Trying to explore Kebnekajse, part one:
When this album from 1971 is reissued and some of you hear it for the first time and others will hear it again after 30(!) years, there will be a lot of wide open ears. But did Kebnekajse really sound like this? Yes, Kebnekajse sounded like this – also.
On their first album – with the perfect title – ”A Journey to destination unknown” – they still have not discovered the Swedish folk melodies but are a loud and hard Swedish rock band. A few references could be Cream (England), Mountain (USA), November (Sweden) and even Jimi Hendrix (both US and England).
British hardrock, psychedelic influences from the American west coast and Swedish lyrics – but it is not just the lyrics that make Kebnekajse’s rock music sound ”Swedish”. There is, mainly in Kenny Håkansson’s way of handling his guitar, something else, something unspecified, a tone, a mood that my ears not quite can capture, something Swedish or Nordic.
”We did not play blues notes”, says Kenny.
It must have been that thing I heard – or not heard: a space which was emptied and filled with something else and something new. Kebnekajse did not play electric blues. Strangely enough the rockmusic Kebnekajse played did not have its roots in the afro American music but was rather torn up by its roots and then replanted into the Swedish soil – just to see if it could grow and flourish here in Sweden.
But I had already heard this for a long time both in Mecki Mark Men and Baby Grand Mothers. As time goes I can even imagine that I heard it or sensed this Swedish tone even in T-Bones, at least in the way Kenny played his guitar.
To say that Kenny was the brain, the heart and soul of Kebnekajse is of course very rude. There is not much left for the other musicians.
But in a way it is true.
When Kebnekjse was doubled in 1972 and was growing to the double size of a group and started to play Swedish electric folk rock, all musicians were not on stage or even present at the concerts. But the audience never questioned that it was Kebnekajse playing. Did Kenny ever fail to show up? I can hardly imagine – without Kenny – no Kebnekajse. (In 1978, before the group completely dissolved, a last album was released ”We are moving on”, where Kenny had left the group. The name is still Kebnekajse – but hardly the music.)
Wake me in the middle of the night, play a tape with a handful of tones from, lets say, from ten guitarists and I can pick out Kenny. At once!
I heard Kenny Håkansson for the first time in 1964-65 when he was playing in the pop band T-Bones at the Liverpool Club, a barge at Norr Mälarstrand in Stockholm. The music has changed and developed but it is the same Kenny Håkansson that I have heard through the 70-, 80-, 90-ies and into 2000.
Kenny’s guitar tone is none but Kenny’s; quiet, almost shy, warm and soft, also at times when he played really loud his tone was quiet in the meaning of soft and melancholy. (Kenny’s mother was born in Hälsingland”, tells Pelle Lindström, who becomes an ordinary member on the next Kebnekajse album. But Kenny denies that the folk musical Swedish sound is a heritage from his mother.)
”Here starts the journey to destination unknown….” sings Kenny in the title track. But the musical journey started before Kebnekajse’s debut album. There is a musical history before Kebnekajse which is both important and interesting.
T-Bones, where Kenny and also Pelle Ekman, drums, were members, got there inspiration from blues records and made their own songs – note the following words – in some kind of blues style. T-Bones did not try to imitate nor black American blues bands neither English blues bands but played it as if blues was a musical form invented in Stockholm, Sweden. Sometimes the band (vocals, guitars, bass, drums, harmonica and maracas) was visited by saxophone players.
Then Kenny had to do his military service. Pelle Ekman and Göran Malmberg, bass, from T-Bones started a strange experimental group where the music could take of in any direction, pop, jazz, blues – with among others Slim Notini, piano, Guy Öhrström, guitar, Bill Öhrström, harmonica/congas and Göran Ramberg, saxophone. Kenny joined when he was on leave from the military. The group, who probably did not have a name but was called (extended) T-Bones and Slim Notini’s Group, played in 1966-67 in Harlem at Nalen, Stockholm. The same musicians, except Kenny are also backing up for Linkin’ Louisiana Peps on his debut album (1968).
After Kenny got back from the military T-Bones were rearranged to a trio with Kenny, Pelle and Göran. BIG loudspeakers and LOUD volume, and sounded no more or no less than a Swedish version of Cream. And now a rather shy Kenny Håkansson was persuaded to take the microphone, he had never sung before.
The fall of 1967 – when Bella “Ferlin” Linnarsson had taken Göran Malmberg’s place as the bass player, the name was changed into Baby Grand Mothers and the group started to play at the psychedelic club Filips in Stockholm – the music went on developing, in length, depth and even height. Mostly it was jam sessions; large improvised psychedelic chunks that could be endlessly long. Baby Grand Mothers also supported Jimi Hendrix in Sweden early 1968.
When mentioning Filips it is time to let Anders Lind into the history. Anders was a DJ at the club. He was also interested in recording and had done some live recordings with Hansson & Karlsson. He has recordings from Filips with among others Baby Grand Mothers and Jimmy Carl Black from Mothers of Invention as an extra drummer. Anders Lind should a little later be one of the persons who started Silence Records and became their in-house engineer.
The rock group Mecki Mark Men were also playing at Filips, lead by organist/singer Mecki Bodemark. When the musical ”Hair” was put up in Stockholm in the fall 1969, Kenny, Pelle, Bella and Mecki were hired as the orchestra.
After the musical the four musicians formed a new edition of Mecki Mark Men, which in the fall of 1969 worked as a group in the production of ”Resan” by Lars Johan Werle (where also jazz saxophone player Tommy Koverhult were playing). Mecki Mark Men also made a notorious tour in USA where they played at rock festivals headlined by The Byrds, Sly & The family Stone and Paul Butterfield. Their visa was valid for six weeks but they stayed for three months.. They were stuck in the hotel, which they could not pay. To get money to pay their depts they recorded an album, which their manager succeeded to sell. (Later, back home again, it was released the Swedish company Sonet.)
In 1971 Mecki and the other three went different ways. A new guitarist, Rolf Scherrer joined and they changed the name again – into Kebnekajse alternatively Kebnekaise (more about that later).
Every new group or change of members was a station on the journey with destination unknown. All the time it was all about stretching the musical borders and broadening the ways of expression.
The first edition of Kebnekajse can be described as a Swedish version of Baby Grand Mothers. Kenny had started to make more structural songs with lyrics in Swedish. ” Sometimes there is just something in the air”, he says hinting at both the lyrics (after Pugh, Hawkey Franzén and the Gärdetsfest (Sweden’s kind of Woodstock) it had become natural to use the Swedish as a pop- and rock language) and the name of the group.
Kenny named the group. Where did he get the name? Maybe he was inspired by the group Mountain, but he does not know. Kebnekajse is ”the highest in Sweden and we used to play pretty loud” (high volume). (Later some people thought that Kebnekajse hinted another meaning of the word high.)
Myself, who is ridiculously fond of trivialities and paltriness, cannot stop wondering how the name of the group really should be spelled. The group itself does not seam to know. ” Yeah?” says Kenny. ”I have always spelt it with a j. It looks nicer that way.” But the mountain from which the name is taken is spelled with an i.
By the way, do you think that the sound on ”Resa mot okänt mål” is unusually great for the time being (1971)?
It is because Anders Lind, who recorded, for the first time had an equalizer to work with. Before that he had only been able to change the bass or the treble, but now he could work with the middle range. The recordings were made on seven of the tape recorder’s eight tracks. When the recording was done every instrument was treated each and every one with the equalizer and moved to a free track.
”That was real fun”, says Anders. ” A hell of an improvement. It was above all the sound of the guitars that was dramatically changed.”
The text is a mixture of what his own eyes and ears remembers from the time and conversations with the members of Kebnekajse and other hear sayings. The text will continue in the booklet for the next Kebnekajse album – The blue one.
The members around the time for the first album ”Resa mot okänt mål”:
Kenny Håkansson, electric guitar and vocals. Earlier T-Bones, Baby Grand Mothers and Mecki Matk Men. In the early seventies he was often hired as a session musician on recordings with Björn J:son Lindh, Bo Hansson, Cornelis Vreeswijk, Pugh Rogefeldt, John Holm, Bernt Staf and Turid.
Pelle Ekman, drums, played with Kenny in T-Bones, Baby Grand Mothers and Mecki Mark Men.
Bella Ferlin/Fehrlin, electric bass, is really named Bengt Linnarsson (he got the nickname because he wrote poetry). Before Baby Grand Mothers and Mecki Mark Men he played with The Bell Boys and Gå Runt Show (Go Around Show) and was also session musician on recordings with Mikael Ramel and Hawkey Franzén and others. Left Kebnekajse before the next album was recorded and started to play with Opus 3, who accompanied Lill Lindfors and Lasse Berghagen.
Rolf Scherrer, electric guitar, used to be a singer in the rock band Steampacket before he joined Kebnekajse.
Göran Lagerberg, electric bass, joined Kebnekajse in between this album and the next. He used to play with Tages, Blond and Heta Linjen (more about Lagerberg on the next, and ”blue” Cd with Kebnekajse).
The group Homo Sapiens ( Pelle Lindström, Thomas Netzler, Mats Glenngård and Gunnar Andersson), who were about to become members of Kebnekajse in connection with the change of repertoire into Swedish folk tunes, is the choir on ”Resa mot okänt mål”.
Turid Lundquist, song poet, hung around Homo Sapiens and for a while they were thinking of starting a Swedish version of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young ” with a girl in the midst of it”. Instead Turid followed Homo Sapiens to Kebnekajse (also more about that on the next CD).