My dear friend Clint, down in Melbourne Australia, recommended me to read the HEART biography “Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock and Roll“.
He reads rock-biographies and what he liked about this one was that it was told from a female perspective, which was different and interesting. It just highlighted a different aspect of being a musician – with your balls placed slightly higher up.
It took me a while, but I finally got around to reading it. Or rather, listening to it, as I’ve become obsessed with audio-books. It really had me spellbound pretty quickly. It’s very rare to come across a story where I feel like I could have written big chunks of that story myself.
Listening to Ann Wilson, the undisputed goddess of rock vocalists, telling her story about her constant battle with her weight while growing up, the bullying in school, feeling like you never quite belong anywhere, and the escape into the magical world of music…. I did that – all the time.
I would lock my door and listen to old vinyls that one of my mother’s best friends had given her, cause they didn’t want them anymore, LP’s with Ike and Tina or my favorite, an Australian band called Walrus – or colorful vinyl singles from my grandfather who had worked at a jukebox factory.
When the songs fell off the charts, the jukeboxes had to be “refilled”, so the old singles were thrown away and filled up with new, fresh hits. So, instead of throwing them away, he would take some of those singles and bring them home.
My mom had a portable record player that looked like a tiny suitcase, so I inherited that, and listened to those old, scratchy Brenda Lee and Connie Frances-singles.
They were worn out, cause they had been played all day long for months in that jukebox and weren’t really supposed to be used ever again. I wouldn’t let them retire though, I loved “Dum-Dum” by Brenda Lee especially when I was a little girl.
Anyway, music was ALWAYS my escape. So to hear one of the Wilson sisters talking about growing up with similar thoughts and experiences really hit home with me.
Their story of how they discovered The Beatles. How it was like being hit by lightning, how life was defined as before and after The Beatles. I can barely even remember a time before the Beatles, but I grew up two decades after the Wilson sisters. I loved the Beatles more than life itself, I can’t even explain that feeling. I still get in touch with that feeling nowadays, going to see Paul McCartney in concert.
But one thing definitely also sounded VERY familiar to me. Not quite belonging in a group of other girls. I honestly felt like I didn’t belong with other girls my age, most of my teenage years. Because most girls didn’t care about music on the same level as I did. To me it wasn’t just entertainment, it was everything. It was life. It was…well, it was ME. I can’t even imagine an existence without music.
I didn’t care about chasing guys, I rather wanted to be one of the guys – cause they had the same interests as me – for the most part.
I wasn’t interested in fashion and makeup or going to the latest, coolest clubs. I honestly didn’t give a flying patootie about any of that.
Beatles was the most powerful experience I had had up until I discovered Judas Priest, but that’s a different story. There was a short period of worshipping Duran Duran too – but the one thing that the Wilsons brought up in their bio, is a detail I never really thought about, but it’s very true: Other girls wanted to be somebody’s girlfriend. Live someone else’s life, support their boyfriends in their dreams and goals, but they didn’t have too many of their own.
I didn’t want to be someone’s girlfriend. Don’t get me wrong, I was usually head over heels crazy about some dude – or cried over one – most of my life. But I would never ever allow anyone to get in the way of my dreams. I had lots of them and I pursued them. I ended up staying single for longer than I thought because of it. :)
Ann and Nancy were outcasts who found that playing and singing was like “coming home”, it brought them happiness and a sense of purpose. This must have been especially difficult in the sixties and seventies when women definitely weren’t expected to have a mind of their own.
That’s another thing. I will forever be grateful to my parents for never ever uttering the words: “That’s not for girls” – or have strong opinions about what was supposedly male or female.
They let me do whatever made me happy. If I wanted to race guys down the street on a bicycle, that was fine. If I wanted to climb trees, no problemo. Play cowboys and indians, play with toy cars, listen to rock’n’roll? No problem, what would you like to do today?
The toy stores weren’t as divided into girls and boys back in those days either, thank god.
As a kid I was convinced that I could do anything, that there were no boundaries. So, when I walked into a toy store I was not presented any predefined ideas of who I was supposed to be. I would just go and pick out what I thought look like fun – so one day it might have been a Barbie doll and the next it was a super hero.
So I wasn’t raised to be that coquette girlie-girl. I had other dreams and plans, but it also meant that I was lonely a lot of the time, because most friends couldn’t relate.
To hear two women who have been highly successful, talk about going through all these things, but in their own way, is such an amazing feeling. It means more than I thought to hear that, after all these years. You don’t think much of it, until one day you’re reminded and you realize that you weren’t the only one.
I read Lita Ford’s biography too but I couldn’t relate to her life at all. She was more wild and destructive in many ways, she didn’t seem to have particularly strict parents like I did (and the Wilson sisters) so it wasn’t “my story”. This, however, is – in many ways.
They didn’t want to be girlfriends, wives or groupies. They wanted to BE The Beatles, they wanted to play like John and Paul, not date them. Bingo. That’s exactly it!
I used to be accused of being a groupie for years, cause people didn’t know what to make of me. I was always backstage somewhere or hanging out with some rockstar with a bad reputation – so naturally they took to the only explanation they knew of. A whore. A wannabe. A groupie. It took me almost two decades to earn the respect that I feel that I have nowadays. People know my deal now. Well, better than they did back then at least.
Ann and Nancy talk about their experiences of being the women in the band, life on the road, life in those circles. I didn’t experience it on their level, but yeah, I know what that is like as well. Being that ONE girl, that ONE woman in a male-dominated world.
I never thought of it that way though. I didn’t think of it as not fitting in, cause in my mind it was quite the contrary.
I had the same blunt sense of humor as the dudes, I had the same drive – sometimes even more – as they did, I was pushy and determined, like they were. I shared their passion for music, I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
But one thing that I’ve experienced my whole life, is that feeling of being different and sometimes being misunderstood or wrongly labeled.
I wrote a blog many years ago – before the term existed. I called it “diary”. I wanted to explain why I could never be a groupie.
To me, music was WAY bigger than the guy.
I admired them tremendously for the music they wrote, which to me almost made them GODS. They were above regular people. Anyone who could create something that amazing, was not of this world.
So, to sleep with these guys, would just degrade them (in my opinion) and make them common, regular..men. It would transform them into regular dudes with a dick, something trivial, something boring, something way too…. cheap.
What I wanted was their time, I wanted to know what drove them, what or who created the person who could write such music, I wanted to understand their magic, their treasure, their “divinity”.
I could never have slept with any of them. I just didn’t perceive them that way. They were beyond common sex. A monkey can have sex. But a monkey can’t write “Yesterday”…
It was far more valuable to me to understand these musicians, because I wanted to be where they were, being successful in doing what they loved to do and were good at. I had zero interest in being the whore of the evening.
Listening to “Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock and Roll” brings up so many memories and so many thoughts and reflections of my own journey. Sometimes it feels like it wasn’t even me.
I’ve lived the way I wanted to live but everything comes at a price. I didn’t marry or have kids. And quite honestly, I don’t regret a single thing. I would do it all again, exactly the same way. Maybe with a few alterations…
Men usually equaled heartache and pain, a waste of energy while my work, my passions and my dreams, fulfilled me. Much like men often prioritize.
I still have lots of things to do, I still love music and the whole world surrounding it, with every fiber of my body, mind, heart, and soul.
So this biography isn’t as much about the life of the Wilson sisters, but also a mirror that allows me to discover myself and see my own life in a different light.
There were others that went through similar things and thought similar thoughts. It means a great deal to realize that this late in life. :) But it all makes sense.
The pieces of the puzzle are falling into place. :D
On my way to the airport but a short one… It was pure Beatlemania at the O2 just about one-two hours ago, when Paul McCartney announced a guest… and then another guest… Those being Rolling Stones-guitarist Ronnie Wood and then – fellow Beatle Ringo Starr!
The crowd went absolutely nuts, the roar tore down the roof!
Gotta run but this is all you need to know – enjoy it!!
I bought one of those video-converters that converts old video-cassettes to digital format, and started digging through my old cassettes. That was a walk down Memory Lane to say the least! One of the things I found, was a video from 1993 with various clips from gigs with an all-female band called Modesty Blaise from my home town Malmo.
They were local rock-heroines, played everywhere and made a name for themselves. Every rocker in town knew who they were. I don’t quite remember how I even got to know them, but somehow I got involved and that was my first experience of managing a rock band – and everything that went along with it. :)
They used to play a song called “Nasty Secretary” at every gig and I thought it was the perfect name for a management. So, I kicked off “Nasty Secretary Management” and went to work! Malmo wasn’t big enough for these girls, it was time to expand!
It’s hard to remember the time before computers and Internet, but I have some fragment memories of creating my own stationery by cutting and pasting their logo and adding the Nasty Secretary thing at the bottom of the paper – then running it through a Xerox before typing whatever I had to write, on a typewriter and either sending it off by mail (snailmail – remember when you had to go to the post office and buy a stamp?!)
Or… get this… FAX it! Fax, that was the shit, oh boy, you couldn’t get any more hi-tech and professional than that. If you owned a fax, you showed the world that you were the real deal.
So, of course I owned my own fax. It was a noisy son of a bitch that I kept in my 1-room apartment that woke me up in the middle of the night if someone from the States decided to fax me something (like Sebastian Bach at one point who sent like ten pages of something that filled my whole floor, because the thing didn’t cut the paper into pages, it just rolled it all out in oooone big paperroll – kind of when you drop the toilet paper and it keeps rolling all over the floor).
It was the easiest job in the world. Female rock bands were still a novelty over here back in the early 90’s, so there was a huge interest to book the band. And so it began, we traveled all over the place. It was my first taste of what it was like being with a local band on a low budget, driving from A to B in a (rental)van.
You got up early in the morning to load in all the equipment, you drove for miles all day long (but it was a lot of fun!) tried to find the venue of the day or the hotel that the promoter had booked for you (again, it was the time before Google maps or GPS’s!). You would get to the venue at the appointed time, get the gear out (no roadies to help – usually), make sure that everything was done within the given time-frame, that scheduled interviews would actually take place… Finding people and making it all work in a city or a place that you were unfamiliar with, back in the day before cell phones, was a challenge.
After sound check, it was either straight back to the hotel to get something to eat and get ready, or try to do it on-site while curious guys were sniffing around the dressing room.
Dinner, gig time, get the gear off the stage, schmooze, make sure everybody got a positive experience of the band and/or myself so that there would be more gigs or recommendations that led to other good gigs and so forth…
During the first “mini tour” that I was on with these girls, I got my first taste of “up all night sleep all day”. When you were in that van for a couple of days, you had no idea what was happening around you. Again, no cell phones, no nothing. Sometimes you were so tired that you could fall asleep on the spot, but you still had a job to do so to speak, so for the first time ever I could understand why so many musicians on a much higher level, would fall into drug abuse. You’re tired, someone offers you a pill that will fix it, you’re desperate and will try anything – and bam, you’re in trouble. I never did that though, I could just understand why it happens.
Anyway, I got to know so many interesting people during that Modesty Blaise journey, some of which have been my friends ever since and some that I reconnected with through Facebook in recent years.
Modesty Blaise went through some personnel changes and eventually split up but they’re still active in a constellation called The Monoheads that actually consists of two bands from the early 90’s era:
Anette Alexander on bass that used to be in a band named Cat Calls, Mia Federley on rythm guitar that was the first girl to enter the Guitar Battle contest in Sweden. Both fronted Cat Calls back in the day.
On lead guitar is Sabina Olsson, a former music teacher and a great guitarist, on drums Camilla Jonasson from Modesty Blaise (and a number of other bands) PhD student at the Academy of Music and very active in the music scene, and Iréne Nord on lead vocals and guitar – who works as a producer at “Jazz in Malmo” and has also been very much involved in the local music scene her whole life.
But yeah – it all began back in 1992 or so, and the story probably won’t end anytime soon. We’re still friends, and watching these old clips just makes you realize how much that can happen in 25 years and how much you go through and evolve in that time. :)
THIS is from 1993 when the girls were at their peak and were invited to the Swedish version of MTV, Z-TV in Stockholm to perform and be interviewed by the well known music journalist Anders Tengner. Producer was Per Sinding who’s also made a name for himself through the years, working for Swedish national television and also made a documentary about the Swedish band Kent, among other things.
I first met him when I was working as a hard rock reporter for the newspaper Kvällsposten and he was a young guy working at the entertainment editorial as a summer temp back in 1989!
MODESTY BLAISE TODAY – THE MONOHEADS:
Spiritual Beggars were on a mini-tour of Sweden this past weekend, and of course, I went to all those shows. Was really glad to see Apollo (Papathanasio, ex-Firewind) back in business.
On the first night in my home town Malmo, at “Kulturbolaget” I decided to just stay at my table and watch the openers from there.
Because out of maybe 200 gigs, I’d say that maybe one or two opening acts every once in a blue moon, stands out in any way. It’s a harsh thing to say, I know, and I’ve been criticized for being blunt about it, accused of “not supporting” bands that haven’t reached so called “stardom” yet.
(I should add though, that these guys are not amateurs, they’ve been around for a while and had some national success. However, they were new to me.)
In my opinion, appreciating music is not about charity. I will support anything that has some sort of impact on me, because that’s what music is all about. If it passes me by without having left a mark in any shape or form, I see no reason lying about it? I can’t and won’t do it just for the sake of it.
So anyway, not expecting anything at all, and thinking of the opening act as 30 minutes that I had to kill, I pretty much thought I’d go to the bar and get something to drink or stay at my table and check my mail or something… Well. Much to my own surprise, that’s not what happened.
Two songs into SAFFIRE’s set, I got off my ass and moved closer to the stage. I LOVE those moments! When something suddenly and unexpectedly catches my ear and it’s just so good!
In fact, I was so focused on the music that I didn’t even notice that Apollo was standing right next to me! God knows how long he had been standing there. :D
He looked amused but seemed to get why I was hooked and didn’t really want to ruin my experience by small-talking in that very moment. And by the way, that’s a compliment to any band, cause Apollo is the reason I was even going to these shows with SB in the first place.
So anyway. Saffire. I’ve heard the name before but never really came across anything that they’d done (except for a video with Apollo as guest). And there they were, playing flawlessly, it was really music for music nerds and I’m proud to be one. :-)
Great songs, so well executed and most of all, AMAZING vocals!
They might not be pretty boys that attract any chicks (no cool hairdos, spandex or glammy image) and they aren’t the beer-drinking, swearing trucker types to attract Zakk Wylde-fans either, but for people who just want something that SOUNDS damn good, that went a long way!
I enjoyed that show, in all its simplicity. No props, no nothing, just brilliant music!
So, at the next show in Stockholm, I went to their merch stand and bought both CD’s. I haven’t bought a physical CD since I can’t remember when. I either get downloads from the labels, or promo stuff, or I listen to it on Spotify or something.
I’m pretty sure I won’t regret my purchase, my instincts tell me that this will be a favorite in my mobile music player on my way to and from work. :)
I asked them about a bio, cause there’s nothing on their Facebook page (they haven’t even bothered to write their full names, lol!) and nothing on their official website. I think they explained it with something along the lines “we didn’t think anyone would really care….” followed by “maybe we’ve been a little lazy with that stuff...”. Maybe so – get to work guys. :D
So I asked Google and came up with this:
Magnus Carlsson Bass (2005-present)
Victor Olsson Guitars (2005-present)
Dino Zuzic Keyboards (2005-present)
Anton Roos Drums (2008-present)
Tobias Jansson Vocals (2010-present)
Former bands: The Law, ex-Angel Blake, ex-Evil Masquerade, ex-Treasure Land, ex-Silent Scythe
Saffire Demo 2009
Kingdom of the Blind Demo 2011
From Ashes to Fire Full-length 2013
For the Greater Good Full-length 2015
Real talent doesn’t grow on trees. Some work hard but never achieve it, some are lazy and don’t care, some are more interested in their looks, and then there are some where you can pretty much hear the countless hours that have been invested to get to where they are musically. I appreciate that.
So – this is when I thought it was time to dig up my camera from my messenger bag and start filming!
And now I’m checking out their stuff on YouTube, so take a listen to this as well and make sure you catch them at Sweden Rock Festival this summer!