Welcome to my progg blog! That's progg, not prog, because that's how the Swedish progressive music is spelled 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!
Friday, September 21, 2012
BLUESET - Rock Machine (KMB, 1974)
International relevance: ***
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.