Thursday, August 02, 2007

The EuropeCrazy Hall of Fame: August 2007

Our artist of the month first came to my attention via the airwaves of Radio Sweden. Back in the late 1970s it was the only place to hear Swedish music: one night I heard them play a song by a Swedish singer named Tomas Ledin. In 1979, when disco was everywhere, "Not Bad at All" was very much of its time: even more surprisingly it managed to creep onto British radio although it wasn’t a hit here.

I heard no more about him until the spring of 1980. In that year he was selected to sing the Swedish entry to the Eurovision Song Contest. The stomping rocker "Just Nu" ("Right Now") immediately became my favourite song in that year’s contest, helped along by Tomas’ performance which was very reminiscent of Rod Stewart. It was probably too good to win (although we had no disagreement with that year’s winner, the classic "What’s Another Year" by Johnny Logan), but I wanted to know more about this singer. Sadly, in those pre-internet days, that would be hard to come by. As a result I lost touch with Tomas Ledin’s career for several years: it would be several years until I got the full picture...

In 1972 he began making records as a young singer-songwriter, clearly influenced by acts like Bob Dylan and the other folk-rockers of that era. In the coming years he was to prove himself to be a very versatile and prolific artist. I mentioned Rod Stewart earlier: many of his songs of the 1970s were very reminiscent of Rod’s pop-rock style. What I always liked about Tomas Ledin was his voice: distinctive, rich and warm.

One other distinctive thing about Tomas Ledin is the Abba connection. Not only did he perform as support act and backing singer on their 1979 tour, but he also ended up marrying Marie Andersson, the daughter of Abba’s manager - they are still together today and have two sons.

In the 1980s Tomas continued to go from strength to strength, recording in both Swedish and English. Sadly, as with many European acts, he failed to make an international breakthrough outwith Sweden, Norway and Finland. It was during this decade that he made "Sommaren Ar Kort": this song became an anthem for the (short) Swedish summer. However, by the end of the 80s it appeared that his career was going through a bit of a decline.

That was until the release of "En Del Av Mitt Hjarta", the song which was to turn his whole career around. Gone was the lightweight, English language pop. In came a more mature, rockier, sincere sound. The single immediately became a massive hit in Sweden and is still one of his best loved songs. This was the blueprint for his music over the next 16 years: crowd-pleasing rock n’roll with big anthemic choruses.

The crowd-pleasing bit is vital: his live summer tours are legendary in Sweden, but he has always been an easy target for the critics who don’t seem to like anything or anyone who’s popular. And his popularity continues to endure: he’s still making records and playing live in 2007. Later this month I’ll be going back in time and choosing some of my favourite Tomas Ledin records. In the meantime we’re very happy to welcome him into our Hall of Fame.

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