If I Could Only Take One

My desert island tune by Golden Earring

Happy Wednesday! Once again, the desert island is calling and I must make an important music decision. This time it’s picking a band or artist starting with the letter “G”.

Looking at my library, I could have selected Peter Gabriel, Marvin Gaye, Genesis, Greta Van Fleet, Grateful Dead, Green Day and Guns N’ Roses, among others, but didn’t since I wrote about all of them previously. Instead, I picked Dutch rock band Golden Earring and one of the coolest driving songs I know: Radar Love.

Co-written by the band’s Barry Hay (lead and backing vocals, flute, saxophone, percussion) and George Kooymans (guitar, lead and backing vocals), Radar Love first appeared on Golden Earring’s ninth studio album Moontan from July 1973. Subsequently, a shortened version of the tune was released as a single in Europe in August 1973, except for the UK where it appeared in November that year. The U.S. release of the single took even longer, until April 1974. Here’s the album version.

Radar Love became Golden Earring’s biggest hit. In addition to topping the charts in The Netherlands, it climbed to no. 5 in Germany, no. 6 in Belgium, no. 7 in the UK, no. 10 in Austria and no. 13 in the U.S. Undoubtedly, the tune also helped make Moontan the band’s most successful album.

Here are some additional insights from Songfacts:

Before you could send a text message or call someone in their car, there was no way to communicate to a driver – unless you had a certain telepathic love that could convey from a distance your desire to be with that person, something you might call – Radar Love. In this song, the guy has been driving all night, but keeps pushing the pedal because he just knows that his baby wants him home.

Like many of Golden Earring’s songs, this began with the title and grew from there. Originally intended only as an album track, it turned out to be the only cut on their US debut album Moontan that they could whittle down to a single for radio. It became their showstopper at concerts, and provided a striking moment for their drummer Cesar Zuiderwijk, who would take a few steps back and leap at the drum kit near the end of the song.

Following is a smoldering live version, which according to the clip was captured in 1973:

And here’s something for the geeks among us: 🙂

The song is all in 4/4 time, and the original tempo is around 100 BPM. It’s a very clever arrangement: the intro is on the beat of each bar at the start. The shuffle on the snare is semi triplets which give the illusion of the song speeding up. You have to quantize drum machines to a 6th beat. Consequently the chorus is doubled up to give the impression that the tempo has speeded up to 200 BPM. You have to transpose the 4/4 bar so it can be played with in 1 beat of the bar. It does take a bit of lateral thinking to get your head around the math, but the song is all 4/4 at 100 BPM.

Golden Earring, initially formed as The Tornadoes in 1961 in The Hague, were active until last year. Since 1970, their line-up had consisted of co-founders Rinus Gerritsen (bass, keyboards) and Kooymans, along with Hay and Cesar Zuiderwijk (drums, percussion). In 2021, they disbanded following Kooymans’ diagnosis with ALS, a devastating neurodegenerative condition aka Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Sources: Wikipedia; Songfacts; YouTube

9 thoughts on “If I Could Only Take One”

  1. Of the tunes you’ve listed thus far, this is the first one I’d take with me. One of my all-time favorites from a very interesting period of my life. I did a “Song I Love” on this a while back. You might want to check it out. The very first commenter suggests that the guy in the song dies at the end. I’d never heard that. (Sadly, most of those commenters have moved on.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, glad you liked my pick. “Radar Love” just is an awesome driving tune. I would put it up there right with “Highway Star”.

      As to the driver dying, I didn’t pick up on that either. I just took a closer look at the lyrics, and there’s a line toward the end of the song saying, “Oh one more radar lover is gone.” So maybe that’s what the commenter referred to.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “Highway Star” is awesome. When we rehearsed at the rock camp, we did that. Me and the other guitarist can play the solo so we duetted on that. The plan was to do it with Steve Morse of DP. Can you imagine? But we got shot down in favor of “Space Truckin’ ‘coz the singers had more to do. So be it.

        As to “Radar Love,” yes that was the thought. Check out the post sometime and you’ll see the flow of the conversation.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I never thought of that. I guess it could mean that he died, Although I always thought it was just saying that he was just driving away really fast. Cuz it was talking about how he was passing everybody and everything trying to get to his radar lover. ha ha


  2. That video is so awesome. I never saw them before and I had no idea what they look like. I’ve never seen a drummer jump on top of his drums for a finale. It was awesome. and I love the 70’s fashions too. Sleeveless T-shirts, tight red leather pants, men’s blouse shirts, girls in halter tops in the audience. Great. And he said “Brenda Lee’s Coming on Strong” three times. And it was Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert!!! That show had everybody on it. When I was little it was still on TV and my father used to watch it every Friday night and it came on at midnight. Sometimes I got to watch it and they had everyone on there. Except it was the 80s by then. And there was another one called Midnight Special that was on Saturday night I think. Sometimes I watch them on YouTube and they’re great.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love the bass line, guitar, and the singing…and everything else about this song. It’s one of the first songs I remember period…I never got tired of it.

    Liked by 1 person

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