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Doe Maar was one of the most popular Dutch pop groups ever. With their mixture of reggae, pop, ska, and Dutch vocals, they created a unique style of nervous, punky pop songs without the obligatory guitar solos. Doe Maar reached unprecedented heights of popularity at the beginning of the '80s — and paved the way for the emergence of "Nederpop": Dutch groups singing in their native tongue. During their short career, which lasted from 1978 until 1984, the band released only four studio records, of which three made it to the number one position. Their 2000 reunion album, Klaar, also made it to the top of the charts. The turn-of-the-century success of their compilation album Alles and the appearance of a tribute album, Trillend op Mijn Benen — Doe Maar Door Anderen, proved that Doe Maar still mattered — both in popular value and artistic importance.
The origins of Doe Maar can be traced back to 1978. In their spare time, Ernst Jansz (lead vocals, keyboards, May 24, 1948) and two of his friends, Piet Dekker (bass) and Jan Pijnenburg (drums, Vught, December 29, 1955), liked to play Jansz's songs. Consequently, Jansz and Dekker wanted to move out of the rehearsal space and form a real band, but Pijnenburg declined. So Carel Copier (drums), formerly of Steam, was brought in, and a new rhythm section was formed. Former bass player Jan Hendriks (guitar), also of Steam, came aboard as guitarist. The new band was asked to perform at the Festival of Fools — a festival organized by Amsterdam pop temple Paradiso — and christened Foolsband. On-stage, the band was performed with clowns and male and female background singers. The experiences of the festival inspired the new group to continue performing.
The group changed its name to a Dutch one, Doe Maar, and started playing four or five nights per week. From the start, Doe Maar's songs (written by Jansz) were sung in Dutch. And during this time, Ernst Jansz was not only the principal songwriter; he was also the band's manager, taking care of virtually everything that involved the band. When Doe Maar reached a modest amount of success, Jansz brought in manager Frank van der Meijden. By now Doe Maar was capable of tightly delivering their songs. After their first contribution to a compilation LP — the song "Blozen" — van der Meijden sent out a demo tape to Telstar Records. Telstar liked what they heard and signed the band. Despite these developments, Doe Maar still was a small band. In 1979, when they released their debut album, Doe Maar, and only 2,000 copies were sold. The first success came with the charting of single "Ik Zou Het Willen Doen" in the Tip-Parade.
In 1980, when Piet Dekker decided to leave the band, the group came to a crossroads and decided to quit. However, their record company held them to their remaining contract. Ernst Jansz contacted friend and fellow musician Henny Vrienten (lead vocals, bass, guitar) to fill out the group for the recording of one last album. Jansz knew Vrienten from when they had both played on a Boudewijn de Groot (the famous Dutch troubadour) album, and both had been members of the subsequent touring band. When the tour was over, they had played together in a reggae band. Vrienten declined, and Jansz approached Joost Belinfante, who had never played bass guitar before. However, just before the recording of second album Skunk, the skillful Vrienten replaced Belinfante. With Vrienten in the fold, Doe Maar suddenly had two great composers. Vrienten immediately contributed three songs to the new record.
Still the record company was hesitant to release the record. They had held Doe Maar to their contract, but were now waiting for the right moment to release the new album. During the holiday season the competition was thought to be too strong, and after that came carnival. Consequently, a release date was set after carnival. Through the marketing department, however, radio stations already got hold of a press copy of Skunk before carnival. Surprised by the quality and originality of the sound, DJs across the Netherlands started playing the album and single "Sinds een Dag of Twee." Listeners caught up, but had trouble remembering the single's difficult title. DJ Frits Spits solved the problem by renaming the song "32 Jaar." The members of Doe Maar did not agree, but thankfully the record company did, and the following year 20,000 copies were sold and the number one position was reached in the album charts. This was a very impressive feat for a Dutch act singing in their native tongue. Doe Maar had realized their first great success.
At the end of 1981, Carel Copier left the band and was replaced by 19-year-old René van Collum. With their third studio album, Doris Day en Andere Stukken, released in 1982, Doe Maar hit the mark once again. It also reached the first place on the charts, and just like its predecessor, it managed to stay in the charts for more than a year. Lead single "Doris Day" became a radio staple. Doe Maar also widened their sound palette from ska to reggae. Due to the success, Doe Maar concerts became more and more like Beatles concerts: crowded halls with screaming, fainting young women in front of the stage. As a result, all group members, especially Jansz and Vrienten, became media personalities. They appeared in gossip magazines, and Doe Maar's trademark colors, phosphor green and cotton candy pink, were seen everywhere. The band's popularity among teenagers was remarkable, since both Jansz and Vrienten were in their thirties, and the latter even described Doris Day en Andere Stukken as an album "by people in their thirties, for people in their thirties." Later that year, Henny Vrienten released a dub remix of the album, entitled Doe de Dub — Discodubversie.
In 1982 Doe Maar was awarded the Zilveren Harp, a prestigious price for newcomers in the musical scene. In that year Doe Maar also featured as the opening act of Pinkpop, and they played alongside Golden Earring on Veronica's Popnacht. The bomb exploded when Doe Maar released their single "De Bom" in November 1982. A song about cold war fear and the futility of life, "De Bom" was Doe Maar's ticket to mass fame. In January 1983, van Collum was replaced by Jan Pijnenburg. But after his second show with Doe Maar, Pijnenburg had a car accident, and van Collum retook his place on the drum stool. Fourth studio album 4US had gone platinum before it even reached the stores. It had the honor to be the first Dutch record to be released on CD, and lead single "Pa" was the first Dutch single to reach the number one position out of nowhere. More than half a million copies of 4US were sold. On the album, Eastern music was brought in, and both Jansz and Vrienten took a harsher lyrical stance. Songs like "Heroïne" and "Doe Maar Net (Alsof Je Neus Bloedt)" were thoughtful, mature pop songs.
Jansz and Vrienten found it increasingly hard to cope with their popularity, which spread like a virus. After the appearance of the album, a publicity stop was announced. This, however, had a boomerang effect: the media and fans harassed Jansz en Vrienten even more. Lijf aan Lijf, a double live album featuring drummer Jan Pijnenburg, appeared at the end of the year. In 1984, at the height of their fame, and while recording a new album, Doe Maar called it a day. The members couldn't stand the fainting girls at their concerts, and the intrusion of both fans and press in their personal lives. The group broke up amicably, and bandmembers continued to play together. Fifteen years later, in 1999, Doe Maar reunited for a series of 16 concerts (with a 175,000 visitors in total) and Klaar, a one-off studio album that was released in 2000. (Pijnenburg played the drums.) The reception of Klaar was mixed. The presence of Doe Maar in the new century was secured, however, when the band released both a CD and DVD of the Ahoy concerts. A Doe Maar musical hit the theaters in 2005, also becoming a big success: it was sold out everywhere and won five musical awards. ~ Philip D. Huff, Rovi