More Music in "The Queen's Gambit": The Dutch band "Shocking Blue"

by André Schulz
12/25/2021 – Part of the attraction of the Netflix series "The Queen's Gambit" is the design: costumes, buildings and music evoke the 1960s, the time in which the series is set. In a crucial scene of the series the Dutch band Shocking Blue provides the background music. Shocking Blue, founded in 1967, might not be as famous as other bands from the 1960s and 1970s but it still has ardent followers, and one of them is a prominent chess player and well-known coach. | Photo: Netflix

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The scene "Beth Harmon's Downward Spiral" uses a solo dance performance to tell of the increasing loss of control of Beth Harmon, the main character of "The Queen's Gambit", who despite her successes has taken refuge in alcohol to calm her inner demons.

When she later learns of the death of her old chess teacher at the orphanage, Mr. Shaibel, Beth decides to pay a visit to the orphanage where she sees the newspaper clippings the caretaker collected of her chess successes. This gives Beth the strength to free herself from her alcohol addiction and to focus again on the things that are important to her. She then travels to Moscow where she will meet her old nememis, World Champion Borgov, in an important tournament.

The background music to the "Downward Spiral" scene is the song "Venus" by the Dutch pop rock group Shocking Blue. The group had other hits in the late 1960s/early 1970s, e.g. Never Marry a Railroad Man", "Send me a Postcard" or "Inkpot". "Venus" was released in 1969 on the album of the same name and as a single, and it was the first major success for the band formed by Robbie van Leeuwen in 1967.

In 1968, van Leeuwen had met Mariska Veres at a party and hired her as a singer. She was the daughter of the violinist Lajos Veres (1912-1981), who came from a Hungarian Roma family, and was born in The Hague in 1947. From then on, Mariska Veres shaped the style of "Shocking Blue's" songs with her powerful and incisive voice. In her singing and later in her solo projects, her connection to Gypsy music was palpable. When composing "Venus", Robbie van Leeuwen was inspired by some American folk pieces, but also by the Beatles.

Shocking Blue broke up in 1974. However, for a long time Mariska Veres continued to tour under the band name with other musicians in the Netherlands and in Germany, where Shocking Blue was very popular, and regularly performed at oldie festivals. One of the fans of Mariska Veres is Rustam Kasimdzhanov.

Mariska Veres died of gallbladder cancer on 2 December 2006. She was just 59 years old.

"Venus" became a classic in pop music history. In 1986, a cover version by Banamarama reached number one in the US charts.


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André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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