Saturday, June 3, 2017


Artist: Harpo
LP: Leo the Leopard
Song: "Out In the Jungle"
[ listen ]

Next we flew to Oslo, Norway, but I'm sad to report that I never ended up getting to meet a-ha. I did go to two terrific record stores though. But in order to not miss out on the rest of the city entirely, I was only allowed a limited amount of time on any given day to rummage for vinyl...which means I ended up having to make two trips to Råkk og Rålls, located on Karl Johans gate, the main street in Oslo. It's right across from a lovely park with a fountain in it

I could tell they just recently moved to this new location, because the first time I went there, the remnants of the sign from the store that had been in that spot before were still visible peeking out from behind the record store sign. But when I returned a week later, those letters had been covered up. (There's a "before and after" photo of the front of the store below.)

Råkk og Rålls is a fine place, with a set of escalators just inside the glass front doors that deliver customers downward into a large, clean and well-lit store filled with unusual vinyl treasures. I feel bad complaining, but I must express regret that I missed out on visiting Råkk og Rålls before the move, since the old location was something straight out of a wild, blissful, and utterly fantastical midsummer night's dream of record store paradise! I suppose it was just too good to last.

Nevertheless, I was grateful that this 1974 debut LP by Swedish artist Jan "Harpo" Svensson didn't get lost in the move. You can read about Harpo in Swedish here, and Google Translate helped me come up with this English translation:

Harpo is an artist name for Jan Svensson, born April 5, 1950 in Stockholm, 
a Swedish pop musician who hit 1973 with the song "Honolulu." 
During the 1970s he had several songs on top lists in Sweden and abroad; 
including "Sayonara," "Moviestar" and "Horoscope."

Harpo lives with his wife on a farm outside Halmstad, where he is breeding horses. 
He also devotes much of his time painting paintings. In Sweden, much of 
Harpo is not currently musical, but in Germany he is still popular and appears 
more or less regularly there. It was even where he had the biggest successes.

In August 1980 he was out on a training round with one of his trotting horses. 
For unknown reason, the horse kicked back and the first hit Harpo straight in the face. 
The horse stuck with his left leg in a sick skull and became so scared that it 
continued kicking several times. The damage was so extensive that no one thought 
Harpo would survive. The forehead and nose were depressed and the 
right eye eyes were cut. He lost sight of that eye as well as the sense of smell. 
Nevertheless, he later wrote a tribute to the horse in question. 

You've got to hand it to any guy who writes a tribute to a horse that kicked him square in the face, blinding him in one eye and destroying his sense of smell. But I guess an artist never knows exactly where his inspiration might come from. There's a more recent photo of Harpo here and I don't see any hoof prints, so I think he's going to be fine. Speaking of, and I know I'm stating the obvious, but Harpo is stark raving naked on the front cover of his debut LP. That takes guts. 
[ Råkk og Rålls — Oslo, Norway ]

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