Anders BerglundBorn: July 21st, 1948, Stockholm (Sweden)
“During my secondary school years”, Berglund continues, “I played the piano in several bands – initially amateur bands with friends, but it was not long before I started working with regular groups as well, cover bands playing typical Swedish dance repertoire. For some time, I played in another group, Alfie’s, which specialized in somewhat heavier stuff, in the style of Blood Sweat & Tears and Chicago. Just like Blood Sweat & Tears, our band had a brass section, for which I wrote most arrangements. That is how I started scoring – without any formal education, because my piano teacher had not taught me any harmony. What I did, though, was studying by myself, reading useful books on the subject. All the way through, it was obvious that I wanted to work as a musician… in truth, I never considered doing something else. So, in 1968, with my school diploma in the pocket, I submitted my application to the conservatory in Stockholm. However, at that point, the agent of Lill Lindfors asked me to join Lill on her summer tour… and the rehearsals were scheduled at exactly the same time as the admission tests at the conservatory. I had to make a choice… and I decided to join Lill! This tour effectively was my introduction to the professional music business in Sweden. People in the music business in Stockholm became familiar with my name and, as a result of that, things started rolling for me… and that is why I never entered conservatory!”
After his time with Alfie’s, Anders joined a similar band called Alarm. In 1973, he was invited to join Blue Swede (initially called Blåblus), the cover band of singer Björn Skifs which had recorded ‘Hooked on a feeling’. Blue Swede’s version of this tune, the original of which had been released by B.J. Thomas in ’68, became a number one hit in the United States, Australia, and the Netherlands in early 1974, while there was also considerable chart success in other countries. With Anders playing the piano and synthesizers, the band made three tours in the USA (1974-’75), as well as giving many concerts in the Scandinavian countries, the United Kingdom, and West Germany. In the fall of 1975, Björn Skifs and Anders both decided to leave the band. “Although Blue Swede only lasted for about two years”, Berglund comments, “it was an important period in my career. I was only twenty-five years old and we were the first Swedish band to make it in America… before ABBA, Roxette, Europe, and all the others. We were some sort of forerunners, paving the way for others.”
In 1975, Berglund signed a contract as a producer at the record company Metronome, where he also worked on a freelance basis as a studio musician, backup vocalist, arranger, and musical director. In the late 1970s as well as in the first half of the 1980s, he worked with most of Sweden’s top acts in the pop and jazz genre, including Siw Malmkvist, Björn Skifs, Lill Lindfors, Pugh Rogefeldt, Lill-Babs, Jan Malmsjö, Totte Wallin, Arja Saijonmaa, Magnus & Brasse, and After Dark. For Svante Thuresson, he wrote the arrangement to the Swedish version of Jim Croce’s ‘Bad Leroy Brown’, called ‘Ivar’ (1979). In the 1970s, Berglund also got the opportunity to work on various projects for Swedish radio and television. He was the conductor of a TV special with Björn Skifs and Eva Rydberg. Moreover, he composed the music to countless radio plays and children’s programmes. Between 1978 and 1982, he was the musical director of all editions of the Swedish Eurovision selection programme, the Melodifestival.
In 1979, Berglund arranged the music to the Swedish version of ‘Sugar’, a musical which was performed at Stockholm’s Maxim Theatre with Berglund himself conducting the orchestra. This production, with Lill Lindfors and Magnus & Brasse as its main stars, ran for three consecutive seasons (1979-’81). Subsequently, Berglund arranged and conducted the follow-up show, ‘Spök’, a musical composed by Bengt Palmers with a cast including Björn Skifs, Monica Dominique, and Elisabeth Andreasson (1982-’83). Finally, Berglund composed a musical comedy himself, ‘Skål’; like ‘Spök’, it was performed in the Maxim Theatre for two entire seasons (1984-’85). The main roles for ‘Skål’ were played by Siw Malmkvist, Martin Ljung, and Nils Landgren. In the 1980s, Anders Berglund also regularly worked on various types of live shows – ranging from revue and cabaret to pop music – in Börsen and Berns, two well-known restaurants in Stockholm; for these shows, he got to work with international stars such as Diana Ross, Jennifer Holliday, and even athletics champion Carl Lewis. At the same time, he could still be found in the recording studio now and then as an arranger or session musician.
Between 1983 and 1986, Anders was the Hammond organ player of Little Mike and the Sweet Soul Music Band, which recorded two albums: ‘Get on up’ and ‘Let’s do it’. This funk band was hugely successful in Sweden and even had a hit success in France with ‘Let’s do it’. In 1986, the group performed on the 40th birthday party of King Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden. As Berglund explains, the original idea of Little Mike and the Sweet Soul Music Band was to do just one gig: “Mike Watson was the bass player in my orchestra which accompanied the musical ‘Spök’ at the Maxim Theatre. Sometimes, we, the musicians in the band, were a little tired to have to play the same music every night… of course ‘Spök’ was a good production, but we dreamt of doing something completely different. Someone came up with the idea of forming a soul band. We all loved those old soul tunes of the 1960s and 1970s. Just for fun’s sake, we started rehearsing for – that was our plan – just one gig. Some marvellous musicians joined us… Lasse Welander, Nisse Landgren, and Claes af Geijerstam, for example. There were no fewer than four brass players as well as a fully-fledged background choir! For the night, we all wore tuxedoes – as if we were the Blues Brothers! We rehearsed like hell and we did the concert in a club in Stockholm. That gig was so well received, however, that we went on to do two albums and three years of countless concerts!”
Working as a composer for television occasionally, Anders Berglund wrote the music to several documentaries, most notably ‘Sagan om livet / The saga of life’ (1982), a science special about the unborn child with images by photographer Lennart Nilsson; the programme was sold to over thirty countries all over the world. As a film composer, he made his mark by (co-)writing the soundtracks of several movie pictures, including ‘Två killar och en tjej’ (directed by Lasse Hallström, 1983) and ‘1939’ (1989). He also wrote the music to several films based on the work of Astrid Lindgren: ‘Gull-Pian’ (1988), the children’s film ‘Nils Karlsson Pyssling’ (1990), and two animated films featuring the adventures of Pippi Longstocking in the late 1990s.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Anders was a familiar face for Swedish TV viewers. Apart from his appearances as a conductor in the Eurovision Song Contest and Eurovision pre-selections in Sweden, he was the musical director of many other music programmes with a live orchestra, including the sketch shows of Magnus & Brasse and several late night talk shows. In the 1980s, he represented Sweden in several editions of the Knokke Cup, a music festival held by Belgian television. In 1995, Berglund produced ‘Mycke nöje’, a series of twelve music specials with many different artists, for which he also conducted the orchestra. Between 1997 and 2005, he was one of the team captains of the music fun quiz ‘Så ska det låta’, which was immensely popular in Sweden with TV audiences reaching three million viewers. After more than 100 editions of the programme, there was a farewell concert for ‘Så ska det låta’ featuring Berglund and his fellow team captain Robert Wells held in London’s Royal Albert Hall.
Since the 1980s, Anders Berglund has worked on numerous theatre projects, especially in collaboration with director Staffan Götestam, at whose request he composed the music to a number of children’s plays based on the books of Astrid Lindgren: ‘Rasmus på luffen’, ‘Ronja Rövardotter’, ‘Karlsson på taket’, ‘Nils Karlsson Pyssling’, and ‘Bröderna Lejonhjärta’. In 1989, Anders and the cast of ‘Nils Karlsson Pyssling’ travelled to the Soviet Union for a guest performance in Moscow. Anders wrote the orchestration to the musical ‘I hetaste laget’, which was a remake of ‘Sugar’; the new show, featuring Björn Skifs, was performed at Stockholm’s Cirkus Theatre and ran for four seasons (1994-’97). More recently, Berglund again composed two musicals himself, ‘Stars’ (2003) and ‘Rasmus på luffen’ (2009), while he was commissioned to pen new scores to the Swedish versions of ‘The Sound of Music’ (2007) and ‘The Producers’ (2008). In 2009, Anders’ arrangements to ‘The Sound of Music’ were also used when the show was performed at the Fredericia Theatre, Denmark.
Towards the end of the 1980s, Anders Berglund got involved in the concerts of ‘Rhapsody in Rock’, a project involving different styles of music performed in a symphonic setting devised by Swedish pianist Robert Wells. Berglund worked with many different classical orchestras in countless concerts with Wells. ‘Rhapsody in Rock’ went on tour throughout Scandinavia, the Baltic countries, and even Russia and China. Berglund: “In the 1990s, it turned out to be an immensely successful concept, although the first signs had been slightly ominous… In ’89, Robert and I did ‘Rhapsody in Rock’ for the first time with the Gävle Symphony Orchestra in a concert hall in Sundsvall. The public turnout was so disappointing that there were more people on stage that night than in the audience! Later, however, Robert and I got free advertisement thanks to our involvement in ‘Så ska det låta’ on nationwide TV and we started drawing huge crowds in Sweden… and abroad as well.”
Since, Berglund has specialized in working with symphonic orchestras for concerts of light entertainment and pop music. In 1997 and 1999, he conducted the Malmö Symphony Orchestra and the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra respectively on a series of Frank Sinatra tribute concerts. From 2004 onwards, he has worked with the Swedish Radio Symphonic Orchestra annually or even several times a year on ‘Svenska Stjärnor’, which involves well-known Swedish pop artists singing their repertoire in a symphonic setting. Moreover, in 2007, he conducted the SR Symphonic in a programme dedicated to the music of ABBA’s Benny Andersson in 2007. Other Swedish orchestras which were led by Berglund for crossover projects include the Umeå Symphonic, the Sandviken Symphonic, the Västerås Sinfonietta, the Gothenburg Symphonic, and the Stockholm Sinfonietta.
Apart from his work with classical orchestras, Berglund has built up a huge experience as a conductor for theatre and gala concerts. Since 1986, he has been involved in the ‘Stjärnklart’ project, an annual concert programme for private companies in Sweden. In the 1990s, he toured with pop singer Björn Skifs as well as with jazz legend Alice Babs. In ’96, a gala in Stockholm’s Globen Arena on the occasion of the fiftieth birthday of King Carl XVI Gustav was produced and conducted by him, featuring Stevie Wonder and many others. Berglund also was the musical director of the concert held on the occasion of 750 years of Stockholm in the city’s Olympic Stadium (2002) and of the Tsunami Gala (2004). On top of that, he has been involved in many editions of the mega popular open-air sing-along event ‘Allsång på Skansen’ and conducted the band in events such as ‘Schlagerfestivalen på riktigt’ (2008) as well as the 2011 Pride Festival in Stockholm with a programme of Eurovision Song Contest music. One of the highlights of Berglund’s career was the 1999 concert with world-famous clarinettist Putte Wickman, Svante Thuresson, Johanna Grüssner, and the big band of the Manhattan Jazz Orchestra in the jazz club Birdland in New York.
Anders Berglund was a member of the board of the Swedish Association of Composers of Popular Music (SKAP) and the Swedish Association of Authors, Composers, and Publishers (STIM) throughout the 1980s and 1990s. His advice was called upon during the construction of the Gävle Concert Hall (1998), whilst he served as a board member of Konstnärsnämnden, the government-run council of cultural support, and as a juror for the Polar Music Prize for many years. Berglund himself received the stipend of the Thore Ehrling Stipend Fund in 1996. In 2008, the honour of a Royal Medal of the Eighth Grade, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to Swedish music culture, was bestowed upon him from the hands of King Carl XVI Gustav.
Anders Berglund in the Eurovision Song Contest
In 1977, at twenty-eight years of age, Berglund made his first appearance in the Swedish pre-selection, which, in those years, featured different conductors. The song he arranged and conducted, ‘Beatles’ by the group Forbes, was chosen as the winner and subsequently went on to represent Sweden in the Eurovision Song Contest in Wembley’s Conference Centre, London. There, however, this quirky tribute to the Fab Four failed to impress the international jurors, picking up only two points and finishing rock bottom on the scoreboard. How did Anders get involved in arranging this song? “At that time”, he explains, “I worked as a producer for Metronome Records. Sven-Olof Bagge of the publishing department asked me to check out this new band which played in a club in Stockholm… Forbes. The group did not have a contract yet and were totally unknown. Sven-Olof was thinking of signing the band and he wanted to know what I thought about them. So I went down to the place, where they played their repertoire of typical Swedish dance music. There was one song, however, that I instantly liked. That was ‘Beatles’ – they sang it with English lyrics. When I walked up to them after the gig, they told me that was one of the songs they had written themselves. ‘Don’t ever perform that song again’, I told them, ‘because I think it is a good song for the Melodifestival!’ The guys liked the idea and we made a demo recording. Sven-Olof Bagge wrote Swedish words to the tune. It was picked as one of the ten participants in the Swedish final! Luckily, nobody ever found out that Forbes had already performed their song during their gigs, which was forbidden at that time… only compositions that were completely new were allowed in the competition.”
“The 1977 Melodifestival was a busy night for me”, Berglund continues. “Lars Samuelson, who was the musical director of the programme, had invited me to play the keyboards in the orchestra. When it was time for Forbes to perform ‘Beatles’, however, I conducted the band, only to take my place behind the keyboards again after that. Of course I was delighted when ‘our’ song was chosen as the winner! Because I was the MD of the winning group, I went to London with them. A bus took us from the hotel to the concert hall for the first rehearsals. We were astonished to find out that the conductor of the Israeli delegation, which was on the same bus, was armed. The Israelis took security very seriously indeed and this guy turned out to have a double role: apart from conducting the entry, he also was a security officer for singer Ilanit. Even on stage during the broadcast he had his gun with him! (Eldad Shrem, the Israeli conductor, denies having had a weapon with him in London, BT) For me, the overriding memory of London is the excitement about conducting the BBC orchestra, although it was sad that we came last. In hindsight, singing about the Beatles in England might not have been a good idea… perhaps the British did not like Swedes singing about their band. The song in itself was quite catchy and should have gotten more points. In Sweden, still everyone knows the tune.”
In 1978 and 1979, the production team of Swedish television invited Anders Berglund, who was employed part-time at SR at that time, to be the musical director of Melodifestival, although, in those years, this did not mean he conducted all participating entries, as each act chose its own conductor. Nevertheless, he led the orchestra for seven songs in those two years: ‘Miss Decibel’ for Wizex, ‘Nattmara’ for Pugh Rogefeldt, ‘Idag är det vår’ for Pastellerna, ‘Lilla stjärna’ for Jörgen Edman & Polarna (all in 1978), ‘Det känns som jag vandrar fram’ for Ola+3, ‘Tillsammans’ for Tomas Adolphson & Anders Falk, and ‘Var det här bara början’ for Py Bäckman (all in 1979). As none of these songs, for some of which Berglund himself wrote the score, were picked for the Eurovision proper, however, he did not conduct in the international finals in either of those years.
“In 1980”, Berglund recalls, “SVT decided they wanted just one person to conduct all entries in the Swedish pre-selection. The reasons were mostly economical, I think, because each conductor had to be paid. It seemed a little unnecessary to have different maestros in the national final – quite opposite to the Eurovision Song Contest, where each delegation had its own conductor to represent the country in what was, after all, an international event. I was the MD of the Melodifestival editions of 1980, 1981, and 1982; and, no matter who was the winning act or the song’s arranger, it was predetermined that I would be the conductor in the international contest. Each year when I was the musical director of the Melodifestival, I wrote the scores to some of the songs, but there were many other arrangers involved as well."
Sweden selected Tomas Ledin as its representative for the 1980 contest with a rock song called ‘Just nu!’, a daring choice for Eurovision in those days; the Swedish effort finished tenth in the festival held in The Hague, Netherlands. While ‘Just nu!’ had been performed entirely live in the Swedish final, it was decided upon to use a pre-recorded rhythm track for the Eurovision Song Contest. “As usual with any Eurovision orchestra, the brass and strings in The Hague were very good. Tomas Ledin, however, correctly believed that bad percussion would have ruined his song and it must have been him who took the decision to play it safe and use a backing track. Usually, I tried to convince the producers and artists to work entirely live – simply because it was more fun – but, in this case, I understood Tomas’ choice, although the orchestra musicians in The Hague were pretty good and I am sure the rhythm section would have done well on our song. As the rules in those days were, the instruments on the track had to be on stage; each of the four backing singers pretended to play an instrument… the drummer on stage was actually a bass player, but all of that did not really matter. The most important thing for them was to provide the vocals. At the request of Tomas’ record company, I did not wear a tuxedo for the broadcast that year, but a jacket with a badge ‘Just nu!’; it was part of the rock image they wanted to bring across. My most vivid memory of The Hague, however, was giving an interview to Viveca Lärn, who was a journalist writing for Aftonbladet in those days, seated under a grand piano during the reception for all delegations, because it was the least noisy place we could find!”
In 1981, Sweden was represented by Björn Skifs and another quite modern song, ‘Fångad i en dröm’, which was later featured in the musical ‘Spök’. For Skifs, it was his second Eurovision participation; in 1978, he had already represented Sweden in the contest held in Paris. The conductor that year had been Bengt Palmers, who also was the songwriter and arranger of ‘Fångad i en dröm’. In Dublin, this Swedish entry finished tenth. “Although I was not involved in the Eurovision Song Contest as an arranger from 1980 onwards”, Berglund explains, “I was always very keen to get the best result possible with the artists, many of whom were personal friends – in the case of Björn Skifs, I had worked with him throughout the 1970s. It was nice teaming up with them. In Dublin, particularly, we had a good time. I remember we had a little party with the Swedish team – Björn, Bengt, and the backup vocals – in one of our hotel rooms. We all had had a couple of beers and one of us came up with the idea: ‘Why don’t we use the sheets of the beds to dress up as Arabs?’ That is the sort of thing musicians on tour tend to like doing and I must admit we had dressed up as sheiks before on tour in Sweden! All covered in white sheets, we took the elevator down to the hotel lobby to have a drink at the bar. However, when the elevator doors opened downstairs, we saw the Israeli delegation was in the lobby bar. The Israelis were not known for taking half measures when it came to security. They usually had armed guards with them. We instantly realized that a group of Arabs appearing all of a sudden could have caused a little misunderstanding, especially given the political situation in the Middle East. Although we were slightly drunk, we did not want to push our luck… and we instantly pushed the button of the elevator to go back upstairs again!”
Sweden entered Eurovision 1982 with the female duo Chips (Elisabeth Andreasson & Kikki Danielsson) and a composition by Lasse Holm, ‘Dag efter dag’, which did quite well with 67 points and an eighth position on the scoreboard. Berglund: “The song was in the style of Swedish schlager music and I cannot say that that is my favourite genre, but, in all fairness, ‘Dag efter dag’ was catchy and it worked well. The contest that year was held in England, in a provincial town called Harrogate… there was this impressive reception at a castle just outside the town in the beautiful surroundings of Yorkshire. As usual, the English did a very good job on the organisation and working with British musicians always is pure joy. The MD, Ronnie Hazlehurst, was one of the conductors who I met in many Eurovisions. I would not say we became friends, but it was certainly nice meeting up year after year. There were others, too, with whom I liked having a drink and a laugh… Allan Botschinsky and Henrik Krogsgård from Denmark, for example; Richard Österreicher from Austria was a very nice guy as well.”
After the 1983 Swedish entry had been conducted by Anders Ekdahl, all songs from Sweden between 1984 and the last Eurovision edition with an orchestra present, 1998, were conducted by either Curt-Eric Holmquist (when the national final was organized in Gothenburg) or Anders Berglund (in Stockholm). Holmquist’s first participation in ’84 brought Sweden victory with Herreys and ‘Diggi-loo, diggi-ley’; next year’s contest was held in Gothenburg with Holmquist himself naturally being chosen as its musical director. Hence, the next opportunity for Berglund to get involved in the Eurovision Song Contest was in 1986. To his major disappointment, though, there was no orchestra in the national final: “They wanted to try another format, with video clips. I was so frustrated about this that I decided to compose a song myself: ‘Du forför mig’; Git Persson was the singer… it was up-tempo and quite modern. Although it made it to the final ten songs, it was not commercial enough to be a real winner.”
Berglund’s composition was beaten by ‘E’ de’ det här du kallar kärlek?’, a true party song with some gospel elements penned by Lasse Holm. Holm himself performed it in a duet with Monica Törnell. This entry, perhaps helped by an extravagant stage presentation, managed to come fifth in the contest held in Bergen, Norway. Berglund: “Swedish television asked me to conduct the orchestra there and I did, although there was another gig as well that week which was quite important for me… our king Carl Gustav celebrated his fortieth birthday on the 30th of April, three days prior to the contest… and the group I was in at that time, Little Mike & The Sweet Soul Music Band, had been invited to perform at the concert in his honour. What was the solution? I flew with our delegation to Norway to do the first rehearsal and subsequently rushed back to Stockholm for the king’s concert. The Norwegian resident conductor Egil Monn-Iversen replaced me in the rehearsals which followed. I was back in Bergen in time, however, to do the dress rehearsal and the live broadcast. The Norwegian Radio Orchestra was very good and we played ‘E’ de’ det här du kallar kärlek?’ entirely live. Just to put on a good show, our delegation leader Sten Carlberg jumped onto the stage bare-chested with an electrical guitar in his hands, but his instrument was not plugged in and the guitar solo was played simultaneously by one of the members of the orchestra.”
Anders Berglund represented Sweden for the sixth time in the Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin, 1988. Tommy Körberg performed a Py Bäckman composition, ‘Stad i ljus’, with trumpeter Urban Agnas, who, just like Berglund, had been a member of the Sweet Soul Music Band, taking care of a wonderful instrumental solo played live on stage. Unfortunately, in spite of Körberg’s convincing performance, the impressive ballad was underrated by the jurors across Europe and came twelfth amongst twenty-one competing entries. Berglund: “When I was at a Eurovision Song Contest, I used to say to the artists that it is impossible to compete in music and that the final score does not tell you very much about the quality of a song… after all, it is not football, where you simply count the number of goals scored to determine the winner. Eurovision is a perfect TV show, as it is a combination of entertainment and competition, but, essentially, awarding points to music is nonsensical! Our week in Dublin was not as comfortable as it could have been… the Swedish gutter press was after Tommy Körberg all the time, because he had an affair with an English singer who he knew from the musical Chess in London and everyone wanted to find out more about him and this girl. On top of that, Tommy, who is a gorgeous singer, fell ill and lost his voice for a couple of days. Luckily, he recovered just in time for the Saturday broadcast.”
One of the most memorable Swedish Eurovision entries of all time must be ‘En dag’, with which Tommy Nilsson participated in the contest in Lausanne, Switzerland (1989). A pure pop song written by Alexander Bard, Ola Håkansson, and Tim Norell, ‘En dag’ managed to pick up 110 points and a fourth place. Whilst the original arrangement to the song had been written by two of the composers, Norell and Håkansson, in collaboration with Anders Hansson, it was Anders Berglund who re-worked this score to a live orchestration which was used in the Melodifestival and the international Eurovision final. With 'Beatles' from 1977, 'En dag' is the only song conducted by Anders which was also arranged by him. Berglund: “It is my favourite amongst all Eurovision entries I was involved in. Tommy Nilsson is a very good singer and he had an all-star background choir with him. Jerry Williams, a big Swedish rock star with cult status, was in it. True, our delegation had a great time in Switzerland, but when I think back of Lausanne, inevitably the Turkish conductor (Timur Selçuk, BT) comes to mind. I occasionally watched rehearsals of other countries and that guy’s style of conducting was so incredibly energetic! Traditionally, Turkey did very badly in the contest back then, but I liked the fact that the Turks always managed to come up with a song which was instantly recognizable as a Turkish product. It is such a pity that songs from all different parts of Europe seem to sound so alike nowadays…”
In 1991, Sweden won the Eurovision Song Contest for the third time, picking up 146 points with Stephan Berg’s up-tempo composition ‘Fångad av en stormvind’, performed by Carola (Häggkvist). Anders Berglund, enthusiastically dancing along to the beat, conducted the victorious entry in Rome. “The festival in Rome was a special experience”, Berglund recalls. “It was staged in the Cinecittà film studios in the strangest décor I have ever seen! Obviously, Carola, being the diva that she is, was the star of the contest, with press photographers following her everywhere. No, working with the Italian orchestra musicians did not prove to be problematic at all… musicians have a language of their own and even those who do hardly understand any English, can be instructed by body language or universal terminology such as ‘andante’ and ‘forte’. The only tricky experience for me while working with an orchestra was with Robert Wells and ‘Rhapsody in Rock’ in Russia, where people do not understand English at all and I often had to rely on one person, the concertmaster, who spoke a little English and transmitted my message to the others; not even the courses of classical conducting which I took in the 1980s could save me there! I did not think the orchestra in Rome was that bad – quite the opposite, the rhythm group was excellent. Only the saxophonist was kind of strange and problematic… he behaved as if he was from outer space!”
On the big night, there was some panic in the Swedish camp. “Our rehearsals went very well”, says Berglund, “but during the live broadcast the sound transmission for the singers on stage and the orchestra musicians fell out… for us, everything fell completely quiet – we could not hear anything we were doing! It only lasted for some ten seconds, but it felt like an eternity! As I was just about to stop the orchestra to start again, the sound came back and I decided to continue. Immediately after our performance, I asked Carola and the backup vocals how they felt about the performance and they thought it was okay, although they had of course noticed what happened… but they still wanted me to check what it had been like on screen for the viewers. I ran up to the box where our commentator was and asked him to contact Stockholm. There, however, nobody had noticed a thing, upon which we decided to leave it there. Otherwise, we would certainly have submitted a protest, demanding the right to perform the song again. Listening back to the performance, the only thing you can actually hear is the orchestra’s bass guitarist playing some wrong notes. The voting was a tense affair, in which we finished with the same number of points as the French girl, but we were declared winners on account of a higher number of 12s and 10s awarded to us. We had been in a party mood anyway, because in advance of the dress rehearsal we had witnessed the Swedish ice hockey team winning the gold medal in the World Championships that afternoon… we were anxiously following the match on TV in our hotel. When we came down to the studio for the contest, we were really in the mood to go for gold ourselves as well! The celebrations after we won? I do not remember a thing!!”
Now that Sweden had won the contest, it was up to Malmö – where the national final in 1991 had been held – to stage the Eurovision Song Contest. Berglund, who thinks the show is one of the highlights of his career, has detailed memories of the preparations leading up to the show: “The producer there, Kåge Gimtell, was a guy who was extremely dedicated to the festival and he was the key factor in bringing about the magnificent production which the 1992 contest turned out to be. I was very happy when Kåge asked me to be the musical director of the show. After all, I had done Eurovision so many times now as a guest in other countries and I was really keen to show the rest of Europe the high standard of Swedish musicians. The most important thing for me to do now was contracting a group of able musicians for the orchestra. The strings and horns were from the Malmö Symphonic and the rhythm section was a mix of guys from Stockholm and Malmö. In the months preceding the festival, I went down to Malmö several times for meetings with Kåge and the rest of the production team, discussing, amongst other things, what kind of music to use for the introduction film and the interval act. For the intro, we decided to make an animation of a flight from Rome over Europe to Malmö, to which I composed the music. I was adamant that we did all this entirely live with the orchestra on the spot – no pre-recorded tracks were used at all!”
“Another thing I was watching closely was the sound technique”, Berglund continues. “I had long discussions with the chief sound engineer. What concerned me most was the sound of the strings in the orchestra. It would not have been the first time when TV viewers could hardly hear the violins because of the leakage from other instruments, especially from the rhythm group. In the end, we decided to hire Semmy Stahlhammer, who is the concertmaster of the Swedish National Opera – a brilliant musician, but an able violin-technician as well. His solution was to replace the little button on the violins to which the strings are attached for a microphone. The musicians were apprehensive that Semmy would harm their instrument, but the fact that he was a violinist himself made sure they put their trust in him. He loosened the strings of all instruments one by one and installed those little microphones. The result was just wonderful, with no leakage from the other instruments whatsoever. It would have taken too much time and money to do all this for an ordinary gig, but the production team agreed… after all, this was the Eurovision Song Contest!”
“Before the host conductors from all participating countries came in”, says Berglund, “I naturally went through all scores and rehearsed those with the orchestra. There were no problems… except for the French song (France’s song was a mix of zouk and reggae, ‘Monté la riviè’, by Kali from Martinique in the French Caribbean). It was impossible to play from that score. There was no specification as to the different instruments – an insolvable puzzle! It was very obvious that the arranger had never written a string arrangement before in his life. I saw no other option but to completely rewrite the arrangement for the French entry! As the arranger for France (Magdi Vasco Noverraz, also from Martinique) was touring in Japan as a pianist at that time, he had to miss the first rehearsal, but he was flown in a couple of days later. When he came off the stairs to rehearse with the orchestra for the first time, you could literally see him becoming really nervous. It was obvious that he had expected a small combo and certainly no fifty-piece-orchestra!”
“As this guy turned out never to have conducted an orchestra before”, Berglund continues, “I had to give him a quick conducting course, because he was not even able to count in the band correctly! Apparently, he did not notice I had worked on the arrangement… well, he would have noticed if I had not rewritten it! In an aside, I had already instructed the musicians in the orchestra not to look at him… we decided to have the drummer of the band cross his sticks to count in the orchestra instead. I was really surprised that France came up with such a conductor! Admittedly, he was a very pleasant chap, but the reason he was there was simply that he was a friend of the singer! Neither he nor his backing musicians really took notice of the score, however, because they were having the time of their life in Sweden! They spent most of the week having fun with the beautiful hostesses who were supposed to look after them. These Rastafarian guys took them to all parties in Malmö! All through, it was obvious that they were not really in it for the competition… they just wanted to have a good time, smoking some joints and enjoying the hospitality!”
Berglund about some of his Eurovision colleagues: “At all those festivals I have been over the years, I was quite surprised by some of the conductors… I mean, there have been quite a lot who were rather questionable when it came to their conducting skills. Technically, they did not know what to do, puzzling the orchestra musicians. I was amazed how some of them got the invitation to conduct a Eurovision entry anyway! Although in his case, we are talking about a schooled conductor, Paul Abela from Malta nearly made a capital mistake while counting in my orchestra in the 1992 contest. When he counted the band in, the musicians misread his gestures and started too early. It could have gone terribly wrong, but luckily Paul and the orchestra picked themselves up and Malta, who had a fantastic singer, managed to do very well (Malta’s contestant Mary Spiteri and her song ‘Little child’ finished third)!
Anders Berglund himself conducted two entries: of course the Swedish song, ‘I morgon är en annan dag’, a ballad composed by Niklas Strömstedt and performed by Christer Björkman; and also the last-ever effort from Yugoslavia, ‘Ljubim te pesmama’. In the Yugoslavian pre-selection held in Belgrade, this most interesting entry (arranged by the man who had conducted the Yugoslavian entry the year before, Slobodan Marković) had been conducted by Zvonimir Škerl, but for reasons which can only be guessed at, he did not accompany singer Extra Nena to Malmö. As was usual in the Eurovision Song Contest when a delegation did not bring a conductor of its own, the musical director of the festival did the honours. Berglund: “The score of that song contained an accordion part, but as there was no accordionist in the orchestra, I decided to play it myself. Otherwise, that part would have had to be played with keyboards, which would have been a missed opportunity! I asked the singer and the delegation if they gave me permission and they actually really liked the idea. As for the Swedish entry, I did not pay that much attention to it, since there were so many other things to look after that week! To be honest, I did not believe in the song from the start… it was a good ballad, but too mellow and too slow to succeed; on top of that, Mr Björkman is not much of a singer from my point of view! Therefore it did not come as a surprise to me when Sweden finished second last.”
“Some time after the 1992 contest”, Berglund concludes his memories of Malmö, “I was telephoned by several musicians who had been in the orchestra, telling me that they had received a huge sum of money. They did not understand where it came from! They were unaware that all of them received a fee for each country in which the programme had been broadcast – so, all in all, more than twenty fees!”
In total, Anders Berglund was present at four editions of the Eurovision Song Contest which were held in Dublin. After his involvement in 1981 and 1988, he also conducted the Swedish entries in the festivals of 1994 and 1995, the both of which were held in the Point Theatre. In ’94, Sweden was represented by Marie Bergman and Roger Pontare with their wonderful ballad ‘Stjärnorna’, which came thirteenth, whereas the country’s 1995 effort ‘Se på mej’, performed by Jan Johansen, managed to pick up 100 points exactly and finished third. Berglund: “The RTÉ Concert Orchestra, the band of the Irish broadcaster, did not have the best rhythm group in the world. Employed musicians – after all, they were employees of Irish radio – sometimes lacked the motivation to give it their all. It was not even about playing the wrong notes, but about adding a little extra… when working on pop music, it is extremely important that the orchestra’s rhythm players put in all their effort and enthusiasm to get a result which is not just correct, but excellent. I usually work with freelancers, who are dependent on getting as much gigs as possible for their income and therefore are eager to perform as good as they possibly can!”
“As for the Irish organisation”, Berglund continues, “I have no complaints whatsoever. We were escorted from our hotel to the theatre with a coach accompanied by police and we did not have to stop at traffic lights… that is what I call a VIP treatment! In 1994, the Swedish beer company representing Guinness took our whole delegation on a day’s trip, starting at the Guinness factory, where we were allowed to taste different beers. After that, they brought us to a fantastic restaurant in the wonderful mountainous countryside just outside of Dublin… an old country house. We were served traditional Irish dishes and, of course, more beer. I have never had so much beer in my life as that day. The whole delegation, including the vocalists, left the building utterly drunk.”
The year after, 1995, Norway won the festival with a piece of Celtic music: ‘Nocturne’ by Rolf Løvland’s group Secret Garden. As it was nearly entirely instrumental, there was a discussion amongst some of the other participants, including notably the Spanish conductor Eduardo Leiva, what the drawing line for a song contest entry should be. Anders about this issue: “I was certainly not one of them. It was a nice piece of music, whilst it also marked a turning point for the contest as a whole. Their approach of bringing in folk music was followed by many ethnically inspired entries from several countries in subsequent years. As Sweden had been the pre-contest favourite, the Swedish yellow press, thoroughly disappointed by the result, tried to create a row about the Norwegian group. People from other parts of Europe sometimes seem to think that Swedes and Norwegians really cannot stand each other, but the opposite is true… in fact, at the Eurovision Song Contest, our delegations were always very close and we usually organized a combined party. On behalf of Norway’s tourist board, there were these two guys called Trond & Trond, who brought along masses of delicious Norwegian seafood and liquor, which we thoroughly enjoyed. No, there was no question of us disliking each other. As for ‘Se på mej’, although it was a good song, I never believed it could be a winner anyway!”
After Secret Garden’s victory, the 1996 Eurovision Song Contest was organized in the huge Oslo Spektrum. Sweden came third for the second year in a row with the group One More Time and their stylish song ‘Den vilda’. For Berglund, however, 1996 first and foremost was the year of the imminent ‘conductors’ strike’: “During the first dress rehearsal, we noticed the customary conductor’s shot before each song was left out. We became slightly worried. With a couple of other conductors (Noel Kelehan, Paul Abela, and Olli Ahvenlahti, BT) I went to the producer to ask what was going on. He more or less asked us if it was a problem to leave the traditional presentation of the conductors out. Of course we said yes! Subsequently, we organized a secret meeting of the conductors of all delegations, in which we decided to submit a formal protest to the Norwegian organisation. Especially Olli Ahvenlahti from Finland, who is a good friend of mine, was very passionate about this. In the end, the production team backed down and each conductor was given the opportunity to take his bow to the TV audience.”
In 1998, Berglund was the musical director for the Swedish entry in the last contest with an orchestra present, in Birmingham. Sweden came tenth with ‘Kärleken är’, composed by Håkan Almqvist and Bobby Ljunggren, who had also been responsible for ‘Se på mej’ three years before. The performer was a young singer from Ängelholm in Scania, Jill Johnson. Berglund: “Jill and I had already worked together prior to the contest, as she was one of the singers who toured with Robert Wells and ‘Rhapsody in Rock’. We became friends and, some of years after the contest, Jill performed at my wedding… she did a couple of songs, amongst which one I had composed especially for my wife. Later, she turned to country music… she is a wonderful singer indeed!”
Although the 1999 Eurovision Song Contest in Jerusalem was the first not to have an orchestra to accompany all participants, Swedish TV organised a national final with a live band conducted by Anders Berglund. The selection was won by Charlotte Nilsson and ‘Tusen och en natt’. In Jerusalem, she went on to win the international final as well with the song’s English version, ‘Take me to your heaven’. Berglund was not told until after the Melodifestival that there was no point in coming along to Jerusalem. Berglund: “When I found out there was to be no orchestra in Israel, I was mad! It was then that I suggested to go there as one of the commentators for Swedish TV instead. Our producer agreed and this meant I went to the contest for the first time as an accredited journalist! Painfully enough, the first press bulletin I read was from Israeli television, which stated that, unfortunately, there would be no orchestra, but that they were extremely happy to have all lighting equipment imported from Germany by boat. It was all a matter of priority! Apparently, they put all their money in hypermodern light effects and then, having found out they did not have any budget left, stated the stage was too small to have an orchestra. It was strange that the Israelis were so proud of the fact that the lighting was shipped from Germany; I mean, it is nice Israel and Germany made up… but for me this press statement made it clear what direction the contest was going!”
“As Sweden won in Jerusalem”, Berglund continues, “the contest came to Stockholm in 2000. The production team here, however, was headed by Svante Stockselius, who was one of the people who wanted to get rid of the orchestra, which meant there was not much of an opportunity to bring up the orchestra issue. Stockselius’ mind had been made up anyway. I tried to push SVT to reconsider the decision, but it was to no avail. I really was devastated not to be involved in that event. After all these years, I am still convinced that the contest would be better off with live music. When I was preparing the 2011 Pride Festival in Stockholm, an open-air event with many Eurovision stars from past and present singing their song, I found that all artists wanted to be accompanied by my orchestra, even those who had participated after 1998. I must give credit to the production teams for the Melodifestival and the Eurovision Song Contest who have time and again succeeded in organizing a wonderful TV event, but they do not understand what the magic of real music is. There should at least be the option of using live music, but they even forbid that! We will simply have to wait for an influential person in the organisation of the Eurovision Song Contest who is interested in turning this TV show into a music competition again.”
In 2000, Anders Berglund played a minor role in ‘Livet är en schlager’, a TV film by Susanne Bier and Jonas Gardell about the Eurovision Song Contest. In 2000 and 2001, he was a juror for the Estonian pre-selection and helped the Baltic state selecting songs which finished in fourth (2000) and first (2001) place respectively. Looking back, was the Eurovision Song Contest an important part of his career? Berglund: “The funny thing is that the contest did not take that much time… usually, just two weeks: one week on the Melodifestival and then another week doing the international contest in a foreign country. Although the job was easy, I became a household name in Swedish showbiz largely thanks to my appearances in the festival. The event has always generated such huge publicity in Sweden! People in the street still remind me of my involvement in the contest occasionally. So I would say that the Eurovision Song Contest was certainly important for me as a musician, although what was more important was that I absolutely loved every minute spent working on the event.”
Other artists on Anders Berglund
Arild Stav was the Norwegian conductor in the 1988 Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin, when Berglund represented Sweden for the sixth time as a musical director: “My first encounter with Anders must have been in 1982 or 1983, when I was the saxophonist in the accompanying band of Anita Skorgan and Jahn Teigen. We did a TV gig in Stockholm and Anders conducted the orchestra there. He is a very friendly guy… being more flexible than most other arrangers and conductors, he was the perfect man to do a gig such as the Eurovision Song Contest; he makes things happen in a very proper and good way for the artists.” (2011)