Beat Express #4 - Beat-City Utrecht 1964-1967

In 1964 beat music wasn’t that popular in Utrecht. Show bands and teenage stars could still count on a lot of interest. Yet it was only a matter of time before the beat would upset each and every one. Reports came from England that summer of battles between mods and rockers in British resorts like Brighton and Hastings, and in August of 1964 Stones fans rioted at the Scheveningen Kurhaus. In contrast, in Utrecht fans of the Driftin’ Five joined together to raise four hundred guilders for a wheelchair during a benefit performance on July 3rd in the bar De Kampioen at the Jutfaseweg. During the last weekend of 1965, however, Utrecht experienced its own Brighton: the Herderseplien in the “Oog en Al” neighborhood was the scene of a complete war between “Sjorsklanten” (the beat boys) and “Vetkuiven” (greasers). The latter arrived on their Zundapps and Kreidlers (German motorbikes) over the Spinoza bridge into “Oog en Al,” where the Puch-riding Sjorsen awaited them. It was a tough weekend, with fighters using bicycle-chains and lead pipes, and a lot of destruction was caused. From that moment on beat-clubs sprouted like mushrooms” the Kargadoor, the Rootie Tootie Club, Art 66 and Persepolis were famous and notorious among the many beat fans in Dom City (so called because of the Dom Tower, the highest church in Utrecht). In 1966 there were two highlights: May 5th and the big beat contest won by the Rhythms, and September 3rd with “Non Stop Beat” at the Jaarbeurs with seven Dutch bands and an appearance by the Moody Blues. There were at least 50 active beat groups during this period in Utrecht. Apart from the bands represented on this Beat Express the following must be mentioned by name: Bob Revvel & the A-Ones with singer Robert Long who had big success a few years later with Unit Gloria and their religious pop; the Caverns; the Eyecatchers; the Arrow Strings and Moez Moez & de Appels (Sauz Sauz and the Apples). The most famous band that came from Utrecht was Fullhouse, a band that surpassed the beat genre and played exciting rhythm & blues and soul on a musically high level. The music on this Beat Express album however is not a chronological survey of things that happened in Utrecht but is only restricted to authentic Utrecht beat music.

The Driftin’ Five formed in 1962 and soon found work accompanying the Hilversum singer Herman van Keekan. The performed in beautiful show suits, blue blazers, white trousers and white shoes. Later they added Zorro capes and glitter suits. They were known for their many personnel changes. Members: Eddy van Allfen (rhythm guit), Joop Devilee (bass), Ed van Essen (drums), Michel Roelofs (lead guit). The vocalist was Ted Jones, alias Willem Rutting. After recording some singles for the Tanya label they recorded a single for RCA under the name of D5. Ted Jones had been replaced by Georgie Davis, who by the way was the father of the Georgie Davis discovered in Hennie Huisman’s Soundmix Show (a truly terrible show!). In 1967 they changed their name to Marathon, then later to Apollo’s Wing and finally Parklane.

The Wo?w (pronounced Wow) evolved from the Jugglers. When they recorded their first single in 1966 the record company wanted them to change their name to Wo?w. The single was“She’ll Be Mine” / “Love Is Gone” and was written by Arjen Brass and Bud Bergsma (among others), a writing team from Utrecht who were particularly famous in the 70s. The vocalist on the single was Hans vad de Boogaert. Other members: Nol van Dort, Henny Hesbach, Chris van Putten and Henk de Brey. Ben van der Meer was their agent. He also owned the Spido management company and organized regular performances at the PopStudio in the Den Brielstraat at the Betonbuurt (the concrete district). Despite regular airplay on Radio Veronica their song didn’t become a hit.

In February 1965 Utrecht beat group the Mods (not to be confused with the Mods from Nijmegen who recorded the soul cover “Land of One Thousand Dances”) evolved from the Rocking Strings. The Mods consisted at that moment of Rob van den Berg (voc), Wim Beeken (guit), Gerard van Veenendaal (drums), Ben Stulen (organ) and Geert Hof (bas). In June they recorded for VARA radio and in August played for two weeks in Germany. Their first single was released in the middle of December: “Don’t Bring Me Down,” a Pretty Things cover but played more or less in the style of Cliff Richard & The Shadows! The band mainly played covers of songs by the Motions, Pretty Things, Them, Kinks, and Stones, with no Beatles and a sole original composition. 1966 was the top year for the Mods. They had lots of work and released their second single. In the summer they performed in France, in a small city south of Lille. On May 20, 1967 the band played their last gig at the Rootie Tootie. Manager Harry de Louw and Gerard van Veenedaal had to join the army, Eddy de Waayer left to play bass with the Driftin Five and Rob van den Berg went to the Jets and later became singer for Fools Paradise.

Don Mercedes was born Rob van Bommel at the Gildstraat and grew up with 50s rock ‘n’ roll. His favorite was Elvis and Rob sang his complete repertoire. In 1959 he came in 3rd at the Elvis contest in Amsterdam where Pim Maas (first) and Ria Valk (second) first came into the spotlight. Rob however went on as an Elvis interpreter and early in January 1963 Don Mercedes and his band the Improvers were an “overnight sensation” in Utrecht. Soon after that they auditioned in Eindhoven after which their first single “Foolish Little Girl” was released. This resulted in performances at nightclubs but also in Belgium and Germany. In 1964 Jan Akkerman played frequently in Don Mercedes’ band and played lead guitar on the single “Willie And The Hand Jive”. Years later, in 1976, he at last got the success he dreamed of: a solid number one hit in Holland and Belgium with “Rocky”.

In the 60s there were often disputes over certain band names. The Clarks, Scamps and Incrowd were popular ones. There were even three Incrowds in Holland, and the one from the Hague prevailed over the Incrowd from Haarlem (who became Ekseption) and Utrecht (who became St. John & The Crew). The cast of the latter was Nico Veenman (vocals), Theo Daatselaar (guit), Jan Stam (guit), Klaas Benschot (bass) and Ton Vosmeer (drums). They released only one single for the Whamm label, which is now one of the most sought-after items in Dutch Nederbeat. “I’m A Man” / “You Belong To Me” were original compositions. . Some of the band members were later part of Riggish, the backing band of folk and protest singer Armand.

The Rhythms were founded in the spring of 1965. . They existed of Piet van Rheenen (lead guit), Kees van den Berg (guit), Arie van den Berg (bass), Bert van Luyn (drums) and Jan Eekhoutte (vocals). Within a year the band evolved into one of the most popular in Utrecht with a fan club consisting of nearly a thousand members. In July 1966 the Rhythms performed live on the radio for the “Ronduit” show. Early in March 1967 they released an independent EP. A week later the Rhythms won the Fats Waller contest in Amsterdam, in which the intention was to cover a Fats Waller tune in as original a way as possible. They won with “The Girl I Left Behind Me,” which also led to an appearance on Willem Duys’ TV program “Vuist” on May 12. The song was released by Delta on April 19th and this was celebrated by their fans who organized a Fats Waller style party. Shortly after that the band added a horn section, and on November 24th of the same year they appeared at the first “Flight to Lowlands Paradise” at the Jaarbeurs. A year later the group disbanded.

After two rejections from Bovema as the Rocking Explosives the Jets got a record deal with Phonogram in 1964. There they made they first recordings for the Lion Tops label of margarine manufactorer Leeuwenzegel. With 40 stamps you received an EP with 4 songs from unknown artists. The first Lion Tops EP contained two Jets songs. But they weren’t available in the normal record stores, so the Jets put the two songs, “Shake Hands” and “Memphis Tennessee,” on a single for members of their fan club. On June 16, 1964 the first official Jets single was released with the instrumentals “Jets Fly” and “Baby Elephant Walk.” A year afterward the Jets scored big. Phongram wanted to release an instrumental version of the Shirley Bassey song “Goldfinger” in Japan to take advantage of the James Bond phenomenon. In Japan they knew Utrecht because of Anton Geesing (a judo champion) who was worshiped as a god over there, and by coincidence the Jets were asked to record “Goldfinger.” There was already a group called the Jets in Japan, however, so our Jets debuted over there as the Goldfingers. The single became a huge hit in Japan. It was also released in Holland and reached Veronica’s top ten along with some other versions of “Goldfinger” in May/June 1965. In Holland the Jets weren’t successful with instrumental movie scores after this, but in Japan the opposite was true. They recorded some albums exclusively for the Japanese market with instrumental James Bond songs and hits from the Beatles and Stones among others. The Jets were used increasingly often as the backing band for artists like Ernie Bender, the Telstars, and in 1966 Ronnie Schutte (from “Beestjes”). After a long period of releasing records for the Japanese market (one of which, “Santa Claus A Go Go,” sold 300,000 copies) the Jets tried to gain success in England with vocal beat songs. They recorded “The Pied Piper” and shipped it to England to generate interest in advance of a concert they were planning in London. Present at that gig was one Chrispian St. Peters who liked “The Pied Piper” so much he recorded it himself and had a hit with it. It reached #2 on the Veronica charts, where St. Peters was mentioned first and the Jets after that. The most popular line-up of the Jets was: Nico Witkamp (lead guit), Karry Mulder (bass), Tonny Mulder (drums), Eddy Geurtsen (organ) and Peter van Meel (vocals). As an investment they bought the building Oudegracht 187 and transformed it into a studio that saw use in the production of the Jets’ demos, and was also used frequently by talent contest winners. Veronica and Hitweek parties were also held at the Jets’ studio. Peter Koelewijn met the Jets through this studio and in August 1966 he wrote “Worker In The Night” especially for the Jets. In October of that year “Please Send A Letter” / “Fool Fool Fool” was released, but success eluded them. The beat period was over, and flower power and psychedelic rock came to replace it. The Jets didn’t adjust, in contrast to most other Utrecht bands, which had been less in the center of attention of course and were able to perform this transition in silence.

In 1983 the Jets released a reunion album. They can be proud of the fact that they sold more records in Japan than any other Dutch band. Without getting too lyrical but to maintain the memory of this, we included on this Beat Express, completely against the habit, an instrumental song by the Goldfingers.