Sunday, 13 January 2008


In my recent pre-Christmas Post, you will recall that I mentioned that my favourite Yuletide single was ‘Christmas Wrapping’ by a band called The Waitresses and that their singer, Patty Donahue, tragically died of cancer in 1996 aged just 39. Now read on.

So there I was, browsing through YouTube like you do and I came across a long forgotten single from 1970 that I remember quite liking at the time – ‘Venus’ by the Dutch band Shocking Blue. OK, the main reason why I liked it was that my teenage hormones were given a bit of a wake up call by their singer, Mariska Veres whom I distinctly remember seeing perform on Top of the Pops. She must have been about 23 at the time and looked fabulous in classic 60s Babe style with her fringed curtain of long dark hair and Kohled eyes and I thought she was wonderful. It must’ve been her parentage, being half Hungarian, quarter French and quarter Russian that was responsible, but wow, what a cutie!

So for old times sake, I googled her to find out more, only to discover that she, too, died of cancer barely a year ago at the age of 59. This is all too tragic.

Those of you who are not ancient like me are more likely to remember ‘Venus’ as represented by the Stock, Aitken and Waterman produced Bananarama version which saw action in the 1986 charts but frankly this is a cruel patische of the Shocking Blue original. Have a look at it in the video sidebar to this blog if you don’t believe me. The original is a bit rockier and gutsier, unlike the SAW version which is the usual clatter of relentless and ultimately soulless computer rhythms with karaoke vocals stuck over the top.

Even Bananarama can do better than this – like under previous production gurus Jolley & Swain (‘Robert deNiro’s Waiting’, ‘Cruel Summer’ etc) but hey. But none of the ‘Nana girls can hold a candle to Mariska.

Why is the rock ‘n’ roll casualty list so inexorably long? Ok, so there’s drink and drugs…and shootings…and car crashes, but it seems that barely anybody lives to the biblical three score and ten let alone the lengthy life we are all promised in this brave new world of medical science. I suppose it’s as good a reason as any not to be a rock star. I wonder if young hopefuls are warned that their life expectancy is curtailed as soon as they pick up a guitar? I’ll bet life assurance companies know about this and charge the earth. Must remember to put ‘not a rock star’ on the forms next time.


Alan said...

Rock music and life assurance – you’re straying in to my territory now.
I wouldn’t say that life assurance companies charge the earth for rock stars, but we do tend to look pretty closely at the application – those with a more dissolute lifestyle would get charged an extra premium, but not the earth. (Except possibly Amy Whitehouse) As most of the policies on rock stars are taken out by managers or record companies looking to insure against loss of future earnings I wouldn’t get too worried about this if I were you.
As for whether rock stars never make it to three scores years and ten, I am not sure we have gathered enough statistics yet. Most rockers who have hit 70 were making records in the 1950s and early 1960s but even Cliff Richard is only 68 this year – old enough for a free bus pass at least. Others do make it past 70, such as Ike Turner who died last month having made it to just past his 76th birthday despite a less than healthy lifestyle over many years and Chuck Berry is probably well in to his 80s by now, so it’s hard to be certain on whether being a rock star has a major impact on your life expectancy.
Besides, one of your recent blogs suggested that an early death can be a career enhancing move, so it can’t be all bad news.

musicobsessive said...

This must rank as one of the most informed comments I have ever received. It makes a change to learn something from someone who knows what they're talking about!
Really interesting stuff from which we can all learn.
I suppose I ought to refrain from posting on subjects I know very little about, but when has that ever stopped me?
It's what blogs are for!
Thanks again for the info - you learn something new every day.

Adrian said...

Perhaps the life expectancy of recording artists is shortened by the activities of record labels, managers and assorted rounders draining the life-blood out of them! Of course, today, the industry can blame early deaths on downloading.

More seriously - "Venus" in my family's home was treated similarly to "Louie Louie" in a previous generation. My Mother was convinced Mariska is singing something truly shocking.

musicobsessive said...

Really? I must listen more closely - I'm obviously missing something here!

It's an interesting point, as I have heard this about other songs where there existed a sort of in-house censorship where radio and TV was concerned. I never experienced any parental disapproval of songs or artists, but then most of it went over my head anyway!

Adrian said...

Ah, in the case of my Mom and "Venus" it's a case of misheard lyrics. There really is nothing shocking, and we all enjoyed the song. No censorship involved. My Mom just considered it an example of the rude things one could get away with in rock and roll!

Adrian said...

p.s. I've been trying not to be rude myself - however, I fear I am creating more confusion by being so sanitized in explanation.

For the record, my Mom, quite a character, somehow heard the song lyrics as "I'm your penis" and you can take the rest from there! Nothing could convince her that Mariska is actually singing "Venus" - and, thus, my relating this instance of misheard lyrics to the "Louie Louie" situation. It's long been a source of amusement in our family.

musicobsessive said...

Hahaha! I love it! Misheard lyrics are always a great source of amusement and have generally been flogged to death by comedians everywhere. My favourite is Queen's, 'Beelzebub has a devil for a sideboard'!
I feel another post coming on.

TR1-Guy said...

Getting in a little late on this one, but two things:

1- My mother ALSO thought the lyrics said "I'm your penis." Something about Moms of that era, eh? :)

2- To this day, I never knew that the lead singer was a woman! Oh my God, how embarrassed am I! Never saw the video until just a moment ago. She's a looker too!

I love this song and I do believe somewhere in my pile of dusty old 45 RPMs is this single.

As far as rockers not living long, it is most definately the life style. Ignore the drugs and alcohol, but you're traveling non-stop, playing late hours, singing in a room filled with smoke and on and on... I did the "rock and roll" thing for only a year in college and it wore me out, so I can't imagine doing it for 30 plus years!

musicobsessive said...

What is it about North American mothers!? Perhaps it's the Dutch accent? I'm not sure what mine thought - but she probably wouldn't have said anything anyway. We're much too British for stuff like that!!

Btw - no comment is too late on this blog. Keep 'em coming!

Adrian said...

Let' hear it for Moms!!