Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Holland and Belgium

9-8-09 Holland and Belgium

Holland and Belgium are two of my favorite European countries. I have friends in both countries, and I love the pop muziek from both countries. And they’re next to each other. And Germany.

I spent 2 entire winters in Amsterdam, staying in a closed hotel that belonged to friends of mine. I love Holland. And I am a huge fan of Mam, The Kewis, The Nits, Gruppo Sportivo, Supersister, Fay Lovsky, even Golden Earring! And the Belgians are not slack – with Telex, Jo Lemaire, Marc Hollander / Aksak Maboul, Lio etc.

The food is very good in these countries. In Holland, I first had Indonesian food! In Brussels, I had really good frites (aka French Fries). Garlic fries!!! And I do not need to mention that I am a fan of Belgian and Dutch beers. I learned my lesson – order your food and drinks in English, they’ll figure out what you want. Unless you are in a Surinam restaurant, where everything comes out “Moksi Roti” (or thereabouts).

And almost everyone I know in Holland speaks better English than I do. And certainly everyone I ever wrote to or spoke to on the phone in Belgium speaks English. Or I spoke enough French to get by. And so much of the pop muziek from the Benelux is in English! Would we all have got on The Nits’ bandwagon if they sung only in Dutch? I have always championed Mam, the Dutch-language group from Tilburg in Holland. The music is beyond words, the voices are perfect. It’s just not in English.

Holland is also a really good place to look for 45rpm singles with picture sleeves. I have so many Dutch picture sleeves! I love the record faires in Holland – I always found such neat stuff at Dutch record faires – things I bought and have never seen again (A Certain Ratio bootleg LP from Italy, some missing Gruppo Sportivo 45’s, a Golden Earring poster from a single from “Bloody Buccaneers” etc.)

I will never forget wandering up and down Boulevard Adolphe Max in Brussels, near the north station. There was even a FNAC, like in Paris! I had trouble equating the Belgian francs with the French francs, as I chose my pastries and chocolates. I once rode a train from Brussels to Amsterdam; some people got on the train and came into my 1st class train compartment. I must’ve looked odd, with my headphones and Frank Zappa cassettes – it startled the people so much that they got off of the train somewhere in southern Holland, leaving their pastries (and a sack of movie posters) for me. (Henk said the pastries were very good, and “typical Belgium”).

I have astonishing memories of touring around Holland with Mam. I attended several shows in ‘exotic’ locations – Tuitjehoorn, for instance. Pieter Bon: “Perhaps there is a Chinese restaurant in Tuitjehoorn?” – all the venues where Mam played always fed the band (and their hanger-ons, like me). Does Big Mark remember running across a large train station, desperately trying to catch a night bus back to Amsterdam, after a Mam concert? I sure do.

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