Our Story RecapThis will be my recap of Our Story, the one and only AOB documentary.
I’d like to start with a quote from Jonas in a chat on 5th of May, 2000, at the old aob.net: “The video clip SVT did was to messy to be seen, I almost got a headace watching it.. The info in it was good anyway but not the timeline.. Help!!!!!” And I feel a little similar watching it, because it has this logical story it follows, but sometimes we cut to Monaco World Music Awards, 1997, and then back to 1992.. It gets a little annoying. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good documentary, but there are also some things missing which I will point out later.
We start with a montage from different interviews and perfs; presenters saying “Ace Of Base” over and over again; and then we see AOB posing with their WMA from 1997, the camera goes off, it goes black and white, and now there’s a montage of old pix in black and white and some quotes from AOB in this documentary played on top of each other: “Jonas and Ulf, they were pushy...” “..radio..” “I think we like each other unusually much..” “A good song is a good song..” The pictures start going further and further away from the camera, and finally there is darkness, out of which AOB emerges - the 93 AOB, from The Sign video. They stand in the blinding light before them for a moment, and then darkness again and the text: Ace. Of. Base. Our story. A film by Benzon & Gunilla Leinig. Wow, we start off so artistic I don’t even get it. Benzon must be an important guy as he only has one name.
And now a remix of Life is a Flower starts playing. It’s winter. We follow Jenny as she walks up to a red house that we later find out is The Barn studio. Jonas is talking on the phone in Swedish. Jenny gets upstairs to meet him and they hug. Awww. Jonas is sitting at a desk with a computer on it, and the ceiling is tilting down. Is this his “office” in the studio? There’s a gold or platinum album of TS on the wall behind Jenny as she mounts the stairs. And now we get Jonas’ voice-over, and the picture soon changes to him talking in what I suppose is a 97 interview. He’s sitting on a black sofa, wearing a weird red jacket with wide shoulders. “I was never at home. I was always out playing and I would come home kind of ten o’clock in the evening, totally exhausted. Just boom – to bed.” He’s talking about his childhood, tho the first times I saw this, I always thought it was his youth and “out playing” referred to playing with synthesizers. We see a picture of Little Jonas, a very cute little boy with a happy smile. Text: “Jonas, born March 21, 1967.”
Now we cut to Jen and Jonas talking in Swedish, but very briefly. It’s a closeup of Jenny’s face and I have to wonder why they added it here. We move on to Linn, who says, “I guess I was very much a vivid child. And.. curious.” We see her sitting in a garden in the one and only real interview she’s given since 1997. She still has long hair, so I’m assuming this is summer 97. She looks beautiful. There’s a picture of Little Linn who is also very cute. It’s confusing to see childhood pix of Linn. I don’t know why; maybe because her hair was still dark, or because apart from her eyes, she doesn’t look anything like her child self. Text: “Linn, born October 31, 1970.”
Now we see Jenny in a 97 or 98 interview, wearing a purple shirt. Ugh, purple clothes. Her hair is curly. She says, “Me and my sister played a lot together, we were almost always together. It was first when she started school that I was alone, sort of.” That’s cute. And of course, Little Jenny is also very cute with her round face and big eyes. I wonder if these three photos were taken on the same day, because it would appear that Jenny was younger than the other two. Or perhaps she had her baby fat on the longest and just looks like a chubby little baby doll. “Jenny, born May 19, 1972.”
Cue Ulf’s 97 interview. He’s sitting in a wicker chair with a smart beige shirt on. “I grow up in the area very very close to the Berggren family.” And a childhood pic of a very young, chubby Ulf. But unlike the Berggren photos, which were clearly taken in “say cheese” moment, possibly in a studio by a professional photographer, this is a very natural photo of Ulf walking in a determined way. He looks happy and curious, like he’s going to find out what the world has to offer. And he kinda still has that attitude, it seems. “We build out these villages in the forest, and we did weapons, you know..” His English sounds pretty fumbling in this interview, like he doesn’t know how to put things. The camera pans across a studio, where Ulf is talking on the phone in Swedish. Oh, those AOB guys! So busy talking on the phone all the time! “..wood.. I think a lot of kids do that.” Now we get another childhood pic of Ulf, this time from his school days, and the text “Ulf, born December 6, 1970.” He looks like a very normal school boy to me, with blond hair and quite big front teeth. I wonder when he had those fixed. Anyway, I can forgive them for not showing two pix of each Berggren, because these are actually still the only two childhood pix we have of Ulf. I wonder why.
Now we cut to Jenny in the studio, wearing big headphones. She’s stretching. We hear Jonas say, “OK! [something unrecognizable in Swedish]” Jenny says, “Mmmm” in a tired voice. Jonas laughs. A caption on the screen kindly informs us this is “Gothenburg 1997, recording ‘Donnie’.” Still in a laughing voice, Jonas counts, “Ett, två, tre, fyr..” I.e., one, two, three, four. The music starts and Jenny starts singing along, “In the summertime..” but the music cuts off and Jenny looks at off-camera Jonas, who says, “Det var lite fel.” Which means “that was a bit wrong.” Jenny looks tired. Then we see Jenny singing, but we hear Linn’s vocals, “Donnie had a girlfriend tender, sexy, sweet and blonde..” Weird. Did she sing backing vocals on that or..?
Now we switch to Red Jacket Jonas explaining he was a bit strange, because at school he was dying his hair, he had a “what do you say.. tail? With different colours on?” That sounds.. BAD. I mean, I know he grew the long hair back now and I really wish he won’t have a tail with different colours on again. “Blond here and black here.. Totally weird haircuts.” He laughs, and it’s interesting because he had the same hairdo for like ten years, a very conservative one at that. Maybe he got enough experimentation as a kid? Also, in case we forgot, the text tells us this is Jonas Berggren.
Now we see Jen upclose again, singing “on the beach you had him long ago-oh..” and then there’s Purple Shirt Jenny telling us how “children can be very, very evil. When I went to school, I went from school, I weren’t allowed to go with the others, I had to go like 20 meters behind them..” Aww, poor Jenny. Wasn’t this in kindergarten though?
And yet again in the studio, where Jenny’s stretching again and talking to Off-Camera Jonas in Swedish, but you can’t really hear what she says because the last part of Jen’s childhood story is still playing over it. This documentary is full of short snippets of Swedish conversations between the band members. They all seem kinda wasted, as you can’t hear htem, and since this only aired in Sweden, there are no subtitles for those.
Ulf in the studio, telling someone off-camera that “Jenny called me...” but his interview voice-over takes over, “I moved to Danmark when I was 9, and I started school there..” The camera pans over to Charles Fisher. Woo, Charles Fisher! Look, we used this great celebrity producer for this one album! It’s dumb how many CF parts there are; he only worked on two songs with Ace of Base, and we don’t hear as much of Tommy Ekman or Douglas Carr, and I think none at all of StoneStream. Anyway, Ulf’s childhood story. “I was a big victim, actually, of people’s aggression. It made the situation quite tough, you come to school, you have to be prepared for.. people gonna yump on you..” Yeah, that is tough. I’ve been thru it myself. I think most kids have been bullied at some point, and those who haven’t have been bullies. Cut to Charles Fisher saying, “So Jenny’s not gonna be here but the answering machines will,” and laughing. The camera pans to Ulf who is also laughing, and the interview continues, “But I got stronger and suddenly I got to fight back. And then we had to move back to Sweden.” All in all, it seems like Ulf had the most difficult childhood of all the band members. The Berggrens, after all, lived a fairly sheltered life. Sure, they had some big crises on the way – Birgitta’s cancer for example – but somehow it seems to me like they always had that safety that Ulf perhaps didn’t have.
Cut to a lanky guy coming in the studio door. “Spiff!” Hee! Spiff says, “How you doing?” Charles Fisher says, “What are you doing here?” “I’m supposed to play drums, right?” says Spiff. “That’s right, that’s good,” says Charles. Was this all staged for the viewers? It just seemed like something out of a bad TV show. “[character name]! Tell us your function on the show!”
Anyway, they get the drums set up and the camera stays on Ulf, who has this kinda short unimpressive hairdo and a small moustache. Unusually low-key look for him.
Ulf tells us he started with music in 82, and his father bought him a computer, “because he wanted me to start to program.” Wow, ambitious. My father bought my brother a computer too, because he begged and begged to have one to play games with. On the other hand, he now works designing phones and stuff for Nokia. So..buy your son a computer, I guess. There’s a weird, scary sound coming from somewhere and Ulf shouts from the mixing table, “Looking good!” But alas, we cut away again in one of the very abrupt edits of this documentary.
Jonas is playing air hockey in a dark room with someone and seems to be enjoying himself. At least I assume it’s air hockey, but I’ve never played this game so I’m not sure. We cut to a skinny guy with glasses who could have been Ulf, but wasn’t; this is Niklas Tränk, one of the guys who quit TechNoir when Ulf jumped in. Suddenly I like Ulf a lot. Niklas tells us he and Jonas went to school. “He was an italodisco-freak and looked like one.” Hee! Jonas playing again and shouting something in Swedish.
Red Jonas tells us he started to play in a band called “G. Konrad, very strange name.” G. Konrad, that son of a gun. Wonder if he was related to Connie Walker? They played some “new romantic covers, some punk.” Punk? That.. doesn’t really sound like Jonas. “I spent almost every...dime on musical things and I get very much help from my parents, they helped me with a loan and so on.” I’m not sure if that means they loaned him the money or signed his loan petition. Actually, I remember a mention in a 93 interview about paying his parents back as soon as he gets enough money. Niklas says it took a year before they started to talk about having a band. Is that G.Konrad or Technoir? Both those names suck so bad. Well, esp G.Konrad. I urge someone to ask Jonas to sign for a “G.Konrad”. See how he’ll react.
Cut to a very shocking show by a very young Ace Of Base. And if you think they’re a bit dorky now, get a load of this. The girls are wearing black strap dresses.It seems both Jenny and Linn have their right side bra strap showing. Wtf? Was that fashion in those days? Linn and Jen both have dark hair. They have perms. They’re skinny and young-looking and sing in a kind of raw way. And a skinny young Jonas plays the keyboards in the back. They should have prepared us for this shock somehow. I could have died laughing. They’re singing a song which some fans said is “Hey Bart” from the Technoir unreleased-bootleg-possibly-fake-album “Ce Soir”. The lyrics are something like, “dance, dance, do your lines.. [?] on your own.. Do, do believe in love...” It’s not that bad, really. The text tells us that Technoir was named after a disco in the Terminator movie. Sorry, a “discotheque”. Niklas says when they “left synth music behind,” they needed someone to sing and Jonas proposed his “smaller sisters.” I guess his bigger sisters were busy. More bad footage. Jen and Linn have belts with very big buckles. And Jonas in the back is so, so thin. I feel sorry for them. Jonas seems happy tho, shaking his head to the music and smiling. You can’t see Ulf in this footage (that comes later).
Cut to Purple Jenny talking about those days. “I was a little school girl with long curly hair.. And I was going out dressing up all in black and a lot of red lipstick and just going up on stage and doing .. the kind of music that wasn’t pure me, actually. It was something that we had together, just a fun thing really.” Now we see Linn jamming to the music with huge earrings on. And a sweatband keeping the hair back. This time I recognize the song she’s singing. It is “Young and Proud,” and it sounds very much the same as on Happy Nation/The Sign. Might be the demo version we’ve heard. Linn interviews that with Technoir they used to rehearse in a garage. “The music was all on tape and it was running.. I think it was running through the air into the same microphone where both me and Jenny had to sing in the same one.” They show the 97 Linn and then cut back to Technoir. Singing “Hey Bart” again, I guess? Jenny’s singing, and it’s volume over quality. Her perm looks very funny, because it’s one of those super-puffy 80’s ones. Heh heh. Ah, young AOB, how I love laughing at you!
Now we see Ulf with a glass of water, in a tight shirt, walking up to someone on a couch. In 97. A Jonas voice-over tells us, “Ulf was kind of...” And we see Red Jonas on the couch again. “I didn’t know him, I know ABOUT him.. He was kind of in strange gangs and so on.” Wait – weren’t they childhood friends? Building villages in the forest and making weapons out of wood? Wasn’t Ulf living with Berggrens at a point in time? Odd. Behind Jonas on the couch, there is a cushion with leopard print on it. Birthe loves leopard print. Cut to the 97 Ulf interview, obviously continuing a sentence we weren’t shown: “..and as older we got, as more and more crazy we come[sic]. And I was one of the younger guys in the gang, so I always had to prove myself. And we started to be connected with skinheads.” It’s really sad. I just see a young, insecure guy trying to prove himself to the wrong people.
Ulf tells us he got in this “situation that hate took over my sense.” He’s looking down, speaking more slowly than usual. But then he looks at the camera and says, “I’ve never been against democracy in my whole life. I’ve never been against Yewish people in my whole life, either. But I figurated in situations where people had swastika. For me, I didn’t care, just.. The thing is, I wasn’t against it. That was my .. crime.” The articles in Swedish papers sometime after this interview showed Ulf doing the Nazi greeting, and the “Uffe was a nazi” album was released to prove that he really was for all the Nazi ideas. I don’t know if it proves that. I guess he didn’t have the choice of saying, “Hey guys, I don’t hate Jews and Black people, so can we talk about something else?” He would have had to go along. I don’t know how much hate he really had and who it was directed at – and frankly, I don’t think it’s important. He got out of it. End of story. This documentary focuses quite a lot on that aspect, which is not necessarily a good thing; it’s obviously what prompted the Nazis to try to ruin Ulf’s reputation all over again.
We see Ulf in the studio with StoneStream, jamming to a tune and making gestures with his fingers like he’s playing the piano. Ulf says, “Suddenly I was 18 and I suddenly started to realize, this is not the life I want.” We see a picture of a young Ulf in a white shirt. He looks skinny and kinda scary. The sunglasses were already there tho, so there’s something in common with the Ulf we know today. “Also behind me, I had my parents supporting me, trying to.. what’s wrong here, you know? What could they do? And they did the best they could – they couldn’t do better.” That sounds a bit like he’s defending them. I wonder if someone accused them in public. I mean- it’s always like that, ppl blame the parents. Although in some interviews Ulf said he got on the wrong track because his father was absent, so.. Ulf is still jamming with StoneStream. Someone’s talking in Swedish off-camera. And another scene of Ulf in the studio, playing his synthesizer.
Jonas says about Ulf, “He was kind of calming down, he wanted to do more music. And he start playing with a guy in the band.. They had a kind of hobby band with harder music.” I do hope he doesn’t mean that “Uffe was a nazi” stuff? Because that’s horrible racist crap. Yes, I’ve heard those songs, and I wish I hadn’t. There’s a picture of an angry guy on stage, raising his fist. I don’t think it’s Ulf. Now we see Ulf in the studio again, and the tune from Mercy Mercy plays in a very high note, a thin synth sound. He makes it lower. It’s MM I think. Ulf tells us that Jonas and him shared a rehearsal studio, where they worked on different bands but also worked together sometmes. They became “better and better friends, and also.. especially when I took the step out from my.. past.”
OK, now we cut to Jonas in the studio. “Polar Studios 1997, recording ‘Donnie’.” There’s a whole orchestra there. Pretty impressive. Jonas is watching from behind a glass and looks very focused on his work. We cut to him saying, “Here we sit in a very classic studio, Polar Studio. ABBA did some albums here.” He gestures to a guy and says, “Here is Douglas.” “Hi,” says Douglas. “One of the producers,” Jonas continues. Douglas has a little moustache/beard. He’s smiling to the camera. Then we see him directing the orchestra, I think. Wow. “We’ve kind of worked together on the production of this song, Donnie,” says Jonas. Cut to Jonas singing, “and taa-daa-daa.. taa-da..” People listen to him very attentively. A text tells us, “Douglas Carr has worked with Jonas on the first, second and now on the third album.”
Now for an interview with Douglas, who suddenly doesn’t have a beard. He says, “The first time I met the guys it was in the studio working on The Sign. The first impression was that they’re very ordinary, basic guys. When we’re working with Ace Of Base it’s like.. Jonas is the captain of the ship. But there’s a lot of give and take, respect and joy.” OK, this is interesting. This is an AOB producer who has worked with them for a while and has something to say. Why didn’t they interview StoneStream as well? Douglas seems like a nice guy, actually. I hear Jonas can be kinda dominating esp in the studio. I wonder if “captain of the ship” is a more polite way of saying that. There are more clips of recording Donnie, with a bunch of guys nodding to the rhythm.
Now we cut to a 98 interview of Jonas, I think. It seems like spring to me, and he looks fatter than in the 97 interviews. He’s sitting on the shore of some kind of lake. Would this be the notorious “bridge” he’s sitting on? Hmm. “I mostly do the lyrics and the melody.. Chords and so on. But I always have to work with someone who has technical skill.” He says he’s been writing with Douglas outside in the summertime, playing guitars.. “Before we sat more in the studio, bla bla bla..” It’s interesting. He has his own studio, and I guess he uses outside technicians there to, Håkan and Jürgen who used to chat with us at some point. I like hearing about how we works, I feel we actually know pretty little about it still. We see studio bits of recording Donnie again, Jonas talking to someone but again you can’t hear what they’re saying. That’s getting kinda annoying.
Now: LIAF remix again! Woo! And we see a big white building. “Hus 11”. A fast-forward of people setting up some instruments and equipment there. Jenny comes out of a car, dressed in a cute red shirt. She says, “Morgon! – God dag.” Morning, good day? Which is it then? Her long hair is blowing with the wind. Jonas also comes out of the car. He shakes hands with someone off-camera and then says hi to the camera, in Swedish, and there is a closeup of him smiling. Awww. Jonas and Jenny in the elevator. Jenny’s talking, and I think Najs once translated this as, “[some guy] asked me if we had fun last night at the premiere.” Jonas and Jenny saw “Men In Black” at the premiere in Stockholm, I think, in the summer of 1997. Jonas was wearing this same shirt, white with black stripes and stuff.
Jenny walks into the studio, the camera follows her, and we get a text: “Stockholm, summer of 1997. Rehearsals for live performance of Princess Victoria’s birthday.” Oh, that makes sense. What were Benzon and Gunilla Leinig thinking? Firstly, there was way too much stuff about Ulf’s past, and there will be more later. Secondly, the beginning of Ace Of Base has NOT been dealt with at all yet and we jump right into 1997. Thirdly, I think the “making the new album” stuff could perhaps come in the end of the documentary, instead of sprinkling it all around. Fourthly, this whole footage of the rehearsal, while cute to watch, is kinda unrelevant to the bigger story of AOB. We see Spiff again, I think, ruffling his hair. Wow, that tells us so much about AOB. Some random guy sitting on the floor playing the guitar. Jonas testing the chords on a synth in a pretty uncomfortable-looking position, stretching his arms way down.
And suddenly it’s Niklas Tränk again, saying, “The night everyone thinks I just quit out of the blue...was the night Rolling Stones played in Gothenburg. I was supposed to be on stage that night in.. Bältespännarparken.” Oh no, we see Young Jenny again, doing a ‘dance’ with her arms and looking very 80’s perm-y and over-make-up-y. Lots of red lipstick there, like she said. I realize after a moment that the song is “Dancer in a Daydream.” Niklas says he changed his mind on the last minute. OK, hold on. He seemed to be saying earlier that he didn’t just “quit ouf the blue”. But this would mean he did. I don’t think I get it. Young Jonas jamming in the background again. Young Jenny dancing. Hee! Jonas voice-overs that he asked Ulf if he wants to join them on stage, and now we zoom to Young Ulf, wearing sunglasses and a bandana. He’s even skinnier-looking than Young Jonas, but not as ridiculous as the girls. Jonas stammers, “Ulf not. Ulf not very shy of..kind of..here I am!” Once again, Jonas doesn’t seem to find the right words, or the grammatical structure to put them in. I wonder if he really thinks in Swedish and translates into English. Either way, the thought came thru alright; Ulf loves to be the centre of attention. Which is what the Swedish subtitles say. NOW we get a text saying: “Gothenburg 6 August 1990”. Tho it’s not as big a font as the other texts. Weird. So this isn’t Technoir but Ace Of Base already. Linn sings off-key, or maybe it’s Jenny’s harmonies that go a bit off. It sounds.. raw. Ulf says, “I took his place. And from that point we started to work together and make music.”
And now for a very unfortunate montage of the band playing what I think is their worst song ever, Fashion Party. Ulf is doing the “confess!” bit, and I take it back about him not looking as ridiculous as the girls. First of all, it’s not a bandana after all but a backwards cap. Secondly, he has a sports jacket on with all kinds of pastel colors that look so wrong in a sports jacket. He looks like a tall, skinny teen in little boys’ clothes. He doesn’t lipsynch to “confess you’d like to be!” Ugh, Fashion Party from a bad sound system, with a very skinny young Jenny “dancing”. I feel sick. Skinny Jonas with his drumsticks, looking very unlike Jonas. And Ulf just..standing around on stage when there’s nothing to rap. Wtf? The camera pans to Linn, “dancing” in a corner away from the spotlight, because this is Jenny’s song. I wonder why Linn got to sing all the better early songs and Jenny had to settle for “Dance yourself mad!”
Now there’s a small montage of black and white photos of young Jonas and Ulf in the studio. They look young and skinny; they have an old-fashioned computer; there are pictures of naked women on the walls. Pretty amusing stuff. Jonas says, “Me and Ulf are very different as persons. But that was really something we had in common.” A picture of Jonas playing the guitar and Ulf working on the computer. See? They complement each other. Cut to Jonas and Ulf sitting around a kitchen table. The floor is checkered and I don’t know if this is the Berggren home, Jonas’ house, Ulf’s house, the Barn or what. Jonas is eating some bread and talking about something, enthusiastically, but we can’t hear him talk, because we hear a voice-over of him talking about Ulf. “He had a lot of energy, and also he knows technical things that I don’t know.” He laughs a bit. “So I think it’s good to work with him because of that reason anyway.” For that reason anyway? That sounds like... Uh, nevermind. The whole "They're not friends/they are friends" rumor has gone on long enough.
Ulf says he moved to the studio and lived there two and a half years and rented out his apartment. “The studio was like..20 square meters or something like that, without shower.” Hence the story that he walked to the Berggrens every morning to take a shower.
Hey, look! We’re at the rehearsal for Victoria’s birthday party again! Jonas, Jenny and some women are standing in a circle, singing, “Love, love, lucky love belongs in teenage heaven...” Jonas and one of the girls are playing guitars. Then Jonas explains something which I don’t get, apart from, “det blir kul”, i.e. “It’ll be fun.” I don’t get his Swedish. Ulf is jamming to the music in a tight beige shirt and obviously doing nothing of value. Doesn’t he play keyboards for the band? Shouldn’t he be doing something like that right now? It seems like ever since 96, he just.. jams on stage and doesn’t play any instruments. It’s a bit odd.
Ah, Linn interview. Have you noticed we haven’t gotten very much of that so far? Linn says they were “at the same party, me and Ulf. And I think it was that very special night for him..”(and she smiles a bit, almost laughing) “..that he found the name and he said, Hey! We could be called Ace Of Base! And I said..” (a very funny facial gesture) “Ace Of Spades? Oh, Ace Of Base?” Linn looks animated, happy, she’s smiling and talking.. So what happened after this interview?
And rehearsal. Ulf blows into the microphone to look like he’s doing something. Yeah, convincing there, Uffe. Spiff or whoever plays an electric guitar vigorously. This is Lucky Love still. Jenny’s singing very high but it’s hard to hear her over all the instruments. And then drums.. “ett, två, tre, fyr..” And ATSW starts playing. Ulf is jamming again, while everyone else is working; he has a red can he keeps sipping from and there’s a stain on the back of his shirt. Jenny sings “she leads a lonely a life” kinda high. Jonas is smiling and looking around, playing the synth. And Jenny voice-overs, “Jonas and Ulf they were very.. all the time, they were pushy to get what they wanted. But at the same time they told us, OK.. see what happens. I mean if nothing happens, we just try again.”
Ulf voice-overs that they went to John (Ballard) before they even sent out demo tapes. We cut to “John Ballard, producer,” who says, “I think I had an ad in the paper looking for new bands and they answered the advertisement, they came to the studio, they played.” Text: “John Ballard writes and produces songs with Ulf and Björn Stenström at Tuff Studios, Stockholm.” And Jenny’s still singing ATSW and this is not one of the songs John Ballard worked on. Why not show Ulf and StoneStream in the studio now? This would have been a good place for that little bit of footage. Just saying. John says, “It would be very easy for me to say, Oh yeah I thought they were gonna be the biggest band in the world. I didn’t, but they definitely had something.” In the rehearsal, Jenny sings, Jonas taps on some conga drums. I didn’t know he knew that stuff. Ulf voice-overs, “The thing is, he was very busy at the moment. And he didn’t have the money to go and cancel everything in the studio to just work with us, because it was a lot of work.” So why did he have an advertisement to look for new bands if he had no time for that?
John says, “It was a bit too much techno or dance at that time.” Yes! Thank you! It was still too techno in 93, actually. “We tried to steer them and tell them, These are the three four songs you should be playing to people.”
And now we cut to something horrible. This is an early AOB gig, but it’s not the same one from 1990, I think; Jenny’s hair is now straight and looks wet, and she’s wearing a leather jacket. Ulf is shouting something weird, like he’s in pain. Sounds scary. And the song is My Mind. The footage is very bad, the camera keeps jumping up and down. I have no idea where this is from.
Ah, Red Jonas. He adjusts himself on the sofa and says “Me and Ulf was many times in Stockholm[sic].” I hope their English teachers weren’t watching this. Ulf said they either didn’t have time or they “yust wanted All That She Wants.” Niklas says, “I talked to Jonas about it at the time and he was quite angry, actually. He thought it was very strange that the record companies could sign Dr Alban but not him.” Does that mean he likes Dr Alban or not? My Mind is still going on in a very messy footage. It makes the song sound messy and weird, which is probably is.
And I can’t help but think of FP, M, MM, DOD, and ask: Why didn’t Jonas go in the studio and write better songs instead of spending all his energy on getting a record deal with the old crappy ones? I’ve never thought of this before but it doesn’t make sense. What if AOB had actually waited until they had an album that bigger record companies wanted to release? We would have had a much better first album, that’s what. And while I liked the way Mega corresponded with fans, perhaps a bigger company would have stopped some of the mess that happened with signing up for four different labels at the time. I dunno really. AOB’s history is what it is and it can’t be changed, but I just wonder.
We see a magazine article that says, “Missen kostade skivdirektörerna 50 miljoner kronor,” which means that passing on AOB cost the record companies 50 million. Yeah, but they took a pass because they didn’t like the music, and that should be the honest thing to do. Jonas says, “Klas Lunding.. He said maybe we can record a song and we did that." Text: “In May 1991, Klas Lunding, the A&R at Telegram records, let Ace Of Base record a demo of Wheel of Fortune.” Messy Footage of singing WOF.
Linn voice-overs: “They said that I was gonna sing almost everything. And they tried with Jenny, but I got to sing it. I was very, very nervous and nobody helped me. I was totally left alone.” Well, this goes to show how very young she was at the time. The messy footage tries to zoom on Linn, but you can’t really see her. Show the 97 Linn talking instead. OK, now they do. “I only could sing, I was no.. singer. And suddenly I had to be.. a singer.” I would actually like to hear a little more about this. Is this part of the reason she felt so exhausted later? Did she feel forced to do something she wasn’t ready for? But as usual, we’re left with just this and it goes back to Messy Footage.
Another magazine article about the same thing. Jonas says, “He liked the song, perhaps, but he didn’t know how to release it, because they didn’t have that label, you know. And I said, ‘What are you talking about, yust release it. What are we talking about a label, if it’s a good song it is a good song.’”
WOF video. Linn has a LOT of grey eyeshadow. Or mascara, or whatever. Either way, it looks bad. Claes starts talking and soon we see him, a scrawny guy with long hair and big glasses. There’s something John Lennon about his looks. “They sent us a demo tape, from Sweden to a Danish record label which was kind of unheard of at the time. So they sent the demo of Wheel of Fortune.” Then we hear Kjeld Wennick speak, and his tone is somehow annoying. He sounds kinda loud to me for some reason. “You just getting the feeling that it was big and ..I couldn’t get it out of my head, it was in there all the time, it began irritating me actually, you know! I couldn’t get it out!” Kjeld looks older than Claes, a chubby man with dark curly hair and glasses. There’s something dominating about him, tho I can’t put my finger on it.
Cryptic scenes from WOF video. I never really got it. Woman sitting on chair with holes in it; angel with a ball.. wtf? Very bad lighting. Back to Claes, “It didn’t sound like anything we’d heard up to that point. There was a very novel element of reggae pop done very originally, we thought. A strong emphasis on melody and also on melodic hooks.”
Ulf is talking in Swedish in a very badly filmed bit in very early AOB days. His hairdo is funny. Jonas had pretty big biceps. You can’t really see his face, just his arm.
Text: “When Mega released Wheel of Fortune for the third time in Denmark in February 1992 it suddenly started to chart.” Third time? I guess this goes back to the old story of no promotion, no management, no nothing to boost the sales. We see a very young AOB – Linn with blonde hair already – receiving a gold album for WOF, and Ulf speaking in Swedish in that bad footage again, saying the next single should be released in the beginning of June (or July). Then black and white footage of AOB in the dressing room, Jenny combing her very long straight hair and Ulf blows into a small trumpet. Sounds funny. So those were real instruments he played in the early videos? Skinny Jonas in the dressing room talking to someone, looking..well, he just doesn’t look like Jonas like this. He looks like, I dunno, Chandler on Friends in his thinner days. Jenny putting makeup on. Linn putting makeup on, her hair? Light brown. Confusing.
Dag Volle, a.k.a. Denniz Pop, standing in the sun. I didn’t know he was that buff. He has really long blond hair. This documentary was made quite shortly before he died. I feel kinda sad now. Douglas tells us, “I was working with Denniz Pop and he came to pick me up every day with his car. When we were driving in the car, we listened to a lot of demo tapes.”
Denniz Pop says he got a cassette with the text, “ ‘Please listen to our demos and calls us! Ace Of Base.’ I took the tape and I put it in my car stereo and it got stuck, so I kept hearing it, every time I turned on that car, I heard the same song. It was called Mr Ace.” It’s funny, because now that I’ve actually heard Mr Ace, it's different to watch this. I used to wondre how something with such a silly name could turn into ATSWIt sounds very much the same as ATSW, just with dumb rap parts: “I’m lean I’m mean, I’m a love machine! –I’m Mr Ace, I’m running my base!” Thank god they took that out. But other than that, it’s really pretty good.
Douglas tells us how one day Denniz said he wants to produce the track, “and it turned out to be ATSW.” A much more logical name than Mr Ace.
Cut to a young AOB singing ATSW. Linn’s already blonde, but looks v young. Ulf has a bandana on and is jamming to the music in a silly way. And Jenny’s “dancing”. My god. It’s like an exercise in art dance class, “Be a tree! Stretch your branches higher, higher!” Skinny Jonas is in the back, as always.
Linn: “We only had a different opinion in one matter and that was ATSW. I came to the studio and I heard and it was in major. And reggae in major – it’s only Red Red Wine that is good. I said to them maybe ten times that it was the worst stuff I ever heard, take it out of the computer, kill it. It is lousy, we can’t sing, we can’t do this. So finally they got so annoyed by me so they changed it.” That’s cute. I like Linn’s attitude, and I can’t imagine ATSW sounding different, even if I don’t have strong feelings about reggae in major.
Text: “Denniz Pop producer All That She wants in Stockholm in 1991. he is often called the man behind the Ace of Base sound.” It’s not entirely true though, since Mr Ace was very close to ATSW. It was only some of the sound that was changed. Crappy ATSW video plays. Can’t we pretend this never happened? It’s not even bad enough to be funny; it’s just plain bad and boring. Worst. Video. Ever.
Text: “In March 1992 ATSW was number one and WOF was number two in Denmark.” Niklas confesses he didn’t think they’d have a chance. “Maybe one, two singles and then.. no more.” Sour grapes? That’s what many critics said too though.
“Ace Of Base, “årets nykomling” (Swedish dance music awards 1993).” So they won “newcomer of the year”. Nice. Linn and Jenny are singing HN in black leather jackets, with their hairs in perm again, but this time somewhat more tasteful than in that Technoir show. Linn’s blonde. Then they show them accepting the award and, LOL! The guys are dressed as monks! Soo bad. Ulf explains in Swedish that there is also good music in Göteborg, although the music circles in Sweden are in Stockholm. Jenny tries to say something, but Ulf keeps talking.
Ulf interviews that their first promotion was in Denmark and then they continued with a tour in Denmark for a few weeks. Cut to a bad taping of a show in Denmark. Everything is blue, there’s a lot of crowd in a small space, and Ulf speaks in very weird-sounding Danish. The subtitles read, “This is our first show in Denmark and the first night of our tour. So there’s a lot of press here.” John Ballard says they went around the small clubs in Denmark, “this was before they had their big success. Eight people traveling in a small van, bad PA systems, there’s no money, there’s no budget, there’s no anything.” I.e., nothing? OK, I’m a little confused here. Didn’t John Ballard turn them down? Wasn’t he too busy? Now they’re with him, going around the small clubs in Denmark. Weird.
Jenny says on the first tour, they “made everything up” themselves. Well, I hope they didn’t make it UP. She explains about a red shirt where she made “puffärmar” and doesn’t know what it is in English. Puffy sleeves, I think. Basically she had this very short princess dress with a “little white..” again, she’s missing a word. I think she means bow, judging by the footage. She says, “gosh it was so nasty.” Hee! “And this was part of the show, I was looking like Snow White.” She looks around, like, ashamed, and we see her in the show wearing this dress, and it’s so funny. She looks like a little girl dressed up for Halloween or something.
WFM playing over weird footage of a young Jenny walking with some guy and waving at the camera in an angry way. And a young guy walking, who I guess might be Jonas but I’m not sure. Ulf eating something and waving at the camera with a friend. Jenny singing off-key to WFM. Very bad footage from a dark room where AOB are eating. Or perhaps drinking and smoking. Somebody speaks unclear Swedish and there are many voices on top of each other and this part of the footage could easily have been left out. AOB singing HN on stage, shot from way back in the audience. Jonas, dressed as a monk, comes between the girls for a moment and jams with the music. Hee! And ... Weird. Either the singing or the sound system is bad. Cut to HN video, which is also.. well, bad. I loved this song and video in the beginning but now it just seems so lame and outdated.
Kjeld says, “We had a number one, a number two, and we decided that we need an album now!” I don’t like the way he talks; maybe he’s trying to sound over-dramatic. Ulf tells us that Jonas had 20-30 songs, some with a good verse, others with a good chorus, so they combined those and made an album out of it. Which explains a lot, but not what exactly Ulf did on in HN. What part of the songs did he make? Did he write any verses, choruses, or just the raps? Did he fine-tune things technologically? I’m confused. Text on screen tells us that ATSW got a number 1 position in Germany and heavy MTV rotation. On the HN video, Ulf says ominously, “Traveling in time!” Is that a reference to the fucked-up timeline of this documentary? Kjeld continues that he “stressed the bands to come up with tracks and the producers, different producers which was involved..” but they cut off to a perf of Voulez-Vous Danser and we never hear what the producers were stressed to do.
The VVD perf is from 93 and this is the AOB most of us already are familiar with. Blonde Linn is singing, a very long-haired Jenny is jamming, Ulf with gel in his hair jumping on stage in a too big shirt, and Jonas in the back playing the keyboard, not so skinny anymore. Ah, good old times. I’m beginning to feel nostalgic. Ulf says it was too fast, they had to take the demo versions because there was no time to record stuff again, they just had to clean the demos up a little bit. And more VVD, which doubtless was one of these tracks. The Sign/HN US version VVD sounds slightly different. Ithink they re-recorded it there to make it sound less raw.
The first disco-ball Happy Nation cover appears. I think it was designed by Johnny Lindén, one of the original Technoir guys, who isn’t in this documentary for some reason. More VVD. The girls dance in an amusing way, Jonas has a funny vest on, and Red Jonas of 97 tells us that the album was done in three weeks. He’s not happy with the production or the remixes of that album. It’s funny. They were looking for record companies for such a long time, the first single had to be released three times, and then they weren’t prepared to make an album? It’s a very weird story in a way, but I guess that’s how it is when you’re a young band. In VVD footage, I notice the girls are wearing their “trash bag” leather jackets. Ewww.
OK, this is end of Part I, since we now cut to Princess Victoria’s birthday party. That’s the first 23 minutes anyway. More soon!
Secondly, it would seem the band was still called TechNoir in that first gig. You know, Nerdfest 1990 with Skinny Jonas and Young Jenny with too much lipstick. As Mr Rod pointed out, it says TECH NOIR behind them. Which makes sense, because Ulf thought of the name Ace Of Base at a New Year’s Eve party. Would that have been NYE 1990? This was August 6, 1990. Ugh. Imagine a band called TechNoir playing such dorky songs. And the image.. If we’d been there, would we still be fans?
OUR STORY, part II.
OK, let’s get going then. It’s July 1997 and AOB are performing at Crown Princess Victoria’s birthday party at Borgholm, Sweden. First some establishing shots: a hot summer’s day, people lying on the lawn, a photographer tuning his camera. And then we see Jonas get off the car with a can in his hand. Is that beer? Eh, I hope he wasn’t driving. He looks back to see if Birthe gets out OK, and there she comes, putting on sunglasses immediately. Not big on publicity, that girl. There was debate at the time about whether Jonas cares about Birthe in this part of the documentary. He does actually look back to see her coming. We don’t see Birthe in this footage after this moment, so I guess she went into the audience?
Ulf gives an autograph to some kids, looking kinda blasé about it. Was AOB still so big in 97 that school kids would ask for autographs? The crowd applauds as Ulf walks by and he waves at them. Where’s Emma, wasn’t she there? Oh, she probably had a modeling gig in Milan or something. And there’s Jenny, carrying a big STOP sign handbag. Hee. Linn arrives in the same car, smiling and with sunglasses on, with a bigger handbag. A guy directs them to the right place. Literally, as he says “direkt till höger, direkt till höger”, which means “directly to the right”. Now the royal family arrives; the Text chooses to appear NOW to tell us what event this is, how helpful for those who didn’t know before; we hear the presenter announce AOB, telling the audience they did one live gig last year in Chile, and where do you think they’ll do their only live gig this year? Right here in Borgholm! The crowd goes wild. We see AOB walk toward the stage. Jonas still has the can in his hand. Jenny’s holding hands with some guy. Is that Johan? Or would it be Chris? I’ve lost count of all her men. I hope Jakob’s a keeper. The announcer makes the crowd scream while AOB wait backstage. Jen is looking nervous. Jonas is smiling, I think he likes going on stage. He smiles at the camera and this is one of my fave Jonas 97 pix with his adorable chubby face and aww... There’s the guitar guy from the rehearsal and some other musicians.
When AOB is announced, we sadly skip Linn’s “Sång” and go straight to NGSIS rock version. Linn is playing keyboards behind the guys and actually looks pretty happy. I’ve never been a big fan of Rock version, but it sounds cool on stage. Cut to Lucky Love. Jenny sounds better nowadays, but it’s much better than those earliest shows. She’s giving it all she’s got, which the Swedish critics deemed wasn’t much, but I think she’s doing great. This is her first live gig without Linn, ever. Actually, she explained in a fall 98 interview that she was so nervous that morning and she had a very acid stomach. I think she was already taking song lessons at this time, so she would have been a bit prepared at least.
The camera stays on Linn, which is interesting, since she was in the back. She seems to enjoy the show though and just jams to the music. Long hair, white shirt, looking beautiful and happy. So why didn’t you sing, Linn? WHY? Jonas plays the guitar and seems to be having fun as well. And Ulf, well, here’s BL and Ulf jumping on stage with his guitar/synth/prop, looking like he’s at a party, like always in performances. Ulf? It’s not a celebrity party on stage. It’s a performance. I appreciate you’re having a good time, but how about playing an instrument or participating somehow to the band’s, you know, music? Ulf and Jonas jamming, looking happy. I like how they do that in perfs. Even if Ulf isn’t really playing. It makes them look like good friends, tho 97, like so many years before it, was one of those times that they were rumored to be fighting. Jonas is hitting drumsticks on his synthesizer, looking eerily similar to some old 93 performance I remember from way back. Well, this happened only four years after that, and after his 95 weight gain and 96 weight loss, he was on a new weight gain cycle, placing him somewhere a little bigger than 93... It’s just funny to see him jump around to BL and beating his synthesizer with drumsticks. Haven’t seen him doing that in years. Ulf jumping around? Sure. Happens all the time. Jonas jumping around? Not really since 96. Victoria seems to love the performance, his brother looks less impressed. And the crowd? They are loving it. I don’t care what the Swedish critics said, this performance rocked big time.
And now it’s suddenly winter 1997, recording Cecilia. I’m assuming it’s the same footage as the very beginning of the show, since Jenny’s wearing the same sweater. She’s sitting on a beige sofa. I think it’s the same one the fans sat with Jonas in 2004. She’s humming Cecilia, looking at some papers. Jonas comes in wearing a black shirt that says “Marilyn”. His boat came with matching T-shirts? Cute. Jenny voice-overs: “We started in.. I guess it was January last year.” Is that 1997 or 1996? The timeline is killing me. I suppose it’s 97, since they were still promoting TB in Jan 96. Jenny says they met at Jonas’ house and he sang the songs, played his guitar and wrote down the lyrics, “We were singing, I said, That’s not a good key, I want it in that key.. And we were talking about the song, but he’d done it already, of course.” Why don’t we have footage of that? Would have been so cool. Probably there would have been an Ulf voice-over over that, though. OK, now Jenny and Jonas are sitting together on the sofa and Jenny’s asking him something. She wants to have “a different touch”. She says it in Swedish, but ‘touch’ in English. Cute. Voice-over Jenny says, “He doesn’t write notes, so you have to learn by what you hear.” It seems odd to me that he doesn’t write notes. He must know them, otherwise he wouldn’t be able to play the guitar or the piano, right? What’s the big deal about writing them then? I guess I shouldn’t interfere with the great musical genius tho.
They talk some more about Cecilia. I think Jonas says he liked how the chorus sounded yesterday. Jenny, looking bigger than she is in her oversized sweater, asks, “Romeo and..?” Jonas sings to her, “Ju-li-et, Ju-li-et..” It sounds really cool, but kinda un-melodic in that part, and I think Jenny ends up singing it quite differently. Might be because Jonas’ voice is so much lower. Except in the Happy Nation Latin choir, but I think we’re all trying to forget that.
Jenny says what she loves most about singing is that ”a lot of bad things is happening so you have to focus on the good parts.” Wow. I can certainly relate to that; I always love when a lot of bad things are happening, too! We see Jenny from behind a studio glass, singing Cecilia with animated facial gestures. She seems to be enjoying herself, or maybe she’s mugging for the camera. The text informs us that The Barn is an old barn that used to belong to Jonas’ grandparents. I actually thought it was his great-grandfather who was also called Jonas Berggren, according to what Birgitta told us, but I could be wrong. We see Jonas from behind, sitting with some bald guy at the mixing table. Would this be Håkan, Jürgen, or.. eh, nevermind, we cut to Ulf stuff.
The Very Important Charles Fisher tells us he first heard the band on the “raydio”, and it was ATSW, he liked it because it was a very different sound. “Arista Records introduced me to Mega Records and I thought it would be a suitable combination for me to come here and work with Ace Of Base.” I thought it would be a suitable combination for my head to hit the wall because of all this Charles Fisher hype, but I decided it’s not worth it. Jenny’s singing Cecilia, but suddenly there’s a loud “aaa”, and we cut to footage of Ulf shouting into a microphone. The text says, “Gothenburg 1997, recording ‘I Pray’.” StoneStream and Ulf are talking to each other. Ulf says (in Swedish) “You can’t hear me and I can’t hear you, should I turn on..?” but his voice-over comes on and IntervUlf says, “The cooperation and the machinery is working much better on this album.” We cut to him sitting in the studio with white spiky hair, so obviously this is 1998. “The cooperation between us band members have worked much better with this one. We don’t have any.. ehh.. sensitive questions,” he says very carefully. Hey, what questions? Who’s the man in the band? How you slept with both the girls and now they both hate you? Damn, comments like that just scream, “Make up rumors!” He continues, “We are very open-minded to each other.” Meaning that they were judgemental before? I don’t get it. Back to 97, where Ulf says “Walk, talk, do it all” to the microphone. And yeah, that’s one of the cool raps. “I’m Mr Ace, I’m running my base” is a different story.
Charles “Shut Up Already” Fisher again. He says, “There’s not a great deal of difference between Jonas and Ulf when it comes down to the practical working situation. They’re both very fussy about what they want and they’re both very particular that it be good.” Sounds good to me, because when they make the music they know is good, it’s only the best versions for us. On the other hand, it might be frustrating to work with someone that determined. I hear Linn and Jenny have to re-sing it again and again to make it just right. However, we get zero information as to which songs Jonas worked on with Charles Fisher and how much he actually did with them both. We only see Ulf parts, and even then, only parts of Charles waiting in the studio for Ulf, or with him, instead of actually recording. Fisher continues that they used a local choir of 25 kids in one of the songs, I Pray. He compliments the choir. In the footage, Ulf and StoneStream keep working on the sound and seem to be having fun. StoneStream didn’t get an interview, because what does he know? He’s only worked with the band from the very beginning. He’s no Charles Fisher.
We cut to the choir singing, “I pray, I pray, uu-uu-uu-uu-uu.” And yeah, it sounds good, tho I still think it’s ironic that the least religious band member has made the two most religious-titled songs: “I Pray” and “Edge of Heaven.” Neither of which actually is about religion. Text: “Australian producer Charles Fisher has worked with Savage Garden among other famous artists.” Enough with Charles Fisher already! Geez. Aren’t AOB famous enough on their own? Do you have to bring “star” producers and make them steal the show? Charles talks about how the choir’s gonna sound great, and the guitars, “especially the wah-wah-guitars”(heh, wah-wah) are gonna be the biggest change. “They’re very funky tracks.” Is he only talking about IP now? Or IP and DGA? Or.. something else that we’re not told about? Ulf raps “don’t wait, don’t be late..” which, of course, comes BEFORE “walk, talk, do it all.” Either the editors didn’t know it or consciously fucked up the timing. It’s annoying. StoneStream fiddles with the controls. He’s a big guy, a bit Jonas-like. He has white hair and a white beard, so maybe he influenced Ulf’s hairstyles. I’m annoyed that we’re still at Ulf, since Jonas wrote more songs on the album and therefore should get more studio scenes on the documentary. Frankly, it looks to me like they added this many Ulf parts just to prove he did something on the album, or alternatively because they wanted to highlight Charles Fisher. It seems a little unbalanced to me. All the Ulf studio parts are pretty boring so far.
Ulf now says that this album is more mature than last time, like the second album was more mature than the first one. I don’t know. TB was definitely more mature than HN, and much more well-made, but I don’t think F/CS is so much more mature. I thought some TB songs were far superior to F, and although I loved Flowers and it’s still my favourite AOB album, it’s not as varied as TB and doesn’t have as many deep lyrics. Ulf always says they’re more mature; he also said that about DC and that time, well...it just sounded wrong. If he means sound wise, I wouldn’t know, though. Maybe F and DC do develop in the sound, but I mostly listen to the lyrics and the messages (or lack thereof).
“To work with Charles Fisher have been wonderful.” Yes, and how wonderful to hear about it for the umpteenth time. Now Ulf in the studio hears Jenny’s vocals, but she’s not there recording those vocals. See, wouldn’t it be fun to actually see her SING them? See her working with Ulf, rather than Ulf listening to the finished track? This is so poorly chosen footage.
Ulf says the message is “definitely the same as the normal Ace Of Base message: that we should take care of the life that we have and try to do the best of the situation.” I think that’s the message of LIAF. But then, LIAF sums up the AOB message, so maybe it’s their message at large. Now Ulf walks into a studio and they listen to I Pray, again, some more. Exciting.
OK, now we’re on Jonas. Thank you. Jonas says, “Trumpet, trumbon, trumpet. Alla.” Haha.. that sounded funny. We’re at Polar Studios again, this time recording Cecilia. Birthe is sitting next to Jonas. She seems nervous of the camera, looking down and not talking. The orchestra leader goes to the musicians and informs them how to do “tadubaum, taduboum, tadubaum, tadu-BAM, all together in the last one.” Heh. And then we hear them play it. Sounds good. Jonas sings along and taps his hand to the rhythm. He is happy. We cut to the 98 Jonas sitting on a bridge, saying, “I know the computers and how to work the basic things in the studio. But it’s getting more and more complicated, so I really need good .. producers, someone.. and technical people around me.” Cut back to Polar Studios, where Jonas is singing some of the melody of Cecilia. I know most fans hate this song and it was never a favourite of mine either, but it really starts to sound cool when you see it prepared like this. Again, I’d rather see Jonas working with Jenny or Linn in the studio – those Jen parts were awfully short, and the Linn parts were just awfully.. not even there. I’m not that excited about all these extra musicians that were only brought in for a few songs.
And now: enter Tommy Ekman. At 31:57. Wow. He’s a chubby, happy-looking guy who says, “There is a sound to the group and you have to think in that direction. Every song is a challenge and you have to find the right environment for the song, so.. You know, it’s a little both ways, you know, we have to try to do something that fits to the group, but still do something that’s right for the song.” Yeah. Someone who knows the band well and knows their sound. Didn’t just hear it from the raydio. More Polar Studios footage. People blowing in trumpets. The All-knowing Text informs us that Tommy Ekman has, together with Per Adebratt, worked with AOB on albums 1,2, and 3. And done a hell of a good job, I think, but the text doesn’t say that. In the studio, 97 Jonas is very happy with what he’s hearing.
And on the bridge, 98 Jonas says, “Some of the songs will have a bit.. what do you say? 80’s, 70’s flavour.. taste.. Kind of like.. (sings, snaps fingers) I wanna be.. Bobby’s girl! You know, in that direction.” Aww, that was so cute. The retro sound was never anyone’s fave, it seems, but I guess Jonas really liked it himself. Jonas continues, “That is the new step for us. We have used, as people say, ‘real musicians.’” Heh. Tommy Ekman tells us “this time we went to Gothenburg and went home to Jonas and he was playing songs on the guitar” (imitates playing the guitar) “and you know.. ‘That is good!’” and laughs. I have a feeling he’d laugh at a funeral, too. Just because it’s his nature to laugh at everything. Jonas sometimes seems that way too; no wonder they work so well together. “And so we kind of.. really took it from the lowest stage.” Musicians talking to Jonas in Polar Studio.
And now, very logically, cut to Monaco World Music Awards, 1997. We see AOB at rehearsal. There’s the stage being set up. Linn yawning and ruffling her hair. Aww. With sunglasses on. How Ulf of you, Linn. Jenny’s wearing a purple outfit, which she later changed for a yellow one. Jenny, Jenny, all this purple and yellow clothing. So tacky. But not as tacky as Young Jenny’s bra strap. Ulf tells us that it’s become a tradition to do the WMA’s, “it’s a little bit like Christmas.” Maybe he shouldn’t have said that, because they never won the WMA’s again after 1997. At the rehearsal, the mock-presenter says “Ace – of Base!” And Jenny starts “singing” Ravine, though of course it was always playback at the WMA’s. Cut to a woman talking to Ulf in some language I don’t understand. Ulf says in Swedish, “Eight o’clock the latest.” The woman says sth which is subtitled, “Then they’ll send a car at 7.30.” Why was this subtitled tho? It’s not like it’s meaningful in any way. Lasse says something to Jenny, like they have to get some food, but they’re coming at 4.30. IntervUlf tells us that they had 2 minutes to get ready at the hotel. “Then I went to the other hotel, Beach Hotel, and had a press conference.” Alone? Why? “One of the few times we have the press from the whole world in one place at one time.”
And now! AOB makes it big in America! I bet you weren’t expecting that, huh? Gotcha, viewers! Haha! Hey, why’d everyone change the channel? TS starts playing and we see headlines of AOB making number one in the US. Purple Jenny is back and tells us, “We had to make it quick in the States. Else we wouldn’t get a record deal because of so much import. We were in the charts by just being imported from Europe.” That’s kinda cool, actually. Any of you US Acers import AOB before they were big there? TS video plays. It looks.. Well, along with LID, I still think this video is the best from the first album. It’s not as desperately corny as ATSW or WOF or HN. It was also the first video I really got into as a fan and I guess that affects it. Back to Kjeld Wennick, who says, “Everybody said no again. We got no, no no, no no from everybody over there. And suddenly Arista Clive Davis came into the picture.” The text tells us how “legendary” Clive Davis is the leader of “one of the most successful record labels”. How about when Legendary Clive Davis ruined Flowers for the US so that it was utter crap and didn’t sell? How about when the CS video never aired on MTV even tho it was number 10 in the single charts? How about when Jonas didn’t even know the tracklisting of his own greatest hits album because Clive Davis would not even TALK to him? Legendary, indeed! And if Jonas were here, I think he’d mention Clive once told him “whistle down the wind” is not an English expression, and then Andrew Lloyd Webber made a musical by that name. It’s one of his fave anti-Clive stories. Mine too. In this documentary, btw, “Legendary” Clive is notable by his absence.
Kjeld tells us Clive said, “Kjeld, I want that record!” or something like that. Back to TS video and I have to wonder why some of the scenes are upside down, and why there’s such a strong light on Linn, and why Jonas is pacing back and forth instead of dancing, and I remember thinking those things back then as well. Hmm. Black and white photos of Linn and Jen on the plane, Ulf on the plane, AOB in New York, Jenny making a weird gesture with her hands to the camera, etc. Purple Jenny says , “The first time we flow over to New York.. A lot of big cars and big houses and everything. Our tongues were out, and limousine doors..like..gosh! It was huge. And we stopped at Arista and we met [legendary] Clive Davis.” Yes, and then all hell broke loose, I know. A picture of a guy sitting in a big room with lots of gold etc. records on the wall. Is that Clive “Legendary” Davis? It’s hard to tell from the photo. Wicker chair Ulf says, “He wanted more material and he also wanted us to do a cover.” He says they didn’t want to do that, but “It was a compromise to make him happy.” He’ll never be happy! Don’t do it! Don’t sell your soul to the devil! Eh, too late. I really loathe Clive “L.” Davis now. On the background, LID plays, and someone who doesn’t know AOB might think that’s a cover. LID video. Why not DTA? LID video is far superior, but it’s odd they talk about a cover and show LID.
Tommy Ekman says they did two songs, DTA and LID, for the US version. What about the Sign tho? Wait, I think Douglas Carr worked with Jonas on that one. “When you’re doing covers, you always have the original version in the back of your head, so there’s a chance to break that and..” OK, now DTA. The text says the album took its name “The Sign” from “one of the tracks, produced by Denniz Pop and Douglas Carr.” Yeah, ONE of the tracks, not at all AOB’s biggest hit or anything. Ulf says, “Clive [L.] Davis liked the songs. He really liked the songs. I thought, ‘this is it, now we have a very good album.’” That’s what I thought too when I first heard HN US version. That was a great album, except for a few tracks, and I think they should have released that one first and never released Fashion Party, Münchhausen and other selected crap. Camera pans up the Billboard chart with The Sign on top. I still love TS and I think it’s one of their best songs and deserved every bit of success. Back in 94, my best friend complained that she can’t turn on any radio channel without hearing The Sign. I so wish that were now.
OUR STORY, Part III.
Previously on Our Story: Back in 1990, TechNoir crawled out of somewhere and took the world with a storm – not. Instead, they kicked out two weird guys in favour of “bad boy” Ulf, changed their names to Ace Of Base, desperately tried to get a record deal, were snubbed by every company in Sweden and finally got a company in Denmark to sign them. Linn took over the responsibility as lead singer and dyed her hair blonde. Jenny “danced”. Jonas was skinny, Ulf was geeky, and WOF and ATSW made them a big success. Then some drunken editors transported us into 1997, where they were making their third album “Flowers”, considerably older, wiser, and less nerdy. However, just as it was getting good, the editors threw us right back in time to when they were still young and inexperienced and gaped their mouths at limos in America, thanks to Clive “Legendary” Davis. But now, let the time machines roll and take us back to 1994, intersected with 1995 and 1996, and AOB’s Big Success Worldwide.
Clips of award shows, presenters saying ‘and the number one bla bla is.. Ace Of Base!” These are American award shows, obviously. The text chooses this moment to inform us that Happy Nation sold 20 million copies worldwide and became the biggest-selling debut ever. At the award show, Jonas stoops to talk to the microphone that is set very low for him. It looks cute. I half expect Ulf to jump over his back, but he doesn’t. Jonas thanks the producers, especially Denniz Pop and Douglas Carr, the record company, their parents, radio, and their fans “to buy the record.” Jenny and Ulf are touching potential fans’ hands in the audience, while Linn is standing there looking a little shy. After Jonas stops, Linn shouts, “Thank you!” in the microphone. The crowd goes wild. And a montage of TV shows where AOB was featured follows. Sadly, it’s another montage of presenters saying “Ace Of Base,” rather than an actual montage of AOB performing. Yeah, we know their name. Show us the actual band.
Ear-piercing shrieking is heard. Fans tapping car windows from all sides. Omg, is this what they saw? I would have gone really claustrophobic. ATSW plays in the background as we see AOB from 95-96 doing promotion. Oh, now we’re in that time? I thought this was 1993 and, you know, AOB making it big in America. In the car, Linn plays with her hair, two big strands coming down on her face, then she looks at the camera and takes the hair off her face. Is this around the time she ran off the Asian tour? I think so. Ulf interviews, “The whole situation become so.. huge. It took months to yust make a simple decision.” 96 Ulf in the car reads their schedule. “19:00 Filming TV Special. 7 am.. are they kidding?” 96 Linn, obviously before the Much Music 96 interview, says to the camera, “band on target, pal!” Or is it “bang on target”, like some ppl at the time said? It’s funny. She’s cute. I want her back. Purple 97 Jenny says, “At that time you were in like a tunnel. A lot of things happened all the time, nothing impressed you very much. 97 Linn – hiya stranger! Where’ve you been? - says, “I liked the success in Europe. But after that.. I guess my interest for everything was lost there.” That’s really sad. She put on a brave face for the first North/South America and Asia tour, though. But still, how long did she feel like she didn’t want this anymore? We see AOB emerge from a Canadian studio and giving autographs. Linn gives an autograph to my old friend Noël Guevara. I know it’s him because he told me. We only see the back of his head though.
Kjeld interviews, “As an uknown band and suddenly being popular all over the world and being transported with limos and best hotels et cetera.. Of course, as an artist, you are suddenly in the middle of something completely other than what you’re used to.” Red Jonas interviews, “For the first album, we did promotion for more than two years in a row. We were home maybe one day there, two days there, three days there, and we were out ten days, fourteen days.. It was crazy!” In the 96 car again, a guy from Hong Kong says what his name is but I don’t catch it. He says, “Here in Hong Kong we sell a lot of Ace Of Bae records.” He says ‘bae’, not ‘base’. Cute. Jonas says, “We heard that ‘yeah, your album is nr 1 over there and your album has sold 8 times platina in the States. And bla bla bla,’ you know? To sell platinum at all in the States is totally wild to each person, but 8 times.. You couldn’t handle it.” A 95 interview, they’re joking about something I guess. Jonas smiles and shrugs his shoulders, Ulf makes an “explosion” gesture. What may they be talking about? What’s the joke? I have no idea. And what does this interview have to do with 8 times platinum in the States? Nothing. Because this happened three years later.
BL video. Hey! What about spring 94? What about THE ATTACK? Jonas says, “For the second album we had no time for preparation but a lot of time in the studio. For the fisrt album we had a lot of time for preparation, but no time in the studio. So it was totally different.” Ulf said they had no time between promotion and the new album, so “we were a little bit tired of each other. We needed some air.” I could imagine that. Tommy Ekman says, “We did four tracks on the second album. And two of them was written by the girls, Linn and Jenny. So that was the first time we worked with.. we worked very close with them on those two songs.” Jenny says, “I had really to deliver my things. I had to pick pictures in another way for the album, I had to write things that are going to be printed on the album. Before I didn’t have that responsilibity.” The camera pans over the cover photos of TB. And I still think Linn looks sickly and unhappy in that picture. I’m sure there was a better one they could have chosen.
Linn tells us, “I wanted some old friends who are producers on a very low level.. I wanted to give them a chance to be on this record. But things didn’t turn out at all the way I wanted to and there was no time to redo it. It thought me a lot about how you’re supposed to .. act when you are in the position of comanding the ones you’re working with. That you have to command as well.” That’s very interesting, actually. And what song is playing on the background? Angel Eyes. Which is by JONAS, thank you very much. I hope the editors didn’t think that’s one of the girls’ songs. Maybe they think it sounds girly and romantic and must be by the girls. Tommy Ekman says, “Their songs meant really a lot to them, especially the lyrics and the words and stuff. So in that cases we had to be really open-minded and listen to what they wanted to say about them.” Black and white photos of Jen and Lin in the TB photo shoot. And .. Lucky Love. The text says Jenny wrote three songs and Linn wrote four for the second album. Linn wrote FOUR? What happened to the fourth one then? Where is it? Arghh.. This is killing me. All these bits of info floating about that are never explained.
Claes says that “to their ears” it was a better record, “more varied.” Yes, definitely. More varied, more mature, better produced, infinitely better than HN Euro and much better than HN US/The Sign. Claes says it was “maybe less commercial than the first record that was simpler, more pop oriented.” And here lies the problem of measuring things in terms of record sales. TB was the better record, and perhaps for that very reason, it sold less than HN. Does that mean it was a failure, a flop? To me, it doesn’t. But it was the beginning of the “decline” of AOB, sales wise and also promotion wise; it made people laugh at them; it made some unnamed American record companies start treating them like shit. I think it’s interesting that when AOB were selling millions, people said they’re crap because they’re commercial. Now that they’re selling less, people say they’re crap because they’re not even successful and no one listens to them anymore. By the way, I think Lucky Love Euro is one of their better videos. LL US is not shown, or mentioned, but I’m sure that if this were a documentary made by Clive “Legendary” Davis, there would be a whole revamped thing with nothing but US remixes of their songs, and they wouldn’t say a word about Life is a Flower.
John Ballard says that Arista, BMG, EMI etc. all had their ideas of what they want on the album. He says the band and Mega should also have done that, more like, “This is how we see the album. This is your finished album.” But this sounds like there was something wrong with the album itself. I don’t think there was, really. Douglas Carr says, “The album had some really potential hits on it. And I think the singles should have been bigger than it was. So I can only blame it on the timing and all the.. things around it.” Hey, who cares about the artistic endeavour that went in The Bridge? Let’s find reasons for why it didn’t SELL as much as HN! We see AOB performing LL at the world championships in GBG 1995. The text says TB sold five million copies worldwide. Yeah, measly five million, how disappointing, my god!
And cut to another bit about Ulf’s past. When they could have been talking about the attack on Jenny. You know, the one where she and her parents ALMOST DIED. Anyhow, this is from “A Current Affair”, which I suppose is a US talkshow. So Ulf talked about his past to this show, bla bla. 97 Ulf in his wicker chair says, “My.. umm.. controversial background.” You mean your, eh, past? It’s interesting to see him struggle for words here, when he usually has these easy answers ready for any question. I guess it only shows how big a deal this really is to him, and rightly so. Not saying he should be ashamed or something, just saying I’m glad to see he seems real and insecure about at least this one thing. “It was quite obvious it will be official one day or another.” Kjeld looks sad when he says, “It was a hard thing for us to.. to.. recognize and to know suddenly. But what he said and the way he said things.. I know Ulf. He’s a nice guy. He’s really a nice guy.” Really? He sounds a bit like he has to convince us. I don’t think fans believe Ulf is some racist, and if he were, I think it would have come up a little sooner. I think Kjeld is Jewish, actually. At least AOB have said Mega is a “Jewish label”. “I thought that this was..” Now he gets into the annoying loud voice again. “Maybe more important that someone who has been on a wroong TIP, to proove that loove and understanding is the most important thing here in life.” Mugging for the camera is, of course, also very important. And frankly, that whole cliché almost had me laughing. But I agree with Kjeld on this and that’s one more reason to not have yet another “Ulf was a nazi” bit in this documentary.
Ulf says most of the accusations were true and he admitted to them. Again, I don’t care which part is true; I don’t wanna know; I don’t think it should matter today. But the fact that this is the biggest scandal AOB has had proves how nice and “boring” they must be. The press just can’t think of anything better. If there had been sex scandals, we would know about them. There was nothing but this ancient thing from Ulf’s past. We should be happy. Ulf says “it’s a closed book. That time doesn’t exist in me anymore. I closed it and I throw the book away.” I don’t know. I think everything that happens to us affects who we are and to deny that might not be a smart move. But I don’t know what it’s like to come out of something huge like that and completely change your life. Maybe you do need to “throw the book away.” Ulf says he learned from it, “but that life is not me. It’s somebody else.” I don’t think he’s saying he doesn’t take responsibility for it, just that he isn’t that way anymore. We see a 97 Ulf walking alone on a street somewhere. This could be Spain or Sweden, I don’t know. He looks thoughtful.
Now we’re suddenly back at the WMA’s 1997. According to the text, Jenny’s preparing to sing Ravine. I love how they did Ravine there. It shows a different side of AOB. It’s also one of the few songs with no Linn parts, so it wouldn’t look as suspicious if she didn’t sing. Jenny’s in her yellow dress, with a make-up guy working on her. She says, “Is it alright if I talk? .. parlare..?” The guy nods. Jen tells the camera that the others will be here at 6 o’clock. That would help if we knew what time it was on that particular moment. Or the editors could have left out that part and just shown the rest of what she says. “I’m very nervous, actually,” she says. “It’s the first time I’m performing Ravine, my own song.” She says Ravine is one of the songs on the “old” album, but then quickly corrects, “second” album. “I wrote Ravine after I was attacked.” Oh, I see, there IS something the attack on this documentary. Well, thanks for putting that in. That oughta clear up for the whole world what really happened. I wonder if they said it’s too personal to put on the documentary or something. If Benzon and Gunilla Leinig thought it was unimportant, then I’m really mad. “That is also one thing that I feel a bit tricky, because it was actually more of a live experience, what could be my diary, but it became a song, and now I’m gonna perform the song, so it feels like I’m singing my own life. And that is what you’re supposed to do when you’re artist, but it feels a bit strange, I haven’t done it so far, just been singing Jonas songs.” All the while, Jenny’s getting her make up done. The make up guy is waving his hand in front of her face. I know nothing about make up, but it looks kinda cute.
Stars are posing outside the WMA’s. For some reason, we see Los Del Rio posing to the camera. Remember Macarena? Don’t wanna remember? Sorry. Two women I probably should recognize, but don’t. Celine Dion with her husband. Some guy with two women. I hope that’s his wife and daughter and not his two girlfriends. Some ppl are hollering in the background, a guy who I think is Julio Iglesias walks to the picture. And now AOB. Why were those other bands there? I have no idea. Thanks, Benzon and Gunilla. It would have been boring to have a documentary with just AOB. Linn in sunglasses and a purple suit. Jonas with crutches. Aww. There are like a hundred photographers taking photos of them, shouting directions. I’d be so shy in that situation. Now they’re standing in front of the photographers. Jonas is joking something about his broken leg, putting it in the back, then back in the front, laughing. Ulf is explaining his fashion choices to some reporter, “Yeah, very mixed. Armani, Paul Smith, Boss...” In the back, Jenny’s talking to reporters and I could imagine she’s talking about something a little more interesting. They do cut to her, but it’s hard to hear. I think she says, “...really bad... It still feels like there’s meaning in it.” She might be talking bout Ravine. This documentary has so many strands of conversation that are lost.
Backstage, Jonas is sitting on a sofa, testing keyboards, and Ulf’s just hanging around smiling at him. And here they do interact like they’re friends. Because when you hang around someone smiling and obviously feeling comfortable, you usually have some kind of connection with them. Jenny’s standing in the front, waiting, and smiles at Ulf. Jonas tells the camera, “Sitting here in the sofa because my leg is kind of ..kaputt, and we’re going to perform Ravine here in Monte Carlo World Music Awards. It’s feeling.. Normal.” Which, I guess, is Jonas’ simple way of saying that it feels a little bit like Christmas. Now Jonas and Ulf are telling someone off-camera, “We’re missing microphones!” Ulf says to the camera, “Feeling very good. As usual before we go on stage. Actually I’m more nervous about my girlfriend. She’s going to present the prize.” His ex-girlfriend, Emma Sjöberg. Ah, Emma. Those good old days when you were almost a part of the band. We see AOB from the back and Jonas’ sofa looks huge, and pretty royal, I must say. Linn’s making some gestures at Jenny from the back. She’s way back from the others, almost not there at all. Emma and some guy present AOB. They’re shooting AOB from the back and it’s disturbing; there’s a blinding spotlight gleaming in the camera that’s making it hard to watch. Ulf is jamming to the music, but not jumping around this time. Would look kinda weird, actually, since Ravine is so slow. Jen starts singing. Her dress is yellow, so bright yellow, it burns my eyes. I wonder about the two little ponytails she has. It’s a bit childish-looking. She sings this high bit in the end, unlike on the album. Weird. There’s a drummer etc, yet I think Claes explained how it’s all playback at the WMA’s.
Emma presents AOB and manages to fumble “best selling artist” instead of “group”. She hugs and kisses Ulf, more than a casual kiss. She also hugs Jenny. I wonder if they were friends at the time? The thank you’s are not shown. But Jenny thanked God, believe it or not. Linn doesn’t hug the presenters, but slides offstage instead. And how did we not see back then that this meant she wasn’t going to be in front anymore? Two non-Linn perfs in 97. Also, I guess Linn had some kind of deal with the documentary people that she would only do one interview for this documentary, which was the one in the garden, and that’s it. Nothing at the WMA’s. I think that’s why the cameras are on her so much: to take our attention away from the fact that she was hardly even there.
1996, AOB are in the car. How do I know it’s 1996? I know because I know the band well enough to tell the time by their hair. If I didn’t have that to rely on, I’d have no idea what point in time we’re in at the moment. Ulf says something in a foreign language, Jen does too. Maybe they’re reading from the program. Jenny says in Swedish, “Now I have to sing all of Linn’s parts, and I don’t know them.” She’s holding a copy of the “Beautiful Life” lyrics, printed from TB album. There’s a huge black cross over the “written by” and such details and what Jonas wrote about the song. Somehow that cracks me up. How could Jen not know Linn’s parts? What was she thinking all that time when Linn was singing BL? Ulf says in Swedish, “This will be a classic documentary: this is the first time we perform, we three.” Jen looks serious. This is when Linn left the Asian tour all of a sudden and just bailed on the band. No one knows why, but this right here was the beginning of the problems. Or maybe the final straw, if Linn’s interest for everything was lost after Europe. Btw, the documentary doesn’t tell us she left the Asian tour all of a sudden. I guess they’re expecting us to know this, or would rather not say it. I wonder which.
Purple Jenny says, “I never realized if I pushed Linn with saying, hey, let’s do that.. And she said, no, I’ve got the main responsibility for singing, so I can’t do it.” We see Jenny and Linn in 96, waiting for some performance to start. Linn looks tired and wrapped up in her own thoughts, but not really about to crack. They should show some 96 spring footage instead; I remember this award ceremony in Finland where they didn’t attend, but sent a video snippet instead. Linn looked so tired there, like she hadn’t slept at all. Jenny continues, “And I understood the pressure. I mean, if she doesn’t do it good, the whole group looks like..nothing, it’s nothing to have, I mean..” No good? Useless? Worthless? Not always easy to express yourself in a foreign language. And Jen’s in quite another league than Jonas or even Ulf, language wise. Ulf says, “She didn’t even get any time to breathe during the first album.” We see Linn singing on stage, ATSW video, LID video, TS video. Ulf says the spotlight was mostly on her, so she had the most responsibility.
Jonas says, “Linn doesn’t want to be in the spotlight as much now. She want Jenny to be that part. I think that’s a good move, both as person and for the performance.” Jonas’ voice falters when he says Linn wants Jenny to be in that part. He sounds sad. When he then goes on to say it’s a good move.. yeah, I dunno. It might be a good move professionally, but not without its price; it was and is a very bitter thing for the fans, a wound that never healed because we weren’t told WHY. Watching this now, I still feel bitter and angry at Linn and the whole band: Why won’t you tell us? You can’t just belittle it by saying that it’s just a change in focus. You can’t blur one member and say she’s just in the background now. She’s not there at all. This is why I thought she should have left the band instead. As bitter as that would have been, this false hope that she may come back some day, the empty promises, the secrets.. it’s so much worse. We see footage from the performance where Jenny does Linn’s parts for the first time. How disappointed were the fans who came to see Linn? We don’t know. How did Jenny feel knowing faces were gonna fall because Linn isn’t there? How often did she have to go thru that?
Linn says, “I’m not quitting. That’s the point. I want to sing. And Jenny wants to try what I have done, and I want to try what she has done, because I have..” Because you have what? Did her voice just fail there or did they purposely cut away from that? And that is so not an explanation for this situation and I’m so mad at her right now. Ulf says, “I saw a Yenny I had never seen before, when she took the step to the front. She was incredible strong. She did it so well and I was so impressed.” That’s a beautiful thing to say, and I agree completely. Only I think he’s talking about the 96 Asian tour and I’m talking about the whole thing after that.
Jenny’s at the door of her song coach, Susanna Hultén, who doesn’t get an interview or even a text saying who this is. But I do know who it is. She comes to answer the door, and I guess she took some time, as Jenny says, “Hallå?” “Hallå, hej,” she says and they hug. They seem to be good friends. Purple Jenny says she’s doing “everyday works educating myself. To know what I want, to go out on stage and know what sounds I want.. Where I want the things to be..” Jenny’s opening her voice at Susanna’s piano. It goes kinda high. She does some “a-a-a” exercise. Susanna tells her to do, “O,” but then shows her how to do it and it still sounds like “a” to me. Jenny Voice-over: “I’ve been very much struggling to get my confidence back in singing, because it was all broken and it was so painful. Now it’s not painful, it’s more like.. Well, let’s wait til you see what I got!” I like her attitude. And I think she showed them. She sings really well today. Back at the song coach’s, Jenny’s looking over notes to the Celine Dion song “Pour Que Tu M’Aimes Encore”. She’s tasting the French words and says something in French to the camera. It might be “je ne comprends pas,” but I think it’s sth else. She’s smiling like she told a joke. She sings a part of PQTME and we hear a part of another, more jazz-like song, but I have no idea which one it is.
Cut to “Gothenburg 1997”, recording LIAF. OK, this transition made a little more sense than the ones before. However, it would be nice to know what month in 97 or something, because my Jonas’ Weight Timing seems to be off. He looks much bigger in this footage than in the previous “recording” bits. I thought he didn’t gain that much weight in 97. But this isn’t a Jonas’ weight discussion; this is Our Story, which has helpfully omitted all chronology. Suffice to say I’m a little surprised LIAF was recorded AFTER Cecilia, it being the lead single and all. You’d think they had it ready earlier. Jenny’s wearing a yellow sweater. Jenny, you’re not a tulip. Please wear some other colors. Jenny, Jonas and anonymous bald technician talk about something in Swedish. I think Jenny says they could do the chorus today. Now Jenny’s in the studio and sings “please mr Agony..” Jonas sings the chorus to her, bobbing his head cutely to the rhythm: “We live in a free-ee-ee wo-orld, carry on smi-ii-I-ling.. Don’t worry!” He’s blinking his eyes all the while. He’s always blinking or scratching his head. I wonder why. We cut off from the singing pretty fast, as always when there’s some actually interesting studio footage. The songs are around 3 minutes long. How much time would it have taken to show one complete song being recorded, perhaps editing out some fumbles, but showing the interaction between the siblings while they worked, wtihout all these voice-overs? Is that too much to ask? It would certainly have been possible.
Tommy Ekman tells us, “The first time we heard the song it was on the acoustic guitar. So it really came in the head like..” He imitates playing the guitar again: “We live in a free world..” and he says they started using more instruments on the second album. “I guess it was a progress on the second album, that.. guitars is OK too.” He laughs. But then when isn’t he laughing? Question: Why didn’t we see Tommy work in the studio at all? 98 – or late 97 - Jonas says, “I think that people who listen to this album will hear that it’s us.” Yeah, from the singles, at least. However, when he says,“No big changes..” I have to wonder what he means. Because they never had Motown style before, and they’ve moved almost completely away from the reggae/pop tracks. It’s also not very much like TB in style. So in other words, there are big changes. He says the new thing is that they have some “old school Motown” thing on some tracks. Jenny sings LIAF in the studio. She sings with her eyes closed, makes gestures with her hands. I love LIAF. It’s still one of my fave AOB songs. But of course we cut off from it before it gets interesting.
Oh no, it’s Charles “Shut the Fuck Up” Fisher again. Some guy is tuning a guitar. C.S.T.F.U.Fisher says, “We’re waiting for him to tune his guitar. Then we’re gonna see what it sounds like. And we’re waiting for Björn [i.e. StoneStream] to turn up, we’re waiting for Ulf to turn up. That’s just the way it goes, there’s a lot of milling around a lot of waiting.” The song starts playing, it’s DGA. “I think we spent 3 months waiting and two weeks recording.” Yeah. And I think we spent an hour watching you wait, instead of something interesting. The guy plays the guitar melody for quite a while. And now! Jenny in the studio, singing the song. Thank you! It sounds great. DGA is one of the best songs on Flowers and one of the best vocals by Jenny as well. Ulf is at the mixing table, mixing (what? I don’t know the technical terms!) with some other guy. This studio is much bigger than the one Jenny and Jonas worked in.
Jenny voice-over says, “I think I would have been very nervous if I hadn’t done my best. And if people don’t like it, it’s actually up to them, because I did my best.” We see her in the same int where she was talking about Cecilia; this is probably from 1998. Weird that there’s only these two bits of this interview. She’s picking something out of her eye. Her nails are very long, it must be hard to do that. But I digress. She did a great job on Flowers. In Beatlab, she added that if people say they don’t like her singing she can say she doesn’t like their hairstyle or something. Jenny sings more. Beautiful. Ulf says they’ve been working with different producers and in different studios all around the world. Then why did Charles “Not Him Again” Fisher have to come to Stockholm? “The girls have been much more involved, especially Jenny.” So – has Linn been much more involved too? Or not? It’s a bit unclear from what he said. We still hear Jenny singing, but now Ulf is sitting in the same studio alone. Creepy. Now back to Jenny singing, the camera pans to Ulf looking happy behind the glass and making signs to Jenny with his hands, I think. He interviews, “It’s still for fun, but it’s more serious.” Jenny says, “Actually it’s our best album that we have done. But if people will think it’s a hit, that’s another thing.” It’s all intervowen with bits of Jenny singing DGA, with what seems like a lot of feeling. You can hear that in her voice too. She did seem like she was singing Cecilia with feeling too, but what kind of feeling – apart from amusement – can you get out of that song? DGA is a different story. And what is she doing with her hands? She’s playing with some kind of yarn. Yes, always gotta do something with your hands, Jenny. Can’t play with your hair, play with a piece of yarn. Cute.
LIAF remix again, all of a sudden. Just beat at first. We’re in a different kind of studio now, taking promotional photos for the Flowers album. Jenny’s wearing the beautiful blue shirt with the flower on it and the dress. She looks gorgeous and happy. Ulf is mugging for the camera, walking model-style around the studio. Typical Ulf. Jonas is standing next to a woman who I think is in charge of the wardrobe. She’s taking something from the floor. He’s already wearing his coat, so I guess she’s looking for shoes for him. Linn’s voice over comes on.
“I think we like each other unusually much. You don’t see that love.. so much love between sisters and brothers.” Interesting. They do seem like good friends. Instead of seeing Linn talking, we see her tucking her hair behind her ear and looking thoughtful. Red Jonas says, “I guess that is the.. main kit of the band that.. get us to work together and Ulf has to cope with it. Sometimes I think he likes it, sometimes he doesn’t like it.” He laughs saying this. I wonder if Ulf feels like an outsider; it can’t be so much fun to be fourth in a group that not only has known each other for their whole lives, but also has this kind of similarity the Berggrens have. They’re very similar in some ways and Ulf is the odd man out, which is undoubtably the reason some fans like him best and others the least. Now we see Jonas sitting on board “Marilyn”, talking to some guy. I don’t recognize him. Ulf says, “We’ve developed in different ways. We have different.. appreciations of life. They don’t really like to be in the media so much. But we are an official band and we are official persons. I like to be there in the spotlight.” Yes, Ulf, we know you do. We see him play golf and drive what I assume is his black Ferrari Spider, with sunglasses on and some other guy sitting next to him. Then he’s walking in a marina around sunset. This, again, may be from Spain. “I like to be on stage, it’s the best place to be. I love it.”
Purple Jenny says, “What people have been seeing from outside is actually.. some quarrels, maybe. Not quarrels, but just arguments, not having the same goals with everything. Cause you can’t have the same goals with such a success, it doesn’t work that way.” Footage of Jenny in a church, lighting a candle. The candle leans on the side a bit. Jenny gently puts it straight with her finger, looking at it thoughtfully. Oh, I see – this is the “their hobbies and interest” section. So Jonas has his boat, but we didn’t really see him sail it, just sit in the boat with some guy when it was in the harbor. We saw Ulf play golf, drive his car and, well, walk around looking cool. And Jenny in the church. And what is Linn’s part in all this? Well, she’s walking in the garden with some big notebook which I assume is for painting or drawing. She’s ruffling her hair and looks at the camera a bit surprised. However, we don’t see this quite yet. First, LIAF starts playing in the background and Ulf says, “I believe and I think and I feel we handled it quite well.” And I believe and I think and I feel I agree with him there. It’s probably difficult to live the life they had, and they still all seem pretty balanced and together – well, with one possible exception, but I like to believe she’s fine in private. We see Linn now, doing what I described before. Ulf continues, “And I believe all of us are still on the ground, with both feet stable on the ground.” I actually think one of his feet might be slightly off the ground, but then I don’t know him. We see Jonas in the photo session, walking down the stairs, pointing at the camera, talking and laughing. Typical Jonas. Can’t hear what he says because of Ulf’s voice-over. Jenny’s being photographed, her hair blowing in what I guess is a fake wind. Ulf continues, “And we now formed our life around the success we had.”
Ulf in the photo studio, putting photos of Jenny and himself next to each other. Hey, is he trying to tell us something? Are they sleeping together? This is the last minute to make up rumors based on this documentary, so I’m grabbing for straws here. We see AOB posing, and Linn IS there, contrary to what some people said at the time. She’s just standing behind everyone. It’s weird to see them take photos, because these are the pictures I’ve seen as still photos and now they’re moving. They’re changing places, and in this shot it’s hard to see Linn, but she’s still there in the back. Just not changing places with the others. Jenny in front, the guys behind her, Linn behind everyone else. When we zoom closer, Linn cannot be seen. So I guess in this photo she really wasn’t there. It’s Jonas, Jenny and Ulf taking firm posing looks on their faces, and this is where we end, and isn’t this a sign that Linn is no longer a vital member of the band? I mean, this is NOT a good note to end on, at all. But LIAF video plays happily, we live in a free world, I whistle down the wind and end this recap here feeling less than satisfied with Benzon and Gunilla Leining, who did a lot of hard work on AOB footage, but managed to create quite a mess and leave out a lot of important details. Thanks for nothing, guys. Nah, I’m being too hard on them; it is the only documentary made of AOB, and documentaries are always messy and dissatisfying; a lot of good interview bits there and some interesting studio material. You can’t have everything, but I hope one day they make a new documentary where they show the kids and give us at least some insight to Linn’s disappearance.
The documentary makers give thanks, but there's something they forgot, so I will add it:
NO THANKS TO:
CLIVE "L." DAVIS