Povel Ramel (1922-2007) was a huge presence in Swedish entertainment for half a century from his first hit song, “Johansson’s Boogie Woogie Waltz”, in 1944. Here’s a song of his from 1968, performed by the beloved comedienne Birgitta Andersson (born in 1933). As it spoofs Gothic horror, it will be interesting to see how my high school pupils react to it as part of our horror fiction course. Chances are they aren’t familiar with either Povel Ramel or Gothic horror.
Deezer, the streaming music service I use, suddenly offered me an almost ready-made blog entry. Here are 40 songs that I’ve added and listened to frequently in the past year. The asterisks mark the tunes with the least general popularity on Deezer right now. You can take that to mean either that they’re the worst of the lot, or that they’re the choicest, deepest cuts that you need to listen to first. Or you can simply note that two are Swedish acts that aren’t widely known abroad.
Tell me which of the tunes you like! And merry Christmas everyone!
Alice in Chains: The One You Know
Allah-Las: Seven Point Five
Alvvays: Archie, Marry Me
Andrew Bird: Capsized
Arctic Monkeys: Arabella
Black Keys: Hell Of A Season
Black Keys: Tighten Up
Brian Jonestown Massacre: Panic In Babylon
Bright Eyes: First Day Of My Life
Connan Mockasin: Charlotte’s Thong
Delorentos: Secret *
Ebbot Lundberg & the Indigo Children: Where Are You Now? *
Elephant Tree: Wither
Elton John, Leon Russell: If It Wasn’t For Bad
Eurythmics: Aqua *
First Aid Kit: Fireworks
Florence & the Machine: Shake It Out
Foster the People: Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls)
In 1995 the surviving three Beatles recorded “Real Love“, a song that Lennon had written and recorded in 1979. They used his vocal takes on the new recording and sang harmony with him. McCartney played a vintage double bass once owned by Bill Black who played the bass in Elvis’s original mid-1950s trio.
This choice of instrument is what archaeologists call symbolic re-use. It’s when runestones are found built into the walls of later churches. Or when Napoleon’s imperial coronation outfit referenced designs from the tomb of Childeric I. People reach back in time to take part of the essence of great ancestors.
“Real Love” is a pretty decent Beatles song, certainly not one of their weakest outings.
The Royal Technical College’s orchestra and several combined student choirs from Sweden and Finland performed Giuseppe Verdi’s 1874 Requiem, an intricate and operatic farewell to fellow composer Gioachino Rossini and poet Alessandro Manzoni.
Gig with King Khan and the Shrines. Imagine a tall, psychedelic, semi-nude, portly, Canadian Wilson Pickett of Indian extraction belting out soul rock with a band consisting of extremely enthusiastic Germans. First time I’ve seen a horn section playing to a microphone stuck down the front of the lead singer’s hot pants.
Played Elfenland and Plato 3000.
Watched the 1955 Brando-Simmons-Sinatra-Blaine movie version of the 1950 musical Guys and Dolls. Impressed by Brando, didn’t know he could sing. Ugly sets and boring dialogue though. The reason that we watched it was that Jrette is playing Nicely-Nicely Johnson in an upcoming school production. Made me want to read some Damon Runyon.
Gig organised by Undergången with three unsigned Swedish psych acts. Space Whale are four very young and very strong musicians with excellent songs. They really blew me away! Besvärjelsen are a heavier and more metal-oriented quintet that I would really like to hear studio work from. And the Magic Jove trio are basically Cream. Extremely proficient musicians!
Hallwyl House: Swedish logging magnate’s daughter marries Swiss count and has some of 1890s Stockholm’s best architects and artists build them a town palace, no expenses spared, which she proceeds to fill with Early Modern art and craft objects. All of this remains in place and is now a museum, large parts of which is free of charge, and which is located a short walk from the Central Station.
Dinner at Tbilisis Hörna, a Georgian + Greek + Italian restaurant. Service was slow and unsynched but the food was great. The deep green tarragon soda in a bottle with almost exclusively Georgian script on the labels added to the sense of not being anywhere near Stockholm.
Gig at the Globe Arena’s annexe with psychedelic Australian genius Kevin Parker and his band Tame Impala.
Chinese banquet cooked by my wife and sis-in-law, to celebrate the end of the Year of the Wooden Goat and the beginning of the Year of the Fire Monkey. I got out my old mini steam engine and oversaw Jrette operating it with her cousins.
Visited the museum in the basement of the northern wing of Stockholm’s Royal Castle, to learn more about its Medieval predecessor that was torn down after a major fire in 1697. Not very informative, mainly a lot of 17th century sculpture fragments. A few Medieval coins were in a tiny, poorly lit glass-topped depression in the floor where you could barely make them out. But one wall of the basement is the castle’s 13th century perimeter and the other is 15th century building fronts, so that’s something. This level was the ground floor at the time: the closest you can get to visiting the Medieval castle.
A buddy of mine tagged me on Facebook to post a good song every day for a week. Here’s what I came up with.
2000s. Robert Plant’s (once of Led Zep) beautiful 2002 cover of ”Song To The Siren”. The original was first performed by Tim Buckley (Jeff’s dad) in 1968. Pay attention to the lyrics by Larry Beckett. Plant butchers them slightly, singing “unfold” for the actual “enfold”, and obscuring the fact that the lyrics are a dialogue between the poet and the Siren. She’s an unpredictable yes-then-no-then-yes woman who leaves poor 20-y-o Beckett “a foolish ship … broken lovelorn on your rocks”. This is an unabashedly literary piece of pop lyrics, referencing the Odyssey’s song of the Siren. I particularly like the lines “I am puzzled as the newborn child / I am troubled as the tide”. Note also the guitar solo by Porl Thompson, with effects and style straight out of the band he played in from 1983-94, The Cure.
1990s. Here’s a really good & heavy Norwegian metal tune from 1999 in the tradition from Black Sabbath. If you don’t know Scandy, then that’s all the song will mean to you. But if you do, you’ll realise that the lyrics to “Åpent Brev Til Sporveisdirektøren” are a complaint in Bokmål about the time table of a bus service. Apparently the buses don’t synchronise at all with the Vippetangen ferry! The band is named Black Debbath and the song title means “Open Letter To The Director Of Public Transportation”.
1970s. Here’s a psychedelic Turkish rock tune from 1975: “Gönül Sabreyle Sabreyle” (My Heart — Endure, Endure). The band consisted of the three Hürel brothers, who called themselves Üç Hürel, “The Three Hürels”. This is great musicianship: just listen to the darbouka drum fills. Awesome. And youngest brother Feridun Hürel not only sings his heart out, he also plays the fuzz guitar solo and the electrified saz solo on the same two-necked instrument (1975, remember), and wrote the song.
2010s. Here’s some romantic pop from 2014: “Places” by the up-and-coming Atlanta duo The Electric Sons.
1950s. “Rocket 88” from 1951 has often been pointed to as the first rock ‘n’ roll song. It was recorded in Clarksdale, Mississippi by the Delta Cats, a band consisting of black teenagers including Jackie Brenston (who sings), Ike Turner (yes him, playing the piano, and who would later have a baby with Tina Turner) and Raymond Hill (who plays the sax and would also later have a baby with Tina Turner). And it’s got Willie Kizart playing one of the first fuzz guitars ever recorded (here doing rhythm duty), achieved by means of an amplifier broken during touring.
1980s. Here’s “Brick Is Red“, a 1988 tune off of the Pixies’ first full-length album. Two minutes of sheer indie genius!
1960s. Here’s a pretty deep nugget of 1968 folk-psychedelic gold: ”April Grove” by the one-album-only band Chrysalis. They were students at Cornell and their main song writer James Spider Barbour was a member of Zappa’s circle. He can be heard on the latter’s album We’re Only In It For The Money drawling “The way I see it, Barry, this should be a very dynamite show”. And he’s a biologist. So here’s a song of his about insects, sung in inimitable beautiful style by Nancy Nairn.
My house is near an LSS housing unit. Lagen om stöd och service till vissa funktionshindrade, “The Law of Support and Service for Certain Disabled People”, mainly caters to the needs of people with autism and the like. In 6½ years on Boat Hill, the young people living there have never caused us any trouble at all.
But I still cringe a little when I recall my phone conversation with the man who runs the municipality’s LSS housing units. I called him because I was curious about who the young folks living next door are, what diagnoses they have etc. I made it very clear that I was not afraid of them, I was not hostile to them and I had experienced no trouble with them whatsoever. I just wanted to learn about them, and I didn’t feel it appropriate to ask the kids themselves. “Oi, woss wrong with you then?”
This guy immediately went on the defensive and clearly assumed that I was trouble. He explained what the law does, but refused to say anything specific about what sort of disorders will get you an LSS apartment in my municipality. He retreated into surly monosyllables.
But our conversation ended well after I told him I like prog rock and recognised his name. He’s the bass player of one of Stockholm’s longest-active 70s prog bands.