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The Girls Want The Boys! Sweden's Beat Girls 1966-1970, LP (£21.70)
A smörgåsbord of groovy 60s she-pop. 24-track CD version contains bumper booklet with expanded notes and extra photos.
The Ace Records A&R team has never shied away from venturing worldwide in their quest for good music, as evident most recently from our series of releases spotlighting the female vocalists of 1960s Japan, France and Italy. Now it’s the turn of Sweden.
Strange as it might seem, there was a time in the early 1960s when Sweden was not yet a force in pop music. True, there was jazz – Alice Babs, famously, sang with Duke Ellington, and Monica Zetterlund with Bill Evans – and the Spotnicks, an instrumental group who topped the Australian charts and enjoyed minor hits in the UK. And there was Siw Malmkvist! Between 1960 and 1969 she notched up 20 hits in Germany, one of them, ‘Liebeskummer Lohnt Sich Nicht’, sitting at the top of the charts for 12 weeks in 1964. Also that year, in tandem with Umberto Marcato, and singing in Italian, she became the first Swedish vocalist to chart in the US, when ‘Sole, Sole, Sole’ reached the Hot 100.
As ‘Sole, Sole, Sole’ and the German connection indicate, pop music in Sweden, at least before the advent of rock’n’roll and Beatlemania, drew largely on the schlager tradition, sprinkled with a canzone or two via the Italian San Remo festival. (Benny Andersson, when awarded an honorary doctorate in 2008, cited Caterina Valente, Mantovani and schlagers as his biggest influences; no doubt, he could have spoken for many Swedes.)
“The Girls Want The Boys!” opens with early solo tracks by the lead singers of the country’s greatest pop music export: Agnetha Fältskog with ‘Ge Dej Till Tåls’, a peppy number first recorded by Gloria Hunniford; and Anni-Frid Lyngstad’s recording of the Euro-chic ‘Så Synd Du Måste Gå’, a song popularised by Françoise Hardy as ‘Comment Te Dire Adieu’. Other well-known names include national treasure Lill-Babs with her version of Dusty Springfield’s ‘Little By Little’ and chart star Mona Wessman’s cover of bachelor pad classic ‘Music To Watch Girls By’, both performed in Swedish.
But it wasn’t all cover versions in 1960s Sweden. Dig, for example, ‘Don’t’ by cult favourite Doris, who also appears as lead singer and bass guitarist of the group Plums; Eleanor Bodel’s terrific title track; au pair duo Bella & Me’s groovy ‘Help Me Break This Habit’; Britt Bergström’s Ivy League-penned ‘You Really Have Started Something’; and multi-lingual Suzie’s fan favourite ‘Det Får Ej Hända Igen’, a number she recorded in five languages. Cherry-picked sides by the guitar-toting Plommons, Angeliques, Sunnygirls and cover stars MAK Les Soeurs illustrate the country also produced its share of all-girl groups.
There have been a number of explanations as to why Sweden is so good at making pop music – among them bad weather, good language skills, an openness to foreign cultures, and supportive public policies. Homogenous, and for a long time at some remove from the action – although with an eye (and an ear) to the world –Sweden in the 60s was a markedly different place from the multicultural society it is today. With new blood continuously being added to its already heady mix of writers and performers, there’s every chance the country’s influence on pop music will continue. This compilation, from the point of view of 1960s beat girls, shows us where it all began.
Hasse Huss and Mick Patrick