Something Completely Different

December 6th, 2008

This is a really stupid post, and I apologize in advance, but I was afraid that these would stay with me forever if I didn’t share them.

First, I want to say that there seemed to be, in the 1970s, some self-selecting genetic mechanism that kept all attractive Swedes out of rock and roll.

Exhibit1, The Bob Candys:

Cool name, too, huh?  The Bob Candys.  Note the careful placement of the cymbal in the lower left corner, leading one to believe that the Bob Candys were intensely, perhaps even primitively, rhythmic.  And once you spot that, you can see it in their eyes.  Can’t you?

Exhibit 2, Zenits!!!

Now, I don’t know about you, but the first thing I noticed was the matching collar-and-cuff motif, looking like the fabric had been snatched directly from beneath a bottle of Chianti in a budget restaurant.  Then I realized how friendly the Zenits all look – so unlike the overprivileged, put-upon pout we’ve come to expect from American bands, you know, the “I’m so cool I can barely put up with the camera” look.  The Zenits — my nominee for the band you’d like to have next door, if you had a really, really big yard and high hedges.

Exhibit 3, Tage Ost:

First, note the grounbreaking umlaut.  In the seventies!!  Years ahead of the umlaut avalanche that made bands such as Mötorboat and Häppy Cät so distinctive.  Okay, I made up Häppy Cät, but you know what I mean.  And then, look at the instrumentation.  Going counterclockwise from upper right, it seems that Tag Öst played: (1) friendly hand; (2) um, accordion, (3) um, um, violin; (4) what is that thing, a typewriter?  No, it’s a týpëwrïtër.  Or is it?  Only Tag Öst knows for sure.  And they’re not telling.

Exhibit 4, TEDDY BOYS:

No. I can’t.  This one is just too easy.  We’ll move along to . . .

Exhibit 5, TICKIES:

In his best-selling, comprehensive biography of the band, Swedish musicologist Sven Sven says: The inspiration for the Tickies’ groundbreaking costumes came late one night in the Stockholm flat of lead singer Öskar Ümlaut when he looked up from his second bottle of Aquavit to see an open book of matches on the table.  “Smoked fish!” Öskar exclaimed aloud.  “That’s it!” The band quickly rose to the top of the charts, its concerts marked by thousands of fans holding up burning matches, only to plummet into obscurity with the invention of the Bic lighter.

Exhibit 6, Gert Jonnys:

Let’s see, now.  Where to start.  The Gert Jonnys had a brief but brilliant career, highlighted by their international hit, Kälories, Whöz Cöunting? and ending prematurely when all four members got into an elevator together, ignored the warning buzzer, and plummeted 29 stories to their death.  Even today, however, they’re remembered across Sweden via the chain of bakeries that bears their name.  See?  No cheap shots at the costumes.

There are LOTS more of these, but I have work to do. I want to thank (if that’s the word) all-around legend Shadoe Stevens, who sent these to me this morning, thereby disrupting my entire day.

If you want to see more, let me know.

12 Responses to “Something Completely Different”

  1. Jen Forbus Says:

    O.k. I have to go get my book and settle down. My sides hurt from laughing so hard. Thanks for the laugh therapy, Tim! Too funny!

  2. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Thanks, Jen. It’s almost impossible to top the pictures themselves. They’re kind of sweet in an absolutely clueless way. I almost feel guilty.

  3. Peter Says:

    Ye gods, these guys make one long for the sophisticated fashion sense of the Cowsills.
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    “Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home”

  4. fairyhedgehog Says:

    But you have done the almost impossible and topped the pictures. That was very funny.

  5. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Thanks, FHH — I was laughing so hard when I wrote the title of the Gert Jonnys’ big hit that the waitress in the Japanese coffee house where I was writing came over to make sure I was okay. Amazing photos.

    Peter, I had actually forgotten about the Cowsills. I’m coming to think that we automatically perform sort of software lobotomies from time to time to eradicate things exactly like the Cowsills from our memories.

  6. Suzanna Says:

    Thanks for providing the best belly laugh of the day!

  7. Stefan Says:


    The frustrated musicologist in me must yowl that in the 60s, a LOT of bands (from Liverpool to Osaka to Texas) wore matching outfits. It was part of The Deal.

    Some of these bands were actually good. Check out the ’66 album by LA’s The Music Machine. These guys were such fascists in the haberdashery department that each wore ONE black glove (the liner notes on the album say this represented one part of each member belonging to The Band while retaining 50% individual freedom). Despite this hogwash, the album kicks ass: “Talk Talk” and “Masculine Intention” are unique ’60s-punk singles and their bittersweet cover of the perennial “Hey Joe” is masterful.

    there are others from the period but there is a MODERN Swedish rock band who have resurrected the same-suit schtick, albeit monochrome and souped-up. The Hives, from some hideous cold/clean town in Sweden, and rather than throwback or neo-retro, these guys actually channel, oh, let’s say The Seeds or The Shadows of Knight but stay as amped-up as New Bomb Turks–fast loud and modern. They get the joke, but they also play like their hair is on fire: check the CDs…I was lucky enough to get a copy of the Japan-only DVD “Tussels in Brussels” which has a live-concert: these kids blow the doors off.

    he Hives aren’t channeling these Swedish doofi…what’s the plural of doofus anyway? Thanks Tim for the screamingly funny album covers. Mein Gott, das ümlautz…no accordions or Cowsills-riffs on Hives records, but they replicate 60s graphics on the discs. that font on the Tickies, anyone know what it’s called?

    And trivia fans, or people like me with fly-paper minds, know that the Teddy Boys were an early 60s UK gang, famous to the point that they are referenced in Hong Kong films shot in the 60s, all the way up to the fabulous red-leather/spike-boots girlfight epic IT’S NOW OR NEVER (1992), starring Sharla Cheung, Cynthia Khan and the ever-impious Rain Lau. Killer!


  8. Lisa Kenney Says:

    My eyes! My eyes! Oh Tim, where you find this stuff, I’ll never know! This is hysterical. I’m especially fond of the write up on the Gert Jonnys. It struck me as I examined all of these photos that the costumes all look like they were designed and made by the home ec department at my junior high school. Yes, it’s no wonder American parents and clergy feared the raw sexuality of rock and roll in those days. Once you’ve been with a guy who plays the accordion…

  9. Thomas Says:

    As someone who actually grew up with these images in Sweden in the 1970’s, let me offer a few facts about what Swedes refer to as “dansband” (translation: “dance bands”, which sounds like a combination of pop, soft rock, jazz, and elevator muzak. Think of European schlager music with undistorted guitars, saxophones, and the occasional accordion.)

    1. These bands actually did look this dorky back in the 70’s. Sadly, the pictures offered by Tim are not caricatures but actual album covers with local wannabes, who took themselves very seriously. The outfits were expected.
    2. The pictures above, however cringe-inducing, are not the worst I have seen. Many of these bands are still playing and are as popular as ever.
    3. Today’s dansband follow the same pattern as the ones in the pictures, even though they have become slightly more sophisticated. The clean cut looks and the matching outfits are still mandatory.
    4. The most popular dansbands are consistently at the top of the Swedish sales chart.
    5. In Sweden, dansbands are as much a part of the popular culture as country artists/bands are here. Some of the old dansbands from the 70’s and 80’s are as revered as Loretta Lynn and George Jones are to Americans.
    6. Many Swedes in my generation were, uhhm, created, in connection with this music. Let me explain. This is not music you just stand around and listen to. It is music you dance to (ergo, dance band). Many people met, danced, fell in love, and did all sorts of other things, while a dansband was playing on stage. It still happens today. In fact, my own father used to play in a dansband in the 60’s and I still have the records by “Tailor-Kvintetten” to prove it. Of course, my father looked uber-cool and nothing like the pictures above. All that aside, he played on stage, my mother and her friends were in the audience, and here I am. So, the point I’m making is that even though the esthetic qualities of many of these people left much to be desired, dansbands are as much Sweden as ABBA, IKEA, and Volvo.

    Thanks, Tim, for posting this. It really took me back.

  10. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Wow, Thomas — You’re like the Usman of this discussion, giving us the on-scene perspective. And I’m sure your father’s band didn’t look dorky at all. Probably no dorkier than, say, my high school picture.

    Stefan, if you’re looking for a follow-up to your two compendium books on Hong Kong cinema, you should consider Swedish dansbands. (Thanks for the cool spelling, Thomas — but no umlaut?). If you take this suggestion, Stefan, I get to write some of the captions.

    Thanks for the laugh, Suzanna, but I think I laughed harder than anyone else did.

    And Lisa, to take care of those eyes, you need to spend a couple of days in a darkened room, and for several weeks after, assiduously avoid anything with the early BeeGees in it. And an accidental glimpse of an old ABBA cover could have permanent consequences.

  11. Sphinx Ink Says:

    Stunning, simply stunning. Like, say, being coshed on the head with a nightstick.

    Hey, I remember the 70s, at least the U.S. 70s, and how awful some of the bands’ outfits were. Obviously the Swedes were far more advanced than the Americans in Bad Taste Band Costumes. They were good reasons to stay home from the concerts and listen to the LPs instead.

    My eyes are burning!

  12. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi, Sphinxy —

    Exactly like being coshed on the head with a nightstick. And thanks for letting me know that “cosh” can be used as a verb.

    The 70s were pretty dire fashion-wise. I had a pair of burgundy velvet pants on the cuffs of which my girlfriend sewed small bells. I wore them to a job interview in Beverly Hills and actually got hired. Good job, too. Oh, yeah, and I was also loaded. What WERE they thinking?

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