Welcome to my progg blog! That's progg, not prog, because that's how the Swedish progressive music is spelt here. Progg isn't merely progressive in musical terms, it refers to the Swedish alternative political movement in the 70's as well. Therefore you'll be able to read about Fläsket Brinner as well as Knutna Nävar as my blog progresses. Please note there are no downloads here, only reviews and Youtube links!
Swedish vocals Ranked #9 on the blog's Top 25 list
If the words ”legendary” and
”classic” were invented for a reason, then ”Ja dä ä dä!” is
that reason. Generally considered the first proper rock album
entirely sung in Swedish, this is where the whole Swedish progg music
really began. True that bands like Baby Grandmothers and Hansson &
Karlsson had been going on prior to the release of Pugh's debut, but
this album took it all one step further. If not three steps further.
Because there had never been an album like this before, not in
Sweden, and not internationally.
It's an utterly groovy album (groovy as
in ”groovy, man!” and as in organic, swinging, moving rhythms), recorded after Pugh escaped mandatory military service.
The playing is top notch, loose and free and yet with excellent
discipline. It's amazing how richly textured a trio can be, but then
again, the musicians are among the very finest Sweden had to offer at
the time. Janne Carlsson is the Karlsson (note the change in
spelling!) in the aforementioned Hansson & Karlsson, while Georg
Wadenius, popularly known as Jojje, later had fame in Made in Sweden,
fortune in Blood, Sweat and Tears, and sheer excellence on the
children's album ”Goda' goda'”. He's best known as a guitarist so
it's curious to hear him pounding away on the bass on ”Ja dä ä
dä!”. Guitars are in fact played by Pugh himself; wild, stoned,
crazy guitars at its finest. In many ways, the trio is closer to jazz
than rock music. No wonder, as Carlsson was a jazz drummer from the
beginning.”Ja dä ä dä!”.
What makes this a Swedish classic is of
course the lyrics. Not only because it was the first time we had a
rock album sung entirely in Swedish, but also because Pugh had a very
original way to use the Swedish language. No one has every written
lyrics in a similar fashion as Pugh. They are deep and naive at the
same time. At a first glance they might appear as simple banalities,
but nothing could be further from the truth. There's a whole lot of
depth beneath the surface of the playful sentences, and it's a pity
that this is lost on a foreign listener not familiar to the Swedish
language. (He even touched on homsexuality in the song ”Du tände
lyset Andersson” – not a common topic in 60's lyrics.) But don't
let the language put you off, because even if you don't know a single
word of what Pugh sings, the music speaks on a level that can be
fully understood by anyone with a heart and a soul. The great playing
would mean nothing at all if it wasn't for the excellent songwriting.
”Ja dä ä dä!” doesn't have a single weak track.
"Här kommer natten", released as a single, also in 1969.
But it does offer some favourites. ”Här
kommer natten” is one of the best songs ever to emerge from the pen of a Swedish
songwriter, and ”Små lätta moln” is summer at its most
romantic. The cover of Kurt Weill's ”Surabaya Johnny” (in
Swedish, of course) slips effortlessly in with the original numbers.
When speaking of classic debut albums, this is among the very best.
A curious fact is that US label Vault
licensed this for an American release in 1970. Vault obviously
specialized in albums with no commercial potential whatsoever, but
even by their standards, ”Ja dä ä dä!” (renamed ”Ja da a da!”
for the domestic market – as if that would make any more sense!) is
among their very weirdest releases. The vocals weren't overdubbed
with English lyrics, but the back cover sported English translations
of the words, complete with some unintentional humour to Swedish
readers. (”You switched the light on Andersson” just doesn't
sound very catchy in English.) If the lyrics was a mystery even
translated, one can only imagine what troubles Pugh's name might have
caused over there. Pugh's real name is Torbjörn Rogefeldt, and even
that would have been a better name when trying to market his album to
non-Swedish record buyers. I mean, how do you pronounce Pugh? Like
”Pew”? ”Pewg”? ”Puff”? ”Pah”? The correct answer is
something like ”Puhgg” but who could tell?
I have no idea how many US copies were
pressed, but it's a safe bet that the lion's share of the edition
were shipped to Sweden. Every once in a while US copies turn up for
sale here, and I've seen more of these than of Swedish originals over
the years. (The album has since been rereleased many times. Those who take notes of sleeve variations, originals have the title in black lettering, whereas later copies are in white. It also comes with a foldout cover with an orange lyric sheet stapled to the spine inside. Also, blue record label.)
Another funny anecdote regarding Pugh
is that the politically questionable writer Michael Moynihan in his
book on the Norweigan black metal scene, ”Lords of Chaos”, stated
that Pugh was the guy behind Swedish black metal pioneers Bathory. I
can hereby clarify that this is NOT the case...
Hopefully, time has turned for the
better as regards this album's international appeal. What must have
been nothing more than a confusing curio on the international market
in 1970 ought to stand out as a striking masterpiece some 40 years
later. Given the ever growing interest in international progressive
music, this should be hailed worldwide as the true masterpiece it is.
Like I said, there never was an album like it, and I'll even go as
far as to say there never will.
By the way, the title means ”Yes, it
is!” and is spelled in the dialect of Västerås, the town where
Pugh grew up.
Midsummer is one of the most cherished
holidays in Sweden and many people celebrate the midsummer night out
in the country. We eat traditional food and drink ”brännvin”, a
special kind of alcoholic beverage, often enhanced with spices and
flowers. Celebration often starts in the afternoon and continues
until early the next morning.
Midsummer is ”midsommar” in
Swedish, and the name seems highly appropriate for the band who chose
it as their name. Their lyrics often deal from with topics closely
connected with ”the old Sweden”, sometimes in relation to the so
called progress of modern times. Nature, traditions and life in the
old days are common subjects. The lyrics are political in a broader
sense in pointing out the flaws of modern society, but they're kept
in a general mode so just anybody suspicious of greed, commercialism
and environmental issues can agree with them.
best known for their hard rocking debut ”Belsebub är lös”, one
of the earliest examples of rock music with Swedish lyrics. Their
second one, the eponymously titled ”Midsommar” veers towards a
softer sound, sometimes akin to folk rockers Contact. ”Midsommar”
still has some heaviness to it, but the song types are mellower in
general. This isn't bad at all, because Midsommar were good
songwriters, at least in terms of music. Lyricswise, they are
somewhat naive even if the subject matters are important (which hardly will bother any foreign listener). Having said
that, ”Midsommar” is more uneven than ”Belsebub är lös”,
and a few of the songs here are actually downright bad. That goes for
”Killen och bostadsbristen” which comes across like a heavier
version of some Swedish dance band of the 70's, and ”Reklamdjungeln”
(although I'm genuinely sympathetic to the anti-commercialism message
of the lyrics).
track ”Illusionen av en färdigutbildad akademiker” is probably
the best known track on the album since it was included on the 4 CD
box set ”Pregnant Rainbows for Colourblind Dreamers” which was
released in conjunction with Tobias Pettersons excellent
”Encyclopedia of Swedish Progressive Music 1967-1979”. The choice
of this Santana inspired uptempo track might give the wrong notion of
”Midsommar”. Songs like the decidedly Contact sounding ”Sedan
urminnes tider”, the semi folksy ”Balladen om Belfast”, the
heavy organ led ballad ”Naturen kämpar” and the rural ”James
Lindberg Hughes” is far more typical to the album in general. To my
ears, songs like these outshine most of the material on ”Belsebub
är lös”, but given the unevenness of the album as a whole,
”Belsebub” probably gets the thumbs up over this one in the end.
Also, it's worth pointing out that the vocals on ”Midsommar”
sometimes have a bit of a crooning nature that isn't as obvious on
the debut album. I have no problem with that myself, but some
listeners might have so it's worth mentioning.
Over the years
there has been a debate over the actual release dates of both
Midsommar albums, and many people were uncertain if this one or
”Belsebub” was the first album. No year of release is printed on
any of the albums. The arguments seem settled now though, and
”Belsebub är lös” is considered to have been released in 1970
and the follow-up in 1971. As far as I know, none of the Midsommar albums have been reissued, but "Midsommar" is easier to find than "Belsebub".
There is also an
album by a band called Jukebox who released on album on Marilla in
1975 with three of the Midsommar members present. Organist Dan Pihl
later produced Swedish comic character Ronny Jönsson (by actor Claes
Malmberg) as well as single by disco queen Tina Charles! Saxophone
player Reg Ward later joined for instance Dimmornas Bro, Mörbyligan
and Magnus Uggla for session work. He also teamed up with Ulf Lundell
on his Nature backed live album ”Natten hade varit mild och öm”
recorded in 1976.
Let me get this straight: This is progg
at its most unlistenable worst. Yes, it's true that they are
technically driven musicians; Åke Eriksson for instance is one of
Sweden's most skilled drummers. But that's all there is to it. It's
all about technique. The whole point with the music is showing off.
Nothing else. To further stress how incredibly competent they are,
they add ”humour” to their instrumental perfection. Thing is,
it's not funny. It's just silly. ”Does humour belong in music”,
Frank Zappa asked, and I see no reason why it shouldn't, at least
under controlled circumstances, but when it is used only as an excuse
to make things more complicated than they need to be just because
they can, I just say grow up, guys.
If you need an example how funny they
are, take a look at the cover. Yeah, funny. Send in the clowns. Oh,
they're already in.
Stylistically, we're talking fusion.
There's a whole slew of jazz in there of course, some funky moves and
a bit of stupid rock music. The absolutely worst example of the
latter is the cover of ”Cadillac”. Why? To show how connected
they are to their rock'n'roll roots when they're so far removed from
anything rock'n'roll whatsoever? So it's hard to decide whether they
are at their very worst when they ”jokingly” throw an old rock
standard into the mix, or when they go for extreme jazz rock
gymnastics. In both cases it's so dull that it takes fifteen gallons
of coffee to even stay awake.
Maybe the most disgusting thing about
Wasa Express is the cheesy, studio ”funk” synthesizer handled byBo Hallgren. His keyboard runs
could outdo Usain Bolt anyday in terms of rapidity. That kind of
speed might be impressive in sports, but not in music. In music it's
nerve grating, plain and simple.
their debut album, was in its original LP format of standard album length but it feels as long as a week. And remember, this is
their best effort. I don't know what crime the general public had
collectively committed to get punished with three further Wasa
Express albums during the 70's, all of them gradually worse. As if it
wasn't enough, they even reformed briefly in the mid 80's, then again
in the 00's. They still perform and have released two albums with the
new line-up. Have mercy on our souls.
to their first album the band was called Klara Express and they made
some never released recordings. They are now available for free
download at Åke Eriksson's website (along with loads of other
material), and although far from being any masterpieces they are at
least better than what ended up on vinyl.
was also in fusion band Egba, and later on he played the drums in
Attack who scored a major hit in Sweden with the stinker ”Ooa hela
Information on Mr. Brown is hard to
come by. What is well known however is that they released a privately
pressed symphonic progg album held in high regard among collectors of
the genre. The album cover is one of the weirdest in the entire progg
genre and suits the curious title well, which in full reads ”Mellan
tre ögon med Mr Brown” (”Between three eyes with Mr Brown”).
The obvious point of reference is Pink
Floyd - ”Dark Side of the Moon” and ”Wish You Were Here” in
particular - with nice folksy touches in a Jethro Tull vein. The Tull
influence is particularly clear when the flute enters the otherwise
piano oriented sound, as in ”Kharma 74” and the only proper track
sung in Swedish, ”Liv i stad utan liv”. There are also
pseudo-classical moves, mandatory to an album in this ilk. But Mr.
Brown never falls into the pretentious traps. They keep it low-key
and the emphasis is on highly lovable melodies and a lush, clean
sound. Considering this is a private pressing, the album is even more
impressive. The production is appealing and with all the beautifully
crafted melodies, it should attract even the toughest symph skeptic.
Three of the tracks are entirely
instrumental, and it is these that reveals the Jethro Tull leanings
the most. Mr. Brown often take a simple, melancholic melody and
build a whole song around it.
”Resan till Ixtlan”, named after
Carlos Castaneda's book, even hints at Leonard Cohen's ”Bird on a
Wire” wrapped in that semi-classical robe so elegantly worn by the
The most curious track is the album
closer, ”I'll Arise”, which puts all symphonic aspirations aside
in favour of what can best be described as a Lou Reed pastiche! It's
not far removed from the style Reed adapted in the years from the
Velvet Undergrounds third LP up to his first solo album. A suprising
ending to an oddly addictive and overall excellent album!
Rumour has it that Mr. Brown reformed a
couple of years ago for live gigs but skipped the style of their sole
album altogether to play only 60's covers. A weird move it seems when
you hear what kind of original quality material this seven piece was
churning out on ”Mellan tre ögon”. One Anders Giselsson stated
on progg.se that members Anders Nilsson (keyboard) and Håkan
Andersson (guitar, mandolin, vocals) were still writing songs
together as late as 2005.
Four of the original band members have
been affiliated with other progg acts over the years, such as the
obscure Östan Sol Västan Måne, Bluesblocket, Blå Schäfer, and
the strange ”anti-progg progg” rightwing singer/songwriter
Carl-Anders Dexter, none of them anywhere near Mr. Brown in neither
style nor brilliance.
UPDATE In response to my original post, VMarcoV provided me with the following information in the comments section below:
"I don't know if the drummer is still alive, but when Micke was I know
that he lived out in the Lidingö area somewhere. Towards the end of
Micke's life they used to get together in his house and play records
etc. He was pretty much straight and didn't want to play anymore (unlike
Micke who had various bands such as 'Long Time Survivors,' 'Bad Boys'
and 'The Works' (his last band.)
Blueset: Consider that Micke was
from Lidingö and 99% of his friends were from there and
Östermalm/Gärdet. He got HIV from a woman called Lotta Bäck, who
reputedly had 'Lidingös snyggaste häck.' She later had two healthy
babies and moved to Egypt, so that's kind of extraordinary.
didn't like alcohol and wouldn't want to be described as an alcoholic.
He was prevented from smoking dope, which was what he wanted, because he
was in the Methadone Program. We did acid together just a few months
before he passed."
Also, Kent O added:
"I just want to tell you that Kenta Loong (Kenth Lång), who was my
half-brother and was born in Karlstad 1952, died in 1987 in Södertälje.
He suffered for many years of diabetes, which gradually attacked his
eyes so that he eventually became almost blind. The diabetes also caused
renal failure and he had the last few years to undergo dialysis several
times a week and it was this that was the main cause of his early
death." Thanks to both of you for sharing additional on the fate of Blueset!
What follows is my original unedit review of the album.
The hardest thing about starting up
this blog was to decide which album to write about first. I went for
the ”local colour of my youth and childhood” option, and chose a
band which (partly) came from the town where I grew up: Södertälje.
A few words about this town might be in its place as a backdrop to
the music of Blueset.
Södertälje is situated no more than a
couple of miles south of Stockholm. Back in the 70's, population was
around 80,000 and many people living there worked for the car
factories and the medical industry. Given the short distance to the
Swedish capital, the city suffered from a kind of a capital complex
while it was very keen to preserve its integrity at the same time. In
the late 70's there were were several racial clashes between
immigrants and the so called ”raggare”; young people with an
interest in American cars of the 50's. They were often seen weekend
cruising up and down the small town streets with loud rock'n'roll
music bursting through the rolled down windows. Many, in fact most,
of these clashes were instigated by the raggare. There was often an
underlying sense of hostility in the city air because of this (and
tragically, it lingers on until this very day when the neo-Nazi
inclined National Democrats have taken place in the city council).
But there are many stories of unprovoked violence aimed at just about
anyone who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. There
was something Chicago-like about the town in those days.
On the other hand, Södertälje was
far ahead in terms of cultural matters. The city library was
amazing and offered a varied collection of books and records –
quite frankly, it was thanks to them that I had a personal cultural
education on my own. Then unknown painters and sculptors were given a
first shot in the city art gallery, artists that would become
respected names in the Swedish art world.
Between these two extremes, the utterly
bad treatment of immigrants and the amazingly good cultural
atmosphere, that a lot of music was created in Södertälje. By the
early 80's there were so many bands and solo performers playing that
it sometimes seemed as if everybody was involved in music. The
consistent and dedicated work of people to create a fertile music scene in
Södertälje had started earlier in the 70's, and among the most
notable bands at the time was Blueset.
Blues music was always very popular in
Södertälje (further emphasizing the notion of Södertälje as
Sweden's Chicago); whether Blueset was instrumental in creating this
interest I can't say, but they were pretty renowned locally. They
debuted in 1970, releasing two singles on the Efel label. In 1974
they had their sole LP out on the KMB imprint, pressed in an edition
of reputedly only 600 copies. (KMB stands for Katrineholms Musikbolag
– not sure if they ever released anything else but with catalogue
number 740103, there might be at least two other albums on KMB.
Unless the number simply stands for March 1, 1974 written in
The album is highly regarded by fans of
hard rock and heavy blues. It rarely turns up for sale, and according
to the useful Popsike site, it went for well over £300 two years
ago. (There's also a bootleg reissue that's gaining in value.)
Whether it's worth it depends on your income I suppose, but it is
indeed an excellent album, rich with stoned blues and heavy jamming.
Well actually, despite the band name and its reputation as a blues
album, it doesn't contain as much blues as you'd might expect. The
foundation is blues for sure, but also featured on the album is a
folk medley of sorts, ”Vibrationer i folkton”, which combines a
snippet of Beethoven's ”Für Elise” with Swedish folk tune ”Visa
från Utanmyra” and portions of - ”Sunshine of Your Love”! They
also have a stab at ”Trettondagsmarschen”, a traditional fiddle
tune in the Kebnekajse vein. However, Blueset lack the distinguished
elegance of Kebnekajse, but rather than detracting from the album's
qualities, it adds to the listening experience. The Blueset guys were
avid dope heads, and you can easily tell by listening to ”Rock
Machine”. The whole album has a seriously druggy vibe. The playing
isn't spot on tight at times, but they manage to create a highly
appealing seedy basement feel that makes ”Rock Machine” a true
underground classic. The loose feel may also be explained by the fact
that the recordings originally were intended as demos. Stoned guitar
excursions are featured in most of the tracks due to the band's Cream,
Hendrix and Rolling Stones infatuations. The Stones influence is most
obvious in the rock ballad ”Look at Me” that wouldn't have been out of place on "Sticky Fingers". ”Whiskey” is another
gem in this collection, closer to US garage rock than any other song
on the album.
Also in 1974, the band
released another single, the atrociously titled ”Proud to Be a
Rock'n'Roller”. I'm uncertain when Blueset disbanded, but I know
that the come-let's-play-sitar-in-the-grass hippie duo Charlie &
Esdor joined the band for a while in 1972, although they aren't
featured on any Blueset recordings. I often wondered how the
mellowness of Charlie & Esdor fit in with the rough hewn sounds
of the loud Blueset outfit!
What happened to the members
after the band eventually split up due to musical differences within
the group is a sad tale. Their taste for illegal mind nutrition took
its toll later in their lives. Guitar hero Kenth ”Kenta” Loong
was said to smoke a pipe every fifteen minutes. Nobody seems to know
if he turned to heavier stuff, but eventually he disappeared without
a trace. It is believed that he died. I remember him being in a
wheelchair after an accident; I saw him in the beginning of the 80's
when he arranged a record fair in Södertälje. He's said to have had
a ”difficult personality” and I remember his vibe being quite
puzzling, if not off-putting. You could see him in his wheelchair in
Södertälje City doing – I don't know, just hanging around? On his
way to something? Who knows. Loong managed to get a new band
together, Friends, and they released a forgettable single locally in
Kenth Loong in 1970.
Bassist Mikael Olofsson,
known as Geten (”The Goat”) or Mike the Spike earned his latter
nickname assumably because of his heavy use of heroin. He died of
AIDS in the winter of 2004/2005 after having been infected by the HIV
virus he got from sharing syringes. He was musically active in
different bands into the 00's. Mikael was also in jail for a while
after bringing a couple of kilos of Thailand heroin across the
Swedish borders. Before facing the jail sentence, he managed to sell
the goods and stashed the money from the transcations in his house
wall. Later on he made a fortune on the 80's stock market but lost
most of it when the market crashed. He ended his days an alcoholic in
Stockholm where he spent his life.
Blueset in 1970. A shorthaired version of Ingemar Linder to the far left!
Whatever happened to drummer
Claes Jansson is beyond my knowledge, but I briefly bumped into
Ingemar Linder who played bass on Bluesets debut single. He was also
one of those people you often noticed in the street – he had the
longest hair I've ever seen on a male person! Recognizing each other,
we exchanged a few words at the very same record fair mentioned
above. He was extremely hungover, had a hair of the dog in the shape
of a beer in his hand but he was the dearest person imaginable, soft
spoken and very kind. I've often wondered what became of him.
According to a comment
published on the progg.se website, no-one ever copyrighted the ”Rock
Machine” album. If this is true, which it very well might be given
that the guy who wrote the comment was close to the band, it is
completely free for downloading. A quick googling will turn up MP3's
for this remarkable album. However, here are links for the entire
album, as posted on Youtube.
While searching for information on
Swedish progg music on the web, I noticed that there is a conspicuous
lack of blogs and websited devoted entirely the Swedish music of the,
mainly, 70's. Over the last few decades there have been a few books
written on the subject, but only Tobias Petterssons excellent
”Encyclopedia of Swedish Progressive Music 1967-1979” is in
English, the others being in Swedish. While Pettersson's book is a
mandatory read for anyone interested in this music, it is now out of
print. Also, it doesn't feature actual reviews of the albums, and
being both a music journalist and an avid fan of Swedish progg, I
thought it was a good idea to bring all together, opions, information
and goold old fan obsession! The idea behind this blog is to publish
reviews of progg albums of different kinds, both those which fit in
with the international definition of prog, such as Samla Mammas Manna
and Fläsket Brinner, but also the political acts of Sweden in the
70's, such as Knutna Nävar and Blå Tåget. The political bands are
mostly lesser known outside Sweden; no wonder since the lyrics are
most often the main point of the songs. However, several of these
bands have strong musical merits, thus deserving attention beyond
The main focus will be on albums and
singles released between 1967 and 1982, opening to progg bordering on
psychedelia on one end, and punk on the other. I will also use the
expression ”satellite progg” now and then, describing albums that
not obviously fit into the progg epitome, but still have some
relation to it (say, for instance, the first two Ulf Lundell albums).
Remember that even though I will try to
feature biographical info on the albums, at least to some extent, the
posts will be reviews, i.e. opinionated and personal. I have my
preferences and they will clearly show for sure!
Some people might be disappointed to
learn that I won't offer downloads. While I think this music is
perfect for sharing due to its often communal (and smore often than
not ocialist) nature, Swedish laws are medieval in that regard. My
mere point with this blog is not to breach anyone's copyright, but to
share and broaden the knowledge of this music to anyone interested.
However, there's a fair bit of Swedish progg up on Youtube, and where
I see fit I will post clips to go along with the reviews. Other than
that, it is up to each and all to go look for the music in whatever
manner they like the best.
I will do my best to keep the blog
updated, but after all, it's something I do when I feel like it, so
updates may be irregular. Comments and suggestions are welcome. You
may also follow the blog on Facebook – search for ”Swedish
Progg”, send me a friend request and I will add you as soon as
I hope you will enjoy your stay here,
and most of all, I hope that I will help to trigger an interest in
something that you haven't heard before.