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written by: Nigel Camilleri
A Brief History
With the recent release of the first of a trilogy of films related to Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings, it is only
fitting that Forgotten Sons should take a good look at Bo (Bosse) Hansson, one of progressive rock's most famous
multi-instrumentalists, credit mainly due to his adaptation to music of Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings, a piece of
work still considered till this very day as one of the foremost works based on this epic tale.
Born in Stockholm in 1946, Bo Hansson's musical career took off in the late sixties when he was part of the duo Hansson & Karlsson who released three albums and managed to make a name for themselves on the musical circuit, both at home and in Europe. Such was the name that they made that the two also jammed with Jimi Hendrix for a marathon four hours, together with George Clemons (drums) and George Wadinus (guitar)(Blood, Sweat & Tears), a jam that was recorded and the tape of which has been kept by Hansson's producer Anders Lind. Furthermore, Hansson & Karlsson toured with The Experience as well as had the honour of having one of Hansson's tracks, Tax-Free, recorded by Hendrix.
The duo split up with Karlsson taking up an entirely different career as a comedian and TV host while Hansson
persevered with his musical career. Whilst writing music, Hansson became fascinated with the works of
J.R.Tolkien, especially The Lord Of The Rings and this would form the basis for his first solo work.
Recordings for the album took place at Bo Hansson's summerhouse (a remote island off Stockholm) on an 8-track
recorder and at Studio Decibel, Stockholm with help from an entourage of musicians and friends who would aid him
on most all of his solo albums. Production and mixing was entrusted to Anders Lind, who would also be responsible
for the remastering of the album in years to come. The musicians who played on the album were Rune Carlsson
(drums, congas, percussion), Gunnar Bergsten (saxophone) and Sten Bergman (flute). Both Lind and Carlsson would
play on most of Hansson's albums.
The album was originally released as Sagan Om Ringen (Silence Records SRS 4600) in 1970 in Sweden, on Charisma (CAS1059) in 1972 in the UK, and on PVC (7907) in the USA in 1972. The album was an instantaneous hit on both sides of the Atlantic going gold in countries such as Great Britain and Australia.
An article by Tony Tyler from the New Musical Express of November 18, 1972 has Hansson "confessing" that "I
originally intended to use voices - perhaps a girl soprano - on the tracks but when we contacted George Allen och
Unwin (Tolkien's Publishers) they put a firm 'no' to the idea. So we had to use the term 'inspired' by Lord of
the Rings' - and we had to keep it purely instrumental". Furthermore in the article Hansson admits to having
wished to include a string section as well as more exotic instruments like the harp was not permitted to do so
due to lack of finances resulting in the brunt of music having to be borne by the then still primitive keyboards,
synthesizers and of course the moog.
By 1972, as his first album was being promoted worldwide to critical acclaim, Hansson had already recorded his second album titled, Magician's Hat or Ur Trollkarlens Hatt (in Swedish). Once again the Swedish release was entrusted to Silence Records (SRS 4615) with Charisma Records (CAS 1073) releasing the album a year later. This time round all recordings were at Studio Decibel, Stockholm with the services of Lind, Carlsson, Bergman and Bergsten retained from the Lord Of The Rings album. More importantly, the sound was further augmented with the introduction of a guitarist (Kenny Håkansson), whilst various guest musicians were utilised for the track The Sun.
A lot of hype was building around Hansson as can seen by the press release that accompanied the release of Magician's Hat.
Bo Hansson needs no introduction, everyone knows of his brilliant music from his time with
Hansson & Karlsson and from his interpretations of "Lord of the Rings".
Lord of the Rings has been much appreciated in Sweden, and has already sold 15000 copies, and it still sells.
When it was released in England, there were thousands of advance orders and the first days it sold about 500
copies a day and this number is increasing. It will be released in the USA in spring. The interest for Bo Hansson
in England was too big, New Musical Express flew an journalist over to Sweden for three days, to find out
everything about Bo for the English readers. Melody Maker is on their way over here at this moment.
Bo Hansson creates his music in a different way. You can see this in the way it gets on tape and record. He
has his own keys to the studio, and at night when the studio is empty, he goes down, connects all the machines,
turns on his organ or guitar or moog synthesizer and sketches his ideas on an 8-track tape. When the ideas take
form, Anders Lind (our technician and everything) comes to the studio. And a couple of musicians (good friends)
comes in turns. Then they work together until the album is finished. Towards the end they work for 20 hours in a
row, with the finishing touch and mixing of the work. All in all the process takes about four months. Everybody
works as hard as they can, because the result must be great. "If people shall pay 32 kr for the album, they
should have their money's worth."
Hansson's third album, which according to many music aficionados was his strongest in musical terms, was
released in 1973 as Mellnväsen on the Silence Records label (SRS 4625). Charisma released the album as Attic
Thoughts in the UK (CAS 1113) in 1975 while Sire Records (7527) were responsible for the release in the USA. Much
of the album was recorded at Hansson's home which had become virtually a studio with much of the same line-up of
musicians/friends who had played on Magician's Hat
With this album Hansson confirmed his maturity as a musical composer, managing to slowly build upon his body
of works without losing that feeling of a fairy-tale atmosphere, his trademark sound which was essentially laid
down on his debut album. By 1977, Hansson had conjured up his fourth album, this time round another album to be
inspired by a novel. The novel in question is Watership Down by Richard Adams, a tale of five brave rabbits.
Originally the album was released as El-ahrairah, The Prince With A Thousand Enemies, the clever rabbit folk hero
about whom are written a number of stories within the novel. The novel was already used as a reference for a
particular track on Attic Thoughts. Release in Sweden was once again on Silence Records (YTF 50350), Charisma
(CAS 1132) and Sire Records (6044). Due to the lack of information regarding Bo Hansson, I must admit that it is
an assumption of mine that Music Inspired By Watership Down and El-Ahrairah are one and the same album. I stand
to be contradicted!
Strangely enough though inspired by Watership Down, the album does not feature references to the actual book
but quotes snippets from various poets such as Keats and Pope. There seems to have a Best Of... album released in
the seventies at least in Germany, on the Fontana label though it seems to be quite a rarity as I cannot find any
mention of it anywhere in literature.
For some unknown reason, all seemed to go quiet within the Bo Hansson camp with a Swedish release in 1985
called Mitt I Livet his only album to date after the spate of releases in the seventies. Any comments I have read
about this album have not been too complimentary especially when compared to his works in the seventies. Apart
from the release of this album nothing else can be found regarding Bo Hansson though there have been reports that
he has been ill and/or destitute, but I cannot confirm these reports.