“Leaving aside any bias over Radar Love, it brought their progressive leanings right to the surface”: Golden Earring’s Moontan

Golden Earring - Moontan
(Image credit: MCA)

How on earth can any album with Radar Love on it possibly belong in a Prog article?

Yet, leaving aside any bias over one of ’70s rock’s most overplayed, albeit significant, hit singles, Moontan was the album that brought the Dutch band Golden Earring’s progressive leanings right to the surface.

You can hear what’s in store on the opening track Candy’s Going Bad, which kicks off in the style of an early-70s heavy rocker, but expands to become a much moodier piece more in keeping with Van der Graaf Generator. OK, so that might be a fluke, but how do you then explain Are You Receiving Me? It’s a cosmic, Hawkwind-style excursion; a 10-minute psychedelic journey in which the technical brilliance of guitarists George Kooymans and Eelco Gelling is augmented by plunging saxophone notations from Bertus Borgers.

However, Moontan’s crowning glory is the song Vanilla Queen, a sumptuous epic that encourages every strength in the band to come through. Rinus Gerritsen’s use of synthesiser washes acknowledges a krautrock influence, while the way in which solo acoustic guitar is used as the fulcrum in one passage and the way the instrumental juxtapositions build are clearly inspired by Mike Oldfield.

Then, just when you think you’ve got this all under control and can predict where it’s all going, the band suddenly take the music in a more left-field direction, building to a massive march of melody, ambience and stark sounds. It’s superbly climactic, and an authoritative display of how this type of approach can hold the listener’s attention.

But, of course, there’s also Radar Love. And when you return to this classic song after a lengthy period of time, you understand that, as with the biggest Supertramp or 10cc hits, this isn’t just about an obvious hookline but also intelligent musicianship. Never make the mistake of evaluating simplicity with being lowbrow. Radar Love is one of the best examples of prog going pop without compromising its musical ambitions.

Moontan was the album that broke the Dutch band in America, where it made the Top 20, and is still regarded by many fans as their finest work. It shows off their dedication to innovation and disregard for conformity. Golden Earring were prepared to be both progressive and accessible, and had the ability to tie both ends of these different musical strands together.

This article first appeared in Prog in 2014.

Malcolm Dome

Malcolm Dome had an illustrious and celebrated career which stretched back to working for Record Mirror magazine in the late 70s and Metal Fury in the early 80s before joining Kerrang! at its launch in 1981. His first book, Encyclopedia Metallica, published in 1981, may have been the inspiration for the name of a certain band formed that same year. Dome is also credited with inventing the term "thrash metal" while writing about the Anthrax song Metal Thrashing Mad in 1984. With the launch of Classic Rock magazine in 1998 he became involved with that title, sister magazine Metal Hammer, and was a contributor to Prog magazine since its inception in 2009. He died in 2021