All my life, I have been amazed how fellow Dutchmen can butcher well-known songs into the most head-scratching, mind-boggling, cringing covers, translations, mixes, and renditions. Not to mention how successful they often end up being.
And as last Friday marked the last day of school here in the Barren North, I couldn’t help being inspired. So, I decided, let’s finally start that new series I’ve been pondering about for the last couple of months.
So, brace yourselves… This is “What the Dutch Did with It”, part one.
It actually all started in 1963…
Before we go to 1983, where I initially thought this story would start, we have to make a small detour to 1963. Or rather to 1962, if I have to be more precise, when a bunch of British people were working on a film called Summer Holiday, starring every teenager’s heartthrob Cliff Richards and his backing band The Shadows.1
I’ve never seen this movie, but judging from the summary on Wikipedia and the trailer I found on YouTube, the plot centres around a group of friends who drive an English bus through Europe, and hilarities ensue. It probably contains a lot of good old nineteen sixties merriment, sexism (also see the “everything that I say about women drivers is true” remark in the video below), and blunt European stereotypes. And what it also contained was an accompanying album. I mean, what other reason is there to star musicians in a movie:
But of course even the best movie album is worthless if it doesn’t have a catchy title song. Written by Shadows drummer Brian Bennett and rhythm guitarist Bruce Welch, “Summer Holiday” was recorded over the course of 1962 and released as the film’s second single in February 1963. Like the film’s first single “The Next Time”, which was released in December 1962, a few weeks prior to the film itself (which came out in January 1963), “Summer Holiday” spent a total of three weeks at the number-one spot on the UK Singles Chart. 2
How it did outside the UK is beyond my Google reach at the moment, but, as you will soon find out, it must have made somewhat of an impact…
Fast forward to 1983…
When a certain Curtis Hudson and Lisa Stevens from an American disco and post-disco music group named Pure Energy wrote a song titled “Holiday”, which then somehow found its way into the hands of a man named John “Jellybean” Benitez. 3
Among many other things, Benitez was a DJ who worked in numerous famous clubs of the days, like Studio 54, Electric Circus, and ‒ most important for this particular story ‒ the Manhattan club Funhouse, where he was hired as the resident DJ in 1981. In this club, he met an upcoming singer named Madonna, who at the time was working on her debut album, also named Madonna. And they started dating.4
Coincidence had it that Madonna was unhappy with the producer she was currently working with. So she invited Benitez to help her complete the album. He offered her the song, and together they worked on it, adding a piano solo by their common friend Fred Zarr and… cowbells, which Madonna actually played herself.5
The album was released on July 27, 1983, and on September 7 of that same year Madonna’s record company released “Holiday” as the album’s third single. And it did really, really well: reaching top ten positions all over the world, including a number-one spot on the US Dance Club Songs Billboard.6
In the Netherlands the song entered the charts a bit later, in March 1984, but it did quite alright as well: it remained in the top 40 for nine weeks, reaching the eleventh spot at its height. It even reached number seven in the Single Top 100 at some point. 7
So yeah, it was popular. And even after dropping out of the charts, it must have stayed popular for quite some time. Is that a bad thing? Well, it certainly can be sometimes. Let’s go to 1986…
…And then the Dutch came
In 1986, two men named Lucien Witteveen and Sven van Veen met in a disco in Hilversum. Witteveen was a rapper who called himself MC Miker G, and van Veen was a DJ who went by the less complicated name DJ Sven.8
After that, the story becomes slightly unclear to me. All Wikipedia pages dedicated to the matter seem to contradict one another. But somehow it resulted in this:
This is by far one of the strangest, yet catchiest, songs I’ve ever heard. I actually had to google the lyrics because I couldn’t make out much of what they are singing. And even with the lyrics on hand, I had to scratch my head sometimes: what do they mean?!
Anyway, as far as I can understand, MC Miker G and DJ Sven sing that they went on vacation with their friends for seven weeks, and then their parents kicked them out of bed and back to school. After that, the song pretty much exists of the two introducing themselves and each other to the audience, while rapping that they don’t (want to?) go to school and need another seven weeks of vacation, alternated with beatboxing and breakdancing.
Summer breaks from school in the Netherlands actually only last six weeks, but maybe that’s what the song is actually about? That they defied the rules by staying away from school for another week? I don’t know. Both men appear to be in their twenties at least anyway, so I don’t really get the point of them singing about going or not going to school to begin with. The two songs this song is based on both don’t mention the subject of school at all, and just sing about holidays in general, so it simply puzzles me how they came up with it.
It’s weird. Very, very weird. And it just seems to go on forever.
And… it became a hit. A number-one hit even in several countries, including Germany, France, and Switzerland. Not only that: it also became the first number-one rap song ever to reach the charts in France,9 thus strangely making music history there.
Additionally, the video itself also made history when the Canadian music channel MuchMusic named it the worst video of 1986. Not the best accomplishment one can make, but an accomplishment nonetheless.10
So, what happened next?
The Russians took it up in the mid-eighties. And they were sensible enough not to sing it in English. According to Wikipedia, this song was very popular in the USSR in 1989:
As for MC Miker G and DJ Sven: they had a follow-up song aptly named “Celebration Rap”, which may also sound familiar. It did okay.
The two went on tour together in 1987, and produced a couple of songs afterwards, some of which became local hits. They eventually split up in the late eighties. MC Miker G then had one solo hit named “Nights over New York”, and hit rock bottom shortly thereafter. After a dark period of drug addiction and homelessness, he started a new band named “Lion’s Den” in 2009. DJ Sven continued his deejaying career and works as a radio host nowadays. He also wrote an autobiography, which came out in 2009. It’s called Eendagsvlieg in een wespennest,11 or: “One-day Fly in a Wasp Nest”, which, I guess, pretty much says it al.
To this very day, “Holiday Rap” remains quite popular at 80s parties. And on YouTube.
It’s one of those songs that make you question your sanity for liking it, but you like it anyway.
I do, at least.
In 2012, Dutch presenters and singers Chantal Janzen and Simon Keizer sang this Amsterdam-themed rendition of Madonna’s “Holiday”. It’s one of the most brilliant things I have ever seen on television. For those of you who don’t speak Dutch but wonder what an Amsterdam accent sounds like: this is pretty much it…
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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summer_Holiday_(1963_film), last checked July 23, 2017. ↩
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Summer_Holiday_(song), last checked July 23, 2017. ↩
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holiday_(Madonna_song) , last checked July 23, 2017. ↩
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holiday_(Madonna_song), last checked July 23, 2017. ↩