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The 1974 Golden Earring song Radar Love is often trotted out as the epitome of one hit wonders, but this characterization is doubly wrongful. Firstly, the band actually had another chart topper some years later (the less funky but still certainly memorable '82 standard Twilight Zone, wherein we learn what happens when the bullet hits the bone). And they had many more chart toppers in their native Netherlands, where their popularity has always found its peak. And secondly, such a frame does no justice to the inimitable greatness of the song itself. For it is a relentless engine of a song, a work of art which cranks its beat along like the heart of the sedan that we watch its protagonist driving in the vid. And yes, this is a song with a protagonist, for it is in a sense a story song, telling not of the triumph of falling in love or simply of being in love, but of struggling to return home to love when separated by the fickle forces of fate. This is man against the world. And man wins.

A unique isolated slow-plucking of four sets of bass notes (courtesy of bassist Rinus Gerritsen) introduces the song (but is not repeated anywhere in it). After an excitement-building bass fade, Cesar Zuiderwijk's drum line hits you first with an almost mechanized funk consistency. The drum line is quickly joined by a soft and persistent rolling bass line, pitching you to the ground, with a heel of bass pounding into your chest while the high hats toetap on your chin. And then Barry Hay is singing in his lusty baritone and George Kooymans's guitar is introducing itself, and the song screeches in and grabs you by your collar, pulling you to your feet, and you realise you're in love the whole experience.

Now, surely we have all faced physical separation from a loved one, and I venture that most have felt that peculiar anxiety which comes with a return trip home after a lengthy time apart, the stoicism of enduring separation thrust aside with the impatience of it almost being ended. And perhaps we will remember a time when, knowing that such a trip was underway, we could almost feel our lovers' mirror experience of this anxiousness for reuniting. And, naturally, it must be remembered that this song was written in a time before cell phones, since modernly much of this nervous energy can be burned off by hearing the sound of a lovers' voice from most any point along the journey.

And so our hero enters the scene having driven through the night, compelled by his desire to return to his love, with whom we will soon learn, he imagines something of a telepathic connection. This is revealed in the first chorus, the song not having a conventional repeated chorus, as the choral part introduced after the first full verse differs in detail from the next rendition of the choral part -- in the first version, he sings:
When she gets lonely and the longing gets too much
She sends a cable coming in from above
We don't need no phone at all
We've got a thing that's called radar love
We've got a wave in the air, radar love
But in the other two, the perspective switches, "When I get lonely and I'm sure I've had enough"; and in response to his loneliness, she sends not a cable but a comfort; and he is evoked to respond that they don't need a letter.

After hunting around the wasteland of spam and garbage sites, I find one which actually has the lyrics and abbreviated notes on the tabs, presenting them in blissful simplicity. The imagery interspersed in the remaining lyrics is that of the hypnotic road, the passing of slow cars, the awareness that the landing is the most dangerous part of the trip. In something of a tributary offering, the song twice tells us that the driver is listening to a 'forgotten song,' Brenda Lee's country-funkalicious 'Coming on Strong' on the radio. It is this powerful sense of the edgy last hours of a long trip which the song captures perfectly, doing so in a manner that raises hard rock almost to a religious crescendo.

To its great credit, the song has no proper guitar solo. Instead, the nonvocal portion of the celebration begins with four full measures of an absolutely delicious low beat on the bass drums, followed by the re-addition of the bass guitar, then lead guitar and horns, all building to a height that suddenly drops off and right into the same progression as the exciting beginning of the song, only this time amped up by the sense that things are sweltering towards the culmination of the tale. And indeed the last line of the lyrics (before the final repetition of the chorus) tells us: "Oh, one more radar lover's gone" -- the journey is completed, and the need for 'radar' surpassed by actual presence.

Golden Earring seems to have given up on America around 1984. In that year, their next attempt to craft a hit, 'When the Lady Smiles,' did just that in seemingly every market but America, where it didn't make a dent. Some pointed fingers at the songs video being banned from MTV for an implied rape theme wherein Hay portrays himself as unable to resist the urge to sexually assault first a nun, and then his psychiatrist's secretary, resulting in his rather bizarre lobotomisation. But really the song simply lacks the excitement of their true hits. And, in the same year, eight teenagers died in fire at a Six Flags theme park where the band happened to be performing, leading to much stress. Although Golden Earring still remains a performing unit (and with much the same lineup), some fifty years since their original formation in 1961, they've not had a hit nor played a venue in the USA for over a quarter century. But once in a while, when you turn on the radio, you'll find this gift that they've left here for all time.



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