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Saturday, May 9, 2015

Mabel and The Baron - Revisited.

When I started this blog, a good four years ago, my very first entry was on a little-known mid-'70s Danish teenpop band called Mabel, and their first lead singer Gert von Magnus.  Mabel's main claim to fame in the grand scheme of all things teenpop, arguably, was and always will be their seminal 1976 single "Hey, I Love You".

However, nearly fifty blog entries later, and having recently come across some Mabel and Magnus records, I see perfectly fit to revisit the topic. 
Mabel's debut single, "The Look in Her Eyes"/"For You and Me", was released on Polydor Denmark in 1975.  The band comprised Gert von Magnus (Vocals); Peter Nilsson/Nielsen (Lead Guitar, vocals); Andy Larsson (Or Otto Kulmbak as his mother knows him)(Bass), and Chris Have/Christian Have (Drums).  However, by the sound of it, bassist Nilsson/Nielsen is on lead vocals on both tracks here, with Gert von Magnus providing what can only be described as a supporting role (Well, the guy was all of 15 years old...)

The A-side is a catchy Glam-flavoured stomper, while the self-penned B-side is a tad heavier attempt at something similar to The Sweet's hardest rocking material; something Mabel would explore further on their first long player - more of which later.

Mabel's second single, "Twist Little Sister"/"Mr. Moo", materialized in 1976, and it was to be their swansong with von Magnus who left for seemingly greener pastures when Rollers manager Tam Paton took an interest in him and brought him over to Edinburgh in order to, er, make him a star.  No such luck though.  I spoke to Paton, who died a few years ago, about it way back in January 2000.
“Baron Gert Von Magnus?  Oh, he was wonderful.  The only problem was that I couldn’t get him signed to a  contract ‘cause he couldn’t sing (Laughs).  And so he went back to Denmark and that was it, yeah.  They told me he had been a big pop star in Denmark, although I can’t see how because I couldn’t get a record deal for him anywhere.  He was only over for about six months - he did some test recordings.  I spent about two or three thousand pounds on test recordings for him and I couldn’t get a deal.  Then he decided he wanted to go back because he was going into banking or something instead.  And he was missing home and he went back to Denmark.  He’s a good guy, I actually think he’s still going.  But he’s no Baron; we only pretended he was to give it a publicity angle, you see? (Laughs) It was only a publicity stunt.”
(More of whom later)
In Magnus's place Mabel got one Michael Trempenau, who was immediately re-christened Mike Tramp, a moniker he has used ever since.  So now we're back to that seminal moment, the career-defining single "Hey, I Love You", released in late 1976.

Mabel's debut album, "Another Fine Mess!" came out in 1977.
An uneven affair, to say the least, and, to add insult to injury, madly over-produced.  Trying to be all things to everyone, we get aforementioned heavy rock leanings with the likes of "Lady Love" and "New York City Boy", while opener "Little English Rose" and cutesy ballad "Close Your Eyes" toe the Teen Pop line, and a slightly inferior (to the single) album version of "Hey, I Love You", needless to say, towers above it all.
Sadly, "Another Fine Mess!" was to be Mabel's strongest album.  Later on, they became even more musically frustrating by dipping their toes into Euro disco and, indeed, Eurovision, albeit in the end succumbing to the Metal gods.  Tramp, in particular, has had some success in that field, most notably with White Lion during the '80s.
As for Gert (von) Magnus, in the end, he probably made the best move - artistically speaking at least. 
In 1979 he teamed up with original Mabel producer Per Stan and recorded the "Gert Magnus Band" album, issued by Mercury in Scandinavia.  By no means neither a critical nor commercial success, it is a well put together album and time has been rather kind to it.  Unfortunately, the same can not be said about any of the Mabel long players. 
OK, so Tam Paton was partly right, our Gert isn't the greatest singer in the world.  But so what?  He really doesn't have to be.  It's only Teenpop, y' know. 
The Beach Boys-esque"School's Out" (No, not the Alice Cooper song) was the (flop) single, although "Juke Box Hero" (No, not the Foreigner song), a lost power pop gem, is probably the strongest cut on the record.
Other highlights include blasting opener "Rock 'n' Roll Star", the mid-tempo pop of "I'm Over You" and obligatory ballad "Lover's Lane"....

To the best of my knowledge, Gert von Magnus has kept well out of the public eye for the past 35 years or so.  But he is still making music - apparently there is a new Gert Magnus Band recording at the moment.  He was a Facebook friend for a while - ignored my request for an interview though.  Let sleeping dogs lie and all that.  I don't wanna bug people who don't wanna be bugged.  But I bet he has an interesting tale to tell...

Mabel – Singles:

“The Look in Her Eyes”/”For You and Me” (1975)

“Twist Little Sister”/”Mr. Moo” (1976)

“Hey! I Love You”/”Movin’ Generation” (1976)

“Close Your Eyes”/”Spaceman” (1977)

“I’m Only Here to Rock ‘n’ Roll”/”Give Us a Chance” (1977)

“Boom Boom”/”I’m Only Here to Rock ‘n’ Roll” (1978)

“Wonderful Copenhagen”/”Sailing Away” (1978)

“Skateboard Rider”/”F.B.I. on the Nail” (1978)

“I’m a Hot Dog”/”I’m Tired” (1979)

“Born to Make You Happy”/”Do it With Me” (1979)

+ several singles up until 1981 issued only in Spain.


Mabel – Albums:

“Another Fine Mess” (1977)

“Boom – Boom” AKA “Message from My Heart” (1978)

“Mabel 4 Ever” (1978)

“We Are the 80’s” AKA “Born to Make You Happy” (1979)

“Extranos” (1981) – Spain only.


Mabel – Compilations:

“Mabel’s Storste Successer” (1979).  Denmark only.

“Det Sidste Boom” (2009).  CD issued in Denmark.


Gert Magnus Band:

LP: “Gert Magnus Band” (1979)

45: “School’s Out”/”All That I Need” (1979)

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