Friday, September 21, 2012

BLUESET - Rock Machine (KMB, 1974)

International relevance: ***
English vocals

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 Swedish...)

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 the 80's.

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 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.

 1. Rock Machine
2. Look At Me

3. Whiskey

4. Trettondagsmarschen

5. Vibrationer i folkton (Suite): Für Elise/
Visa Från Utanmyra/Vibrationer/Heavy

6. Let's Boogie


  1. Excellent information.This Lp was issued in CD?.Thanks from Argentina.


  2. Thanks, Pedro! I've never seen a CD release of it, but as far as I know, Blueset never copyrighted their album why it is free to download without any legal restrictions.

    1. Hi Peter, can you get in touch with me by email. regards Thomas

  3. Hm...

    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.

    Micke 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.

    1. Hej. Det Lotta Back som svarar pa pastaendet om att jag skulle smittat Micke med hiv.
      Sa ar inte fallet.
      Jag traffade Micke 1982. Han var da sprutnarkoman. Lamnade honom 1984, da jag jobbade som guide i Egypten.
      1986 fodde jag en dotter. 6 veckor efter forlossningen fick jag veta att jag fatt Htlv111.
      Micke fick diagnosen innan jag blev gravid.
      Fattade senare beslutet att leva med Micke for att skydda min dotters far.
      Micke dog 2005.
      Mina tva barn ar fodda friska.
      Jag lever ett friskt liv och har inte drabbats av diagnosen negativt och ingen annan har blivit smittad av mig.

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  5. Hi Peter, can you get in touch with me by email: have a question and some news regarding BLUESET. Best regards Thomas

  6. Hey! 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.

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