In the early seventies, Golden Earring went from a corduroy wearing progressive rock band to a spandex-wearing mainstream hard rock band in a period of a year. Occasionally, this sort of drastic change can hurt a group, particularly their image in the media. However, this strengthened Golden Earring and it was much needed for a band that’s been around since the bowl cut days.
Prior to this, they were rather successful with their lengthy cover of The Byrds’ “Eight Miles High” and their single “Back Home,” which went to number-one in the Netherlands in 1970. Even though they previously released a set of fair albums and singles that were rather successful in their home country, but an image change was necessary for any commercial success in America.
In July of 1973, the Dutch rock band released their ninth studio album, Moontan. Hairy chests and colorful clothing was what Golden Earring was presenting, which made them fit right in with every other rock band of the early-seventies. Golden Earring was also progressing more towards a radio-friendly and mainstream hard rock style—and they were successful.
In 1973, their ambitious and energetic single “Radar Love” became a radio hit and went to number-one on the Dutch charts and reached number-thirteen on the Billboard charts in the states. It also hit the Top Ten in many countries, including the UK, Australia, Germany, and Spain—which was Golden Earring needed to accomplish for any recognition from the press. Not only did “Radar Love” become a showstopper at concerts, but it helped the band achieve worldwide fame—Golden Earring went from small ballrooms to the grand stage.
Moontan opens with the track “Candy’s Going Bad,” which includes a heavy guitar riff attached with frontman Barry Hay’s electrifying future-eighties hard rock vocals, implicating how they were ahead of their time. “Suzy Lunacy (Mental Rock)” blends hard rock with glam and sounds as if T-Rex wrote a song for The Rocky Horror Show. On “Just like Vince Taylor,” Golden Earring imitates other hard rock acts, where they sound like KISS and Aerosmith. This was perfect because both Kiss and Aerosmith opened for Golden Earring during their 1973-1974 tour.
There is some long and repetitive instrumentation that can be boring on some tracks including “Are You Receiving Me” and “The Vanilla Queen.” Nevertheless, these tracks showcase Golden Earring in their natural habitat—progressive rock.
Unlike the original release, the U.S. pressing of Moontan is drastically different. Not only was their a completely different cover art for the U.S. version, but the arrangement of the track listing was off too—it doesn’t carry the same flow as the original, which makes the whole listening experience different. And instead of the hard hitting “Just Like Vince Taylor,” you have “Big Tree, Blue Sea”—which originally appeared on their 1970 self-titled album. This distinct and highly adventurous psychedelic track draws similarities to the other progressive rock songs on the album. There’s so much happening here from the additional Ian Anderson-esque flute arrangement over a laid-back groove to the assertive guitar riffs over the mixture of electronics.
Moontan holds more than just a single. From the first chord to the last, it fuses various genres. It was a breakthrough for the Dutch rock band that is forgotten by many here in the states, since it was overshadowed by its lead single. Moontan was the pivotal and drastic point in Golden Earring’s career. Sadly, they never achieved the success here again, until ten years later with their eighties hit “Twilight Zone,” which just made the band more of a novelty act. But they were much more than that and Moontan proves they weren’t just a “one-hit wonder” type of band.
Classic Tracks – “Candy’s Going Bad,” Radar Love” and “Suzy Lunacy (Mental Rock)”
Ehh – “Are You Receiving Me” and “The Vanilla Queen”
Listen to Golden Earring’s Moontan here.