Last week there was an e-mail to international students from the international office coordinator, looking for volunteers to help out at a concert in exchange for a free ticket to the concert, a 500 kronor ($80) value. I had never heard of Björn Skifs, but the e-mail mentioned that he had had a US chart-topper in the ’70s, “Hooked on a Feeling“, which I suppose I must have heard now and then on the radio in childhood, but mostly I remember it from the Pulp Fiction soundtrack which my roommates my junior year of college played incessantly.

Anyway, the e-mail made it sound like Skifs was a major Swedish cultural institution, and free entertainment is always welcome, so I replied to the e-mail, and sent Kostia an SMS saying “I signed us up to volunteer at the concert of some old Swedish wanker in exchange for free tickets.”

So, since the only thing I knew about this guy was this hit from 1974, I expected it to be like the Swedish version of a Neil Diamond show, with rhinestones and synthesizers and fake tans, with half the songs in Swedish and the other half in Swenglish. At the venue, before the concert started, we could count the number of audience members under forty on our fingers.

It’s good to have low expectations. Because the first half of the concert was absolutely great. It was big-band jazz, all the songs were in Swedish, and the musicians were top-notch. I kept whispering things in Kostia’s ear like “I can’t believe how good this is!” There was lots of well-prepared stage banter in Swedish, which I could get the gist of, but never the punchlines.

The second half of the show was closer to the cheesiness I had expected, but he had built up so much good karma in the first half that I could forgive it. It was mostly covers of 50s and 60s rock songs, including “Hey Jude”, which, when sung by a couple thousand Swedes, became “Hey Yude” (besides “z”, Swedish doesn’t have this English “j” sound). Too cute. And there were a few really good songs in Swedish.

Afterward we spent a long time putting away chairs, and it was not light work. I would say we earned our tickets.

Björn Skifs, then and now:

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