B i o g r a p h y

 

JAN
VREDENBURG

PAULETTE BRONKHORST

TRUDY
HUYSDENS

BERT
VAN DER WIEL

 

When the popgroup CHAMPAGNE was formed back in 1976 each of the four members had
 already experience either as front singer or background singer in several other Nederpop-projects
 (i.e. Mouth & McNeal, Flashback, Johnny Kendal Machine, Soul Serenade).

CHAMPAGNE was produced in Rotterdam. Ironically, just Holland's rock music veteran Wally Tax
together with composer Martin Duiser created the prevailing soft pop songs for the mixed double. 
The foursome got a roaring-twenties look like it was en vogue in the mid-70s due to films like
"The Sting", "Chinatown", "Death on the Nile" and "The great Gatsby".
The group with the name of the noble sparkling drink performed on stage and on TV
 in style and elegance most of the time.  Classic suits, Gatsby dresses and hats with veils,
a sight to sore eyes!  It made them rather unique in all the disco-glitter, punk-trash
 or glam-rock-campiness of those years.

The first and most successful single "Rock And Roll Star" was released
in The Netherlands at the end of 1976 and in most countries around the world in early 1977.

A musical travesty like it was only possible in the 70s' Europop: After the yearning sobbing
mouth-organ intro, up-tempo folk-like accords follow in two-eight time.  The structure of the
song with the increasing refrain reminds of ABBA's 1975 mega hit "S.O.S".
For discotheques "Rock And Roll Star" was completely unsuitable: It just was not danceable. 
  However, the formula to orientate on successful sound patterns, and adding an own flavour to them, 
 proved to be right and was crowned with success.
"Rock And Roll Star" reached number 2 in The Netherlands, number 12 in Germany, and,
the climax of success abroad, number 83 on the American Billboard Hot 100.
During their career chart positions were achieved in Belgium, Switzerland, Scandinavia, East Europe,
Israel, Asia and South Africa, where CHAMPAGNE was renamed into BUBBLEY.
In France the group was named DUTCH CHAMPAGNE.

The second single "Oh Me Oh My, Goodbye" was a sentimentally inspired title with a yearning
goodbye-to-all-that-attitude, similar to those in English salon-novels by Foster or Galsworthy.
Chart position in The Netherlands: 3 and in Germany: 25.  Even a German version was recorded,
to be found a sampler called "Die neue Super 20" in 1977.

The third single "Valentino" is regarded as their best by the fans.
It is a very well produced song about the silent movie star of the same name.
With it's catchy refrain it is in one musical league with ABBA's "Fernando" and was 
  rewarded with  a lot of airplay, leading to a top 5 chart position in The Netherlands.
In Germany however, "Valentino" was placed just under the top 50 and thus did not appear in the
annual rankings, because only the top 50s were published every week by MediaControl.
 All the following singles of CHAMPAGNE in Germany shared the same fate.  In case the top100 had been
established, it would have been completely different.

  Almost simultaneously with "Valentino"the first album was released, simply titled "Champagne".
  A pleasing Europop-long-player, typical for its time produced with the full and rich sound of Holland-Pop.
The album consisted of new songs, re-recordings of flip-sides of the first two singles "Kiss You Baby" and
"The Last Song", old material by Wally Tax which had been released by him as a solo artist 
in the early 1970s, and the Hollies cover "The Air That I Breathe".
The album reached number 33 in the Dutch charts.

In 1977 CHAMPAGNE received the Dutch Conamus-Export-Award for their complete oeuvre so far.
 In their home country the quartet enjoyed their huge popularity and was booked frequently,
 among others also for print commercials for the underwear label "Bon Giorno".
No doubt: CHAMPAGNE were one of the most promising newcomers in Europe in the golden age of 70s pop.
They were rewarded with flattering comparisons like "a unique combination of ABBA and Manhatten Transfer"
and belonged to the most popular Nederpop-Exports, next to Pussycat, LUV, George Baker Selection and Maywood.
In Italy they performed live as a guest -act in front of 40.000 people,
 in Israel they played several concert tours after each of their singles reached the number 1 spot.
 In Germany they appeared in popular TV-shows like "Musikladen", "Disco", "M.O.T.", "Plattenküche",
"Die Drehscheibe", "Ein Platz an der Sonne", "Aktuelle Schaubude" and "ZDF Silvestershow 1977".
Some of those shows reached up to 18 million viewers.  In the German Democratic Republic they
made several performances on TV-shows and even produced a special for their album.

Obviously Duiser and Tax were surprised of the initial success, because it took many months until
the next single was released. "Light Up My Eyes" was the only single released in 1978,
 reaching a respectable number 11 in the Dutch charts.

From 1979 on the Gatsby-look was more and more abandoned and CHAMPAGNE jumped on the
bandwagon of disco sound, which was still very popular at that time.
The lively dance pop titles until 1980 were "That's Life", "Black Jack", "Rollerball", "Captain"
and "Sjooh Sjooh Sugar".  All of them were small hits in Holland, but bombed in Western Europe.
  No wonder the Greatest Hits album "Rollerball" was not  released in any country except in The Netherlands.

Officially CHAMPAGNE split up on 1st April 1981.  By that time they had sold about 2,5 million singles
 and 320.000 albums. Paulette Bronkhorst joined immediately the duo
"La Chica" and worked afterwards now and then as a writer and editor.
Trudy Huysdens, married to the renowned Jazz pianist Jack van Poll, emigrated to South Africa.
Today she back in Europe and lives in Belgium.
Jan Vredenburg joined the group "Shampoo".

In 1983 CHAMPAGNE came back, although with a different line-up.  Jan Vredenburg was the only original
member, forming a trio with Rosina Brochard and Jean Cariot.
Two singles were released: "The Woman I Know" and "A Little Bit Of Soap",
but even in The Netherlands no success at all was granted.

Now it seems that there is some kind of renaissance and a rediscovering of the quartet's elegant
radio-pop going on: SonyBMG finally announced the release of a Best-Of-Compilation in 2006.
This caused a joyful excitement among fans from long ago and youngsters who heard
about the act and were eagerly waiting to get that "missing link" on 70s-pop in their hands at last.

From time to time Paulette, Trudy, Jan and Bert met in order to talk about good old CHAMPAGNE-times,
like in a TV special called "Vergeten Verhalen" in 2005 on TV Rijnmond in Rotterdam.

The foursome look back very fondly to their crazy days as pop- and style-icons.
But they also have plans for the future: On 21st November 2006 the agency "NOVUM" announced,
that CHAMPAGNE will re-unite!  Plans for a theatre-tour through The Netherlands were revealed:
An entertaining live stage perfomance with lots of music form the 50's will be offered to
theatres all over the country.  The tour will take place in the season 2007/2008.

 We are glad to have them finally back. Live on stage with a new show  and on compact disc
with their 70's hitmusic. Their songs still stand up well today, they touch our hearts and light up our eyes.


By Klaus Stocker (translated into English by Harald Christoph Kuch)