The name Ingegerd Nordell is known only to the most devoted collectors of obscure Swedish ‘60s and ‘70s music. Her sole album “Känsla” few people have heard or known to exist until recently, when she got hold of some unplayed copies from the label. The album came out on the small Retone label in 1973. It contains some truly unique and existentially charged singer-songwriter tunes with a broad musical spectrum ranging from blues and jazzy rock to sparse acoustic folk with a haunted vibe. I got a chance to meet Ingegerd a few weeks ago to ask some questions about her mysterious record.
Ingegerd was born in 1946 and grew up in Östersund, a town in the middle of Sweden. Her father was an alcoholic who worked various odd jobs but was never able to hold on to any employment for long. The family was poor and they moved a lot during her childhood. Ingegerd left school without graduating and started to work as a delivery boy. By the time she was sixteen her family moved to Norrtälje where she started to work as a nanny for a wealthy family. The wife of the family, Elisaveta, who was a famous Swedish actress, was the first to recognize Ingegerd’s musical talent and encouraged her to further develop as a musician.
-Elisaveta was always my biggest supporter, says Ingegerd.
After she spent a summer with the family she was invited to move with them to Stockholm. There she started to hang out at Nalen, a legendary concert and dance hall. It was here she first performed in front of an audience. A lot of Swedish pop bands used to play there and she remembered she saw Hep Stars and Lee Kings. I used to invite the bands over to my place to party after the shows as I lived nearby Nalen. When Nalen closed down in 1967 she started to spend a lot of time at Gyllene Cirkeln where she got to know Jojje Wadenius and Slim Borgudd from Made In Sweden (the band also recorded a live album in 1970 from that venue called Live! At the "Golden Circle").
Learning to play
-Jojje Wadenius was the one that taught me fingerpicking, she suddenly remembers. It was just something spontaneous when we were hanging out at my place and he showed me the fingerstyle on the guitar.
Ingegerd started playing guitar and writing songs at a later age, when she was around twenty-five but she had been fascinated by music ever since the discovery of rock music in her teens and especially Elvis was a big inspiration.
When she was not performing she worked as a hostess at a parking lot, one day she got tired of it all and together with a friend decided to leave Stockholm and hitch-hike to northern Sweden. During one of the stops, in the town of Sundsvall, they visited a local pub and as she had brought her guitar with her she asked if she could play some tunes.
After the performance a person in the audience asked her if she was signed to any label and if she was interested to record with a local label? She willingly said yes and when she got back to Stockholm again after the trip they arranged for her to come up later that year to record.
The album was recorded on the local label, Retone, during the summer of 71. The label was owned by Inge Eklund and usually released albums by military bands, dance orchestras and church choirs. He also acted as the producer and engineer on the record as well as arranger on some of the songs.
The backing band to accompany Ingegerd was put together by Inge and comprised of local musicians that otherwise played in dance orchestras. The album consists of mainly self-penned material except for two covers translated into Swedish, Yesterday (with Swedish lyrics by Hawkey Franzén from Lea Riders Group) as well as a nice and groovy version of “Summertime” (which you can listen to here). When I asked for the reason to include these two covers Ingegerd told me that after the summer she had a profound personal crisis and was not able to write music for a long time, so to finish the record, which was too short, she added those two songs.
Her own writing deals with political concerns, nature themes as well as personal existential subjects. She says that much of the lyrics comes from the troublesome childhood and the music was a way to deal with some of those issues. One of the songs that goes more into the existential realm is the beautifully sublime “Vart steg du tar” (see below for soundclip). When I tell her that it’s my favorite song on the album she laughs a little and says that the sound on that one is so strange and muffled with the vocals being way back in the mix. She says she doesn’t really understand the arrangement on the song, which was done by Inge and I get the impression that the song was a fortunate technical mishap in the studio that resulted in this mystical and haunting soundscape.
It’s not only the lyrical themes that are diverse but also the music where she mixes blues, jazzy-rock, with a capella and acoustic singer-songwriter and folk tunes, and she tells me that she listened to all sorts of music at that time, which explains the variation on the album. When talking about the recording she says that she loved to be in the studio and that we really had a great feeling when recording it (hence the name of the album).
A part of the Swedish progressive movement
As some of the songs were political I asked her if she saw herself as being part of the Swedish progressive movement (the progressive movement in Sweden or “progg” was an anti-establishment and left-wing musical scene, which was centered around a few record labels, such as MNW and Silence) and she explain to me that she never wanted to be fully part of it although she voted for VPK (Left Party-Communists), marched in the demonstrations, and knew and played alongside many of the pivotal artists of the progg era.
She said that her political beliefs were even questioned by one of the top names among the left-wing activists as her song “Vi möttes i misär” contains the line “the light of salvation”, which he saw as a reference to God but was never intendent to be interpreted that way as the phrase was to symbolize an awakening moment in one’s life.
Although the recording of the album was finished by the end of 1971 it took almost two years and several angry letters to Inge before the album was finally finished and pressed (the pressing size is not known but according to Inge less than a thousand were made and he estimated that it was probably in the range of four to five hundred). When the record was released only minor promotion was done. One attempted to promote it was to send the album to“Svensktoppen” (Swedish radio’s record chart) but without them showing any interest. Much of the distribution was done by Ingegerd herself, who sold it where she worked and to friends as well as to a record store in Stockholm but without any proper distribution it was doomed to fail commercially.
Inge Eklund also added that he thinks that the music was before its time and not easy to sell. Another reason was probably that the label did not have the right distribution channels for this kind of music. During the end of 1971 she started to perform in a theater ensemble called “Mukk-gruppen” (the name refers to the Swedish word “muck”, which in this context means being released from prison) and she played several of the songs from the album with the ensemble. The group was initiated by Elisaveta and the idea was to visit prisons around Sweden (they also toured in Norway) and entertain and interact with interns. In 1972 she also gave birth to her son “Sebbe” (seen on the first picture) who is also a musician and songwriter.
She continued to perform and write music during the ‘70s but never release anything else, although some recordings with new material were done as well as a small tour in Denmark. At the end of the 70s she went back to school to become a medical doctor, which she still works as today. She is married to a composer for many years and they live together in southern Stockholm. When asking how she sees the record now she says that she still listen to it from time to time and the only regret she has, is that she included the two cover songs instead of her own material.
Many thanks to Ingegerd Nordell for taken the time to answer my questions. Thanks also to Inge Eklund who helped me sort out some facts about the Retone label and to Stefan Kéry for helping me to get in contact with Ingegerd. If you’re interested in copy of the album check out subliminalsounds.se.