Venus (Shocking Blue song)

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"Venus"
Shocking blue venus Dutch vinyl.png
One of artworks for the original Dutch single
Single by Shocking Blue
B-side"Hot Sand"
ReleasedJuly 1969 (1969-07) (Netherlands)
November 1969 (1969-11) (US)[1]
StudioSoundpush (Blaricum, Netherlands)
GenreCountry rock[2]
Length3:08
LabelPink Elephant
Songwriter(s)Robbie van Leeuwen[3]
Producer(s)
  • Robbie van Leeuwen
Shocking Blue singles chronology
"Lucy Brown Is Back in Town"
(1968)
"Venus"
(1969)
"Mighty Joe"
(1969)
Music video
"Venus" on YouTube
Audio
"Venus" on YouTube

"Venus" is a song by Dutch rock band Shocking Blue, initially released as a single in the Netherlands in the summer of 1969. Written by Robbie van Leeuwen, the song topped the charts in nine countries.[4]

The song has been covered dozens of times by many artists. In 1986, English girl group Bananarama covered "Venus" for their third studio album, True Confessions, with the single reaching number one in six countries. The composition has been featured in numerous films, television shows and commercials.

Composition and recording[edit]

Shocking Blue in 1970

The song was written by Robbie van Leeuwen, Shocking Blue's guitarist, sitarist and background vocalist. Van Leeuwen wrote new lyrics set to music based on "The Banjo Song" by Tim Rose and the Big 3, which is in turn lyrically a modification of the 19th century song "Oh! Susanna" by Stephen Foster.[5][6] Influences from other songs include the opening guitar riff that is similar to The Who's "Pinball Wizard".[7]

The song was recorded on a two-track machine in Soundpush Studio in Blaricum, the Netherlands.[8] Van Leeuwen also produced the song.

In the Shocking Blue original version, the song's lead vocals were performed by Mariska Veres. The lyrics, however, contained a typo in the line "A goddess on a mountain top", with "goddess" written as "goddness", which was how Veres sang it on the record and on television.[9] Later recordings by other artists corrected the word.[10]

Release and reception[edit]

"Venus" was issued in the Netherlands in July 1969 as a single, backed with "Hot Sand", on the Pink Elephant label, a label specially created for Shocking Blue by Dureco. The song initially peaked at number three on the Dutch Top 40 on 12 July 1969, and remained at that position for a total of five weeks. It also reached No. 1 in Belgium, France and Germany.[11]

Jerry Ross, who was in Europe in the autumn of 1969 looking for European hits for release in the United States, was offered the song.[12] He signed The Shocking Blue to his newly-created Colossus Records, and chose the record for release in the United States later that year.[11][13] "Venus" reached number one on Billboard Hot 100 on 7 February 1970. It became the first song by a Dutch band to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.[14] On 28 January 1970, it was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for sales in excess of one million copies in the United States.[15] Its success in the United States prompted further interest in other markets around the world in the 1970, and it reached No. 3 again in the Netherlands, as well as the top 10 in the UK.[11][16] Its success also spurred interests in other Dutch groups.[11] Worldwide, the single has sold over 5 million copies.[17]

In 1981, it was used to open the "Stars on 45" medley.[4] "Venus" was included as a bonus track on the 1989 CD reissue of Shocking Blue's second studio album, At Home, originally released in 1969.

Charts[edit]

Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[55] Gold 35,000^
France 400,000[56]
Germany 350,000[17]
Italy 350,000[57]
Japan 550,000[58]
Spain 150,000[59]
United States (RIAA)[15] Gold 2,000,000[60]
Summaries
Worldwide 5,000,000[17]

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


Bananarama version[edit]

"Venus"
Banana v.jpg
Single by Bananarama
from the album True Confessions
B-side"White Train"
Released19 May 1986
RecordedDecember 1985
StudioOdyssey (London)
Genre
Length
  • 3:50 (album version)
  • 3:30 (single version)
  • 7:23 (extended version)
LabelLondon
Songwriter(s)Robbie van Leeuwen
Producer(s)Stock Aitken Waterman
Bananarama singles chronology
"Do Not Disturb"
(1985)
"Venus"
(1986)
"More Than Physical"
(1986)
Music video
"Venus" on YouTube

Background[edit]

"Venus" had been a part of Bananarama's repertoire for several years before they actually recorded it. The group's three members, Sara Dallin, Siobhan Fahey and Keren Woodward, had the idea of turning the song into a dance tune, but they were met with resistance from their producers at the time, Steven Jolley and Tony Swain. The group brought the idea to the production trio of Stock Aitken Waterman, and it became Bananarama's first collaboration with them.

The group had nearly completed recording their third studio album, True Confessions, with Jolley & Swain. Stock, Aitken and Waterman also resisted the idea because they believed that "Venus" would not make a good dance record. After persistence by the group, SAW relented. The track was initially produced in an arrangement more faithful to the Shocking Blue original, but was reworked in hi-NRG style after Siobhan requested it sound like Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)".[63]

Bananarama's "Venus" peaked at number one in the United States, Australia, Finland, New Zealand, Switzerland and South Africa, while reaching number two in Germany and the top-ten in Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom (number eight on the UK Singles Chart, matching the same peak of Shocking Blue's version). It also topped the US Dance Club Songs chart for two weeks.[64]

The collaboration on "Venus" led Bananarama and SAW to work together on the group's follow-up album, Wow!, the following year.

A new mix of the song appeared as the B-side to the 1989 limited release "Megarama '89" in Germany and France. Bananarama has since re-recorded "Venus" for their eighth album Exotica (2001), and it was later remixed by Marc Almond, with re-recorded vocals and included on their ninth album Drama (2005).

In 2021, British magazine Classic Pop ranked "Venus" number two in their list of "Top 40 Stock Aitken Waterman songs".[65]

Music video[edit]

The accompanying music video, directed by Peter Care, with choreography by Bruno Tonioli, received extensive play on MTV and video channels across the world, and presented Dallin, Fahey and Woodward in various costumes, including a she-devil, a French temptress, a vampiress and several Greek goddesses. In one sequence of the video, Sandro Botticelli's painting The Birth of Venus is adapted as a tableau vivant. The video marked a pivotal shift towards a more glamorous and sexual image for the group that contrasted with the tomboyish style of their earlier work. In Popular culture: The group's version of the song was used in an episode of the American animated show American Dad in which the character Roger uses it as the national anthem and he named the country after the group and afterwards the residents of the country were dancing to the song.

Track listings[edit]

  • UK / US / Canadian 7-inch vinyl single

UK: London Records NANA 10 / US: London Records 886-056-7 / Canada: London Records LDS 227 / Australia: Liberation Records LS 1789

  1. "Venus" – 3:30
  2. "White Train" – 3:50
    S.Dallin/S. Fahey/K. Woodward/P. Bishop/P. Seymour

+ some copies released in picture disc format NANPD 10

  • UK / Australian 12-inch vinyl single

UK: London Records NANX 10 / Australia: Liberation Records LMD 474

  1. "Venus" (extended version) – 7:23
  2. "Venus" (dub) – 8:15
  3. "White Train" – 3:50
  • UK 12-inch vinyl single #2

London Records NANXR 10

  1. "Venus" (the Hellfire mix) – 9:20 #:remixed by Ian Levine
  2. "Venus" (Hellfire dub) – 6:55
  3. "White Train" – 3:50
  • UK 12-inch vinyl single #3

London Records NAXRR 10

  1. "Venus" (the Fire And Brimstone mix) – 6:35 #:remixed by Stock, Aitken & Waterman
  2. "Venus" (Hellfire dub) – 6:55
  3. "White Train" – 3:50
  • US 12-inch maxi single

London Records 886 088-1

  1. "Venus" (the Hellfire mix) – 9:20
  2. "Venus" (the Fire & Brimstone mix) – 6:55
  3. "Venus" (extended version) – 7:23
  4. "Venus" (dub) – 8:25
  • CD video single
  1. "Venus" (extended version) – 7:23
  2. "True Confessions" (edit) – 4:09
  3. "A Trick of the Night" (edit) – 4:07
  4. "More Than Physical" (U.K. single version) – 3:40
  • Other versions
  1. "Venus" (the Greatest Remix edit) – 3:40
    Included on the 1989 U.K. CD single "Cruel Summer '89", remixed by Phil Harding and Ian Curnow
  2. "Venus" (the Greatest Remix) 7:43
    Included on the 1989 German CD single "Megarama '89", remixed by Phil Harding and Ian Curnow
  3. "Venus" (2001 version)
    Included on the album Exotica
  4. "Venus" (Marc Almond's Hi-NRG Showgirls mix) 6:02
    Included on the 2005 album Drama, remixed by Marc Almond
  5. "Venus" (from the soundtrack Sugar & Spice: Stuck in the 80's)

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits adapted from the liner notes of True Confessions.[66]

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Certifications for "Venus"
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[105] Platinum 100,000^
France (SNEP)[106] Silver 250,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[107] Silver 200,000double-dagger

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

BHF/Don Pablo's Animals remixes [edit]

"Venus" was remixed and re-released by dance producers The BHF (Bisiach Hornbostel Ferrucci) Team in May 1990. Titled "Venus '90", the remix featured a hip house rhythm and samples. "Venus '90" reached number 78 on the UK Singles Chart and number 49 on the Australian ARIA Singles Chart.[108][16] An instrumental version was also released independently under the producer's alias, Don Pablo's Animals, without referencing Shocking Blue. The instrumental version became the highest-charting version of the song, peaking at number four on the UK Singles Chart.[109]

Other versions[edit]

Dutch DJ Pieter Gabriel remixed the song for the opening ceremony of The Grand Final of The Eurovision Song Contest 2021 held in Rotterdam in The Netherlands. The remix was used as a backdrop for the 26 finalists being introduced onto the stage in a flag ceremony.[110][111]

Popular media[edit]

Shocking Blue's "Venus" was featured in the sixth episode of the 2020 Netflix miniseries The Queen's Gambit. The protagonist Beth (played by Anya Taylor-Joy) dances and sings to the music video. The scene takes place in 1967, well before the song was released in 1969.[112][113]

Bananarama's cover of "Venus" was featured in the 2011 video game Just Dance 3.

The song was used in the commercial for Gillette Venus Women's Razor.[10]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  3. ^ "VENUS". GEMA – Members — Online Database – Musical Works. GEMA. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
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  6. ^ Сітко. Практична граматика англійської мови. Книга 1. p. 166. ISBN 9789663824888.
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  17. ^ a b c Murrells, Joseph (1985). Million selling records from the 1900s to the 1980s : an illustrated directory. Arco Pub. p. 293. ISBN 0668064595. No 2 in Germany, where it sold 350,000 copies ... Global sales were over five million
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Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]