’For Beautiful People Only’ is the second full-length album from JULIAN & MARINA, the follow-up to 2014’s ’Absence & Distance’.
Comprising of Julian Brandt and Marina Schiptjenko, the couple are both veterans of the Swedish pop scene. Brandt was a member of BOBBY and is the current bass incumbent in LUSTANS LAKEJER while Schiptjenko is best known for her instrumental roles in PAGE and BWO.
The concept of JULIAN & MARINA is what can only best be described as crooner electro.
So imagine Matt Monro or Charles Aznavour over laid-back sophistipop backing utilising drum machines, synths and virtual orchestrations. Such are Julian Brandt’s loungey mannerisms, occasionally harmonised by Marina Schiptjenko’s larynx treatments, that the combination is strange and otherworldly yet ultimately romantic and classic.
It all begins with the ‘For Beautiful People Only’ title song, the song which is closest to being quite traditional sounding with its cinematic pomp and circumstance. ‘Someone To Cling To’ though recalls smooth PET SHOP BOYS ballads like ‘Liberation’ or even ‘Requiem in Denim & Leopardskin’ but with the orchestrated flavour of Percy Faith. Though ‘Vintage Wine’ follows a not entirely dissimilar feel, Brandt enunciates more like a Scandinavian Neil Hannon.
Heading to the South of France, ‘Destination Cannes’ is a great instrumental which captures exactly what it says on the tin while ‘Full Moon Over St Tropez’ conjures up that understated but catchy Gallic quality. The dashing ‘Hello Darling’ makes good use of synths and vocoders as well as adding a surprise rap from an alluring Schiptjenko.
But featuring a beautiful string line and a music box motif, ‘Girl In The Gallery’ could actually be about Schiptjenko herself, a playful celebration by Brandt of the enigmatic art curator with key changes to boot.
Brandt’s delivery recalls the late Liverpudlian crooner Michael Holliday on his hit ‘Starry Eyed’, a 1960 UK No1 co-written by Moog pioneer Mort Garson and later covered by CHINA CRISIS.
Despite its title, ‘Saddest Girl’ is enormously sunny and uplifting with hints of Hollywood Elvis, but ‘Love On A Summer Night’ offers a subtle disco duet which could be another PET SHOP BOYS collaboration with Patsy Kensit that also throws in a synthetic brass section for a more robotic style of ‘Domino Dancing’.
With a piano and soprano sax providing a twist in the electronic backdrop, ’Going To Nice’ closes the album with a happy optimistic vibe like all the good film romances should.
This is an enjoyable Eurocentric album with a sumptuous aural palette. If you can appreciate the guilty pleasures of classic easy listening, then on days like these , ‘For Beautiful People Only’ is the perfect escapist album for a trip along the Riviera.
Those wanting darkness, doom and edge though should turn away now…
Two of Sweden’s best loved acts of a more synthy disposition LUSTANS LAKEJER and PAGE gathered together at Malmö’s Babel for a celebration of classic songs and artistic progression.
Located in the shell of an old brick-built church, while Babel’s soundsystem and views of the stage were superb, its tedious entrance infrastructure left a lot to be desired as a large number of music fans were still left queuing in the rain as the evening’s music proceedings began.
PAGE released their first single ‘Dansande Man’ in 1983 and while line-ups have varied over the decades, the duo of Eddie Bengtsson and Marina Schiptjenko is universally seen as the classic incarnation. But while Bengtsson has often been considered Sweden’s answer to Vince Clarke, more recently he has been re-exploring the post-punk synth innovations of TUBEWAY ARMY and ULTRAVOX.
2017’s ‘Det Är Ingen Vacker Värld Men Det Råkar Vara Så Det Ser Ut’ even featured a cover of ‘Tracks’, but it was 2018’s ‘Start’ EP and the new album ‘Fakta För Alla’ that saw PAGE totally get into the Moog.
And it was to a smoke machine on overdrive that Bengtsson and Schiptjenko arrived on stage for a lively poptronica set mined mainly from those three releases.
‘Krasch’ and the ‘Fakta För Alla’ title song set the scene and armed with a Little Phatty and Sub 37 respectively, Bengtsson and Schiptjenko indulged in a spot of delightful Moog wars with oscillators set to stun. ‘Kloner’ and ‘Start’ continued the riff laden pleasure of principle while with washes of string machine and piercing vibrato, ‘Blöder Du’ came over more introspective.
‘Som ett skal’ from 2014’s ‘Hemma’ and ‘Kom så andas vi’ from the 2010 comeback record ‘Nu’ illustrated PAGE’s enduring knack for a good synth tune, while the more recent ‘Första Smällen’ provided some spritely poptronica to continue that tradition
But when Bengtsson went to reimagine Gary Numan meeting Billy Currie on ‘Puls’ with his Sub Phatty on an ARP Odyssey aping setting, the keyboard was just slightly too off-tune to continue playing it. Despite playing only 21st Century PAGE material, the duo finally conceded with an oldie in ‘Förlåt’ from 1995, its space march chants drawing participation and appreciation from the audience to close their set.
Although PAGE’s set attracted a good attendance despite the delays of getting into the venue, it began to pack considerably as the pre-show music offered the likes of VISAGE, DEPECHE MODE and THE HUMAN LEAGUE, with the crowd comprising of old and new romantics, the presence of young Lustans Lookalikes being very much in evidence.
Meanwhile, there was also long standing sidemen bassist Julian Brandt and Anders Ericson on guitar, plus keyboardist Tom Wolgers who joined in 1981 for their second album ‘Uppdrag i Genève’ and took the band in a more electronic direction, before returning the fold in 1999.
The mature quintet were augmented by two younger keyboard players Fredrik Hermansson and Lisa Lindal, the latter also providing some sumptuous backing vocals. Tonight’s set was to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of ‘Åkersberga’, LUSTANS LAKEJER’s comeback album which saw Kinde adopt a more crooner friendly, laid back demeanour.
Opening song ‘En kvinnokarls död’ evoked the cinematic moods of a Nordic Noir drama, while the brilliant ‘Cynisk’ realised Kinde’s concept of what Barry White would sound like reinterpreting ‘Walking In My Shoes’ by DEPECHE MODE, complete with guitar solo.
The epically orchestrated ‘För njutningen, för spänningen’ captivated with its chanson influences but spicing up the tempo, ‘Vackra Djur Gör Fula Saker’ pulsed like ULTRAVOX in recognition of the classic unga moderna template which made LUSTANS LAKEJER’s one of the most popular bands in Sweden.
‘Här & Nu’ played with stylish Svenka reggae with Julian Brandt particularly starring, but the rhythmic ‘Som en dröm’ brought in a Mediterranean tinged dance flavour which set the hearts racing.
Meanwhile, indulging in some Scott Walker fantasies and referencing the mannerisms of ‘Deadlier Than The Male’, detuned synth arpeggios provided an interesting avant counterpoint to Kinde’s smoother vocal overtones on ‘Begär har förgiftat mitt blod’.
The Latin template returned for the bossa nova driven ‘En natt som denna natt’ before closing the ‘Åkersberga’ segment of the set with the filmic ballad ‘Samma gamla sång’. The Babel had no backstage area as such, so rather than trudge through the audience and return again for the encore routine, LUSTANS LAKEJER retained their positions for a performance of old favourites.
‘En Främlings Ögon’ from ‘En Plats I Solen’ exuded its JAPAN influence with its ring modulated synths and Hellman’s distinctive Simmons drum mantra, while the superb sequencer driven ‘Diamanter’ partied like it was 1982, drawing one of the biggest cheers and the first audience singalong of its evening.
Kinde even threw in a few of his old New Romantic arm sways and in an amusing S&M bromance with Anders Ericson, percussively whipped him to a frenzy!
A new synth dominated song ‘Svarta segel’ got its live premiere and with its dark lyrical gist, reflected on the current madness in world politics.
Launching with the distinctive clatter of a Compurythm, ‘Stilla nätter’ allowed Kinde to revisit his earlier Sylvian-Le Bon cross while from the same ‘Uppdrag I Genève’ long player, the more frantic electro ‘Män av skugga’ amusingly came over a bit like finding Jona Lewie having a party in Ikea.
Finishing the evening with the marvellous syncopated disco of ‘Rendez-Vous I Rio’, it was a reminder as to how LUSTANS LAKEJER laid claim to releasing a song referencing Brazil’s second-most populous municipality before DURAN DURAN.
In all, it was a glorious evening featuring the best in classic Swedish pop as influenced by Synth Britannia, rich in hooks, tunes, melodies and mood without the need for a translator; tack tack! 🇸🇪😀
LUSTANS LAKEJER ‘Åkersberga’ is reissued as a vinyl LP, available via their Facebook page
Like THE SOFT MOON meeting THE CURE, Istanbul-based JAKUZI released their debut album ‘Fantezi Müzik’ in 2017.
Their music made an impression within the local underground art movement, addressing the sort of personal psychological and mental health issues not known for public discussion in Turkish society.
Crossing haunting synth sounds with guitars for some moody electronically assisted gothic rock, their outsider viewpoint is exemplified by ‘Sana Göre Bir Şey Yok’.
Meaning “Nothing For You”, it is the opening track of their recently released second album entitled ‘Hata Payı’, which translated as “Tolerance”, is a concept record of sorts dealing with the acceptance of community and oneself.
An earlier single ‘Şüphe’ takes the aural template further, adding swathes of synths to an already dense atmosphere while vocalist Kutay Soyocak gives an assured performance in Turkish that reflects the introspective nature of JAKUZI, an emotion not widely accepted within their domestic music scene.
But the long player’s best song is ‘Toz’, a number that owes more than a declaration of ‘Brotherhood’ to NEW ORDER and which despite its gloomy spectre, has an uplifting brightness penetrating through. That optimism is reflected in the accompanying video for ‘Toz’.
Set in an empty house and directed by Eli Kasavi, he explained: “It’s connected to the band’s previous video ‘Şüphe’ where the main character watched a dancing couple with a feeling of doubt. That character has left that place now and is dancing by himself.”
While ‘Gördüğüm Rüya’ does cheekily flirt with THE ROLLING STONES within its intro riff, it is with brooding melodic new wave like ‘Kalbim Köprü Gibi’ and ‘Bir Şey Olur’ that JAKUZI ply their trade, while the enjoyable synthbass heavy instrumental ‘Hâlâ Berbat’ adds another string to their bow. JAKUZI’s familiar reference points may additionally appeal to fans of THE SISTERS OF MERCY, SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES and even cult Swedish band LUSTANS LAKEJER.
Kutay Soyocak said: “I think my melancholy comes partly from where I live. This can be seen in the lyrics. I sometimes feel dark, lost and lonely as everyone. Here, the economy and politics make me feel hopeless sometimes. The future seems blurry but we try to keep our hopes high and continuing what we do.’’
As long as there has been a music business, artists and producers have been forever tinkering with their work.
While often, it’s the single version made for mass consumption through radio play that remains superior and best loved, there are occasions when the album take reigns supreme.
Often there’s a track that is the obvious standout on the long player, but sometimes it can be of a structure that is considered too long for peak time radio where instant gratification is the key. On other occasions, the vision of the track for album consumption is reconsidered following an earlier short form release produced on a more limited budget.
So as a companion list to the earlier 25 Single Versions That Are Better Than The Album Versions listings feature and restricted to one track per artist, here are The Electricity Club’s 25 Album Versions That Are Better Than The Single Versions presented in chronological and then alphabetical order…
GIORGIO From Here To Eternity (1977)
Despite being a hit single, ‘From Here To Eternity’ was actually something of a disjointed disco medley, throwing in a section of the album track ‘Utopia – Me Giorgio’ halfway through. The full six minute ‘From Here To Eternity’ from the long player of the same name was a futuristic slice of electronic dance perfection, with Giorgio Moroder steadily building on his throbbing synth backbone and layers of vocoder punctuated by the steady beats of drummer Keith Forsey.
The original Fast Product single version of ‘Being Boiled’ from 1978 had its own charm, recorded as mono demo which was subsequently released. However, having signed to Virgin Records and with a budget behind them, Messrs Marsh, Oakey and Ware took the opportunity to update their calling card with producer John Leckie for the ‘Travelogue’ album to more fully realise its funky overtones inspired by FUNKADELIC. The end result was fuller and more dynamic.
Available on THE HUMAN LEAGUE album ‘Travelogue’ via Virgin Records
‘Ghosts’ had been an unexpected singles success for JAPAN in 1982 and Virgin Records wanted more of the same with ‘Nightporter’, despite it being already two years old and with the previously unreleased song ‘Some Kind Of Fool’ in the vaults. Trimming the solemn seven minute ivory laden Satie homage was always going to be difficult and the horrific radio edit butchered out the lengthy if vital instrumental climax of melancholic Oberheim OBX strings. Less really does mean less…
The album version of ‘I Travel’ was only four minutes in the first place, yet original label Arista Records felt the need to chop the track on both single edits it released and neuter its impact. SIMPLE MINDS never fully realised their potential until they signed to Virgin Records and ‘I Travel’ heralded a futuristic art rock phase where the band’s Germanic influences, coupled to synthesized disco aesthetics of Giorgio Moroder, found favour at clubs like The Blitz.
Whether ‘Autobahn’, ‘Radio-Activity’, ‘Showroom Dummies’, ‘Trans-Europe Express’, ‘Neon Lights’ or ‘The Robots’, the sheer average length of a KRAFTWERK track made them difficult to apply to the single format and ‘Computer Love’ was no different. A beautifully melodic piece that predicted internet dating and stretched to just under seven minutes with its glorious second half synth solo in its album version, it was like the reel of the film was missing in its edited form.
A UK Top 20 single for BLANCMANGE in 1983, ‘Waves’ was remixed and given an orchestral treatment arranged by Linton Naiff, but it strangely detracted from the bare emotion of the song. Sounding like Scott Walker fronting OMD, with a more basic synthesized construction and a sombre detuned brass line allowed to breathe at the song’s conclusion, the album version sans orchestra was much better. However, the original cut has yet to be reinstated on reissues of the parent long player ‘Happy Families’.
Originally recorded for a 1980 single on Mute Records in more of a band format featuring guitar and hand-played synths, ‘Kebab Träume’ was subsequently reworked by DAF in a more superior fashion under the production supervision of the legendary Conny Plank for their third and final Virgin-era long player ‘Für Immer’. Transforming into something much heavier, the memorable if controversial line “Deutschland, Deutschland, alles ist vorbei!” had more bite on this album version also issued as a single.
Sweden’s LUSTANS LAKEJER came to international attention when their third long player ‘En Plats I Solen’ was produced by Richard Barbieri of JAPAN. With its synthesized atmospheres and art funk aspirations not that far off DURAN DURAN, ‘Läppar Tiger, Ögon Talar’ was one of the album’s highlights. But for the later single version produced by Kai Erixon, the band opted for a more laid back swing arrangement punctuated by a brass section, which frankly was not as good as the original.
The single version of ‘We Take Mystery’ which was Gary Numan’s last UK Top 10 hit was too short and the extended 12 inch version was too long, which left the album version from ‘I, Assassin’ as the best take of the song. With its crashing Linn Drum snap and fretless bass with live percussion syncopating on top, this was a dancefloor friendly excursion which concluded with a marvellous additional rhythm guitar breakdown from fretless bassist Pino Palladino.
Available on the GARY NUMAN album ‘I, Assassin’ via Beggars Banquet
Remixed by John Luongo for single release, ‘The Anvil’ ended up as a B-side but while the sound of metal-on-metal was added, it somehow had less presence than the original album version. Possessing far Teutonic tension with some superb guitar work from Midge Ure, metronomic drumming courtesy of Rusty Egan minus his hi-hats, Billy Currie’s superb screaming ARP Odyssey and Dave Formula’s brassy synth riff completed Steve Strange’s tale of debauchery for one of the best ever VISAGE tracks.
Available on the VISAGE album ‘The Anvil’ via Cherry Pop
By 1982, John Foxx has rediscovered his love of early PINK FLOYD, THE BEATLES and psychedelia which manifested itself in ‘Endlessy’. Based around a tom heavy Linn Drum programme, deep cello samples and sitars, it was an interesting if messy experimental romp. Come his third album ‘The Golden Section’ recorded under the helm of producer Zeus B Held, the new version, also released as a revisionist single, was much more focussed with an accessible uptempo electronic euphoria.
A sub-ten minute progressive epic was never going to work as an edited single and with ‘And That’s No Lie’, that’s exactly what happened. The original album version was HEAVEN 17’s ambitious adventure in sound and fusion that threw in everything from abstract sonic experiments, jazz piano, Fairlight samples, the gospel voices of ARFRODIZIAK and an orchestra, plus some excellent live bass and guitar work from John Wilson and Ray Russell respectively.
Available on the HEAVEN 17 album ‘How Men Are’ via Virgin Records
ARCADIA was Simon Le Bon, Nick Rhodes and Roger Taylor’s attempt to be JAPAN during the DURAN DURAN artistic hiatus, but many of the songs from the short-lived side project were smothered in a pond of self-indulgence. One of the highlights though was ‘The Flame’, basically ‘A View To A Kill Part 2’. However for its single release, a neo-acapella intro was applied rather than the frantic percussive beginning of the album version which robbed the song of its tension and impact.
Having got DIVINE into the UK charts, Stock Aitken & Waterman gave the same treatment to DEAD OR ALIVE, scoring a No1 with ‘You Spin Me Round’. The resultant album ‘Youthquake’ had a number of excellent tracks including ‘My Heart Goes Bang’ which was ripe single material. But the single remix by regular PWL associate Phil Harding was horrible, throwing in the kitchen sink with voice cut-ups and an overdriven rhythm section which drowned out any merits the song originally had.
Available on the DEAD OR ALIVE album ‘Youthquake’ via Sony Music
Inspired by a News Of The World headline, ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ is one of the best loved NEW ORDER tunes. The rugged self-produced original version that appeared on the ‘Brotherhood’ album was a glorious electronic number with a slight mechanical offbeat and space for Hooky’s distinctive bass. But the version released for 45 RPM consumption was a frustrating, four-to-the-floor remix by Shep Pettibone which took all the character out of the song with a barrage of overdriven percussive samples.
Available on the NEW ORDER album ‘Brotherhood’ via Warner Music
Although ‘Living In Another World’ was the best song on ‘The Colour Of Spring’, it was always going to be a tall order to successfully cut its seven minutes in half for single consumption! A fine progressive combination of synthetic strings, piano, Hammond organ, hypnotic bass, acoustic and electric guitars, percolating percussion and harmonica, the TALK TALK sound would have been nothing however without the anguished vocals of Mark Hollis and the production skills of Tim Friese-Greene.
German trio CAMOUFLAGE had a hit with ‘The Great Commandment’ all over the world including the US, with only Britain remaining ambivalent to their industrial flavoured synthpop. As with many singles of the period, it clocked in at just over three minutes but sounded rushed. Come the debut album ’Voices & Images’ and ‘The Great Commandment’ was more fully realised, allowing space to prevail in the one of the best DEPECHE MODE tracks that the Basildon boys never recorded.
Enigmatic Glaswegian trio THE BLUE NILE were never an easy sell to the wider marketplace and the Bob Clearmountain single remix of ‘Headlights On The Parade’ was hopeless, with over a third of the emotively atmospheric number absent for the sake of radio play. The centrepiece of the brilliant ‘Hats’ album, its haunting piano, swaths of synths and a collage of modulated sequences needed a full six minutes to truly convey its solemn drive and rainy cinematic melodrama.
Available on THE BLUE NILE album ‘Hats’ via Epstein Records
Subsonically remixed by Andrew Weatherall with a distinct chilled-out flavour and an additional vocal from Sacha Souter for single release, the brilliant album version of ‘Floatation’ had a more rigid KRAFTWERK feel echoing elements of ‘Tour De France’. And as the track drew towards the home straight, Julian Stringle’s clarinet brought to mind the aesthetics of Dave Ball’s previous residency in SOFT CELL. But while those woodwind textures were present in the single, they were less effective overall.
Partly inspired by a quote about Zelda Fitzgerald, novelist and wife of author F Scott Fitzgerald which stated “she refused to be bored chiefly because she wasn’t boring”, ‘Being Boring’ is one of PET SHOP BOYS’ best songs, reflecting on Neil Tennant’s youth and the loss of a friend who died of AIDS. While the single itself was almost five minutes long, the superior album version featured a fabulous intro that steadily built with a lilting synth bassline and wah-wah guitar that made the most of the song’s elegiac aura.
Available on the PET SHOP BOYS album ‘Behaviour’ via EMI Records
A tedious rockist statement by DEPECHE MODE when reworked by Butch Vig for single release, the lengthy original album version of ‘In Your Room’ was widescreen magnificence with a tense percussive drive courtesy of Alan Wilder who only played what was needed, adding a second simplistic drum passage in the final half for extra weight. A fine example of how feel is more important technique, current DM drumhead Christian Eigner managed to mess up his opportunity to shine on this during the ‘Global Spirit’ tour.
The second LADYTRON album ‘Light & Magic’ is probably best known for its lead single ‘Seventeen’, but opening its second half was the brilliantly propulsive ‘Evil’. An obvious single, when remixed by noted dance producer Ewan Pearson, it was filled out with extra string synths and made more contemporary. This lost the track its appealing spatial dynamics and grunt while the way in which the vocals of Helen Marnie were mixed more than muted her charm.
ARTHUR & MARTHA were Adam Cresswell and Alice Hubley; their debut single ‘Autovia’ was the first release on Happy Robots Records in 2008 but when it came to recording the album ‘Navigation’, the incessant Doctor Rhythm drum machine was given a more hypnotic Motorik makeover which ironically gave the track more drive. Meanwhile, there was an extended end section which allowed for some cosmic Theremin and synth wig-outs between the pair not unlike STEREOLAB meeting NEU!
Available on the ARTHUR & MARTHA album ‘Navigation’ via Happy Robots Records
From MESH’s best album ‘Automation Baby’, the wonderfully metronomic ‘Adjust Your Set’ with its personal relationship commentary in a technology dominated world was one of its many highlights. Given a more orchestrated remix by Nico Wieditz for the MaBose Radio-Edit with a much busier electronic bassline along the lines of ‘Enjoy The Silence’, while this single version had more obvious presence, it lacked the eerie cinematic Morricone-esque air of the album original.
‘Ocean’ was already dramatic perfection as the best track on the seventh GOLDFRAPP album ‘Silver Eye’, but for the single version, it was felt a contribution from a former member of the Mute family was needed. While Devotees were wetting themselves over Dave Gahan appearing on a more obviously electronic sounding track again, his faux bluesy drawl was something of a mismatch next to the breathy angelic tones of Alison Goldfrapp. Gahan may be from Essex but he was certainly no Alison Moyet.
Available on the GOLDFRAPP album ‘Silver Eye’ via Mute Artists
LUSTANS LAKEJER are the unga moderna trailblazers who were once described as Sweden’s answer to DURAN DURAN.
This was not entirely surprising with bassist Peter Bergstrandh’s rather striking resemblance to John Taylor and a song entitled ‘Rendez-Vous I Rio’, even though it was released first in 1981!
Led by Johan Kinde, the band took a more electronic direction when keyboardist Tom Wolgers joined in 1981 for their second album ‘Uppdrag I Genève’. Despite Wolgers leaving afterwards, LUSTANS LAKEJER continued their new found interest in synthesizers.
The 1982 sequencer driven reworking of their early single ‘Diamanter’ is hailed by many as a Swedish synthpop classic and the band came to international attention when their third long player ‘En Plats I Solen’ was produced by Richard Barbieri of JAPAN. The album was subsequently released in English as ‘A Place In the Sun’ in 1983, with the band changing their name to VANITY FAIR.
After two further albums ‘Lustavision’ and ‘Sinnenas Rike’, LUSTANS LAKEJER disbanded with Kinde embarking on a solo career. But the band returned with Tom Wolgers rejoining in 1999 for the album ‘Åkerberga’. They then entered Melodienfestival in 2007, competing to represent Sweden in the European Song Contest.
With LUSTANS LAKEJER to tour ‘En Plats I Solen’ later this year, Johan Kinde kindly chatted to The Electricity Club about the band’s career…
You are performing ‘En Plats I Solen’ on tour this Autumn?
Yes, that’s the plan. No dates or venues are fixed yet, but the idea is to start the tour mid-October / early November, more or less exactly 35 years since the release of the album.
Why do you see this as the LUSTANS LAKEJAR album, the one that fans and critics have the most affection for?
Well, the critics’ choice is actually usually our first album.
‘En Plats I Solen’ is our third and the fans are pretty much split between one of the three first albums. Some, quite rightly, are also very fond of our two comeback albums ‘Åkersberga’ (1999) and ‘Elixir’ (2011).
I believe, however, that those who prefer ‘En Plats I Solen’ very much do so because of the atmosphere and the sound; it was a rather big step forward compared to the two previous albums. Of course, it also has some stellar songs.
How did Richard Barbieri come to be involved in ‘En Plats I Solen’? What was the thinking behind him being the producer?
It was actually Klas Lunding, the head of our record company Stranded Rekords, who got in touch with Richard first. I actually still don’t know how that came about.
Richard was played ‘Diamanter’, the 1982 version that we had just finished; he became interested and came to Stockholm in the spring of 1982 to meet us. We all got along swimmingly and the project was given the go-ahead.
The thinking behind it was of course to give the upcoming album a better sound, one that could perhaps even work on the international stage.
Although LUSTANS LAKEJER used synths on their first two albums, was the more dynamic electronic reworking of ‘Diamanter’ the seed to the new approach on ‘En Plats I Solen’?
That’s an interesting question, and in some sense that is correct. But that single was arranged, recorded and mixed before we had any contact with Richard and therefore is rather one of a kind in our repertoire. I do wish we would have revisited that hard synth-disco-oriented sound a few more times, if not on ‘En Plats I Solen’, then shortly afterwards.
As can be heard on ‘En Främlings Ögon’ (‘Eyes Of A Stranger’) and ‘Drömmar Dör Först’ (‘Something’s Got To Give’) , JAPAN were a key influence on this album, but what other artists were you listening to at the time?
Well, I don’t think ‘Drömmar Dör Först’ (‘Something’s Got To Give’) sounds very much like JAPAN at all, that one is more an example of another influence at the time, TALKING HEADS and especially their forays into funk and black music. We were very much into the rhythmic aspect of the music.
Then there’s all sorts of influences, from chanson (or at least CHARLES AZNAVOUR) to the more obvious like early ROXY MUSIC and Berlin-era DAVID BOWIE.
With the synthesizer textures prevalent on the album, how were these being procured? Was Richard Barbieri more involved in the programming, while Janis Bokalders did the actual playing?
Yes, that is basically the way it happened. However, Janis had just bought a Roland Jupiter 8 and he was also very good at programming, and since Richard hadn’t used that particular machine before, he worked mainly on the Prophet 5.
But there were of course also a lot of cross-creativity, when Richard helped program the Jupiter 8 and Janis the Prophet 5; it was all very collaborative and non-prestigious. I believe Richard even played some parts, but I can’t remember which or indeed if he actually did anymore. The vast majority of the keyboards were definitely played by Janis, but Richard had a huge part in the soundscaping.
We also rented an Emulator, which they both experimented with. Lastly, Janis actually owned a EMS VCS3 which he used on some tracks without the keyboard, something he also does on the solo on ‘Diamanter.’
‘Den Glöd Som Aldrig Dör’ (‘Whispers In the Dark’) contained one of the first uses of an Emulator on a pop record; was utilising the state of the art technology an important aspect in the band’s direction?
The Emulator features prominently on both ‘Den Glöd Som Aldrig Dör’ (‘Whispers In The Dark’) and – perhaps even more – on ‘Något Måste Brista’ (‘In Spite Of It All’). And yes, we did like to experiment with new technology, but not for the sake of it, we always wanted to get something creatively interesting out of the new instruments. In the case of the Emulator, I think we only partly managed to do that.
What was it like to have the late Mick Karn contributing sax to three of the tracks on ‘En Plats I Solen’?
Absolutely fantastic. Mick flew in from LA so he had a great tan, a crisp suit and just looked like a pop star – or perhaps rather a movie star – in every possible way. He was so kind and helpful and came up with some great ideas and performances for the saxophone parts.
He was also very entertaining and told some lovely stories from his youth. Even though he was only in Stockholm for about a weekend, I remember those few days with much joy. I was very sad to hear of his illness and subsequent passing.
Which tracks on ‘En Plats I Solen’ were the favourite ones for you and why?
I would count these as my favourites: ‘En Kyss För Varje Tår’ (‘A Kiss For Every Tear’), ‘En Främlings Ögon’ (‘Eyes Of A Stranger’), ‘Läppar Tiger, Ögon Talar’ (‘Lips Are Silent’) and ‘Drömmar Dör Först’ (‘Something’s Got To Give’), together with ‘Vackra Djur’ (‘Just As Wild’).
Some of them because I like the songwriting aspect of them, I think they are melodically and harmonically good compositions, others because of the arrangements and how the band actually sound when playing them. I also think Janis’ instrumental title track, ‘En Plats I Solen’ (‘A place In The Sun’) is a wonderful piece of music.
The album was later released in English as ‘A Place In The Sun’ and the band changed their name to VANITY FAIR, had this always been part of the game plan?
The English version was actually recorded first, in the summer of 1982 when Richard was in Stockholm.
The lyrics for the Swedish version were recorded in separate sessions in the early fall of ‘82. So in a way we did have a game plan, in the sense that we wanted the album to be released internationally.
The name VANITY FAIR, however, was something we came up with at the last moment before the actual release. We weren’t that happy with the name then and I’m not that happy with it now… 😉
The verbatim translation of LUSTANS LAKEJER is ‘The Lackeys of Lust’ or maybe ‘The Slaves of Lust’, but this didn’t sound right in English so we never really got it right. Unfortunately THE LOUNGE LIZARDS was already taken by another band… 😉
How did you find writing lyrics in English? Did your approach to subjects change and did you eventually find yourself starting to dream in English?
No, the subject matter was similar to the first two albums. Perhaps this one is even more centred around love and particularly the loss of it, but that had more to do with private circumstances than a change in language.
I usually start a new lyric with a title that inspires me and working in a new language, I found this approach even more stimulating. With a new language, there was a fresh feeling about a lot of the title and lyric ideas.
About the dreams – it’s quite some time ago, but I’ve written quite a few songs in English since then and I’m quite certain that I rarely or never dream in English. However, because I read so much English, even news, and watch so many Anglo-American TV series and movies, I do sometimes have a hard time to find the correct Swedish synonym for certain words. Several English alternatives are popping up in my head, but the right Swedish one seems to elude me. Very annoying…
Of course, the music industry was different back then. But do you think in hindsight it might have been better to keep the LUSTANS LAKEJER name for ‘A Place In The Sun’ to utilise the press momentum that had been gained from Richard Barbieri being the producer?
Well, we kept the name in Sweden and all the Scandinavian /Nordic countries. As I explained earlier, we all (including several record companies) believed that LUSTANS LAKEJER would be to strange a band name for the international market. It does not make any sense if you don’t understand the meaning of the words.
Two of the original Richard Barbieri produced tracks were dropped for the VANITY FAIR version of the album and the running order was altered, why was this?
We recorded a single version of ‘Lips Are Silent’ (‘Läppar Tiger, Ögon Talar’) which we at that time felt very happy with, and decided to put it on the English album. However, when we play the song live nowadays, we play the original version.
The reason to swap ‘Could You Be The One’ (Räddaren I Nöden’) for ‘The Texture of Her Skin’ (the B-side of ‘En Främlings Ögon’, no Swedish version of this song exists…) was that we felt that it would make the album a bit more energetic. This was also the reasoning behind the altered running order – instead of having the two tracks that became singles as song number 1 and 2 on Side 1, we let them open each side of the album. So it was really more a case of trying to find a better balance for the album, than anything else.
LUSTANS LAKEJER have had a fluid line-up with you as the constant over the years, what would you say are the advantages and disadvantages?
Well, the advantage is that I have had the opportunities to work with different musicians during the years, but that can also be a disadvantage. It’s easy to make good-sounding but less interesting albums when you can bring anybody in to play on them.
Looking back, I wish I never disbanded the group after ‘A Place In The Sun’. We had something special together and could have gone on making extraordinary music, at least through the 80s.
What inspired your return as LUSTANS LAKEJER for 1999’s ‘Åkersberga’ album?
The two LUSTANS LAKEJER albums after ‘A Place In The Sun’ and my first two solo albums ‘Johan Kinde’ (1989) and ‘Valona’ (1990) had some great songs, really nice compositions, but lacked the originality of the first three albums.
I wanted to get back to that mood, that style, without compromising the quality of the songs. And I think the producer Jan Lundkvist (who basically plays all the instruments) and I managed to do that very well, with of course some participation from Tom Wolgers, who played keyboards on the second LUSTANS LAKEJER album ‘Uppdrag I Genève’.
‘Cynisk’ is a moody triumph. How had your headspace changed musically by this time?
Thank you, it’s one of my own favourites from the album. Musically, I think it’s inspired by very disparate artists, as varied as BARRY WHITE – the chord structure has a lot of minor 9s in the verses –– and DEPECHE MODE with the bass synth arrangement in the chorus.
While DEPECHE MODE might be a rather obvious influence, BARRY WHITE is an example of how my musical tastes had expanded by that time and how I now could use these more complex tastes to influence me, but not overwhelm me. I mean, I’m not trying to sound like BARRY WHITE, I just liked that chords and made something quite different out of it.
With ‘Allt Vi En Gång Trodde På’, LUSTANS LAKEJER entered Melodifestivalen in 2007 which is Sweden’s national selection procedure for the Eurovision Song Contest. How did you find the experience?
Well, it was an interesting experience, even though perhaps not gratifying in the end. Looking back I feel we should’ve had a more synth-driven song, or at least done the song in a crisper, more synth-driven arrangement.
In Scandinavia, they take this event more seriously than in the United Kingdom and for example, an act like RAIN TREE CROW or THE DOLPHIN BROTHERS would never enter it. What are your thoughts on this?
I think it used to boils down to the fact that ABBA made their breakthrough in Eurovision in 1974. That was basically the first Swedish act ever to make it big (or at least that big) on the international stage. In England, it was never that important, you were almost automatically an international star if you became popular domestically.
And even if it would have been a big thing in the UK, I don’t think those kind of artists like RAIN TREE CROW or THE DOLPHIN BROTHERS would fit the bill. Now, PET SHOP BOYS, THE HUMAN LEAGUE or DURAN DURAN – that’s another matter, they could’ve done it! 😉
The most recent LUSTANS LAKEJAR album was ‘Elixir’ in 2011, how do you find the music industry today with Spotify and social media? How has it worked for you as a veteran artist compared with the past?
No matter if you’re a veteran artist or a newcomer, it’s much much harder to get paid for recorded music today. That being said, I hope that one day soon Spotify and other streaming services will be able to pay a fair royalty to artists and composers because it’s far better than illegal downloading, and I think there’s no turning back to physical copies. I say this somewhat sadly, of course, because I love good album covers…
What’s next for you as LUSTANS LAKEJER after touring ‘En Plats I Solen’?
Well, we’re still touring with ‘Uppdrag I Genève’ and are still working on the venues and exact line-up of the band for the ‘En Plats I Solen’ tour in the Autumn / Winter of 2017, so that will possibly take us into 2018. I hope to get back to you with some exciting news about that soon!
I do have some new songs that I’ve been thinking about recording with the band, but this is just an idea at this point.
The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Johan Kinde