Björn, Benny and Lonnie

Published January 16, 2012

In those dark post-teen-idol-years when Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson busied themselves with corny cabaret shows and dodgy sexploitation film soundtracks, they also wrote a number of songs that became notable hits for other Swedish artists. Among them was the 1971 recording 'Välkommen till världen' ("Welcome To The World") by singer Lill-Babs (featuring all four future ABBA members on backing vocals; this track is now available as a bonus selection on Ring Ring Deluxe Edition). It reached number 2 on the vote-based radio chart Svensktoppen, and number 12 on the sales chart.

ABBA manager Stig Anderson was a music publisher at heart and, with his network of international contacts, he never wasted an opportunity to promote the songs of Andersson & Ulvaeus to whomever was interested. I don't know exactly how the following happened but in 1973 a recording of 'Välkommen till världen' was made by British skiffle pioneer Lonnie Donegan. The story was reported in a Swedish newspaper in December 1973, where the reader also learned that Donegan's version was entitled 'I Lost My Heart On The 5.42'. Ever since I read the original newspaper report, when I was researching ABBA - The Complete Recording Sessions back in 1993, I've wondered how his version sounded: in the days before ABBA's international fame it was one of the few Andersson/Ulvaeus compositions to be recorded by anything even resembling an international top act (admittedly, by this time Donegan's glory days were well behind him).

In the late Nineties I was in touch with a British Donegan expert who shared the following information regarding 'I Lost My Heart On The 5.42': "Donegan recorded the song for his own music publishing company Tyler Music but it was only issued on his own TYLER RECORDS LP, catalogue number LDNH 123, for sale at his own concerts. The performance date for the song on the LP is 1975 but the sleeve gives no details about any of the recordings or personnel. It is probable that the LP was pressed in 1975 but the song may well have been recorded in 1973 per the newspaper article." Unfortunately, he was unable to help me with a recording of the track, and since the album was so obscure I've only made half-hearted attempts to locate it myself.

A few days ago I was going through some old files when I came across the song title again. I decided to google it to see if anything came up, and voilà! Some enterprising individual had actually posted it on Youtube (it's been available on CD and as a download since 2008; try the links to the right). It was really interesting to finally get to hear it. The original song, about welcoming a new-born baby into the world, has been transformed into some kind of saucy knees-up music-hall number. I guess it shows that you can make whatever you want out of a catchy tune. Anyway, I'm glad I finally got to hear it - it only took 19 years after I first learned about its existence!

P.S. After a little research I've found out that the lyricist for 'I Lost My Heart On The 5.42' was one Bill Owen. I'm assuming that this is him. According to his Wikipedia entry, he was most famous for his role in the long-running television series Last Of The Summer Wine, but he also dabbled in songwriting, even co-authoring an entire musical. He also wrote the UK Top 30 hit 'Marianne' for Cliff Richard. Who knew that his cv included a contribution to an Andersson/Ulvaeus composition?

 

Lonnie Donegan CD featuring Björn & Benny's 'I Lost My Heart On The 5.42'.

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