OH SUSIE – SECRET SERVICE
Oh Susie was made when I desperately needed a last song for the album with Ola + 3, an album that would be released as soon as possible after the Swedish Eurovision Contest 1979 where my song had been in third place. I sat at the office’s Wurlitzer electric piano, trying to find out something but I knew that they were waiting for me in the studio. But I had to bring a new song when I arrived!
The chorus of what should be “Oh Susie” came after a few minutes, I remember being so excited about the melody I was writing that I almost hammered the poor electric piano keys. Then the verses and solo came almost by themselves. With some tears in my eyes, as always when I write music. I was a little shocked at what had come out so quickly.
So, simple melody, just four notes in both verse and chorus: C – D – E – F and yet so beautiful! But I didn’t have any more time to think, so I sat in my car and went in full speed at the OAL studio in Sollentuna. Everyone was waiting for me and it was unusually fast to record the background of this last song.
I had some Mozart-like melody loop in my head, which I wanted to tie the verses with and Uffe screwed a string-like sound on the studio’s Polymoog synth. When he played the loop, and played the chords with the same sound in the chorus, the background was quite finished.
Tony played the solo melody with his glowing 60’s sound. I hummed the song melody and brought me a cassette to play for Björn. After listening, he wrote the text “Oh Susie, bara vi två vet” (only the two of us knows) that Ola then sang.
Two DJs from Cafe Opera, Christoff and Ricki, advised us to do “Oh Susie” in English. So, I went back to Björn Håkanson in his small apartment on Katarina Bangata in Stockholm. As always, I laid back in his sofa while Björn walked around in circles, humming and grounding. Sometimes he went to his bookshelf and looked in an English word- or rhyme-dictionary.
“Buddy, what do you think about this,” Bjorn exclaimed sometimes. (He always called me “Buddy”.)
“Some kind of guys can touch a lady”
“Terrible”, I muttered half sleeping…
“Okay”, said Björn, just wanted to check…
Later in the night, Björn woke me up. “I think I have it! Listen buddy!”
“Oh Susie, we’ve run out of time
Oh Susie, say what’s on your mind
We’ve got nowhere to run…”
“Wonderful”, I said as I beloved visions of couples who love each other but fight against an unprecedented world. “But the last line is missing, it must be strong”, I added. Björn walked back in circles, humming. After a while he woke me up again. “What do you think about this final row, he asked with a victorious smile:
“We were much too young”
I almost shook when I sang the lines together. Although I was a beginner as a pop composer, I knew – this matter, this is a hit!
Ola sang the English text, and I added an octave in falsetto. The band overdubbed my falsetto “beard song” because I had difficulty singing so high without pulling my beard. A mix quickly came on with a lot of discotheque-pressure and now it really sounded magic!
Ola was a much more experienced hit picker than me, but he was also recently employed at Sonet as the publisher and did not want to immediately spoil his career by favouring his own strange efforts, I could understand.
“Tim” he said harshly! “Are you absolutely sure it’s a hit?”
“Certainly,” I said, and I felt I had never been safer in anything in my life!
– Then I press the button! said Ola and called his friend Tom Talomaa, who had the club BZ (Berzelii-Terrassen) in Stockholm, to borrow the club’s logo with a pickup needle. The pickup needle was the single-cover, no photos, we would be secret. It was Ola’s strategy. “Then you might as well call you Secret Service,” said Sonet CEO Gunnar Bergström, laughing!
He was not as happy when Ola ordered 10,000 single-covers with Secret Service and pickup needle. “They will never sell out of stock!” he shouted at Ola. I’ll let them be used as wallpaper in your office instead!
Ola also ordered a few thousand small stickers with nothing more than “Oh Susie” on, and I stuck them all over Stockholm, but he probably did not dare to tell Gunnar about them. Me and Björn stood as the pseudonyms Hob/Gaga and absolutely nothing revealed that it was Swedish except that Sonet was a Swedish record company, but they were representatives in Sweden for many foreign artists.
Ola sent out the single, especially the 12-inch version that could be played higher, via travel agencies to discotheques across Europe this summer and finally it also became “hit pick” on the radio Luxemburg. I remember how the whole band crowded shoulder to shoulder inside Ola’s small car outside the OAL studio to listen to the AM band in his car radio when Radio Luxemburg played “Oh Susie” …
A movie director loved the song and was prepared to take a chance. He made a video with a high-definition camera and camera-radar and filmed when Ola walked while singing on Djurgården (a beautiful peninsula in Stockholm) with his jacket a little casually over his shoulder. He also cut in a cute blond girl who was wearing roller skates, which was the highest fashion at that time. A picture of her from the video later became the cover art for our first album “Oh Susie”. If “Oh Susie” did not become a hit, he would be responsible for all costs, but if it were, he would get paid. And he got it…
In the fall when the single was released to the public, 100,000 singles were sold only in Sweden, and around the rest of the world, several million. So, CEO Gunnar Bergström never had to hire any painter to decorate Olas’s office with single-covers.