CONFESSIONS OF A TEENAGE MOP-TOP
by Patrick The Lama
Memories of the 1980s garage scene in
(previously published in Misty Lane magazine #18)
This story, like any good garage story, begins at a high school dance. The year was 1984, late, and like most 17-year old suburban kids in Stockholm at the time my main idea for the dance was to A) get really drunk, and B) hopefully to score. Being young and stupid, I didn’t realize the impossible nature of this equation, and thus stumbled around in the dark halls of the school cafeteria where the dance was held, looking for chicks I knew or better yet, that I didn’t know. There weren’t many of either kind, and the whole dance was a drag, really – not even a good fight outside like there had been before on occasions. The only way to avoid getting depressed was to get even more drunk, which I intended to as soon as I could find my buddies.
Somewhere near the inside of the entrance my eyes fell upon something strange and alien to this Duran Duran-laden teen dance – three guys I had never seen before, dressed up in a way I had never seen before. I could hardly believe it. They looked like they’d stepped out of a time machine from Sunset Strip 1966 – and this was something I recognized, having immersed myself in the coolness of the first Love LP cover, and listening a lot to the “Nuggets” 2 LP set I’d bought earlier in the year. Messed up as I was, I had at least figured out that obscure 1960s music was the way to go.
While I had no idea who these guys were, or how they ended up in this suburban scene far away from anything related to hipness, I walked up to them in my “Revenge of the nerds” fashion statement and asked what I thought was a clever question:
- Do you guys like the Electric Prunes?
Two of them looked me up and down a bit, but the third one smiled and burst out:
- Yeah! Far out!
The friendly guy was Jens Lindberg, and his two sullen pals were Peter “Basse” Maniette and Mans P Manson of the Crimson Shadows, and after I met them my life took a turn into something new and wonderful that I’m still living in, 20 years on.
I spent the rest of that night talking to the trio, and of course they were there to get drunk and/or score chicks too and weren’t really that interested, but I insisted they pay attention as I had never met guys who not only knew who Sky Saxon was, but actually looked like Sky Saxon. I went out and fetched my only other high school buddy that was along for the 1960s music trip, Mats Kempe – later of the Highspeed V – and his eyes nearly popped out of their sockets when he saw the Crimson trio sitting there. As it turned out they knew another guy, an ex-mod, who went to the same school as us, and so the connection was established. Via this connection Mats and I eagerly jumped into what was then an embryonic stage of the Stockholm garage, or neo-garage, scene.
I didn’t know it at the time, but the
Crimson Shadows had formed only a few months earlier, and had barely begun
playing out. Shortly after our first encounter, sometime around Christmas 1984,
me and Mats and the ex-mod guy, Henrik Orrje, took a train ride to a suburb on
the other side of Stockholm to see the band play at a youth center. I knew I
couldn’t come in there looking like Michael J Fox again, so the day before the
concert I plowed through my parent’s boxes of old clothes, hoping to find
something that was left from the 60s. I threw together some items, a supposedly
“mod” jacket, a black polo shirt, a scarf like they wore on the first Pink
Floyd album cover, and a pair of black jeans that I thought were neutral enough.
The only shoes I could find were a thin pair reserved for formal occasions, and
I went with those even though it was freezing and thick with snow outside. The
final detail was the hairdo: I combed down my $5 blowdried center-part so that
it fell into my eyes, then took a pair of scissors and cut the rest from 1984
back into, hopefully, 1966.
The Spring that followed was one of the great periods of my life. It was
the last semester of high school, and the pressure was coming off. Mats and I
roamed through second hand stores for old 60s clothes, and it only took us a
few months for a complete transformation into a reasonable imitation of a
vintage Tages album cover photo. There were comments from the classroom
squares, of course, but since our neo-moptop look was unheard of, people
couldn’t make heads or tails of us. If we weren’t mods, then what the hell was
The pieces of the puzzle were coming together fast, almost like a plan.
One day I spotted a small ad in a music mag – a guy in Stockholm who had “60s
garage fanzines” for sale. I didn’t know what that was, but it sounded
promising. We decided to meet at a record fair the coming weekend. I stood
there in my retro garb expecting to see someone similar, and it took a while
before I realized that the rather timid-looking guy across the room was in fact
the zine dealer. This was my first encounter with Gunnar "El Santo" Johansson, who would
play an important part in the Stockholm garage scene. He was a few years older
than us, had been into 1950s-60s stuff a long time, and knew a lot of the key
players in the US.
I loved 99th Floor because Ron Rimsite was a good writer, and it contained one of the greatest interviews of all time, with Craig Moore of Gonn. Since Ron was interested in the new garage scene I wrote him a fan letter and told him the little I knew about the Swedish bands at the time. I received a cool letter from Ron, who wanted to know more and get some pictures. There was some coverage of the Swedish bands in the next issue. As time passed however, it was Kicks that started working its magic on me. I had only heard a handful of the 60s bands and 50s guys chronicled in there but it didn’t matter because the vibe of the zine was so incredibly cool and Billy Miller was such a brilliant writer; it seemed like the ultimate incarnation of everything that was great about America. As I talked with the other moptop guys, it was apparent that they were all into these same magazines. We took a lot of attitude and orientation from the American zine writers, in addition to Tim Warren’s fiery, dogmatic liner notes to “Back From The Grave”. It had to come from the US for us to care, because that’s where the music originally came from, and the cool B-movies, and vintage pop culture as a whole. We didn’t care much about what came from England, or the rest of Europe.
The pieces of the puzzle were coming together fast. Sometime later that
same Spring I walked into one of the few hip record stores at the time,
Vinylmania. I picked up Rhino’s new Music Machine compilation, as I had just
read Mike Stax’ great piece on them in Ugly Things. I walked over to the
counter and handed it to the guy who was running the “50s-60s” department, an
interesting fellow who looked like he’d just stepped off a Zombies picture
sleeve; neat sidecomb hairdo, thick vintage glasses, a discretely
paisley-patterned shirt. He looked at my Music Machine album and frowned:
He leaned over and pointed at some specific titles. I nodded and tried to figure out how he could know that, and why it wasn’t mentioned in Ugly Things (it was – in an issue I didn’t have). I bought the LP anyway and left the store in a confused state. I would soon become even more confused.
The very same night it was time for another Crimson Shadows gig, in a basement club in central Stockholm. This was one of Crimson’s infamous “skinhead” shows, where Jens’ brother had brought a whole bunch of his skinhead friends along. Skinheads didn’t get along with 60s guys at the time – or any time – and they took particular offense to our American garage style, which had them all puzzled. They spread out around the tables in the club, drunk or half-drunk, and started sending out bad vibes. There was some concern behind the scenes since the scenario of the skins running amok and trashing the place was entirely possible. Noone had the balls to ask them to leave. As it happened I ended up being squeezed between four of them; the biggest and baddest right next to me demanding I give him all my cigarettes, which I did. I only had about twelve left, anyway. He put his arm around my skinny shoulders and started pulling my head down in his armpit in a decidedly unfriendly way. At that very point Jens came over and started yelling at the skinheads, telling them to stop fucking with us, and if they didn’t they would have to leave. It was beautiful. The skins couldn’t mess with Jens, because his brother was one of them, and he knew a bunch of them by first name. So they mellowed out quickly, for that particular night at least. I survived my first skinhead encounter.
Crimson got up and played, a whole lot better this time, in fact I think it was one of their best shows. Henrik Orrje was now an official member of the band, and drunk as a skunk to overcome his stagefright he stood there in hip gear banging his tambourine and playing an occasional harp solo. He was later credited on the Crimson 45 sleeve for “strange dances on stage”, and this was based on fact, let me tell you. The band had dug up an old 50s radio-style microphone somewhere and hooked it up to the PA – you can see Mans singing into it at the back cover of their second 45. The skinheads sat around digging it; while they resented garage guys on a gang level they did enjoy the music. Crimson did Davie Allan’s “Blues theme”, but the rest of their set was all originals, and good ones at that.
The Crimson Shadows got off the stage and there was a short wait for the headlining act, the Stomachmouths. Now, I had heard about Stomach (as they were known) quite a bit from the Crimson guys, but I had never met them or seen them. It was said that they had a 45 out, before Crimson got theirs out. The band came up on the tiny stage all dressed in striped surfer sweaters and jeans, two of them moptops, one looking like a regular 80s guy, and then one who looked strangely familiar. They kicked off their first number – probably a surf instro, I can’t remember. They could play, they were obviously much more of an actual live band than Crimson. They got into the garage/frat stuff that made up the bulk of their material. I can’t say I knew too many of the songs, but they did do a swinging “That’s cool, that’s trash” which turned the whole audience into Kingsmen (or Street Cleaners) fans. They took a lot of energy from the singer, a small guy in glasses who worked hard and serious like a true stage personality. I don’t know how long it took for the coin to fall down, but I turned to Mats Kempe who was standing next to me:
- Man, it’s the SAME guy… the singer. It’s the guy who sold me the Music Machine LP at Vinylmania.
Curiouser and curiouser. I found out his name was Stefan Kery, and everyone seemed to know who he was. The Stomach guys were a couple of years older than Crimson, and came out of the tail end of 1970s punk rather than the mod scene. They were all from the northernmost suburbs of Stockholm and had played in real bands earlier. It was obvious that they were on a different level than Crimson, although they didn’t look quite as cool. Live they ranged from good to dynamite, and a strict no-booze policy kept any suckass shows away. Later in that same set they played what sounded like a garage version of some nursery rhyme. The acoustics were good enough to make out the actual words, and I picked up the recurring refrain “But the cat came back, the very next day”. It was fun and good-spirited, and everyone sang along, even though I think noone except the band were familiar with the Stingrays 45 and the “Root 66” compilation. As I got into it I looked to my right and there stood Gunnar Johansson, the zine-dealer, who knew ALL the words to the song and was cracking up. After the show I asked Jens about him, and he told me that Gunnar was in fact Stomach’s manager.
So there it was; the foundations of the whole scene – the two main bands in Crimson and Stomach, the privately released 45s, the rapidly growing crowd of fans, the basement clubs, the import garage zines and import garage compilations. All we needed was plenty of beer and the occasional amphetamines to keep the party going. Crimson’s debut 45 (“When I’m going away”/”What I want”) came out that same Spring – a crude three-chord fuzz/Farfisa-fest with just the right basement sound inside Mans’ great cheesy sleeve design. As I bought it I also came upon a used copy of the first Stomach 45 (“Don’t put me down”/”Wild trip”) which looked and sounded equally cool; in fact I think Stomach never recorded anything as good again, although their live shows would get even better. I got to know the Crimson guys well, especially Jens who was a hardcore party animal and acted as a Virgil on my voyage into the underground nightlife in Stockholm. Lord knows how many shitty illegal clubs and house parties gone haywire we ended up at, drunk out of our skulls. And he had the ladies too, one girlfriend in every port it seemed, although they didn’t know about each other.
There is an obvious amount of purism in a tightknit teenage scene like this. Once you were inside everything was roses – whatever ego games there were drowned in the relaxed, fun-loving nature of it all, and if anyone had the idea to play a “rock star” he would be openly laughed at. I think we were simply too young to take the concepts of “success” and “career” seriously; the main idea was to enjoy the music and party hard. That said, there were certain rules that existed, in a half outspoken way. You didn’t have to have a bowl haircut, but it sure didn’t hurt. If you went for the look, you had to go all the way. Most of the guys did, and I think the reason the scene was so fashion-conscious is that several of the members, mainly in the Crimson camp, came from a mod background – and mods are very rigid about clothes and style. So the British mod attitude was applied on a US 1960s garage style, which didn’t really exist as a retro statement yet, so we had to figured it out by looking at old record covers. Some of the guys brought Seeds records to their hairdressers.
It was hard to make it without the look, but it was impossible to make it without the music. You had to know about the Unrelated Segments, you had to know about Zakary Thaks. It had to be American, and it had to be from the original 1960s garage era. Several of us came from a British beat-oriented background which is what had always dominated in Sweden. That had to go. If you wanted to talk Brit stuff it would mainly be Pebbles vol 6 and the Pretty Things. The ex-mods had to go through a quick reprogramming, and I think some of them kept listening to the Creation and the Small Faces anyway. I never understood why there had to be a choice – you could have both the US and the UK stuff, right? -- but had a hard time getting the garage guys interested in the greatness of Fleur De Lys or Factory. It was quite simply “English” and therefore a bit suspect. This was a crucial part of our lack of sympathy with the local mods.
As far as contemporary garage bands went, no one was much impressed with anything. We aimed for the original 1960s source; it was part of our purism. Obviously we recognized that the US neo-garage bands were one step closer to the source than us, but there was usually something “wrong” with what they were doing anyway. However, there were two bands that everyone had to take into account, and how the opinion was formed on these explains the Stockholm scene pretty well, I think. First of all there were the Chesterfield Kings. The Kings were generally recognized as “cool”; you couldn’t knock any particular aspect of what they were doing. Their cover versions were never as good as the originals, but then neither were ours. They had great taste, they looked cool, Greg Prevost ran a garage fanzine, and most of all there was the tiny “1982” date on the back cover of their debut LP. They were – at least – three years ahead of us.
Then there were the Fuzztones, and this was a different matter – in fact I think the jury is still out on them. Apart from the garage fanzines and Tim Warren litanies, we took in a lot of impressions via Gunnar Johansson, who was the Stomachmouths manager and mentor in the early days. Gunnar was a hardcore 1955-1966 guy, and he knew a lot of the people we respected in the US – Tim at Crypt, Billy & Miriam at Kicks/Norton, etc. So he would hear from his pals in New York what the word was on any particular phenomena, and it would be passed on to us. And of course the word on the Fuzztones was that they sucked. In fact, the very first time I met Gunnar he showed me their “Cult of Fuzz” newsletter and told me that it sucked. Looking at the embarrassing hype they were trying to create, it wasn’t hard to agree. But at the same time, you had to admit that their first 45, “Bad news travels fast”, was really good. And the live mini-LP wasn’t half-bad either. From early Crimson Shadows pics you can tell they took a cue from the Fuzztones in the way they pushed the Sean Bonniwell look one step further, and Jens in particular has always admitted liking the band. In the Stomachmouths camp the attitude was a lot more negative. In the end it didn’t really matter; it was the original 1960s music that counted, not any retro bands.
What I have described here wasn’t the entire Swedish garage scene, of course – it wasn’t even the whole Stockholm scene, which also had bands such as the Nomads and Shoutless and Wayward Souls and Pushtwangers and a bunch more. They weren't involved in what we had going, and there was in fact a certain dislike on our part towards them, for various reasons. Most of these bands had the “Solna” (a suburb) mentality, which basically says that the Sonics and the MC5 and Radio Birdman are all part of the same trip. We thought that was bullshit; the Sonics were the ONLY trip, the rest was just bad 70s rock. If you wore leopard skin pants, or leather pants, or a lot of tattoes, you didn’t get it. Of course the Solna bands thought we were silly with our Michael Clarke hairdoes and retro clothes, but that was just what we expected from them.
The local dichotomy came to a head one glorious night at Ritz, which was Stockholm’s biggest rock club at the time. A “garage night” had been set up, partly as a showcase for the Wayward Souls who were being scrutinized by a major record label. Well, the Wayward guys, whose first 45 everyone agreed was pretty good, was never much of a live band – sloppy, blasé – and they did a particularly bad show that night. Towards the end of the set the singer said something bitter to the effect of:
- I guess those of you who are still listening to us are deaf.
I felt sorry for them, but that soon disappeared when the Stomachmouths took the stage and did a great show; they seemed to feed off the space and vibes of this prestigious venue. After Stomach came headliners the Nomads, who were internationally famous even at this early stage, but they did a lackluster gig, and afterwards there was no question as to which band ruled the “garage night”. As a consequence of this we took over the whole backstage area, and I remember that the Nomads lead singer, Nix, walked out of there in a pissed off state after witnessing our drunken teenage hijinx. On that particular night, the Crimson/Stomach garage scene ruled the town.
In terms of sheer excitement though, the scene had already peaked. I can’t give you the exact date, I think maybe late 1985, but I can give you the precise occasion. As anyone who was part of the goings-on back then will attest, the home-base venue, “our” place, was a little basement club in the Old Town called Kaos. I think it had only recently been converted from a restaurant into a concert venue, and its lack of legacy made it suitable for us young moptop settlers. The mods used it on occasion, but apart from that it was garage shows every weekend for at least a year. It wasn’t really suitable for live performances, consisting of a number of small rooms connected via big portals, with the stage set up in the biggest room. I read somewhere that the Kaos turnout record was 300, for a Crimson/Stomach show, but even that figure sounds exaggerated. On the plus side, the acoustics weren’t bad, and even with only 50 people in attendance you got a good live feeling. As the local garage scene grew, more and more people turned up to the point where the club was forced to hire bouncers and charge steep door fees. There was no service elevator and I remember numerous times I helped Crimson and Stomach haul speakers down the winding back stairs before gigs. The bartender was a bit of a drunk, or an outright alcoholic, which made it easy to get free beers and helped foster a feeling of general anarchy down there.
So as the scene was growing, the excitement was growing, and on this particular night it was like a big barrel of dynamite waiting to go off. Kaos was packed, you could hardly move. On stage were the Hijackers, a band from way out in the sticks that noone had heard of before. They were a cool band in a Ramones bag, with an obvious no-image approach. I’m sure Tim Warren loved them. The lead guitarist was a big fat guy in his late 20s. They finished setting up their instruments and tuning, and as the big guy hit the first chord of the first song, the whole place just EXPLODED. If you ever experience something like this, and I hope you do, you know that it can’t be compared to anything; I’ve been to 100s of concerts since but have never felt anything remotely like that. The Hijackers guys played their set, fast, tight and furious, and on the occasions I caught a glimpse of them they looked perplexed, or downright terrified. Whatever they had expected from their first Stockholm gig, this wasn’t it. I read an interview with them shortly after, and on the question on how they were received in our capital city they responded:
- Better than we deserve.
Gunnar Johansson picked the Hijackers up for a 45 release on his Super Stuff label, but they chose not to move to Stockholm and I’m not sure if I ever saw them again.
After the Hijackers left the stage, the Stomachmouths had an easy ride all the way home; the crowd was a big euphoric mass that greeted each new song with cheers. Stomach played many a great gig and I’m not sure this night felt special to them, but as far as I am concerned this was as exciting as the garage scene ever got. I remember in particular their cover of the Rumors’ marvy “Hold me now” (Boulders vol 1); those joyful opening chords brought a wave of energy almost as huge as what had met the Hijackers. After the show was over every square inch of the Kaos floor was covered with broken glass and splinters from busted furniture; you had to walk very carefully. I remarked to Stefan that they ought to give “Hold me now” a more central place in their set list, as each audience absolutely loved it, even if they’d never heard it before. He shrugged and wondered if maybe their own songs weren’t just as good, to which I bluntly replied “No”. Next time I saw Stomach they had made “Hold me now” the last number of their set, certain to bring in encores. They also did a great version of “Dirty old man” by the Electras, and a superb surf instro that I had to ask them the title of – it was “Force of gravity”.
I think anyone who has ever been part of a “scene" will recognize two things: everything happens very fast, and the original excitement doesn’t last long, maybe 12 or 15 months. While the Stockholm garage scene still had its best years ahead in terms of commercial success and recognition, 1986 was not as fab as 1985 had been. For one thing, the Crimson Shadows broke up. This had me shocked and stunned – how could they break up such a cool thing? Of course, there was some internal friction between the three talented, strong-willed wildmen that made up the band; I also think their inability to deliver a good live set, especially when compared to Stomach, frustrated them. They drank too much before the shows, they didn’t rehearse enough, and – let’s face it – their drummer never really got his shit together. What they had were two things; the coolest look I’ve ever seen on a Swedish band, and more importantly, truly great songwriting skills spread out on not less than three guys. It was like the goddamn Byrds, and like the Byrds it couldn’t last. Fortunately they made a second 45 (“Even I tell lies”/”You can’t come down”) before throwing in the towel, and this one was even better than the first – in my opinion it is the best release of the era. Again the shitty studio they used made for a nice garagey sound, and they were able to produce a lot tighter performances in there than on stage.
A few months after the Crimson break-up there were some changes in the Stomachmouths too. In late 1985 the line-up had been expanded with a wild card in the form of Anna Nystrom, a blonde, female organist they had met somewhere. Adding Anna was a great move – she was a sweet, girl-next-door type right out of a 1950s movie that contrasted nicely with the garage wildmen. I know that more than one guy in our scene had a crush on her, and she was always treated with the utmost respect. Stomach also had gotten matching tailormade 60s-style suits and ties, because that’s what the original garage bands looked like – Phil & the Frantics never wore bones or biker shades! After the privately released debut 45, they had cut an EP (“Eegah” + 2) and an album (“Something Weird”) in a short timeframe, and behind locked doors there were some disagreements over both the sound and look of these two releases. After some confusion on the band’s status when Stefan prepared to settle in the USA permanently (he didn’t), two of the older guys decided to drop out. Lead guitarist Lars Kjellén was a surf guy at heart, and I think he wanted to focus more on the 1963-64 era. He once told me he considered “Pet Sounds” one of the Beach Boys’ worst albums, which struck me as pretty funny. Purist? You bet.
So Lars and Per the bass player went looking for something else, and Stomach got a new line-up, bringing in – surprise surprise – Jens Lindberg from the defunct Crimson Shadows (and Highspeed V) on bass, with Stefan taking on lead guitar. Their sound remained largely the same, and they were at least as tight as before –the main key to their prowess was always the interplay between Stefan and the great drummer, Martin Skeppholm. This is the line-up that had the most success in terms of international tours, although I doubt that their one release, the “In orbit” mini-LP, reached the same sales figures as the preceding LP. In early 1987 they also had the honor of being treated to a non-authorized LP release by Greg Shaw, who took some of the band’s demo tapes and the first 45 and issued it as a Voxx LP. This album apparently outsold all their official releases, which pissed the band off to some extent, although I think the matter was resolved later on. I was around in the studio for the “In orbit” recording and as anyone who’s witnessed a recording session knows, it was exciting for the first 10 minutes, and then dull as fuck. I lent out my sitar to be used for an intended “psychedelic” effect, but Stefan never managed to get the sound he wanted and in fact still owes me 1000s of rupees for the two sitar strings he broke. There was also a long debate with the studio engineer on how the vocals should be recorded. Shortly after the mini-LP came out I was at Plastic Passion in London and got involved in a discussion with Bill Allerton who remarked, or complained, that “the vocals were a lot different this time”. I thought it was a pretty good record, though.
A commercial peak was reached with the “Psychomania” tour in the Spring 1987, where Stomach and non-Stockholm band the Creeps joined the Fuzztones, the Vietnam Veterans and Italy’s Sick Rose for a trans-European tour. The Stomach members reported afterwards that they were met by people at the airports who carried their bags and gave them a “rock star” treatment, which amused us who were used to seeing them dragging their amps down the stairs at Kaos. I got to see a live video of one of their German gigs, apparently made for German TV, and it was amazing as the whole production was on the level of a Van Halen show, with 4 cameras doing tracking shots and a $10 000 light show, while Stefan and Stomach were still playing their brand of stupid mid-60s garage punk. A splendid time was had by all I think, and the guys were somewhat more in favor of the Fuzztones after having met and spent some time with them during the tour. Stomach would make three more European tours in ‘87, with special focus on Italy where there was plenty of gigs and rabid fans. They were a lot bigger abroad than back in Sweden.
While I hung out a lot with Stomach and followed them as driver/roadie/wiseguy on some local tours in Sweden, there was a second generation of Stockholm bands with a lot of my friends involved. I don’t remember the exact sequence now, but Lars and Per from Stomach ended up with Mans from Crimson and drummer Ismail Samie – “Isse” – from the defunct Backdoor Men in a new surf/garage band called the Livingstones. I saw them live a number of times, and recall that they did a good version of the Tamrons’ “Wild man”, which Mans at one show dedicated to me…? They were a cool band, and cut a swinging 45 that apparently sold well. Then there was the Highspeed V, which included my high school buddies Mats Kempe on rhythm and Stellan Wahlstrom on drums, and a 16-year old whiz kid named Nicklas Rosén on lead guitar, while Henrik Orrje and Jens Lindberg came from the Crimson Shadows.
The Highspeed V were a London 1964 r’n’b type band with a quart of Niederbiet added. They played Kaos and the usual dives, and I remember them struggling with the vocal arrangements on the Yardbirds’ “Heartful of soul” on each gig; it never came out quite right. They were a fun band though, and good musicians all around. Their live set also had covers of “Bye bye baby” by Dutch band Peter & the Blizzards, and “Going to the river” off Pebbles vol 6. They cut a 45 at Jens’ favored recording spot, Siljan Studios, which was just a room in a suburban basement, owned by an old 60s musician who insisted on producing and not just engineering. I was around for the session, and remember watching Jens trying to negotiate between the old guy and the band members. The guy finally declared that “I know what you want, you want to sound like the Rolling Stones”, which was close enough to the truth that they managed to lay down the two group originals for the Super Stuff label 45 (“Baby”/”Sally”). In retrospect I think Jens insisted on using this facility simply because he knew it and felt at home. It did contribute to the garage nature of those three 45s, in any event. The Highspeed V didn’t last too long, and when there was an opening in the Stomachmouths Jens went for it with no hard feelings on any part.
It was a lot of fun, but the crowds at Kaos were only half as big as they had been in late ‘85, and some folks started dropping out. Tim Warren of Crypt and “Back From The Grave” fame lived in Sweden for a spell around this time, and he came to check out some of the shows. I think our purist moptop angle disturbed him a bit, but he did speak favorably of the Highspeed V, although it was another band that really caught his attention. After leaving the Crimson Shadows, Peter Maniette had disappeared from sight for a while, but then he came back with a brand new band called the Wylde Mammoths. These guys played classic rock’n’roll with a strong 60s garage influence, didn’t give a fuck about hairstyles, and wrote a whole bunch of strong tunes. After an early EP on a German label (“Four Wooly Giants” – and that’s “wooly”’, not “wolly” of the sleeve misprint), the Mammoths brought in the excellent drummer Stellan Wahlstrom from Highspeed V and turned into a really tight live act. They were right up Tim’s alley, so he signed them – as the first modern band ever – to Crypt, and got them both US tours and a couple of excellent releases that must have sold very well thanks to the Crypt name and distribution. While I knew all the Mammoth guys they weren’t visible much in central Stockholm, except for a few gigs, and they sort of disappeared on the horizon. Everyone was impressed with their success however, and they did it without becoming sell-outs.
That’s about it. The Highspeed V disbanded after a year or so; so did the Livingstones. The Crimson Shadows reformed briefly in 1988 to record a few tracks for a German EP, but it was just a one-off. Several of the fringe guys quit playing altogether, at least that we knew of. I don’t remember exactly when, or even why, the Stomachmouths broke up, but I recall that when Stefan gave me the news I told him I was sorry, but that it was probably just as good. That was really the end; there was no third generation of Stockholm garage bands. Of course most of the key guys kept on playing; Lars Kjellen with surf-band the Daytonas, Jens with various garage one-shots, and Mans with various bands in various styles, currently back at his garage roots with the Maggots. Stefan started a psychedelic record label that had great success in the 1990s. The Wylde Mammoths continued longer than any of the original bands, but they threw in the towel too. Ironically things were just starting to happen with new garage scenes down on the continent, especially in Germany and Italy. The Stockholm bands could have made a decent living down there, playing gigs and doing occasional records, but apart from the “Psychomania” tour and a couple of subsequent one-offs, it never happened. Jens Lindberg, the true garage believer, kept the flame burning with a number of retrospective and new releases throughout the 1990s. Today I see people down in Europe talking about him as a legend, and I’m reminded of the very first time I met him, at that high school dance 19 years ago. “The Electric Prunes? Yeah! Far out!”. To me, he will always be the heart of the scene.
I think I lost my Jerry McGeorge hairdo in the Fall 1987; I was starting college and the statement the bowl haircut had made back in 1984 wasn’t a big deal anymore. It seems amazing now that all of this happened in less than 3 years, but that’s what the calendar says. It felt like 10 years, or a lifetime.
|PS some people have e-mailed and asked about the Creeps, who were (and still are) one of the most respected Swedish garage bands down on the Continent. The Creeps came from a small town in a different part of Sweden, and weren't part of the Stockholm garage scene at all, although they played here a few times (I saw them twice back then). Of course, the Creeps' embracement of goofy MTV aesthetics via their one-shot hit sealed their fate as a "garage" band anyway...|
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