Five of the greatest rock and roll icons from the 1960s and 70s are still recording today. How did these cornerstones of popular music influence Danish icons? 

 
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Words by Ronnie Rocket
Illustrations by Olimpia Zagnoli Typography by Rasmus Kristiansen

Five GREAT DANES REFLECT ON Five GREAT MASTERS

Five of the greatest rock 'n' roll icons from the 1960s and 70s are still recording today. How
did these cornerstones of popular music influence Danish icons? In a new series, we hook up with
local contemporary recording artists and listen to their stories about the great masters and their
powerful impact.

 

David Bowie

by Jens Unmack of Love Shop

The first time Danish singer-songwriter Jens Unmack heard David Bowie was as a teenager in the seventies, when his sister played a chart show she had recorded from the radio on her Beocord reel-to-reel player.
“Didn’t know what time it was and the lights were low / I leaned back on my radio / Some cat was layin’ down some rock ‘n’ roll ‘lotta soul / he said.” The sounds of Starman would be the beginning of a long-running relationship with the music of David Bowie for the young boy. “We were listening to The Sweet and Slade, and then comes this red-haired guy in women’s clothes, and we were thinking: “what is that?”
Reading the teen magazines at the time about Bowie and the glam-rock scene, Jens would continue to follow the music of David Bowie for decades.
“He introduced modernism to rock & roll,” Jens elaborates,” he approached pop music as a science, researching the materials in a laboratory, and took the classic love songs into the art world. And without Bowie, there would be no punk rock. He was the foundation for that movement and an inspiration for a generation.”Jens’ favourite Bowie song is the classic generation noir anthem Heroes. “This song is like no other. It is a new form of pop song without the classic structure.” It stands alone.

“I, I will be king / And you, you will be queen / Though nothing will drive them away / We can beat them, just for one day / We can be Heroes, just for one day.” When David Bowie returned with Where Are We Now and The Next Day in 2013, it was not only a return to form, but also yet another chameleonic version of the artist with many personalities. It was a man who had aged with grace, and taken on the role of an ageing pop star very differently to, say, the Rolling Stones. “He had processed himself, not only literally on the cover, but also in the music and the lyrics.”


“Where are we now, where are we now? / The moment you know, you know, you know.” Jens vividly remembers the first time he saw David Bowie on stage. It was the Serious Moonlight tour in 1983 in an amphitheatre in the small German town Bad Segeberg, where a bus full of punks from Copenhagen had taken the trip to see their hero as a pilgrimage as the generation before them had done with Bob Dylan. “He came down a cliff onto the stage wearing his eighties pastel jacket. It was a magical moment,” Jens recalls.
In his own music, the song Scandinavian Lust has obvious references to Bowie. “This movie will be mine / beautiful as West Berlin / like the speed of light / like the playground of adults / you are so young in your passport.”


The lyrics and the song comes out as an ode to life itself and life in Berlin especially.

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The Rolling Stones

By Johan Wohlert of Mew

 

The Rolling Stones recently announced their first major exhibition project with a retrospective of memorabilia from their long - the longest? - history making career in the world of rock & roll music.

Since the band’s first album was released 50 years ago (featuring just one song penned by the Mick Jagger/Keith Richards songwriting team), generation after generation have logged on to the crazy circus that is the Rolling Stones, including not only great music, but also an attitude to life itself.

One of their younger fans is Johan Wohlert, bass player in the symphonic rock ensemble Mew. “My then girlfriend introduced me to the Stones. I was always a “Beatles man,” but she showed me that the Stones were “badder”, cooler and they got that swing?? Holy moly!” exclaims Johan as he tells of the massive influence of the British band. “They were rebels in their time, completely wild and unpredictable. They taught people to be free, to do what they wanted.”

The Stones were the bad boys of their time and if you asked people in the sixties who would still be around in 2015, most people would probably have answered the Beatles and not the Stones, who managed to survive the death of band members, drug abuse, scandals en masse and worse than that.

They are still writing songs, they are still recording and they are still touring. So is Johan, who shares his favourite lyrics and song. “Wild Horses has such pretty lyrics and a great tune! I love Paint It Black as well. That song has such a unique vibe.” The song treasure from the sixties and the seventies still inspires to this day. The question is whether the world will ever see the likes of Lennon/McCartney and Jagger/Richards again or whether they will remain the centrepieces of pop music.

The Rolling Stones recently finished their 15-leg North American tour with the final concert in Quebec, Canada, on 15th July. Hopefully, they will embark on yet another world tour in the future. “I have never seen the Stones live, unfortunately; something always gets in the way,” Johan reveals, and shares his favourite period. “I prefer the live stuff from around 1972; that’s when they looked and sounded the coolest; Keith was completely off his socks at the time!”

When asked about the inspiration from the Stones in his own music with Mew, Johan is a little reserved, but also offers some good advice to other bands. “It’s hard to say, but I was always a firm believer in not stealing from your heroes. It’s like if you play in a heavy metal band, get your inspiration from folk music or electronic music, don’t just rip off Metallica, you know what I mean?”

Bob Dylan

By Steen Jørgensen of Sort Sol

 

The first time Danish rock singer Steen Jørgensen heard Bob Dylan and got the wow effect of his music, he did not believe it was actually Bob Dylan. They played Lay Lady Lay on the radio, and he was perplexed that it was the same singer who sang Like A Rolling Stone and Blowin’ In The Wind, whose voice came out the Beovox speaker.

The surprisingly pop-oriented song would open the world of Bob Dylan to a young boy that decades later, would be standing in the legendary Abbey Road Studios in London, recording his own rendition of the classic pop song originally included on the Nashville Skyline album, for his debut solo album.

“That song was the first one that really meant something to me. Later, I discovered the albums Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid and Blood On The Tracks; they were real eye openers for me. Also, the recordings with the Band from the tour in 1974 made a big impression on me,” Steen says. “I think the biggest influence of Bob Dylan has been the way he expanded the concept of songwriting. He changed that forever, especially with his lyrics.”

“Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts from Blood On The Tracks is probably my favourite song. The almost nine-minute complex song is almost like watching a Western movie,” Steen adds, and continues: “One of my favourite songs is Love Sick from Time Out Of Mind. It is such a great love song, and I love the ending, where he sings about being sick of love and sick for love at the same time.”

The album Time Out of Mind (sometimes called the “greatest third act in rock & roll history”) was the second Bob Dylan album produced by Daniel Lanois. Though artistically extremely successful, including winning a Grammy, Dylan has since produced all his albums by himself under the pseudonym Jack Frost, thus ending the relationship with outside producers. 

The album was followed by Love & Theft, Modern Times, and Tempest, all with Dylan in top form and sometimes accompanied by guitarist Charlie Sexton, who is also a part of the “Never Ending Tour” band. 

“I also quite like the Christmas album,” Steen proclaims, “and I think he did a pretty good job with the new Frank Sinatra record, too. He can get away with anything.”

Steen shares an interesting story about how he got to see Bob Dylan live for the first time. “Jesper Reisinger (notorious music buff and record collector) called me up and said he had a ticket for the Dylan concert the same night, but that he did not feel like going himself. I grabbed the ticket, and my first live encounter with Dylan became a performance in Copenhagen, where he mostly played songs from the album Saved and spirituals. It was his so-called Christian period. The only classic Dylan song he played that night was It Ain’t Me Babe.

“All writers have nicked a line or two from Dylan’s lyrics,” Steen confesses, “and you try to do the best you can with it, knowing that you will never reach the level of the master.”

Above: Jens Unmack

Get an introduction Love Shop to with three key songs: En Nat Bliver Det Sommer, Copenhagen Dreaming, Skandinavisk Lyst.

Jens Unmack just finished a summer tour with his band Love Shop. Their latest release is Kærlighed og Strafe (“Love and Punishment”):

 www.jensunmack.dk

The popular “David Bowie...Is” touring exhibition that has been on display in London, Berlin, Paris and Chicago is currently on show in Melbourne, Australia: www.davidbowie.com

 

Johan Wohlert

Get an introduction to Mew with three key songs: Comforting Sounds, Special, Satellites.

 

Mew is a Danish “indie stadium symphonic rock band”. They recently released their latest album

“+i” and are currently on world tour: 

www.mewsite.com

 

The Rolling Stones recently re-released their classic album Sticky Fingers and are preparing their first major exhibition in London in 2015: 

www.rollingstones.com

Steen Jørgensen

Get an introduction to Sort Sol with three key songs: Television Sect, Marble Station, Let Your Fingers Do The Walking.

 

Steen Jørgensen is a founding member and lead vocalist in the first Danish punk rock band, Sort Sol, and is currently recording and touring as a solo artist.

 

Bob Dylan is always on tour and recently released an album of Frank Sinatra ballads.

 www.bobdylan.com

 

Stevie Wonder

By Thomas Troelsen

 

It wasn’t when I Just Called To Say I Love You or Happy Birthday blasted out of the family Beomaster that Danish superstar producer Thomas Troelsen discovered the genius of Stevie Wonder. It was when he, later, as a teenage record collector, dug into the Motown period of ‘Little’ Stevie Wonder that the young budding studio wiz recognised the talent of the soul music giant.

“I was probably around 13 when I heard his music first, but it wasn’t until I was around 15 or 16, when I went on a Motown binge, that I really got into his music. I regularly went dancing at a local club that played soul music,” Thomas recollects. “I think the biggest influence of Stevie Wonder is his vocals, his unique voice. So many artists have been inspired by that throughout the years, including contemporary artists like Usher and The Weeknd. Whenever there is a tribute project, everybody lines up to participate. Still, I don’t think he really gets the respect he deserves. Without him, there would be no Pharrell Williams.”

Thomas’s favourite Wonder song is the 1966 hit single Uptight, which was the first song that the Motown artist co–wrote. The song lyrics depicts a poor young man’s appreciation for a rich girl seeing beyond his poverty to his true worth. Another favourite is the 1970 smash hit Signed, Sealed & Delivered I’m Yours, which was the first song that Stevie Wonder produced himself.

“Like a fool I went and stayed too long / Now I’m wondering if your love’s still strong / Oo baby, here I am, signed / Sealed, delivered, I’m yours”. “I love that song. The choice of words. It is such as perfect pop song and really well produced,” Thomas continues. 

“I never experienced Stevie Wonder live. As as studio pro, I really prefer the well-crafted versions created in the studios, where I can appreciate the meticulous details of putting together a pop song.” Not really a fan of live recordings, Thomas owns only three of them in his otherwise huge record collection: Deep Purple’s Live In Tokyo, Queen’s Live At Wembley and the Cure’s (Live In) Paris. The Danish pop blacksmith knows not only his soul music but also his rock & roll. 

Incidentally, Stevie Wonder was scheduled to appear alongside Deep Purple and Queen at Live Aid, but did not attend since he took sides with Michael Jackson who tried to boycott the event, according to Joan Baez. Also, Ritchie Blackmore from Deep Purple refused to perform at the event. 

When asked about the influence of Stevie Wonder in his own music, Thomas quickly responds with two answers. “Move Your Feet!”, the monster hit single he produced in 2002 as a lead vocalist with Junior Senior, nods back to his Tamla Motown affinity from his teens. Curiously, Thomas also mentions the 1998 Superheroes single See You At The Railroads as Motown inspired. However, when you hear the song again, you can feel an almost subliminal tribute to Stevie Wonder, including the spooky synthesizer solo. There is no harmonica, though, only the search for the perfect pop song.

Brian Wilson

By Sune Rose Wagner of the Raveonettes

 

“I thought it would be interesting to take some of my beachside experiences and turn them into something that was a little bit the opposite of what the Beach Boys would have done,” Sune Rose Wagner of the Raveonettes said in an interview last year about their latest album Pe’ahi. So he kept his distance and resolved to make a Ventures–twangy recording, but with a dark, catacomb-creepy twist. 

    The Raveonettes have often been compared to the evil children of Brian Wilson, and their fuzzy surf rock sounds like it was recorded with Phil Spector during his time in jail, weird hairdo and all. When asked about the influence of the Beach Boys, Sune shrugs it off with no wow moment, but with a respectful fascination of the early sides such as Surfin USA.

“I really like some of the early classic recordings like Surfer Girl and In My Room, where you can hear the enormous potential of the band. The song writing and the production and the reinvention of vocal harmonies (Brian Wilson wrote, sang and produced both songs) changed pop music forever,” says Sune. “They took doo-wop and experimented and innovated with the human voice as an instrument, to make something completely new.”

Rubber Soul inspired Pet Sounds, which inspired Sgt. Pepper’s and that inspired me to make Smile,” Brian Wilson said in an interview about the so-called rivalry between the Beach Boys and the Beatles. “Pet Sounds is obviously a classic album, and God Only Knows is the perfect pop song. Great lyrics, great song, great production,” Sune expands, “but I still think the early surf things are my personal favourites.”

Sune has never seen Brian Wilson or the Beach Boys perform live in concert, but enjoys watching the live clips on YouTube. “There is some amazing footage of them from TV shows in the sixties and seventies.” You can also find clips with Brian Wilson on the Dave Letterman show in 1988 and 1995. Incidentally, Sune and the Raveonettes were musical guests on the legendary talk show a record three times! When asked about which of his many songs - the Raveonettes have released eight albums and a handful of EPs - was inspired the most by Brian Wilson, it doesn’t take him long to figure out which one. 

“I think Seductress of Bums from the Pretty In Black album released in 2005 probably is the song that owes most to Brian Wilson. The fascination with danger, the experimentation and the style are in there”.

Thomas Troelsen

Get an introduction to Thomas Troelsen with three key songs by three different bands: So Far/Langt fra Las Vegas Theme (by Superheroes), Move Your Feet (by Junior Senior), My Secret Lover (by We Are Private)

 

He is currently producing and writing for artists like Chic, Chris Brown, David Guetta and Missy Elliott. 

 

Stevie Wonder released his latest album back in 2005, but is still touring: 

www.steviewonder.net

 

 

Sune Rose Wagner

Get an introduction to the Raveonettes with three key songs: That Great Love Sound, Love In A Trashcan, She Owns The Streets.

 

The Raveonettes latest album is Pe’ahi and they are doing occasional festival gigs this

fall. 

www.theraveonettes.com

 

Brian Wilson's latest album is No Pier Pressure and there is a new biopic, Love & Mercy, based on his life, featuring John Cusack, out now in selected theatres.

www.brianwilson.com

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