I’m Your Venus, I’m Your Fire, Your Desire – Who Sang It Before Bananarama?

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Song: Venus (1969)

Artist: Shocking Blue (written by Robbie van Leeuwen)

Album: Single w/ B-side Hot Sand (Pink Elephant)

Long before Bananarama got a hold of it, in 1970, the song Venus became the first of only two songs out of Holland (the Netherlands) to rise to the top of the American chart. Not to be confused with the Frankie Avalon song of the same name, Venus was recorded by the band Shocking Blue, led by Dutch musician Robbie van Leeuwen. It became a number one hit on February 7, 1970.

Robbie van Leeuwen was originally the guitarist of a popular Dutch group called the Motions, contemporaries of Golden Earring, another Dutch group responsible for an American number one hit with Twilight Zone (Radar Love was also a big hit, but not in the top ten).

I’m Your Venus Singer

Since Leeuwen’s personality didn’t fit well with the Motion’s founder, Rudy Bennet, he decided to form his own band. The singer on Venus was not the band’s original lead vocalist, but Hungarian-German Mariska Veres, added a year after the band formed when the band’s manager heard her perform with her group the Bumble Bees (at a party for Golden Earring). Her voice is, in a word, amazing, and you’ll realize you’ve missed something if you’ve only heard the Bananarama version of the song. You may be tempted to compare her to Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane, and it is sometimes suggested that she was acquired for this reason.

Shocking Blue, 1970
Image by Joost Evers / Anefo

Although Shocking Blue did not have any other American hits, they did continue to have hit songs in their native Holland. Ironically, Venus, their big hit in America, never went to number one on the Dutch chart, although after it was re-released following the American success, it made it to number 3.

In the intro to the song, you may hear a similarity to the intro of Pinball Wizard, by the Who. The two are unmistakably similar and it is not your imagination. Robbie van Leeuwen admitted he was influenced by the opening riff to Pinball Wizard, along with the Beatles song Ticket to Ride.

Listen closely to Veres singing the song and you’ll also realize that English not being her first language was a bit of a problem. When she sings Goddess, it sounds like Godness. Although Leeuwen, of course, wrote the English words correctly, it is said that he accidentally wrote down the word Goddess as Goddness, and since Veres was simply reading off the lyrics phonetically and didn’t know the difference, she sang it exactly as it was written. I get a kick out of it every time I hear it: “a godness on a mountaintop was burning like a silver flame…”

Shocking Blue – Venus Video

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