Revealed: Benny and Tommy's first collaboration

Published December 22, 2018

So you thought that Benny Andersson and Tommy Körberg's first collaboration was in 1984, when the latter sang the part of The Russian in the former's Ulvaeus-Rice co-written musical Chess? Wrong! Read on...


Back in 1969, producer Rune Hallberg at Sveriges Radio (Radio Sweden) had the idea to arrange a pop-oriented song contest in a radio show called Tonårskväll ("Teenage Night"). Five songwriting teams were invited to submit a tune, to be sung by a number of different singers. Also featured on the show were a panel of music business professionals, among them future ABBA manager Stig Anderson, who were to offer their opinion on the songs. The programme was pre-recorded in the first week of February 1969 and then broadcast Wednesday, February 12, 1969.

One of the invited songwriting teams was Benny Andersson and Lars Berghagen. The pair had been writing songs off and on since late 1967; the collaboration kicked off with two hits for The Hep Stars: It's Been A Long Long Time and Sagan om lilla Sofi ("The Story Of Little Sofi"). A month after this radio song contest Andersson and Berghagen would score their greatest triumph as a team, the song Hej clown, which almost won Melodifestivalen, the Swedish selection for the Eurovision Song Contest. As performed by singer Jan Malmsjö, it finished second but resulted in a major domestic hit.


At this time, Tommy Körberg could look back on a couple of years as a popular singer in Sweden as part of Tom & Mick & Maniacs, who scored a number one hit in 1967 with Somebody's Taken Maria Away. Like so many other pop stars of the 1960s, Benny included, he was now trying to forge a new path for himself, at this time singing Swedish light-pop. In fact, his performance of Judy, min vän ("Judy, My Friend", recorded in English as "Dear Mr Jones") was the song that would beat the Andersson/Berghagen submission in Melodifestivalen a month later.

So, what about the song Tommy performed in this radio contest? It was entitled Ozi McDozi, and later in 1969 it would be released as a single B-side by Lennart Grahn & Nya Shanes. (Actually, the way the titular name is pronounced, it should probably be spelled Oozi McDoozi.) The lyrics, such as they are, tell the story of a guy waiting for a girl named Ozi McDozi, with whom he is going to catch a movie. When she doesn't show up in time - she's been to a party the night before and arriving home late, because she was unfaithful with another boy - the guy gets talking to another girl. When Ozi finally shows up it's too late and the guy has got together with the new girl, and Ozi herself finds a new boy. Although the tune is fairly catchy and Tommy is in fine voice, it's not exactly Anthem.


A couple of years after his Eurovision Song Contest experience, Tommy Körberg gravitated towards the leftist music scene, where jazz-rock and more "complex" music were regarded as more genuine and real than straightforward pop. Six years after his own participation, he voiced his criticism of the Eurovision Song Contest in public. In the mid-1970s he was in a relationship with a woman who lived in the same apartment building as Benny and Frida, so they met up at parties sometimes. Tommy writes in his autobiography: "One time when we met it ended with Frida asking me and Benny to stop fighting. Naturally, our quarrel was about music. I was doing my thing and he was doing his, and I guess we wanted to position ourselves against each other. Our consumption of whisky [that night] hardly made things better."

With time, Tommy would become less judgmental, parallel with a broadening of his musical palette, making him one of Sweden's most admired singers. In the meantime, Benny was gravitating towards more overtly complex music, meaning that by 1983–1984 they could finally find common ground in Chess. Since 2001, of course, Tommy is one of the featured lead vocalists in Benny Anderssons Orkester.


I don't know if Sveriges Radio has kept a recording of this programme in their archives, but someone who did record it off the radio at the time was one of Sweden's top Eurovision Song Contest experts, my friend Martin Verhage. He was a 13-year-old with a reel-to-reel tape recorder at the time, and I transferred the recording to a digital medium for him a while ago. I'd read about the contest in a Swedish newspaper many years ago, but never got around to finding out what the Andersson/Berghagen tune was, or who sang it. Now, thanks to Martin's keen interest in song contests almost 50 years ago, we can all listen to it here.

Merry Christmas!