1. Povel Ramel, “Johanssons boogie woogie vals”
From: “Inspirerad utav dig” / “Johanssons boogie woogie vals”. His Master’s Voice X 7068, 1944, 78 rpm.
A prominent, innovative and popular troubadour, revue artist and songwriter during this period was Povel Ramel, a singer, pianist, vaudeville artist, author and a novelty song composer. Ramel’s style is characterized by imaginative wit, both verbal and musical. In various ways, he depicts the meeting between the old and the new, between the home-spun Swedish culture and new cultural impulses from the USA. His breakthrough came in 1944 with “Johanssons boogie woogie vals” (“Johansson’s boogie woogie waltz”), a song that both in music and lyrics described the meeting between the Swedish peasant waltz and American boogie woogie.
2. Owe Thörnqvist, “Rotmos rock”
From: “Rotmos Rock” / “Diverse Julboogie”. Metronome J 434, 1956, 78 rpm.
It has been argued that Owe Thörnqvist’s “Rotmos rock” (“Mashed turnips rock”), released in 1956, was the first song with Swedish lyrics that had the word “rock” in the title. Here, mashed turnips symbolize a genuinely Swedish (food) tradition, while rock, of course, represents the new era.
3. Thore Skogman & Lill-Babs, “Pop opp i topp”
From: “Pop opp i topp” / “Dockan min” / “Fröken Fräken” / “Twist till menuett”. Odeon GEOS 242, 1965, 45 rpm.
An important figure from the mid 1950s in the development of this humorous song tradition with nostalgic overtones was singer, composer, lyricist, actor and musician Thore Skogman (1931–2007). Skogman’s extensive production of popular songs is characterized by subtle lyrics and music inspired by old-time dance music. In 1965, Skogman scored one of his many hits with “Pop opp i topp” (“Pop up in top”). The song’s lyrics mirror in humorous form the musical trends of his time, and describes how pop music in the 1960s grew strongly in popularity among young people in particular, and how electric instruments became more common.
4. Torsson, “Klippans centrum”
From: Svensk Pop. Svenska Pop Fabriken SP 07, 1979, 33 rpm.
Probably the most prominent dork-punk group, Torsson, debuted on vinyl in 1979. Torsson’s music has distinct vantage points in 1950s rock and early British 1960s rock, something they convert by toning it down: here there are no distorted guitars. In the late 1970s, Torsson’s overly gentle melodies and campy, deadpan lyrics put them in a position were they could be seen both as strange home-town relatives of punk rock, and as its opposite. Their song “Klippans centrum” (Klippan center) depict a journey by train from their home town Lund to nearby Klippan by way of Åstorp. It is intentionally dull poetry, extremely prosaic, and local towns and villages are carefully named. They depict mundane and outdated phenomena – yesterday’s modernity – with a kind of strange excitement, perhaps best described as nostalgia with an ironic slant. The live performance in the video is from 2015.
5. Torsson, “Jag minns en gammal bil”
From: Att kunna men inte vilja. Svenska Pop Fabriken SP 08, 1980, 33 rpm.
Torsson made a song named “Jag minns en gammal bil” (“I remember an old car”), where they sing about a DKW and notes that it is “a West-German product that was sensitive to cold and moisture”. The lyrics have a nostalgic slant: “I remember an old car from sixty-one / It was rusty but it started pretty easily / When I anointed the piston with petroleum jelly / it ran better than a Singer fast-seam sewing machine”.
6. Wilmer X, “En röd elektrisk gitarr”
From: Wilmer X. Amigo AMMP301, 1980, 33 rpm.
Wilmer X released their first single and MP (Medium Play) in 1980. What characterized Wilmer X in the beginning was their simple, straightforward mix of rockabilly and early rock. Even their song lyrics had a strong nostalgic pull, such as “En röd elektrisk gitarr” (“A red electric guitar”; 1980), about a boy who wants such a guitar for Christmas. Their lyrics are in general about everyday feelings and things, with a mix of sentimentality, humour and irony.
7. Traste & Superstararna, “Traktor”
From: “Pengar” / “Traktor”. Mesrock TS, 1979, 45 rpm.
Another early dork-punk group from mid Sweden, Traste & Superstararna (Trush & the Superstarlings), had a track called “Traktor” (“Tractor”) on their first single in 1979, with the music heavily influenced by 1950s rock. Here they ironically sing about a sweet old tractor “I have inherited from my father”.
8. Eddie Meduza & The Roaring Cadillacs, “Punkjävlar”
From: “Punkjävlar” / “Oh, What a Cadillac”. CBS 6360, 1978, 45 rpm.
The crossover between two otherwise strictly separated subcultures – raggare and punk rockers – also became evident in 1978, when the highly ironic greaser hero Eddie Meduza (born Errol Nordgren) scored a hit with “Punkjävlar” (“Punk bastards”) – a song that was also embraced by several punk rockers because of its intentional exaggerations and stereotypes both in the lyrics and in the sound and musical structure of the song, which is strongly influenced by 1950s rock music.
9. Dag Vag / Gyllene Tider / Thore Skogman, “Popp opp i topp”
From: Måndagsbörsen. SVT, 1981, live broadcast.
Dag Vag, a band formed in 1978 which mixed punk with reggae, released their sincere but more hard-rocking version of Thore Skogman’s “Popp opp i topp” (“Pop up in top”; cf. Example 3) on a single disc in 1981. The same year, 1981, Dag Vag appeared along with the most popular pop group in Sweden at the time, Gyllene Tider (Golden Times), in a popular live show on Swedish Television, Måndagsbörsen. The two bands ended the show with “Popp opp i topp”, where Thore Skogman emerged as a surprise guest and sang the last verse, accompanied by the two bands.
10. Bo & Holger, “Köra grus”
From: “Ambulansen kommer” / “Köra grus”. Skånska Pop Centralen Klippan SPC 401, 1981, 45 rpm.
On “Köra grus” (“Carting gravel”), released in 1981, two distinctly square guys, Bo & Holger, proudly sing about how they cart gravel with their truck to a house that is being built. The music is archetypal 1950s rock, and the local village, Hyllstofta, is highlighted. Besides an ironic distance towards the important role of automotive vehicles in the lives of many men, not the least in rural areas, “Carting gravel” conveys an aura – or a vague memory – of a trustful provincialism and its credulous optimism.
11. Docenterna, “Söderns ros”
From: Söderns ros. Mistlur MLR-68, 1989, 33 rpm.
The year 1989 can be regarded as the peak of dork punk, when albums on the theme from several bands with their roots in early dork punk ten years earlier were released: Docenterna (The Associate Professors), Perssons Pack (Persson’s Riffraff, Persson being a common Swedish surname) and Traste Lindéns Kvintett (Traste Lindén’s Quintet). In “Söderns ros” (“The rose of the south”), Docenterna sang, in the tradition of peasant comedians and Owe Thörnqvist, about a hillbilly guy who works in the woods and lives at home with Mom and Dad, and who is in love with a girl who has moved to the big city, but longs to move back to the village. The live performance in the video is from 1992.
12. Traste Lindéns Kvintett, “Trattskalle”
From: Bybor. Start Klart Records SKRLP-009, 1989, 33 rpm.
In “Trattskalle” (“Funnel skull”), Traste Lindéns Kvintett sing about wild revelry among rural youth.
13. Svenne Rubins, “Finns det nån som har Des Moroney i dubblett?”
From: “Finns det nån som har Des Moroney i dubblett?” / “Svenne Rubins i Chicago”. Start Klart Records SKRS-011, 1990, 45 rpm.
The year 1989 also saw the release of Svenne Rubins’ single disc “Finns det nån som har Des Moroney i dubblett?” (“Is there anyone having two copies of Des Moroney?”), a nostalgic song about collecting picture cards of ice-hockey stars during childhood.
14. Svenne Rubins, “Långa bollar på Bengt”
From: “Långa bollar på Bengt” / “Folköl och dunkadunka”. Start Klart Records SKRS-015, 1992, 45 rpm.
Svenne Rubins had their public breakthrough in 1992 with another sports-related song, “Långa bollar på Bengt” (“Long passes to Bengt”). With its nostalgic look back – the singer remembers when he was twelve years old playing football – this song has much in common with the most famous song by Torsson, “Det spelades bättre boll på Gunnar Nordahls tid” (“They played ball better in Gunnar Nordahl’s time”, 1979).
15. Mando Diao, “Gloria”
From: Give Me Fire. Musica De La Santa 0602517955820, 2009, 33 rpm.
Today, the legacy of dork punk is alive in different ways. In the summer of 2010, Mando Diao participated in the very popular show Allsång på Skansen (Sing-along at Skansen), broadcast live by national public-service TV broadcaster SVT. During their performance, Mando Diao were dressed in the folk costume of Dalecarlia, a historical province full of historical associations and possessing strong local characteristics. It was a serious appearance, but the contrast between the old-time folk costumes and the modern rock music was still slightly ironic.