Finally, an album of Danish versions of old country songs
For years, The A.V. Club has delved into cinematic history’s dustbin with Films That Time Forgot, but far more records are released every year than films. If cinema has a dustbin of forgotten films, music has a giant Dumpster. In Albums That Time Forgot, we examine records few people would remember.
Artist: Bjørn & Okay
Album: Gi’En Omgang (Give A Game, according to Google Translate), 1980
Label: Polydor Records
Wait, who? This quartet has been at it since 1969, playing friendly, Lawrence Welk-esque music at dancehalls across the Danish countryside. “Not as much as five minutes of the 40 years the group has been dissolved or activities stopped,” goes the awkward Google translation for the description of its 40 Years And 40 Hits compilation. It’s true; the band has a 50-album discography and a slew of 2013 tour dates. (Catch it at the Ferritslev Fritidshus March 15!) As a band, Bjørn & Okay plays an amiable mélange of easy-listening vocal music, standards, some polka, and on Gi’En Omgang, country covers. All of it is seemingly designed to get retirees dancing at various festivals, dancehalls, restaurants, and community centers across Denmark. Judging by the band’s stacked schedule, Bjørn & Okay is pretty successful at it.
From the liner notes: There aren’t really any liner notes, save for a few credits on the back cover, one of which indicates Gi’En Omgang was recorded at Sun Studio. No, not that one, but a place in Copenhagen that perhaps channels the legendary Memphis studio. Making up for the lack of liner notes is Bjørn & Okay’s extensive website, because it’s still a going concern. It’s all in Danish, which makes for some fun reading with Google Translate. Keyboardist Svend Aage Studsgaard lists his favorite food as “Air meatballs with gravy.” Frontman Bjørn Hansen says his favorite activity is “Male house and mow.” Ah Google Translate, so close but yet so far.
Perhaps more helpful is a quick YouTube search, which produces a ton of clips of Bjørn & Okay on television and at various concerts in tents or music venues. Most peculiar is this clip from the band’s performance at the Låsby Kro restaurant and hotel in Laasby, Denmark. At the 15-second mark, Studsgaard leans to the left and makes a big fart noise, though no one seems to notice. Those crazy Danes!
Key songs: People dying for a Danish version of The Bellamy Brothers’ hit “If I Said You Had A Beautiful Body (Would You Hold It Against Me)” are in luck, as Bjørn & Okay offers “Hvis Jeg Sa’e, At Due Er Sød Og Dejlig” (literally, “If I Was Saying, That You Are Sweet And Lovely”). Other standards on the album include “Den Storste Bangebuks I Byen,” a.k.a. Kenny Rogers’ “Coward Of The County” (or, literally, “The Biggest Scaredy-Cat In Town”). “Take Me Back To Tulsa,” “Hello, Good Morning,” “I Wish I Was 18 Again,” they’re all here.
Can easily be distinguished by: The cover photo of conspicuous Europeans dressed in Canadian tuxedos trying to look country. It looks like it was shot at high noon at Frontierland.
Sign that it was made in 1980: Although the music sounds surprisingly non-time-specific, as if it could’ve been made anytime between 1965 and 1980 (roughly the run of The Lawrence Welk Show, coincidentally), the appearance of “If I Said You Had A Beautiful Body,” which appeared on 1979’s The Two And Only, ties this to 1980. That and Bjørn & Okay’s feathery haircuts.