VINSON: Treasured memory - song lost in translation

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In Roman mythology, Venus is described as the “goddess of beauty and love.”

In 1970, the Shocking Blue, an excellent rock group from the Netherlands, had a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Charts with their song “Venus,” written by Shocking Blue founder Robbie van Leeuwen and featuring Mariska Veres on lead vocals.

Now, hold on as I take you on a ride with few sharp curves.

It was decades ago, and I was an active-duty soldier in the U.S. Army, stationed in Hanau, West Germany.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with German tradition, I’ll provide some rudimentary insight: The Germans will hold a fest, which is similar to a fair or carnival, for practically any reason: beer fest, wine fest, potato fest... You get the picture.

Expectedly, these German fests offer games, rides, food stands and a beer tent with a stage inside that features live entertainment.

That particular day was pleasant, warm.

Word had it that a fest was being held on Lamboy Strasse, close to where I was stationed.

So, a bunch of us headed over there.

With the weather being so pretty, those running the fest had moved the music stage and picnic benches outside the tent, so everyone could listen to the music, and eat and drink while enjoying the nice weather.  

The group performing that fateful day featured an attractive, blond-haired, female lead singer.

They performed mostly covers of American rock ‘n’ roll hits in the English language, and the lead female singer did a stellar job. She had a great voice coupled with a great command of the King’s English.

So, there we were, a bunch of young GIs, sitting on picnic benches, soaking the suds, and listening to this German rock band jamming.

Toward the end of the show – with most of us GIs, by then, less than Sunday School sober – the band tore into a rendition of the Shocking Blue’s hit “Venus.”

And things were going well until the female lead vocalist got to the chorus:

She’s got it,

Yeah, baby, she’s got it.

Well, I’m your Venus,

I’m your fire, at your desire.

Well, I’m your Venus,

I’m your fire, at your desire.

And here is why the problem began: Germans pronounce a “V” as a“W,” and, reciprocally, a “W” as a “V.”

For instance, if an American heard a German say my name, Mike Vinson, it would come across as sounding like Mike “Winson.”

If an American heard a German say Winston cigarettes, it would sound like “Vinston” cigarettes.

So, when this attractive, female, German vocalist reached the chorus, soulfully closed her eyes and tossed back her head, it sounded to us like she was belting out, “Well, I’m your wenus, I’m your fire, at your desire. Well, I’m your wenus, I’m your fire, at your desire!”

I’m here to tell you that we were cacklin’ and giving each other high fives!

And with the anticipation that came with each new verse and a subsequent repeat of the “wenus” chorus, our cacklin’ grew to hysterically jumping up and down with laughter.

Though the joke, actually, was on us – a bunch of immature soldiers swilling beer – I will say that it was a jolt of sorts to hear that female vocalist sing the words in English with such clarity, only to get audibly blindsided with “Wenus” versus “Venus.”

Just put yourself in our young soldier’s shoes. Funny, don’t you think?

Whenever I recall my time in Germany, I always think of the Shocking Blue, their hit “Venus,” and how my misinterpretation of that one word caused me, and others, to cackle with laughter.

A treasured memory, indeed.

Mike Vinson can be contacted at
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Meat & Potatoes
Mike Vinson, Music, Voices
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Members Opinions:
December 19, 2011 at 8:20am
I can see where a group of young soldiers tanked up on beer would've got a hoot out of that one. It makes me giggle just to thank about hearing 'Wenus" instead of "Venus!"
December 20, 2011 at 8:08am
Made me smile, love your seemingly unending knowledge of music! great story!
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