High Standards in Swedish 70s Reggae

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Peps Persson is both one of Sweden’s heaviest blues men and the single most authoritative reggae artist the country’s produced. The sleeve of his 1975 hit album Hög standard parodies the sleeve from a likewise excellent ABBA album released earlier the same year. Yet the music is intricate studio-built stuff, far from the lo-fi live aesthetic popular with Swedish lefties at the time (who hated ABBA as a matter of political principle).

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The album is sung entirely in a broad Scanian dialect, including a charming cover of Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up”. That song’s Scanian lyrics are cheerfully lewd and can’t have been entirely uncontroversial at the time: Styr den opp, min lilla älskling… Kom rör ihop en liten pepparkaka / Jag har en slickepinne som du kan få smaka, “Guide it in, little darling… Come on and mix me a gingerbread cake / I’ve got a lollipop and I might just let you have a taste”.

The title track is an ornate reggae tune with accordion and strings. The lyrics are typically pro-environment and anti-consumeristic, but more enigmatically also reveal a conspiracy theory about the foodstuff industry, livsmedelsmaffian.

Dear Reader, here’s a literal translation of the lyrics to “Hög standard“.

High Standard
By Peps Persson

High standard
What the fuck is a high standard?

Do you trust the myth about the wealthy West?
Are you feeling safe and satisfied, my friend?
Or is doubt gnawing at you like a bad tooth?
Are you feeling tricked somehow?

High standard
What the fuck is a high standard?

What good is your house and car
When what you’re eating and drinking
Is making you feel so sick
That you’d really just like to throw up?

High standard
What the fuck is a high standard?

You don’t need a colour TV
When your brain’s getting filled with PCB
And you’re slowly being poisoned in time with your breath

They’ve dropped starvation and sent it abroad
The foodstuff Mafia are having golden days
They’re stuffing us with every poison they can get their hands on
And make a fine living out of our swollen bellies

High standard
What the fuck is a high standard?

There’s nothing wrong with your appetite
But still you’re feeling like shit
But you keep on chewing and swallow your dose

High standard
What the fuck is a high standard?

Is it connoisseur fois-gras
Created just for you?
To make your chromosomes multiply

Do you believe that happiness fits in a purse of gold
Or that it’s sold in a single-use package?
Do you believe the ads, that they’re gonna make you forever young?
Are you falling for their affluence bullshit?

High standard
What the fuck is a high standard?

Is it buying on credit and signing slavery contracts?
Or competition and chasing status?
Until you’re hunted and stressed out and lonely and scared?

High standard
What the fuck is a high standard?

You’re wasting your energy
Walking around thinking you’re free
Until one day you realise that you’ve been had
Ha ha, you’ve been had

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Comments

  1. #1 Christina
    October 11, 2007

    Great. Now I feel ancient. Or is there another reason why I still remember those lyrics by heart? Funny, since I never had the album and I am reasonably sure my parents would have never played that particular tune at home (try Frank Sinatra). That was before I discovered Ebba Grn and Marley.

  2. #2 Martin R
    October 11, 2007

    I know almost the entire Beatles canon by heart, and they disbanded two years before I was born! How ancient does that make me? (-;

  3. #3 Lars L
    October 11, 2007

    Martin, please, have a go on the lyrics from the song “Doing the omoralisk schlagerfestival” by the Sillstryparn” :-)

  4. #4 Martin R
    October 11, 2007

    “Bngen trlar”, perhaps?

  5. #5 Christina
    October 12, 2007

    Yeah, I guess, ‘cept for people (including my kids) still listen to the Beatles, so you get reminders of their tunes (thankfully). 1970′s Peps not so much…
    I wonder, scientifically speaking, at what age people go from listening to “new” cutting edge music to sticking with the same old stuff. I mean, there must be a reason why a lot of people my age insist on listening to bands from the early nineties, and my mom still prefers Ol’ Blue Eyes, rather than buying something that was actually recorded in this millenium. And didn’t we all swear we were never going to do that?? I actually like my life better now than the life I had when I was 19, and my stereo system is way better, and I spend way more time listening to music now, so it’s none of those things (for me). Maybe I just spend less time dancing/headbanging to it (and more time dancing to Raffi and Disney Favourites)?

    Can’t wait to see the outcome of your scientific experiment (posted above)!

  6. #6 Martin R
    October 12, 2007

    Christina, I think the reason many people stick to the music of their youth is that once your adult life starts in earnest, you neither have the time nor the peer-pressure to be really into music. I’m a bit of a music nerd, so I make an effort to find new (or old but to me unknown) stuff, but largely in genres that I’ve been listening to for the past 15 years.

    Without broadband, I would still be hopelessly stuck in my old record collection.

  7. #7 mattias p
    October 12, 2007

    I love that record! My daddy played used to play it back in the 70′s. He also talked about how the record convolute was a travesty on ABBA’s record, just as you have shown. Peps’ albyl-pale skinny legs, dirty old coffe-cups and withered garden flowers… On the inside of the record I rember there is a picture with the whole band posing in front of the old car. It is NOT a Volvo PV 444 but I can be mistaken.
    Now when I sometimes listen to this record, it strikes med how skilled musicians thay are and how raffinated the songs’ arrangements are.
    Sinatra, who you mentioned, is also a favourite, especially recordings from the early 1940s, when he sang straight up and down and had a clearer voice than from the more well-known recordings from the 50s and onward.

    Mattias

  8. #8 Martin R
    October 12, 2007

    It’s got excellent reggae drumming and is really well recorded. Time-consuming work, ABBA style. Just miking those drums must have taken ages.

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    January 30, 2008

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