BARRY HAY Uncensored in the U.S.: The Legendary Voice & Songwriter of 'Golden Earring'
Exclusive interview with Barry Hay of Golden Earring
-By Ray Shasho
The GOLDEN EARRING saga is truly significant in the world of pop culture and rock and roll, including one of the most enduring bands in rock history. Golden Earring continues to tour in the Netherlands and is the longest existing rock band in the world, as they were founded in 1961, one year before The Rolling Stones.
TITS ‘N ASS (2012), Golden Earring’s most recent release may be the bands finest since ‘Moontan.’ The album reached #1 on the Dutch album charts while performed by the band’s longtime classic lineup. The maturity and prodigiousness of the group is relevant throughout the album and untainted by modern day’s incompetent music mainstream. The album was produced by Chris Kimsey who is distinguished for working with The Rolling Stones. Lead singer Barry Hay performed all the vocals on the album while lying down because of an excruciating injury. Tits ‘N Ass is a genuine rocker with alluring hints of T. Rex, The Hollies, and The Who. There are also several riveting ballads on the release. Barry Hay’s vocals are superlative and George Kooymans’ guitar work is simply awesome. The album also hailed an impressive guitar contribution from longtime friend Frank Carillo (The Bandoleros w/ Simon Kirke). Bassist Rinus Gerritsen and drummer Cesar Zuiderwijk also performed flawlessly on Tits ‘N Ass, while the songwriting team of Hay and Kooymans penned their best lyrical content to date. Every track is a winner! … I gave Tits ‘N Ass (5) Stars!
‘TITS ‘N ASS’ -track listing … “Identical,” “Little Time Bomb,” “Cool As It Gets,” “Acrobats And Clowns,”“What Do I Know About Love,” “Still Got The Keys To My First Cadillac,” “Dope Runner,” “This Love Star,”“Stratosphere,” “Over The Cliff Into The Deep Deep Blue,” “Flowers In The Mud,”“Justin Time,” “Avenue Of Broken Dreams,” “Wanted By Women”
GOLDEN EARRING: The Dutch rock group was formed by childhood friends, guitarist- George Kooymans and bassist- Rinus Gerritsen in The Hague Netherlands. Unlike other popular Dutch bands like The Tee Set, The Bintangs, Focus, Trace, and The Shocking blue, Golden Earring has kept the same- four- original band members together since 1970.
The band was originally called The Tornados but later discovered the name was already taken. They eventually came up with the name Golden Earrings from a song originally sung by Marlene Dietrich in 1947 and became a hit for Peggy Lee in 1948.
In 1965, “Please Go” was Golden Earrings first hit single reaching #9 on the music charts in the Netherlands. After “Please Go” seduced their manager Fred Haayen in believing he had found a Dutch- version of The Beatles, he rushed the Earrings into Pye studios in London to record their debut album "Just Ear-rings."
Their single "That Day," reached #2 on the Dutch charts. The single was beaten out of the #1 spot by The Beatles love ballad “Michelle.”
Lead singer BARRY HAY joined The Earrings in 1967 replacing French singer Frans Krassenburg.
In 1969, they released a successful psychedelic album called “Eight Miles High,” originally a hit for The Byrds in 1966. The album featured a nineteen-minute version of the title track. Their on- stage version of the song lasted much longer and was considered one of the most memorable jams on their U.S. tour.
Progressing into hard rock, Golden Earring embarked on their first major U.S. tour in 1969. The band performed with Jim Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, and Procol Harum. Between 1969 and 1984, Golden Earring completed thirteen U.S. tours. During that period, the group performed as the opening act for Santana, The Doobie Brothers, Rush, King Crimson, J. Geils Band, and ZZ Top to name a few.
Golden Earring enjoyed international superstardom in the Seventies with the hit single “Radar Love," from their critically acclaimed “Moontan” (1973) release. The album was a huge hit in both Europe and the USA. With “Radar Love” reaching #13 in the U.S., Golden Earring headlined concerts for KISS and Aerosmith.
Golden Earring secured chart success again in 1982 with the release of "Twilight Zone" (Their only #1 U.S. Hit) and “When the Lady Smiles” becoming MTV favorites. Looking to get back to basics and frustrated by U.S. censorship of their music videos, the band continued their music efforts primarily in Europe.
Golden Earring has recorded over 30 gold and platinum albums and singles.
The bands best- selling albums are ‘Moontan,’ which sold over 1- million copies worldwide, and the unplugged acoustic live CD/DVD- ‘The Naked Truth’ in 1992, which sold over 500,000 copies in the Netherlands alone. Their successful unplugged theater tours also started in 1992. The album was followed by ‘Naked II’ (1997) and the trilogy was completed in 2005 with ‘Naked III.’ The live acoustic albums were also released with additional tracks under the titles…‘The Complete Naked Truth’ and ‘Fully Naked.’
Studio albums by Golden Earring …
Just Ear-rings (1965), Winter-Harvest (1967), Miracle Mirror (1968), On the Double (1969), Eight Miles High (1969), Golden Earring (1970), Seven Tears (1971), Together (1972), Moontan (1973), Switch (1975), To the Hilt (1976), Contraband (1976), Grab It for a Second (1978), No Promises...No Debts (1979), Prisoner of the Night (1980), Cut (1982), N.E.W.S. (1984), The Hole (1986), Keeper of the Flame (1989), Bloody Buccaneers (1991), Face It (1994), Love Sweat (1995), Paradise in Distress (1999), Millbrook U.S.A. (2003), Tits 'n Ass (2012)
In 2011, the Dutch post group TNT Post honored the band with a Golden Earring commemorative stamp for its 50th anniversary and golden jubilee as a rock band.
None of the members of Golden Earring have plans to retire anytime soon.
The Golden Earring classic and current band lineup is … Barry Hay (lead vocals, alto flute, guitar, and saxophone), George Kooymans (guitars, vocals), Rinus Gerritsen (bass guitar, keyboards, and synthesizer), and Cesar Zuiderwijk (Drums).
I had the rare pleasure of chatting with Barry Hay about … Golden Earring’s latest album ‘Tits ‘N Ass” … Singing while lying down … The legendary Moontan album … “The inception of “Radar Love” … The Happy go lucky days of Golden Earring … My infamous ‘Field of Dreams’ question … More Touring … A new EP forthcoming … And much-much more!
Here’s my interview with the legendary singer and songwriter of Golden Earring …BARRY HAY
-I spoke with Barry from his home in Curacao
Ray Shasho: Hi Barry!
Barry Hay: “Hi Ray, you’re spot on time man, well done! My dad was a military man so I grew up very strict.”
Ray Shasho: So how are things in beautiful Curacao?
Barry Hay: “I’ve been living here for eight years now and it was a really good move. I have an apartment in Amsterdam and fly back and forth about once a month. It’s the rainy season here in Curacao, we had showers this morning but it never rains more than an hour, like much of Florida, after that the sun peeks out again. I was fed up with the climate in Holland; it’s so cold and rainy. I was actually born in India and came to Holland when I was eight years old.”
“We were watching an HBO documentary called “Banksy Does New York” and it was fucking great! He’s a British graffiti artist but really sort of subversive in what he does. He came to New York and did one piece a day, 31 works of art in 31 days. He posted pictures of the finished works but wouldn’t say where they were located. His fans had to hunt around the city to find them and people would follow on Twitter and everything. It’s a fantastic documentary … you should check it out.”
Ray Shasho: “I wrote a very nice piece about Golden Earring on celebrating the bands 50th anniversary back in 2011. The group has had a remarkable career and I was very disappointed that more American music journalist had not reported it and frankly just don’t get it.
Barry Hay: “Well, they did get it but then we moved out and that’s what happened. We brought out this hit called “When the Lady Smiles” and that was a big hit in Holland. The clip wasn’t your middle of the road sort of thing and what MTV did in those days was to cut up everything that was a little bit strange. We were in the top ten of video clips that got mutilated. “Twilight Zone” also got mutilated and at the end it was like a really dreary affair. We just got pissed off and said fuck this shit! Then we just concentrated on Holland, Germany, Belgium … and so that was it. You can hear foul language and watch nudity on HBO, but they are still censoring shows on American public television and I find that strange. It seems like there has been hardly any progression in the last thirty years.”
Ray Shasho: Barry, Golden Earring’s latest release ‘Tits ‘N Ass’ is a great album and may be the bands best to date.
Barry Hay: “Yea it is … I know it’s great, especially the way it was recorded because we wanted to record it live and it’s just in one piece. We had Frank Carillo who is a friend of ours that participated who lives in New York and is a fantastic guitar player. We did a lot of preproduction and before we went to London we actually recorded the whole album in Rotterdam at a friend’s studio. We managed to record it in one week. There were a couple of vocal tracks that were done while we were recording …live vocal tracks. It was a pretty good experience for the band to do it that way because we’re not very good at doing the production thing, all the recordings that you here nowadays are really heavily produced and that’s not our thing at all.”
“But the band is still going strong! We have a month off for the holidays and then we’re starting again in January and there’s this big show called ‘Friends of Amstel Live’ and it’s a big party. They turn this hall into like a big pub, the drinks are really cheap and everybody gets fucked up and has a good time. So we’re doing ten of those shows in January. All the bands get to hangout at the same hotel and its one big party that lasts ten days. So who is going to come out of that alive? (All laughing) Then we’re starting the acoustic thing again, we’ve done that for the last decade and we draw a completely different audience, sometimes even three generations. We do ‘The Naked Truth’ sort of thing and expanded it. There’s hardly not a song that we can’t do acoustically. So those shows will be interesting… anyways there’s about 60 shows planned for next year so far, so we’re going to be busy man.”
Ray Shasho: What was it like working with legendary producer Chris Kimsey who worked with The Rolling Stones … Peter Frampton on ‘Frampton Comes Alive!’ …
Barry Hay: “He’s a legend but also just one of the guys. He’s really good at recording but not very good at mixing. He can lay down the tracks as nobody else can and the sound was real, but when it came down to mixing he didn’t actually mix, just what he recorded and then said … this is it! So we needed a little bit of mixing and John did that. Bill Wyman was in town and told us … “I like that …Tits ‘N Ass” (in British accent). Those were the legendary words from Bill Wyman. (All laughing)”
Ray Shasho: “Who came up with the ‘Tits ‘N Ass’ title?
Barry Hay: “I said let’s call it “Tits” and then George said let’s call it ‘Tits ‘N Ass.’ It’s a bit jaded but I remember when we were in the states we had American roadies and they would say … yea man, that’s tits and ass! It was like saying something was alright and real. So it’s a bit rude and a bit naughty and that’s the way we like to project ourselves.”
Ray Shasho: I really feel that the album is the best since ‘Moontan’.
Barry Hay: “I do too, there’s a lot of versatility and a lot of songs as well. There are a couple of great ballads and George is really great at that. We’re working on an EP that will be coming out at the end of next year, there’s a song on it called “My Lips Are Sealed,” it’s rocky but also has all these twists and changes because George loves that shit. I always tell him, Jesus Christ man, you have to be a rocket engineer to understand that shit. (All laughing) He likes the sort of mini- operas.”
Ray Shasho: One of my favorite tunes on ‘Tits ‘N Ass’ is “Cool As It Gets,” the melody is … T. Rex, Hollies, and The Who wrapped into one mammoth track.
Barry Hay: “We really wanted to duplicate that sound. Frank (‘Frank the Yank’) is really good at classics and he put that guitar in and I like the lyrics a lot …like a mother being envious of her daughter …the mother always wanted to be like her hip daughter but is not.”
Ray Shasho: You and George Kooymans really shine on the album and your voice sounds better than ever.
Barry Hay: “I sang the whole album lying down. I was trying to get a bottle out of a cupboard and was reaching up and something went out in my back. My back became really sore and thick and I had to go to a chiropractor for it. I was in pain man! The first night I had to crawl to the toilet and it was extremely excruciating. So I had to go to the chiropractor every day, I couldn’t stand up and sang the whole album lying down. There’s a really cool documentary made … the making of … and you see me standing up but that was before it happened. (All laughing) Everybody says you sang really great and I tell them all I was fucking lying down! Could you imagine what happens when I stand up? (Laughing) Maybe they’ll start rolling me in onstage.”
Ray Shasho: I’ve got to talk about Golden Earring’s masterpiece album ‘Moontan’ (released in 1973). I heard that Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi borrowed a riff from the album and it ended up being the main riff for the bands title song “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.”
Barry Hay: “Oh sure… that’s absolutely true. A lot of bands were copying that sort of sound. ‘Tragically Hip’ the Canadian band, I met them later and they told me, shit man, we ripped off a lot of your stuff from the ‘Moontan’ album. But it’s all good man; I like getting ripped off because we did something worthwhile to be ripped off. There’s no problem with me there. The good thing with ‘Moontan’ was that obviously “Radar Love” was on it and it has been covered more than 350 times now, and everyday there’s a new cover. There’s a version of U2 doing it and R.E.M. but we didn’t know what we were doing then. We were thinking about breaking up the band and the shows weren’t going that well in Holland and we thought, let’s just make one album and see what happens, if it’s good we’ll stick together and if it bombs we’ll split-up and start doing different things. So anyway the rest is history because it was a big hit in England as well. We were lucky to get on Track Records, the label of The Who, and join them on tour. We did the European tour with them and two gigs at Madison Square Garden. Under their wings man we were pretty secure, it was really good because they helped us out a lot. When we recorded the album we were experimenting a lot more than we’re doing now. We were really lucky because somehow Track Records put us together with IBC Studios and Damon Lyon-Shaw who actually recorded it; he was also the producer for Status Quo. I remember him saying from Status Quo … “It’s all the same ditty isn’t it.”(All laughing)”
“It was a fantastic team and he did a really good job, when you listen to “Radar Love” it still sounds great. So we were just tinkering and having a great time in London and the vibes were really good. We met a lot of people, like the son of an owner of this Greek Restaurant and he brought in Greek food everyday and there were chicks all around … it was a happy go lucky period. We never expected the album to be as successful as it did. We had meetings to discuss what song would be the single, Cesar said “Vanilla Queen” has got to be the single … that’s a hit, and we all said you’re crazy man! So we had to draw straws and thank God “Radar Love” came out as the single. (All laughing) I’m really glad that Cesar didn’t win that one because “Vanilla Queen” would have been a disaster.”
Ray Shasho: Barry, talk about the inception of “Radar Love” penned by you and George.
Barry Hay: “George had the demo but the guitar was playing the bass line. He was really strumming it, typical George style filling it up and there were no holes in it, completely jam packed. A friend of ours owned a studio in Holland. He was building a studio too and wanted to break in an engineer and George lived near the studio there. So we got the studio for a week for demos and rehearsals and with an engineer for nothing, which was really fantastic for us. We usually worked from seven in the evening through seven in the morning. Of course all that has changed, now we work from seven in the morning through seven in the evening. (All laughing) Anyway, we were playing the tune and George was merrily strumming away, I had the idea because I was always into blues back then, and I thought it would be nice to have the bass play the bottom and have George really boost the guitar to add to the vocals. We tried that and it really worked out well because it made it a lot emptier than it was and made it sound a lot better as well. From there on we tinkered and it just materialized, the song sort of made itself. We were really happy with it because it was a mature song and didn’t sound like a typical pop tune.”
“At that time I didn’t have the lyrics together yet because there were maybe twenty versions. We played the song live and the audience really reacted to it. I remember I had sort of a deadline to finish the lyrics and I loved partying back in those days, I still do but back then I partied every day and I had a lot of guests in the house. I kicked them out but usually they would return at five o’clock in the morning. (All laughing) I remember being pissed off because there were girls there and I had to finish the lyrics. There was an American friend staying at my house, Bob Lambert, who used to be our tour manager in the states. So I finished the lyrics and just had a couple of lines here and there and Bob came back with a couple of people in the morning and he read the lyrics and said, man, this is probably the best you’ve ever written and probably the best you’ll ever write. (All laughing) So I thought that was a good complement. He really liked the “No more speed, I’m almost there” …that was his thing; he was like a speed freak.”
Ray Shasho: It’s amazing how many veterans liked the song too, especially radar specialists.
Barry Hay: “It’s strange because that word combination didn’t exist. I was going through a dictionary and saw ‘radar’ and my eyes focused on the word like magic … when you’re on the lookout for something it will come. It’s like when you are going to buy a new car and suddenly you see that car all over. When you’re not thinking about it you won’t see it … it’s like that. It all fell together, it was a magical thing. Also the thing with the Horn Section which was George’s idea, he said let’s put in Horns and it was a nothing to lose situation, we could do whatever the fuck we wanted. The guy that arranged the Horns understood just perfectly what we needed. We brought in Eelco Gelling who played the slide guitar, which was also exciting in the song.”
“I also did the album cover because I had just come back from art school. And of course the original cover got banned immediately in the states. So they put an ear on the cover wearing a gold earring, yea, that’s really creative. It really pissed me off too. The original was fantastic, it was a classic cover.”
Ray Shasho: Barry I always wondered about this …When I watched you guys perform “Radar Love” on ‘The Midnight Special’ in 1974, you traded off vocals with George a lot on the song. Did you have problems with your voice during that performance … George looked surprised and a bit panicky each time he had to sing your part.
Barry Hay: “Yea my voice was really-really bad, I actually had laryngitis. When I watched the performance later, I was surprised that it was that good. I was really in pain man!”
Ray Shasho: “Just Like Vince Taylor” is another great and timeless tune! Originally it wasn’t on the U.S. ‘Moontan’ release but did appear on the European/UK version …
Barry Hay: “Yea that’s a great song; we picked it up and started playing it again and Rinus is playing piano onstage nowadays also. He has this piano with a lot of bass in it. (All laughing) We start it at the show because it’s a true grid rock and roll song. I can tell you something funny about the song; Vince Taylor was an English singer who was pretty popular in France. His band would always wear black with chains and everything and they looked like heavy rockers. They (The Playboys) came to Holland and played where The Rolling Stones played their first gig in Holland at the Kurhaus Concert Hall. I was there with a girl that I was really in love with and she was a big fan of Vince Taylor. She managed to get up front and Vince Taylor was kicking girls and getting very aggressive, and I was like … don’t you fucking kick my girl! Later I found it funny because it was sort of an Iggy Pop type of act. So the song is about the girl taking me there in a way and me being her puppet throughout the thing. I love the song and we still play it like it’s brand new.”
Ray Shasho: You joined Golden Earring around 1967 during the bands psychedelic period … the ‘Eight Miles High’ (1969) album was another favorite of mine.
Barry Hay: “My first album with the band was ‘Miracle Mirror.’ The ‘Eight Miles High’ album was also recorded in England and I remember Keith Richards coming in while we were doing it and he said … “It’s a bit rushed.” So we had two comments from The Stones … “Tits ‘N Ass, I like it” and “It’s a bit rushed.” (All laughing)”
Ray Shasho: I saw The Stones perform in 1975. I had a fantastic front row seat because I was actually working at the venue. The Rolling Stones were terrible that night! I think the opening act … gospel singers called the ‘Mighty Clouds of Joy’ performed better than the Stones that night. The Stones are a great band but have certainly had their share of dreadful moments in rock history.
Barry Hay: “I must have seen The Stones at least ten times. I watched them perform great but also saw them play really-really terrible as well. They did the ‘Pink Pop Festival’ this year which is one of the biggest open- air festivals in Holland and they were really awful. It wasn’t on TV or anything because they banned everything. They couldn’t do anything about it …usually they take the live tracks into the studio, then bounce around with them and enhance them or whatever they do, but they couldn’t do that because this was completely live. So they banned it and said no way man this will not be broadcasted. Everything else was broadcasted except The Stones and they were the headliners. But they were really dreadful.”
Ray Shasho: I really enjoyed your flute playing on the track “Everyday’s Torture” from the ‘Eight Miles High’ album as well.
Barry Hay: “I had to start playing flute because when I joined the band they had a single out called “Sound of The Screaming Day” (1967) which was also recorded in England at EMI studios, and they brought in this flute player who was a really good fucking classical flute player and George was singing the song, so I had to do something instead of just standing there onstage. So they said, why don’t you learn to play the flute, we’ll give you a week to learn and even give you the flute. (All laughing) So I had a guy teaching me the flute for a week but could only play that part. So that was the only thing I could play. I was only interested in getting that part done and that was it, then I would put the flute away. Later on they said, why don’t you play some more flute, but the good thing is that you can’t play flute and sing at the same time … so that’s a blessing. (All laughing) I’ll do a solo once in awhile and the girls will all go ... Ahhh … because they think I’m like the Pied Piper and the flute a romantic instrument, but I don’t think it’s very masculine. (All laughing)”
Ray Shasho: Barry, what was it like touring America during the “Radar Love” days?
Barry Hay: “They were wild and crazy; I was sucking it up, having a fantastic time and really enjoying myself. It wasn’t work, work, work … for us it was … fun, fun, fun. America was like being a kid visiting a toy or candy factory. I remember driving into New York for the first time in my life and fucking mission accomplished …I can die now. (All laughing) It was exactly like that. As a Dutch boy you see these things on TV like ‘Route 66’ and everything and you have this dream of seeing the country. We also listened to a lot of American music of course but it was like a dream for us and the place to be.”
Ray Shasho: Was there a particular band that you especially enjoyed touring with in America?
Barry Hay: “I really enjoyed touring with J. Geils Band, they were so great and Peter Wolf was so funny. They were one of my favorite bands even before we started touring with them and when I found out we were going to tour with them it was like heaven. I watched them every night man. I also liked touring with The Doobie Brothers, just an amazing band. Shit man, we did two gigs with Led Zeppelin, which is very strange, at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit and that was a mindbender. John Bonham’s drumming was so different from anybody else’s at that moment. Our drummer then Jaap Eggermont decided to stop drumming from the moment he saw John Bonham. He left the band, became a producer and was very successful, but after seeing John Bonham that was it for him. He said I lay down the sticks and will never drum again! (All laughing)”
Ray Shasho: Barry, here’s a question that I ask everyone that I interview. If you had a ‘Field of Dreams’ wish like the movie, to sing or collaborate with anyone from the past or present, who would that be?
Barry Hay: “Jim Morrison. I’d like to sing second voice on anything he’d do. “This is The End” …I love it! I have a lot of favorite singers, like Eric Burdon has also been one of my favorites. Also the first Manfred Mann singer Paul Jones and I thought that Jimi Hendrix was also a great singer. Jim Morrison had this charismatic sort of sound and I don’t know man, the guy didn’t even realize himself how good he was as a singer. It’s like mysticism, there’s something going on man, like melancholy and really bluesy as well, and I think he’s fucking great! And I love the Doors too. I remember joining Golden Earring and was a fan of Bruce Botnick the producer of The Doors, especially of the sound. I asked the band if they liked The Doors and they were not into The Doors at all, which was really strange. I started pushing the Doors on them and finally they understood and became fans as well. They were definitely one of my favorite bands for those days.”
Ray Shasho: Barry, thank you for being on the call today, and for all the incredible Golden Earring music you’ve given us and continue to bring. We miss you in the states man!
Barry Hay: “It was mentioned that David Letterman wanted us to do something on the show but it’s not going to happen anymore because he’s gone! (Laughing)”
“Anyway, thank you so much Ray, take care!”
‘TITS ‘N ASS’ track listing …
“Little Time Bomb”
“Cool As It Gets”
“Acrobats And Clowns”
“What Do I Know About Love”
“Still Got The Keys To My First Cadillac”
“This Love Star”
“Over The Cliff Into The Deep Deep Blue”
“Flowers In The Mud”
“Avenue Of Broken Dreams”
“Wanted By Women”
COMING UP NEXT… The Moody Blues co-founder/ singer/ songwriter/flautist … RAY THOMAS and Folk/Rock singer & songwriter … JONATHAN EDWARDS (“Sunshine,” “Shanty”)
Contact music journalist Ray Shasho at firstname.lastname@example.org
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