Question Time: 'Venus' by Shocking Blue; 1969. - - 'The Banjo Song' by The Big Three; 1963. - - So, What's The Story Here Anyway?
I don't have an answer for this. Maybe you do. Maybe you can help find one.
Or maybe you can assure me that it's not worth pursuing, and tell me to get a life.
Many people are familiar with the song 'Venus', recorded by the ever-so-super-cool Shocking Blue.
It was the one big chart hit for the Dutch group, peaking back around 1970.
Here's a video clip from 'back in the day' of the band performing the song...
...That's the late Mariska Veres on vocals. Robbie van Leeuwen, the band's lead guitarist, receives writing credit for the song.
You know the tune, right? You've heard it a jillion times, maybe the first time was the 1980's cover version by Bananarama.
BUT - - Have you heard THIS - - ? Based upon the traditional 'Oh Susanna', the writing credit goes to Tim Rose, released in 1963 on the Roulette record label...
Listen to: The Big Three - The Banjo Song (click for audio)
In the U.S., 6 or 7 years PRIOR to Shocking Blue's success, there was The Big Three.
Tim Rose, along with Cass Elliott and
Jim Hendricks formed a trio in the midst of the folk revival as that sound was just beginning to morph into folk-rock.
The band came about during a period of mix-and-match shuffling of different musicians in that scene, different combinations forming a variety of short-lived groups, alliances changing in an 'incestuous' search for a winning equation.
Following the dissolution of The Big Three, that shuffling would lead 'Mama' Cass Elliot into The Mugwumps, and then to The Mamas And The Papas. (While some of her fellow Mugwumps went on to The Lovin' Spoonful)
The songs are not identical, but the similarities are so close that I can't believe that they're only coincidence. (Is it just me?) If it was only one or two elements, maybe, but...
...Somehow it also seems unlikely to me that it's a simple case of Shocking Blue copping the arrangement.
Was there any connection between these two very different bands from very different backgrounds? Is that basic song arrangement coming from a common source predating BOTH songs? Is this a pathetic thread to pull?
I've idly toyed with this stumper on occasion for several years now. It just bubbles up to the surface every now and then. I've looked around a bit for answers, but I've not found any. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong place.
Any thoughts? Any insights?
ADDENDUM 4/27/07: Check out 'comments' for this post (below) to read a VERY helpful bit of info!
FURTHER UPDATE 5/1/07: Following the 4/26 discussion of this topic on Dutch TV (again, check out the comment I received), this blog has had an increase in traffic from the Netherlands. Today I found that my post has been cited at a Dutch web page:
The Banjo Song vs. Venus (UPDATE, 8/23/07 - Link now dead)
I had fun using Babelfish to translate the page into a comical resemblance to English...
...Very cool! Very gratifying. They've provided a WMV file showing the excerpt from the TV program, as well as a chronology citing other mentions of the 'debate' around the web. They've done their homework!
(UPDATE, 8/23/07 - For the Dutch TV excerpt, LINK here, and scroll down the page to the Leo Blokhuis clip, which you can view on your Windows Media Player)
- - And this is what's so wonderful about the web. This one extraneous bit of pop culture minutae, and there's evidence of the Dutch, the Russians, the Greeks, the Croats and the Americans all taking time to gab about it...