Mr. Big, are you listening?
Golden Earring’s “Radar Love” is one of rock music’s enduring and classic anthems. Released on the Dutch band’s 1973 Moontan album, the song was an international hit, and to date has been covered by over 500 artists. Yet, most casual rock listeners couldn’t tell you the name of the band, and fewer still know the meaning of the song.
“Radar Love” is a rock masterpiece, from its hooky chugging bassline, to its simple but unmistakable riffs, to its catchy anthemesque chorus. Even the jam which rides the song out is note for note classic.
It is also a driving song. “Been driving all night my hands wet on the wheel, there’s a voice in my head that drives my heal.” The song has been picked by countless magazines and websites as a Top 10 driving song. In most cases it’s ranked in the top three.
The song has taken on a life of its own in the 38 years since its release. So much so that there is even a website, www.radar-love.net totally dedicated to this one song. Penned by vocalist Barry Hay and guitarist George Kooymans, ‘Radar Love” is considered the band’s singular hit. Yet, even here in America, the band struck gold again in 1982 with the monster hit, “Twilight Zone”, which exploded in the early days of MTV. The idea that they are a one hit wonder stems more from the seemingly annonymous nature of the band. A search of peer-to-peer and torrent downloading sites show people habitually attributing the song to other high profile artists, rather than Golden Earring.
The band was started in 1961 by Kooymans, and outside of America the band has had a long string of successful hits over their 5 decade career (near 40 with the same current line up), all the way into the new millenium. In fact, our friends in Iron Maiden covered their single “Kill Me (Ce Soir)”. Oh you didn’t know that was a G.E. song? Some Maiden fan you are.
Golden Earring has recorded 24 studio albums, and they are currently set to record their 25th which will be recorded at London Abbey Road Studio. This is to say nothing of the dozen or so each of live and compilation albums.
Who knew? Perhaps the entirety of the Netherlands and most of Europe.
You might be surpised to know that on that strength of “Radar Love” alone, Golden Earring headlined the U.S. in 1974, with soon to be massive heavyweights like KISS and Aerosmith as opening acts. In fact, the first time I saw KISS it was with these guys. Sadly, the Netherlands based band hasn’t even toured the U.S. since the “Twilight Zone” tour in the early 80’s.
So the question remains, just what does “Radar Love” mean anyway? Well, in an era before cellphones, PDAs, Blackberrys, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter, it was a song of intangible connection. The song talks of a signal transmitted to a lover, a connection of heart, soul and mind, without physical boundaries and limitations. It is a song of transcendence. And let’s face it, there was probably a fair amount of mind altering recreational activity involved as well. But oh what a rock and roll jam it is.
Of the hundreds of live and studio covers of the band’s trademark song, the most notable is probably that of 80’s hair metal band, White Lion. But the track has been covered by the likes of Omen, U2, R.E.M., Carlos Santana and Ministry.
Listen to Ministry‘s version:
The most recent studio cover goes to Austin, Texas rock trio Adrian and the Sickness, who recorded a very direct, stripped down version for their 2009, Kathy Valentine (GoGos} produced BFD.
So who cares and what does it all mean anyway, you might be asking? And the answer is, nothing really. It’s simply a small rock and roll anecdote, a side bar, a footnote. But it got me thinking, of all the bands that have covered this classic rocker, there is perhaps one band for whom it is most suited, who could surely do it epic justice. That band is Mr. Big. The idea of Billy Sheehan wrapping his fingers around that baseline, while Paul Gilbert shreds away just sends shivers. With Pat Torpey on the skins and Eric Martin’s unique vocal style, it’s a match that cannot fail. And now that I’ve had this epiphany, I understand that this has to happen. Mr. Big must record this song, as only they can. Can you just imagine mesmerizing sonic epicness of it?
Editor’s Note: There were no illicit drugs used in the writing of this article.