Steampacket,Friends, Annabee-Nox ,The Shanes,
The Con's Combo,The Beathovesns
With a declared genius for a father (also in the field of music) like Povel Ramel, it was perhaps not so strange that Mikael Ramel also devoted himself to music. As well, he was the right age (born in 1949) to get involved with pop music. The fact that his talent was considerable was shown by the amazing singles ôYou Just Gotta Know My Mindö and ôTake Her Anytime.ö
Steampacket began as a popband at Solbacka school, in spite of the fact that the school authorities didnĺt care for pop music. But as Mikael Ramel says, ôThey had to get used to it.ö In September 1965 the groupĺs debut gig was at a party.
In the beginning their source of inspiration was English bands like the Beatles, Yardbirds, and Stones, but soon the Byrds also became an influence. Luckily, the members of Steampacket finished school at the same time (two passed their high school exams, and two passed their secondary-school exams), so they could concentrate on pop music.
Naturally the press wrote a lot about the band because of the ties with Povel Ramel, but that wasnĺt the only reason Steampacket did so well. Band member Rolf Scherrer had lived in Germany for a few years during his teens, and there he discovered a lot of soul-music, a style of music that hadnĺt hit Sweden yet. Steampacket was also one of the first Swedish groups to travel to England on tour. All of this gave the group a certain headstart on the competition on a musical level. Even the press made note of their trip to England.
Steampacket discovered, however, that there already was an English band with the same name, so at home they put a ôIIö after their name, and in England they called themselves The Longboatmen in order not to be confused with their English counterpart.
ôTake Her Anytimeö has already been mentioned, and it also had the honour of being included on the compilation ôSearchinĺ For Shakes.ö Itĺs a song that characterizes the sound of Sweden in 1966. What doesnĺt come across, according to Staffan Winbergh, is that it could have been a much better song. It was first recorded in England, and the whole group was really pleased with it. On the way home to do the final mix in Sweden, half the material somehow disappeared. No one knew what had happened; the only thing they knew was that all the band members thought it now sounded, to put it plainly, weird. All the weight and fullness of the sound had disappeared. Those who have heard the song can only try to imagine how it could have sounded. ôTake Her Anytimeö was released in England under the group name The Longboatmen, and those 45s now fetch a four-digit figure at any auction sale.
In spite of Steampacketĺs musical offerings, the public was for a long time quite indifferent, and when Lennart Hyland sponsored a popband competition, Mikael Ramel recorded ôBara ett par darö (Just a Couple of Days) without the other band members. Even though the song won the competition, it didnĺt go much further than that.
The group was then persuaded to record ôViva LĺAmour,ö something which didnĺt suit Mikael Ramel at all. He didnĺt even appear on the recording ľ but the song became a hit anyway. Steampacket also recorded a number of popsongs in Swedish, among them ôEn värld av visionerö (ôHappy Togetherö) and ôBi-ba-bi-do-baö (ôNashville Catsö). The former was the result of winning Hylandĺs popband competition.
By 1968, however, Steampacket had grown weary of always being short of money, and they did a last unforgettable gig on Jump In, where the group smashed their instruments in the best Who-style. Mikael Ramel continued as a solo artist (he also had solo recordings in Swedish during the Ĺ60s) and was later a member of Fläsket Brinner. He also trained later as a music therapist and even built a studio.
Rolf Scherrer also continued with music full-time and played with Kebnekajse, Bush, and Jaguar. Staffan Winbergh, who became a photographer, thinks that overall Steampacket was a very good group, but he suspects that the band sometimes made mistakes when recording. Well, itĺs difficult to agree with him on that point...
In ôStora PopbokenüEwe have tried to retain the glitz and glamour of the üE0s and üE0s, but of course everything then was far from perfect üEparticularly after the careers of some artists and groups ended. It must have been hard for a rock artist
from around 1959-60 (the majority of the lesser known rock artists in this book have either died as alcoholics or disappeared) to realize that his popularity had declined,just as it would for members of defunct pop groups around 1968-69. In addition, many had been duped by unscrupulous managers and record companies.
Some of these artists had problems adapting to everyday life out in so-called normal society, and after drugs came into Swedish pop life in a big way, within a few years many artists disappeared completely. It seems unnecessary to write about how this or that artist or former band member ended up with the needle, the pill bottle, or the
liquor store as his only friend, but we have made some exceptions. One of them is the group Friends, where a couple of the members disappeared after their career ended.
But the groupĺs singer, Anders Peedu, realized that the story of Friends could also serve as a warning to others.
Friends was a tough rhythm Ĺn blues group who even at the beginning of their career managed to get some headlines, but those headlines werenĺt always about their music. Friends began by winning second place in a competition at Kingside to choose Stockholmĺs Rolling Stones. (It was the Merrymen who won first place.) Later that same year the press wrote about FriendsüEyoung drummer, 12-year-old Thomas Skogsberg,
who was not allowed by the authorities to play drums after 8 oĺclock in the evening. It was considered too strenuous for a 12-year-old boy to work so late! But Friends got the most attention after they began performing a bit of striptease on stage,
though fans thought the group was too talented to have to resort to that kind of stunt.
While many musicians have cited Friends as one of the better bands, the group didnĺt get their big breakthrough. One reason was because, just like The Namelosers, Friends refused to compromise when it came to their song material. According to Anders Peedu, the group was once asked to record ôCadillac,üEbut a couple of the band members wanted
to concentrate on other material. Friends also had a chance for that breakthrough when they appeared on the TV show ôHylands Hörna,üEbut a technical problem caused interference, and the only sound that reached TV viewers was an annoying hum.
Then things went really wrong for the group. One of the band members drank himself to death, and another ended up in a mental hospital as a result of prolonged drug abuse.Anders Peedu is very critical of the industry: Friends is an example of what can happen when young, in many cases very talented people end up in the clutches of exploiters in an always ruthless record and entertainment industry, where extortion of artists for a quick profit is the rule rather than the exception. It was stupid so-called adults who helped to kill those members of Friends.üE/font>
1965 Empty Handed/It Ainĺt Necessarily So
1965 Git It/Talking About You
1966 Heĺs In Town/Joe McCartney
Ola Hammarlund (vocals), Kent Millholt (guitar), Rolf Bood (now Sundberg) (guitar), Carl-Erik Swartz (bass guitar), Hans Södergren (drummer), Ulf Åslund (bass guitar), Björn Widing (guitar)
The group was formed in February 1963 by Kent Millholt, Carl-Erik Swartz, and Rolf Bood. Before their first engagement at the Storstugan in Vaxholm, they also recruited Hans Södergren. At first the group called themselves Sparklings and some time later Snuffs. Ola Hammarlund often shared a rehearsal location with Annaabee-Nox members at the youth centre in Östermalm. They were very impressed with his vocal abilities, and soon Hammarlund became a member of the band, a ôNoxare.üE/font>
Youĺll surely be wondering why a group would give itself as unlikely a name as Annaabee-Nox, but itĺs not strange at all üEaccording to one newspaper, you needed only to say the word ôkonstisbanaüE(a skating rink) backwards. . .
In January 1964 they debuted with their new lineup. The groupĺs look and image were well-suited to the 1960s, with their long hair and sensational costumes, and their reputation spread quickly around Stockholm. The groupĺs first manager was Jörgen Viking, but he was soon replaced by Lennart Lindström, who also was manager for, among others, the group Shanes. Lindström arranged a record contract for Annaabee-Nox with EMI Records, and in August of 1965 their debut single, ôWhere Have You Been,üEwas released.
By this time the group wanted to conquer the rest of Sweden, and Lennart Lindström booked them as part of his group tours. The first tour included Shanes, Strangers, together with folksinger Thorstein Bergman. In such company you had to stand out üEor so thought Annaabee-Nox üEand they had costumes made in all the colours of the rainbow! They even ôpractisedüEthese same stage shows. Local newspapers wrote long articles about the band, and both Annaabee-Nox members and manager Lindström were more than pleased. Less pleased, however, were rival bands, who refused to go on stage after Annaabee-Nox appearances.
Nothing was against the rules when it came to winning over an audience. During a group tour, Annaabee-Nox ended every performance with Buzz Cliffordĺs old hit ôBaby SittinüEBoogie.üEnbsp; Before that song , Kent Millholt made his entry on stage in a baby carriage and dressed in baby clothes. Now, he could have stopped at this fairly inoffensive antic, but Kent didnĺt limit himself to that. As part of the show he also faked urinating in a chamber pot that he carried with him and then poured the contents over Ola Hammarlund. He then finished the song by hitting Hammarlund on the head with the chamber pot!
Unfortunately, Annaabee-Nox were never really able to turn their energy and zaniness into record sales, and they remained conspicuously absent from the charts. A further decline in their career came about when the group changed production companies and signed with TagesüErecording company, Segat. The company didnĺt book Annaabee-Nox to the extent the group would have liked, which gave rise to disagreements that eventually led to the breakup of the band.
In 1966 Carl-Erik Swarz left the group and was replaced by Ulf Åslund from Blue Clinters. Then Ola Hammarlund left also. After the suggestive single ôAnna Be NiceüE(the groupĺs best song together with the Tommy Blom and Göran Lagerberg composition ôPlayboy On The RunüE, the group split up. They made a brief comeback in 1974 by appearing at Club Malmen in Stockholm, at an event that was called ôPop 65-69.üE/font>
|year||song||Tio I Topp||ĹKvällstoppenüE/font>|
|1964||Let Me Show You Who I Am||1||10|
|1965||I Don't Want Your Love||6||14|
|1967||Can I Trust You||2||5|
|1967||Let Me Tell Yah||7||17|
|1967||Chris-Craft No. 9||9||24|
|1967||Save The Last Dance For Me||4||9|
Staffan Berggren (guitar/vocals), Tommy Wahlberg (guitar/vocals), Svante Elfgren (bass guitar), Tor-Erik Rautio (drummer), Lennart Grahn (vocals), Kit Sundqvist (electric organ/piano/vocals), Rolf Carvenius (various wind instruments)
Twenty-five years later it is easy to think that the Shanes should have made better use of their talent. They had among them, of course, more than enough songwriters. In the beginning Staffan Berggrenĺs rhythm-and-blues-influenced songs dominated. After he had been sacked from the band, Tor-Erik Rautio declared on the album ôThe ShanegangüEthat he and Lennart Grahn would astound Sweden! However, their collaboration didnĺt last too long. In 1966 Kit Sundqvist began to stand out more and more as the most important songwriter.
So there was plenty of talent in the group, and singles like ôLet Me Show You Who I Am,üEôI Donĺt Want Your Love,üEôChris-Craft No. 9,üEand ôDrip-DropüEsound first-rate even today. However, the group recorded many other songs (ôDonĺt Try To Make A Fool Of Me,üEôPeople Donĺt Like Me,üEôLike Before,üEôNobody,üEôHey There, Sunbeams,üEjust to name a few) which definitely did not do very well as singles. Yet the group chose songs like ôHi-Lili, Hi-Lo,üE ôSave The Last Dance For Me,üEand ôCara Mia,üEand even the albums contain perhaps too many well-known cover songs. As with so many other groups, there wasnĺt too much time left over for recording, and when they did get the chance in a proper studio in London, the result was songs like ôChris-Craft No. 9.üEnbsp; Itĺs a shame that there wasnĺt more time for such work.
The Shanes were the first of four big pop groups (the others were Hep Stars, Tages, and Ola & The Janglers) to emerge in Sweden. Tor-Erik Rautio, Tommy Wahlberg, and Stefan Nordin began to practise together when they were young, but Nordin didnĺt stay with the group very long. Instead, Rautio and Wahlberg joined Staffan Berggren and Svante Elfgren, and now the group just needed a name. One evening Staffan Berggren saw the George Stevens film ôShane,üEand the bandĺs name was decided. The ShanesüEpopularity grew even more, and in the spring of 1963 on their debut single they played the instrumental tune ôGunfight Saloon.üEnbsp; Surprisingly, it went to the Top Ten, though the song only stayed there a week.
Many of the ShanesüEearly singles were instrumental tunes with cowboy themes in the titles. One exception was ôOh, Wow!üEfrom the fall of 1963, which could be considered the first Swedish pop song of the 1960s. In the fall of 1964 the lineup grew with the addition of Lennart Grahn, who earlier had played with a band from Luleå, Sweden, called the Marshalls. Grahn recounted in an interview that for a long time he had dreamed of becoming a member of the Shanes and was thrilled when his wish came true.
At the close of 1964 the Shanes recorded ôLet Me Show You Who I Am,üEand by then it had been a while since the group had been in the Top Ten. The band members knew that an election was to take place in Luleå. They drove there and set themselves up across the street from where the voting would take place. The band members saw to it that the young people who were voting noticed them, and they signed lots of autographs. In the election the Shanes got 97 percent of the votes in Luleå... (Involved in similar well-known incidents were Lee Kings and the Science Poption; even the Hep Stars made a little coup in Uppsala in 1965.)
But at the beginning of 1965 the Shanes got their big breakthrough, and for a period of two and a half years the group traveled around Sweden and were chased by hysterical fans. The only cloud in the sky was when Staffan Berggren was fired from the group and replaced by Stockholmer Kit Sundqvist (all the band members now lived in Stockholm.). The other members had thought that Berggren was much too dominant and that he wanted to play songs that were too difficult. He was also the least popular member in the band. (Berggren ended up in the group Violents for a short time.) Berggrenĺs importance, however, should not be underestimated. He was the groupĺs most hardworking composer in the beginning, in a class by himself.
Then there came the discussion about long hair. In 1965 the members of the Shanes had hair considerably longer than the BeatlesüE and the press was not kind towards the group. ôLong-haired scumüEwas one of the abusive terms heard, and it was not always so easy for the group to get into restaurants.
PJ Proby critiqued the ShanesüE song ôItĺs Allright BabeüE ôThese fellows remind me of the Yardbirds, although they are much better than the Yardbirds. The lead singer reminds me of the great Eric Burdon from the Animals. A good record from a group that knows its business.üE/font>
Besides a few little incidents, nothing seemed to be able to shake the popularity of the Shanes. In the spring of 1967, however, came shocking news: four of the band members were forced to do their military service. Kit Sundqvist, who was younger than the others, asked to be able to join the others (which he eventually got to do). During their military service in Boden, the group strengthened their popularity with the hit songs ôSave The Last Dance For MeüEand ôCara Mia.üEnbsp; When their military service was over, however, they discovered to their surprise that the Swedish ôpop tideüEunfortunately was on its way out. A number of groups had broken up, and others realized that they would have to sing in Swedish to remain popular.
The Shanes instead wanted to update and modernize in a different way and took in Rolf Carvenius to play various wind instruments. He toured with the group during 1968 and 1969, but in the end the group realized that that meant surrendering to Swedish top-40 music. Svante Elfgren and Tor-Erik Rautio left the group after a time, while the rest made a few singles in Swedish, among them a version of ôLady MadonnaüE(ôHej Fröken SommarüE, but without having much success with them. Besides, on the recordings it was German studio musicians who played backup. To use studio musicians was then very common. Rolf CarveniusüEdescription sums up the phenomenon very well: ôAfter we made a recording, Anders ĹHenkanüEHenriksson would bring in Lasse Samuelsonĺs band or some other one and they would play. In this way, you never knew if you were included or not. They could let me play saxophone for an hour, but when the record came out in the end, you didnĺt hear any saxophone. You thought: ôWell, I didnĺt get to be on it this time.üE/font>
In 1969 Bildjournalen did an interview with ôTorraüERautio, who at the time was working as a youth leader. He summed up the development of pop music from 1964 to 1969 quite well: ôPop is not dead. As music... perhaps. But pop changed while we stood still. It broadened, grew deeper. It became clothing, things, a whole world, a lifestyle, protests. Pop still lives and is becoming more political now. Soon pop will be just politics.üE/font>
About 10 years after the group disbanded, the Shanes began to play again (although of the former members it was only Lennart Grahn and Tommy Wahlberg) and has become one of our most popular dance bands.
But certainly we still wonder how that perfect pop record would have sounded...
The CONĺS COMBO
Katrineholm: Ingemar Söderlund (vocals), Conny Söderlund (guitar/vocals), Johannes Ljungkvist (guitar), Ulf Hellqvist (bass), Nils Sandström (saxophone), Christer Söderlund (drums)
Argentina: Conny Söderlund (guitar/vocals), Bo Gathu (bass), Owe Monk (Johansson) (electric organ/piano/vocals)
Four hundred TV appearances in five years! No, we are not talking about Elvis Presley, the Beatles, the Stones, Bob Dylan, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, or Madonna. Of the almost 500 biographies in this book, the story of Conĺs Combo is certainly the most unique. Now, being on TV is perhaps not so sensational. For example, it probably takes quite a while to count up the number of times the Beatles and Rolling Stones were on television. But that number likely doesnĺt come close to the around 400 (!) times that Conĺs Combo appeared on TV üEand this was during a time period of only five years!
Of course, many people will wonder why theyĺve never even heard of this group. Well, weĺre not talking here about Swedish or European TV. This is South American TV, in particular Argentinean TV. The members of Conĺs Combo spent nine years in Argentina, with side trips to other South American countries. There are certainly not many music collectors who know that the group made a number of singles as well as three albums during their time in Argentina, but the group were pretty much superstars in that country üEone of our first and certainly least-known pop exports.
All of this was a long way from the groupĺs beginnings back in Katrineholm in the early 1960s. It was the Söderlund brothers who started the band, and eventually their cousin, Ingemar Söderlund, became a guest performer in the group. Though Ingemar had his own record contract, he was not really a pop or rock singer. However, before Ingemar joined Conĺs Combo, they made an EP that Owe Monk had put on the Swedish charts as a member of the duo the Vagabonds called ôSommar i StockholmüE(Summer in Stockholm).
Some years later Conny Söderlund, Bo Gathu, and Owe Monk met two fellows from the South American group Lecuona Cuban Boys. They got together and did a tour in Finland. Osvaido Venini then suggested that they should travel to Argentina, where there were plenty of gigs, and Conĺs Combo made the unique decision to move there. Although Venini himself left after only a year in Argentina, it turned out that there was plenty of work and record contracts there for Conĺs Combo. During their busiest period, the group appeared three times a week on TV. The members even became good friends with the beatnik group the Shakers (who have achieved cult status among collectors of 1960s pop music with their album ôBreak It AllüE from Uruguay.
In 1968 Conĺs Combo represented Sweden at a song festival that took place in Brazil. There were 34 countries taking part (Canada was represented by Paul Anka), and Conĺs Combo won 10th place. Just like the Beatles, Conĺs Combo even had their own guru to encourage the group (although he probably was more interested in just being a groupie).
Argentinean singles were played at 33 rpm, something unusual which could lead to misunderstandings. When Conny Söderlund appeared solo on a TV program from Los Angeles around 1969-70, he was to lip-sync one of the singles by Conĺs Combo. A problem arose when someone set the record at 45 rpm. Just at that moment, punk music was invented.
In the mid-1970s the members of the group moved back to Sweden, but they can certainly feel very pleased with their pioneering achievements.
Bengt Andersson (now Toll)(vocals/guitar), Pontus Olsson (guitar/vocals), Bo Palmqvist (bass/vocals), Karl-Arne Linder (drums), Hans Melin (guitar/vocals), Ulf Widding (vocals/guitar)
For Christmas in 1963 Pontus Olsson got the best Christmas present that a teenager could get in those days, a guitar. A few months later the Beathovens debuted at the Gillet club in Motala. The boys were skilled musicians and had already been playing classical music for some time. The group took their name from a Stockholm band called the Beethovens. (There was also a Danish band called the Beethovens.)
The Beathovens were a band that were ahead of their time, coming, as they did, from small-town Sweden. Among other things, they experimented with light-shows on stage and music from Bach to the Stones. The people in Motala werenĺt always impressed, and they found the groupĺs name somewhat offensive. However, the band worked hard to get record contracts, and to help them, they had an energetic manager, Per Månson. They recorded a demo of ôLet Me Go,üEand a producer at Triola, Beppo Gräsman (a former member of Gals & Pals), became interested.
The problem for the Beathovens was that they didnĺt come from the ôbig city,üE and they were never really given a chance to show what they could do. In interviews they also complained about how booking agents in Stockholm froze out all the groups who didnĺt live there üEgave them poor wages and treated them unfairly.