Half of my vinyl purchases are based purely on album covers. Ideally, incredible artwork graces every album in the dollar bin, but in the case of Det Glada Liseberg, my eyes were greeted by the uber-disturbing grinning face (trademark tooth gap and all) of Sweden’s Thore Skogman. Who was this guy? Why was he wearing an orange and white striped suit and straw hat? Was he some kind of Swedish carnival maniac? Such a visceral reaction, combined with the fact that the record is Swedish and was found at an estate sale in Alabama, meant that I had to buy it immediately. Nightmares may have followed. But my number one priority after purchasing this treasure was to find out what on Earth is was. Just reading the gatefold didn’t help much; my Swedish isn’t that good.

Finding information on Skogman is easy enough, though. He was evidently Sweden’s premier polka-folksong singer from the mid-’50s through ’80s, a prolific songwriter and a cherished children’s entertainer. Skogman did everything from radio and television to film, but not all beloved entertainers have shticks that appeal internationally (and some, like Jerry Lewis, inconceivably do). Skogman penned songs like “Fröken Fräken” (“Miss Freckle”) and “Rött Hår och Glest Mellan Tänderna” (“Redhead with Widely Spaced Teeth”) that sound like fun-loving, alliterative gibberish, and not just because this is Swedish. You can even watch a video on YouTube of Skogman performing in his later years wearing a backwards baseball cap and singing to a huge crowd of enthusiastic adults, including two very tough looking Swede dudes clapping vigorously along to “Popp Opp i Topp,” a song from one of Skogman’s ’60s capers. This is the kind of phenomenon we’re dealing with here.

1973’s Det Glada Liseberg, however, appears to be a curiosity in the endless catalog of Skogman LPs. The track list tells you Skogman only contributed five original songs. Seasonal celebrations “Sommarn’ är Här” (“Summer is Here”) and “Sommaren med Maria” (“Summer with Maria”) are jaunty tunes that have that distinctive polka pep to them. The former builds itself around a carousel theme and random bird whistles; the latter’s lullaby melody features lilting strings and accordions and plays into the Swedish waltz tradition. “Det Finns Ingen Sorg i Goteborg” (“There is No Sadness in Gothenburg”), however, returns to the carousel and peppers in flutes and female backing vocals.

Four other tracks are simply medleys of other composers’ songs but all are performed with a special symphony orchestra who also throw in a rendition of the Ray Bauduc and Bob Haggart New Orleans jazz march “South Rampart Street Parade.” It’s only when I pieced together the roller coaster and ferris wheel pictures and song titles like “Vi Tar en Tur till Liseberg” (“We Take a Trip to Liseberg”) that I realized this was an elaborate advertising campaign. Liseberg is, in fact, an enormous amusement park in Gothenburg that needed some musical promotion geared towards children. Carnival maniac was right.

Now the gatefold’s mention of varied world famous acts performing (including Sammy Davis Jr, Maurice Chevalier, Paul Anka and the Osmond Brothers), numerous attractions and activities for young children make more sense. Det Glada Liseberg was just a blatant attempt to reel in the kiddies in droves. Even parents are welcome to enjoy themselves “wandering through the oaks” on Liseberg’s tranquil park trails or gambling at the roulette tables “as if they were in Monte Carlo.” It’s wholesome family fun. You know, like Disneyland. Only Disneyland has its own characters sing promotional songs rather than outsource the task to an exuberant ginger.

The best indication of Skogman’s stature in Swedish popular culture may be the simple fact that someone loved this record enough to bring it to America and hold onto it for nearly five decades. He is most certainly an acquired taste, but I can’t help but want to stumble across a copy of his 1985 Christmas album Skogman Jul in a dollar bin one day. Hell, I might even go as high as $5.

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