs. On album they've never matched that quality. They clearly had a good ear for singles. On the Double at best is an average album with that one fantastic, epic song. Where did that come from? That is the question after hearing all else on On the Double. Lulluvudu, it seems. See if you can translate that.


You can listen to 'Just a Little Peace In My Heart' here:

or buy On the Double on

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