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Råg I Ryggen -
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Råg I Ryggen

Råg I Ryggen

Råg I Ryggen

In Sweden in the early 70s bands and artists sprang up like mushrooms after an August rain and every other cellar and garage had its own version of Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin or Rolling Stones. In the Stockholm suburb Bromma classmates Björn Aggemyr (bass) and Björn "Nysse" (guitar) Nyström began banging away on their instruments when they were just twelve years old. Keyboard player Christer Sjöborg soon joined in and Kurt Persson played drums with them for a short while. Read more on
In Sweden in the early 70s bands and artists sprang up like mushrooms after an August rain and every other cellar and garage had its own version of Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin or Rolling Stones. In the Stockholm suburb Bromma classmates Björn Aggemyr (bass) and Björn "Nysse" (guitar) Nyström began banging away on their instruments when they were just twelve years old. Keyboard player Christer Sjöborg soon joined in and Kurt Persson played drums with them for a short while. He was soon replaced by Peter Sandberg and the band named themselves Goda Vänner & Musik (Good Friends & Music).

These four kids rehearsed in a 3,5 X 3,5 metres small room in Nysse's father cellar, and mostly played songs by British hard rock bands like Deep Purle and Uriah Heep. Björn and Nysse managed to persuade their teacher at school (Riksbyskolan in Bromma) to allow them to show their talents in front of the other pupils. The proposal was accepted, but they had to bring their own musical equipment, a problem which was solved by bringing in Björn's older brother Jan Aggemyr into the band. Jan had a driver's license and a car, an electric guitar and the knowledge to use it, thus fitting the bill perfectly.

Shortly before this début performance the boys found a package of old bread in the rehearsal room. The brand was Wasa Bröd and his tag line "ger råg I ryggen" (gives strength and courage) immediately caught the band's attention, and the name Råg I Ryggen was born. At this time, in 1974, the boys in the band were between fifteen and twenty years old, but the band had assembled musical equipment and gear like a rich and famous groups like Yes or King Crimson. Guitarists Jan and Nysse playing Gibson guitars or homemade ones, Björn had a Rickenbacker bass and Peter thundered away on a full-fledged Rogers drum kit. Keyboard player Christer had six pairs of keys, including one of Sweden's first Mini Moogs and a Hammond A-100 with two 150 watt Leslie speakers! His gear alone would fill half of Råg I Ryggen tourbus, not to mention the trouble of having it all stashed in Nysse's parent's cellar while rehearsing.

In 1974 the band would perform regularly at youth centres around Stockholm and its suburbs, and they also entered a talent hunt at Jarlateatern. Nysse was the vocalist around this time but about half of the band's repertoire was instrumental. Nederlaget was another band that performed that same evening and that band's vocalist Jonas Warnerbring caught the attention of Råg I Ryggen. He is the son of famous Swedish singer/performer Östen Warnerbring, who had represented Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest in the sixties, although their vocal styles are neither comparable nor alike.

Jonas was approached by Nysse and Björn that evening and was soon persuaded to quit Nederlaget in favour of Råg I Ryggen. With a new vocalist on board, the band concentrated more on their own material and kept rehearsing in the small cellar room despite the fact that Råg I Ryggen now consisted of six members and more progressive sound developed, although the band still had his roots in hard rock. Nysse's parent's never complained about the heavy music almost coming from below, not even when a window broke due to the high volume produced in the enclosed quarter. An evening that autumn Peter had been out drinking with some friends, and while he waited for the train ride home he befriended Kjell Gradin, an elderly gentleman who appened to run a record label! In their drunken state they immediately agreed on a test recording, and only a few weeks later the band had lined up all their equipment in a small studio in Sundbyberg. Råg I Ryggen performed Spångaforsens brus and a now unknown song, but since neither Kjell Gradin nor his small studio was prepared for the musical assault and this recording was ruined by a heavily distorted sound. The Rondo label had previously only recorded the likes of Göingeflickorna and other very soft vocal acts, but this didn't deter Kjel from making another attempt at recording his newly discovered apprentices.

He booked the EMI-studio in Skärmarbrink - which was one of the most modern 16-channel studios in Sweden at the time - for two full days to record a full-lenght album with the band. The dates were the 22nd and 23rd of February, and suddenly a new problem came up. The lyrics for some of the songs where usually improvised on stage, but the band figured that it would not work out in the studio. The lyrics for Naked Man were written the day before the recording and the final touch on Queen of Darkness were made in the early hours before Råg I Ryggen arrived at the studio at 09.00 AM.

The album was recorded in 16 hours. All instruments, except for the synthesizer, were recorded live the first day, while all vocals and mixing was made the second day. Some small errors were soon discovered, but there was no time for overdubs, but while listening to the album today these small things only add authenticity to the groove and general feel of the music. The eponymous album was released in April 1975 and some of the Swedish-language songs were aired by the Swedish radio.

Rondo seemed to believe in Råg I Ryggen's music and issued between eight and ten thousand copies of the album, as well as booking a gig at the big scene at Gröna Lund on the 3rd of July. The album was distributed by EMI throughout Sweden, but not abroad. At the time the album was released the band performed live at least two times a week, rehearsed two or three times while everyone held full-time jobs (four of them actually worked in music stores!). Råg I Ryggen's following in Stockholm grew bigger and sometimes they would give records to people in the audience if they dared to ascend the stage and sing with the band, and this would occur quite frequently. The band had their own sound technician and a friend doing the lightning, as well as a strict moral codex: no alcohol was allowed before or during a gig, although the audiences used to be loaded.

The gigs would usually consist of two 45-minute sets, and usually they would be the only band of the evening, although they once performed alongside the blues rock act Nature. When the day of the Gröna Lund gig came, the arranger told the band that they would be allowed to perform for half an hour at the most, and had to plan the track list accordingly. The volume was set by the band themselves and the performance was to be the second loudest ever measured at Gröna Lund (only Wishbone Ash had been louder). All went very well with a great connection between band and audience, but with only the final chorus of [track artist=[artist]Råg I Ryggen]Sanningsserum left to play someone cut the power! This had previously happened to Jimi Hendrix some seven years earlier and that event is now part of Gröna Lund folklore, but this left both Råg I Ryggen and the visitors flabbergasted. The electricians at Gröna Lund initially claimed that a fuse has gone, but later admitted that they had actually cut the power to prevent Råg I Ryggen from playing as much as one second more than agreed. The band also played outside Stockholm, in places like Norrtälje, Orsa and Gävle.

The distance was never too great though and the band always returned home to Nysse's parents after every gig, where sandwiches or a late dinner awaited them. The contract between Råg I Ryggen and Rondo stated that more songs should be recorded, but being week-end rock stars and full-time employees at once - combined with growing musical differences- finally took its toll on the band. In early 1976 vocalist Jonas Warnerbring and drummer Peter Sandberg left the band and they were replaced by Bo Lantz and Jonas Edgren respectively. This brought fresh influences and a new musical direction. The songs became more complex and the witty lyrics were brushed aside for more serious topics.

Sadly this did not work out too well and the band made only a few live performances before breaking up about half a year later. None of the material written by the band's last line-up was ever recorded in a studio, and only a live performance with mediocre sound quality exists. This is sad, since the original vinyl version of Råg I Ryggen's only album currently swaps hands for about $ 100-150, and the album is generally considered a classic among connoisseurs of Swedish progressive and hard rock. [From the booklet of the CD Råg I Ryggen written by Tobias Petterson] Read more on User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..

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