Ted tribute album with tracks produced by Björn and Benny

Published June 24, 2014

June 4 saw the release of a tribute album to the late Polar Music recording artist Ted Gärdestad, whose first four albums were produced by Björn and Benny and also featured vocal backing from various combinations of the four ABBA members. Entitled För kärlekens skull - svenska artister hyllar Ted Gärdestad, the tribute album features an array of Swedish artists performing a selection of Ted's songs; one of them is Ted's daughter Sara Zacharias. Among artists with some kind of ABBA connection are Niklas Strömstedt, who wrote the Swedish lyrics for the Mamma Mia! musical - he contributes a version of 'Eiffeltornet' - and ABBA session guitarist Janne Schaffer, who does an instrumental version of 'The Reason'.

However, the main interest for ABBA collectors are the previously unreleased bonus tracks performed by Ted himself, for two of them - 'Kolapapperskung' and 'Pricken' - were produced by Björn and Benny. According to the liner notes the recordings were made in 1972, which suggests that they were part of the sessions for Ted's second album, simply entitled Ted. Don't expect any lavish production values, though: both of these songs were recordings of tunes Ted wrote at the age of ten and his vocals are only backed by acoustic guitar, bass and, on 'Pricken', kazoo.

The songs as such have been released on record before, on the 1975 album Kika digga ding, featuring songs from the Anders Hanser-produced television series of the same name (although the version of 'Pricken' comes from a radio programme entitled Pick-Up). However, they are not the same recordings as now featured on the tribute album.

For Ted fans there is also a previously unreleased and unheard track entitled 'I Know There's A Song'. The producers have taken Ted's lo-fi cassette demo and created a brand new backing track for it, along the lines of The Beatles' 'Free As A Bird' recording (where a John Lennon demo cassette tape received new backing from the surviving Beatles).

The Seduction Of Inga - Björn & Benny's sexploitation adventures, part 2

Published June 15, 2014

In a recent blog, I examined the story behind the film Language Of Love, for which Björn and Benny wrote the theme song. Around the same time - in fact, parallel with the Language Of Love commission - Björn and Benny also wrote music for another sexploitation film produced in Sweden. Both films had the same Swedish distributor, which may have had something to do with this sudden "deluge" of film soundtrack work.

In the autumn of 1969 American film producer Vernon Becker was putting together a follow-up to the internationally successful 1968 sexploitation flick Inga, to be filmed in Sweden. “Since the leading character of the film was a rock musician ["Rolf", played by singer Tommy Blom*, formerly of the group Tages, The Hep Stars’ main competitors during the Sixties], and there were scenes in a discotheque, I needed rock music for the soundtrack,” recalled Becker. “My lawyer introduced me to Stig Anderson[.] I only had a few thousand dollars, but I hoped to buy some older rock recordings from him. Stig told me he had a better idea.” That idea, of course, entailed involving his two protégés, Björn and Benny, in the project. Recalled Björn, ”Stig approached us with the offer of providing some of the music for this film. We thought ‘Wow, imagine writing music for a movie,’ and so we agreed to do it.”

Unfortunately, however, if they had hoped that this assignment would lead to a glorious future as film music composers, or to any kind of international fame, they were sadly mistaken – at least initially. Directed by obscure American director Joseph W. Sarno, the finished film, The Seduction Of Inga, featured an absurd plot that mainly served as an excuse to titillate the audience with allusions to various sexual “perversions” (lesbianism, incest etc.) and semi-nude scenes.

Today, although like Language Of Love the film has attracted some cult interest for those interested in trashy exploitation cinema of the era, its main curiosity value perhaps lies in the fact that Andersson/Ulvaeus contributed a few tunes to the film. But they did not write all of the music: there were also tunes by Peter Himmelstrand - a journalist (co-writer of Harry Edgington's 1977 biography "ABBA") as well as a prolific song writer and lyricist - and Sven-Olof Walldoff (ABBA’s string arranger up until 1976 and also their Napoleon-dressed conductor when they won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974).

Here is a “who-wrote-what” run-down of the tunes and musical cues in the film. The timings all refer to the American version of the film, released on DVD by Seduction Cinema in 2004 (see ordering link to the right).

Björn and Benny’s contributions are limited to three tunes. ‘Inga Theme’ was of course the title song of the movie, and can be heard at several points throughout the film: at the start, and also in different variations both in terms of performance and mixing, for instance at 00:18:35, when the characters of Inga and Stig are driving out to Stig’s place and at 00:20:24, when Inga and Stig are discussing the latter’s book.

‘She’s My Kind Of Girl’ is heard on three occasions in the film: being “composed” by Rolf (Tommy Blom) at 00:12:03; performed in a scene at a club at 00:42:36; and finally as the end title music of the film at 01:19:40 (these last two instances both feature Björn and Benny’s recording with Tommy Blom’s vocals on top).

The third Andersson/Ulvaeus tune heard in the film is ‘Where Are We All Headin’’, an early instrumental version of a song that was re-recorded as ‘Nånting är på väg’ (“Something’s On The Way”) for Björn and Benny’s Lycka (“Happiness”) album in 1970: at 00:09:55 in the film when Inga is seen caressing herself; at 00:21:25 in a different version during a scene at the club; and finally in this different version again at 00:52:50 during the seduction scene between Rolf and his ex-girlfriend. Lyrics exist for ‘Where Are We All Headin’’, written by Jack Fishman (who also wrote the lyrics for 'Language Of Love'), although these are not heard in the film.

Peter Himmelstrand contributed two tunes. ‘Crash’ can be heard at 00:31:55 during a club scene and again at 00:40:35, during another club scene. A tune simply entitled ‘Vals’ (“Waltz”) on a tape box containing some of the titles from the Inga II sessions is probably the working title for ‘Barnen sover’ (“The Children Are Asleep”, later recorded in a vocal version by Frida on her first solo album), since it’s the only waltz in the movie. This tune is heard at 00:23:25, when Stig and Inga start kissing, and again at 00:31:12, when Stig and Inga make love. At some point this song also received words by English-language-lyricist-du-jour Jack Fishman, entitled 'Love Is Always Young', although these are not heard in the film.

Sven-Olof Walldoff is the composer of a tune entitled ‘It’s You Or Nothing’, the barely audible lounge music that features at 00:03:10 in the film; this song again has lyrics by Jack Fishman, although not heard in the film. Walldoff also composed ‘Greta’s Theme’, a largely improvised instrumental, bearing a strong resemblance to Spencer Davis Group’s 1967 hit ‘I’m A Man’ (indeed, although the tune is copyrighted as ‘Greta’s Theme’, on the tape box in the Polar Music archives the title is given as ‘I’m A Man’); this tune is heard during the club scene at 00:36:30 and again at 01:03:40 during the seduction scene between Stig and Greta.

Walldoff also received a composer credit for his arrangement of the Finnish folk song ‘Vem kan segla förutan vind’ (“Who Can Sail Without The Wind”), which recurs at several points throughout the film: for example at 33:50 as the character Stig leaves Inga to fly abroad; at 00:45:35 when Rolf and Inga are making out; and at 00:50:40 when Inga writes a letter to Rolf. (ABBA-related note: 'Vem kan segla förutan vind' is the song Agnetha sings a cappella during the interview part on BBC TV's Wogan show in 1988; her version appears at circa 06:20 in this clip.)

The Polar Music tape box featuring music from the film also lists a tune entitled ‘It’s Love’, registered as written by Sven-Olof Walldoff. This may possibly be the title of the otherwise unidentified classical-style chamber music heard in the sex club scene at 00:15:05, unless this is in fact a bona fide classical music piece or perhaps simply some library music.

Although filming presumably wrapped before the end of 1969, it would take more than a year until The Seduction Of Inga opened. The release in March 1970 of Björn & Benny’s ‘She’s My Kind Of Girl’ / ‘Inga Theme’ single (where the film is still credited under its working title, Inga II) indicates that Polar expected an imminent release of the movie. However, it was only on March 1, 1971, that the film opened in the Swedish town of Västerås under the title Någon att älska (“Someone To Love”) – it didn’t receive its Stockholm premiere until October 30, 1971. The English-language version, The Seduction Of Inga, opened in the United States in February 1972.

‘She’s My Kind Of Girl’ has sometimes been noted as the first recording to feature all four future ABBA members. But since it's impossible to hear any female voices on the track it is probably safe to conclude that the female half of ABBA did not contribute to this recording (the debut recording by Agnetha, Björn, Benny and Frida was of course the Björn & Benny hit single 'Hej gamle man!', recorded later in 1970).

The B-side of the 'She's My Kind Of Girl' single was ‘Inga Theme’. Although several decades later Benny would claim that, ”even if you [threaten to] murder me I can’t remember how it went,” consciously or subconsciously the organ intro on his and Björn’s recording of the song must have stuck in his mind at least for the following 12 years or so, since it was recycled for the first seven notes of the verse melody in ABBA’s 1982 recording ‘I Am The City’.

Upon release in 1970, ‘She’s My Kind Of Girl’ made no impact whatsoever in Sweden. It wasn't until two years later, when - through a curious series of events involving a Japanese publisher hearing and liking the song at the offices of a French colleague - the single was released in Japan that it finally achieved commercial success, reaching number seven on the sales chart and number one on the radio chart. Interestingly, according to IMDb.com, The Seduction Of Inga actually opened in Japan in November 1971 - might this have played a part in piquing the interest of the Japanese publisher, one wonders.

According to a Swedish press report in April 1970, Polar Music were toying with the idea of releasing a soundtrack album in the US and the UK. In his review of the 2006 CD reissue of Björn & Benny's Lycka album in The Official International ABBA Fan Club magazine, Peter Palmquist wrote that "the instrumental version of ['Language Of Love'] featured on an American promo LP for the movie Inga II", indicating that an album was in fact manufactured, although this writer has never seen any sign of it. I've asked Peter if he has further evidence of the existence of this album, but so far he's been unable to help me.

In the same review Peter writes that "the unreleased English versions of Nånting är på väg (Where Are We All Headin') and Livet går sin gång (Language Of Love) [...] have been circulating in fan circles." 'Language Of Love' is of course available from the film soundtrack, but I've yet to hear a vocal version of 'Where Are We All Headin''. If you are reading this and are one of those fans who have been able to circulate 'Where Are We All Headin'', or if you have information on the American Inga II promo LP, I'd love to hear from you (click "Contact" in the bottom left hand corner).

*Tommy Blom passed away on May 25, 2014.

Many thanks for their help with this story to Regina Grafunder of ABBA Intermezzo Fan Club, who provided me with copies of the sheet music for the music in The Seduction Of Inga, and Chris Patrick (author of Let The Music Speak), who helped me identify which song was which on the soundtrack.

 

Language Of Love - Björn & Benny's sexploitation adventures, part 1

Published June 04, 2014

"Man sa så mycket om sex / Att man fick nya komplex" ("They said so much about sex / That you got new complexes") wrote Stig Anderson in his satirical lyrics for the 1969 hit 'Ljuva sextital' ("The Good Old Sixties"), the music for which was written by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus. The Sixties was indeed the decade when sexual liberation was, shall we say, highlighted, and the subject explored from, it seemed, every conceivable angle.

Whatever irony projected in the song written by Benny, Björn and Stig, however, later in 1969 it transpired that none of them was above contributing to projects that "talked about sex" in a most explicit way. In fact, November 1969 saw Benny and Björn write music for not one but two films that today are regarded as prime examples of the so-called sexploitation genre. Sexploitation - a term that was not used at the time, it should be noted - is defined by Wikipedia as “a class of independently produced, low-budget feature films generally associated with the 1960s, and serving largely as a vehicle for the exhibition of non-explicit sexual situations and gratuitous nudity.” This would serve as a fairly accurate description of Language Of Love and The Seduction Of Inga, the two 1969 films to which Björn and Benny contributed soundtrack tunes. In this blog - the first of two - we will take a look at the music written for the first of these two films.

LANGUAGE OF LOVE
The film Language Of Love aimed to educate heterosexual men and women in their attitudes towards sex. Danish psychologists Sten and Inge Hegeler (very famous at the time), Swedish sex advisor Maj-Brith Bergström-Walan and Swedish gynecologist Sture Cullhed were filmed discussing various aspects of sexual behaviour, and these scenes were interspersed with sequences illustrating the matters under discussion, including authentic sexual intercourse. So controversial were these scenes – the first such scenes ever to be approved by the Swedish board of film censors – that the film opened in a reported 22 countries, in September 1969, before it could premiere in the country where it was produced: Sweden. According to Swedish press, Erik Skoglund, the head of the board of film censors, had to take a three-day holiday after watching the film twice.

For me personally, having seen the film and expected something really dull and kitschy, it was actually better than I thought. The experts taking part in the film seem very earnest in their endeavours to make people more relaxed about sex, spotlighting behaviour and attitudes that create unnecessary hang-ups in people. Sadly, many of the problems discussed seem to be just as topical today, 45 years after the film was made. I would describe the film as "quaint", for want of a better word, although, admittedly, the sex scenes do make for awkward viewing. And I don't think I could improve on the description of the worst part of the film, as conveyed by British film critic Victoria Radin: "[A] pointlessly extenuated explanation of contraception, [wherein] one of the panel dons a white coat and examines three women in turn, issuing one with a pill and - in appalling close-up - fitting the others with cap and loop". Nuff said.

Nevertheless, the film became a huge box office hit when it finally opened in Sweden on 2 October 1969. According to authoritative sources the original Swedish title of the film at this time was Ur kärlekens språk (“From The Language Of Love”), subsequently changed to simply Kärlekens språk (“The Language Of Love”). However, it should be noted that it was advertised in the papers under the latter title at the time of the opening. Incidentally, there is actually a minor Benny connection even in the Swedish premiere, for one of the Stockholm cinemas where the film opened was Rival - only a cinema at the time, it is now part of the hotel and entertainment complex owned by Benny.

THE MUSIC IN THE FILM
So, apart from that little tidbit, what has all this got to do with Björn and Benny? After all, the Swedish version of the film does not feature any soundtrack contributions whatsoever from the male half of ABBA. Instead, the music was mainly written by Swedish composer, conductor and record producer Mats Olsson; the film also includes ‘Sarabande’ by Johann Sebastian Bach, while the opening credits features a version of ‘Lustvin dansar en Gavott med de fem sinnena’ (“Lustvin dances a Gavotte with the five senses”), a song dating back to the 17th Century and performed here by an unidentified male singer (another Benny connection: Helen Sjöholm recorded her own jazzed-up version of this song for her 2002 album Visor, issued on Benny's Mono Music label). Presumably, the version of the film distributed to the 22 countries that premiered it before its Swedish opening date also used the Swedish soundtrack.

The English-language version of the film was produced parallel with the Swedish - the experts speak English, they have not been dubbed - and the Swedish press reported that American distributors visited Stockholm towards the end of October 1969 in order to negotiate a deal for the film. Perhaps it was somewhere around this time that Björn and Benny were approached - presumably through Stig Anderson - to contribute a new theme song for the English-language film. What they came up with was entitled 'Language Of Love', with lyrics by one Jack Fishman (lyricist of late-Sixties hits such as Tom Jones’ ‘Help Yourself’ and Amen Corner’s ‘If Paradise Is Half As Nice’). The only recording date I've been able to find regarding the original version of 'Language Of Love' (the song), made by Polar Music in Stockholm, is 26 November 1969, although nothing is known about the personnel appearing on the recording.

At any rate, the film ran into all sorts of censorship problems in the United States, and couldn't open in New York City until 30 June 1971. It appears the film premiered  in the UK prior to that; a review was printed in the March 1971 issue of the British Film Institute's Monthly Film Bulletin. Certain British people were up in arms about the showing of such an immoral and filthy film, to the extent that in September 1971 they arranged a demonstration, led by Cliff Richard, outside the cinema in London's Trafalgar Square, where the film ran.

The original recording of Björn and Benny's theme song, then, probably wasn't heard in public until perhaps March 1971. The song is performed by an unidentified choir - the film doesn't even credit Björn, Benny and Jack Fishman with writing the song, much less inform the viewer who's singing. So who were these anonymous singers? I recently asked Björn and Benny if they remembered anything about the recording of 'Language Of Love'. Björn had no recollections whatsoever, but Benny said he thought that the recording was made in the United States. This does sound plausible, for, as there are no traces of any accents, the vocalists do sound like English is their first language. If this is accurate, then the recording made in Stockholm on 26 November 1969 was probably only a demo used as a blueprint for whoever the Americans were who recorded the version of 'Language Of Love' heard on the soundtrack.

The song was used twice in the film: once over the opening credits, when Fishman’s lyrics are sung by the choir, and then at 00:17:35, when the tune is merely hummed by the choir, during a segment showing couples of various ages in everyday situations, as well as some sexually charged scenes. Click here to hear the version used over the opening credits.

Clearly, Stig Anderson - and perhaps Björn and Benny themselves - really believed in ‘Language Of Love’ as a song, as it seemed to be one they focused on over the following two years or so.  The tune subsequently acquired Swedish lyrics by Stig, entitled ‘Livet går sin gång’ (“Life Goes On”), and was then recorded by Björn and Benny for inclusion on their 1970 album Lycka. The following year, in January, the duo recorded a German version, 'Was die Liebe sagt' (lyrics by Hans Bradtke), released as a single B-side in West Germany.

Then, in February 1971, Björn and Benny participated in a song festival in Málaga, Spain, performing ‘Language Of Love’ in its original English-language version, but only finishing sixth in the contest. The winner was Donna Hightower and her performance of 'If You Hold My Hand'. Despite the "failure" on part of 'Language Of Love', the song itself attracted a great deal of interest, press reports stating that music publishers from nine countries had acquired the rights to the tune. However, although these same press reports also stated that several recordings were definitely going to be made – including one by French recording star Françoise Hardy – it appears none ever materialised (if you know differently, I would love to hear from you).

As far as I've been able to ascertain, the final chapter in the history of this song was written in February and March 1971, when Polar Music recording artist Lena Andersson recorded her own version of ‘Language Of Love’, subsequently featured on her album Lena, 15 and also on a single B-side.

Something of a damp squib, then, for despite the lo-fi quality of the original soundtrack version, I have to say that it was only when I heard this for the first time a few months ago that I truly appreciated how beautiful this tune really is. It's a shame 'Language Of Love' has largely been lost to posterity. But perhaps someone will rediscover it and do the ultimate recording of it. We live in hope.

Stay tuned for part 2 in the sexploitation saga, coming soon...

Ordering tips: Use the convenient ordering links in the menu to the right to buy the Language Of Love DVD. If you're located outside the US and have problems ordering via Amazon, Movies Unlimited will deliver abroad.

Note: Although it's been reported that Language Of Love is the highly inappropriate date movie to which Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) takes Betsy (Cybill Shepherd) in Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver, the film they're watching is in fact another, unidentified Swedish sexploitation film. Take it from someone who's actually seen Language Of Love.