The Garden is the second and final Oslo record store I was able to make it to—three times—during my visit. The guy working there is super friendly and told me that the used records were in the basement. Down the stairs I went, where I found eight long bins crammed with hundreds of used 7" singles. The trouble is, I was only barely able to slip my visits in at the end of a full day of tourism, and the store closes at 6pm. I simply had to get through all those singles! I found lots of amazing stuff in bin #1, which is all I managed to rummage through on my first visit. I went back the next evening to pick up where I'd left off, but only made it through bins 2-4 before the shop closed. When my sis and I returned to Oslo a week later, I popped in again and managed to flip through bins #5-8 with ten extra minutes to spare!
Fortunately, ten minutes was plenty of time to unearth a trio of albums by Alex, Norway's reigning queen of '70s disco-rock. This self-titled LP is her 1977 debut—it literally had my name written all over it.
The sad reality is that there wasn't nearly as much disco-pop being produced in Norway in the 1970s as there had been according to my fantasies. I'd figured that each Scandinavian country probably had their own private version of ABBA, and about two-dozen fairly decent ABBA knock-off bands as well. But actually, Norwegians seem to have been more often listening to music like this and this while ABBA was setting disco balls a-spinning all over the world.
But then, thank god, there's Alex. Born in Lithuania in 1949 to Polish parents, Alexandra Naumik began singing in Poland, then moved to Norway after marrying film director Haakon Sandøy when she was 21 years old. Seven years later Alex released her first LP, and the rest, as they say, is historical. You can read all this and more on Wikipedia in English or Norwegian.
Alex was reportedly so popular in Norway that "Alex hair" became a thing—although when I see her hair it automatically brings to mind untrustworthy rope. Her band certainly is a nifty and incredibly Scandinavian-looking bunch. Bjørn Christiansen already has me working on my own "Bjørn hair"; Svein Gundersen has one of the sexiest moustache/unibrow combos I've ever seen, and Brynjulf Blix not only has one of the greatest names in show business, but he looks like he'd be a fun guy to grab a beer with too. Sadly, drummer Per Ivar Johansen died in a tour bus crash three years after the release of this LP.
[ Alex: August 12, 1949 — September 17, 2013 ]