"I've been driving all night, my hands wet on the wheel"
With their roots going back as far as the early 60s, many still overlook Golden Earring when considering the most enduring European rock acts. Initially a four piece beat combo, by the early 70s they were an accomplished psych-prog act, complete with a drummer who would mark the climax of every gig by launching himself over his kit. Since 1965, Golden Earring have released 25 studio albums, but by far and away their most successful was 1973’s Moontan, an album of shamelessly groovy rock music, and home to one of the greatest road anthems of all time.
Released three years after Golden Earring had finally settled into the stable line up that heave remained the core of the band to this day, Moontan delivers pretty much what most people want from an early 70s guitar rock album, namely big riffs, musical pyrotechnics, extended song structures, killer choruses, and no small amount of virtuosity, without sounding like they were just demonstrating how many notes they could play in a set amount of time. Moontan never loses sight of the fact that rock music should be fun and entertaining, and as a result each of the six tracks on it is absolutely vital to the balance and general vibe of one of the frequently forgotten gems of the era.
On the first side of Moontan’s vinyl, the trio of “Candy’s Going Bad”, “Are You Receiving Me” and “Suzy Lunacy” provide us with a big riffing opener which morphs into something much more laid back, an extended wig out that stays on the right side of self indulgence, and a reassuringly accessible pop rocker respectively. It’s unarguably one of the great album sides of the early 70s, however it doesn’t quite prepare you for the level of brilliance that greets you when you flip over to the second side.
“Radar Love” isn’t just a great rock song, it’s possibly one the greatest rock songs. With a killer bass line combining with an irresistible driving drum beat to create a relentless rhythm, an immense chorus and a classic theme of love over long distance with the songwriter listening to the radio as he journeys back to the arms of his lover, it’s oddly timeless and utterly charming. It’s a song that seems to pay homage to the entire history of rock and roll up to that date, yet still sounds utterly its own beast. Hell, even the mini drum solo sounds great. Oh, and the tinny brass used through the chorus evokes listening to shitty 70s AM car stereos like nothing else. If Golden Earring had never recorded another note of music, “Radar Love” would still have left them made men.
Of course, it would be impossible to maintain this level of genius, but Golden Earring do their best to sidestep the issue with “Just Like Vince Taylor”, an unashamed slice of pop which, like “Radar Love” draws no little inspiration from early rock and roll. However, it can’t compare to “Radar Love”, but it’s smart enough that it doesn’t try to.
Moontan closes with “Vanilla Queen”, a final demonstration of their ability to lay down a rock epic where the changes in pace are kept as smooth and un-clunky as possible. Where most bands often get lost in extended song structures by falling back on formless jams, the Golden Earring approach is beautifully structured and never loses sight of the song. It’s what makes Moontan, an album of six songs, sound like it’s been carefully considered, rather than a group of songs dragged out to lengthier durations because they just didn’t have enough material.
All things aside the hideously dated and off colour artwork considered, Moontan is a legitimately great album, and it certainly retains its charm today, particularly for those of us that are partial to classic rock. While Golden Earring are not a band who are name dropped with any regularity, many of their albums, and particularly Moontan, deserve to be reassessed as rock classics.