- The Sun studio is a museum today, which means that it’s fully booked in the daytime. I was there on a guided tour myself a couple of years ago, and I got goosebumps hearing all the stories and just by being in the same place as all these rock’n’roll legends from the mid 50’s, Joakim Arnell says.
However, every night the Sun Studios return to its former self and becomes an active studio again. That’s when The Refreshments plugged in and got going. A week later they had recorded 15 songs, of which 13 were written by Chuck Berry while the opening track ”You Can't Beat A Chuck Berry Song” and the album closer ”Southern Belle” is Joakim Arnell’s own tribute to the 86 year old rock’n’roll poet from St. Louis.
- Chuck Berry recorded his great hits at the Chess studio in Chicago, but that doesn’t exist anymore. But making the album at Sun in Memphis sure felt way better than being just the next best thing, Arnell says.
The Sun studio has plenty of what old school rockers call ”mojo” and ”vibe”. The main recording room is small and most of the recording equipment is vintage technology, which gave the sound a strong retro feeling as well.
- We squeezed ourselves together in the middle of the room and recorded all the backgrounds live, which caused the sound from all instruments to “leak” into all microphones. That gives the sound a rougher edge, but that’s how you made records back in the days and the advantage is that you get presence and a lot of that pure rock’n’roll feeling.
It’s no coincident that ”Let It Rock” has the sub-title ”The Chuck Berry Tribute”—the boys from Gävle probably has done as close to the definite Chuck Berry tribute as you can in Sweden. Just look at the exquisite choice of songs. The mix of super hits like ”Memphis Tennessee”, ”Sweet Little Sixteen” or ”You Never Can Tell”, slightly less well-known numbers like ”Come On”, and a generous offering of more obscure tracks, help to create a fresh and exciting collection of Berries.
Both ”Wee Wee Hours”, ”Havana Moon” and ”Vacation Time” are for example B-sides to hit singles like ”Maybelline”, ”You Can’t Catch Me” and ”Beautiful Delilah”. ”No Money Down” is one of Chuck Berry’s early singles, showing off his more bluesy side with obvious inspiration from Chess colleague and blues legend Muddy Waters. And in ”Wee Wee Hours” guitarist Jonas Göransson tips his hat to another one of Chuck Berry’s great sources of inspiration with a guitar style that’s eerily close to that of T-Bone Walker.
”Come On”, which The Rolling Stones chose to cover for their somewhat over-excited record debut 50 years ago, gets a superbly laid-back treatment. Thanks to Johan Blohm’s rolling piano this version finds a nice country groove that resembles another one of The Refreshments great heroes: the king of piano boogie, Jerry Lee Lewis. And ”My Mustang Ford” puts the pedal to the metal in the wonderful little story about what can happen when you’ve got a 385 horsepower engine in a cherry red automobile.
- The recording in the Sun studio was an unbelievably great, fun and touching experience, is Joakim Arnell’s summary.
All these emotions—and a few more—has saturated the 15 songs on ”Let It Rock”. Expect nothing but top notch rock’n’roll from start to finish.
”Let It Rock – The Chuck Berry Tribute” is out May 29 at Darrow/Ninetone. The Refreshments Summer tour kicks off at Debaser Medis in Stockholm on May 26.
Micke Finell meets Joakim Arnell in the sixth grade at Bodaskolan in Skutskär, Sweden. When it turns out the newcomer plays sax they form the band Tryckförband (Compression Bandage), playing classic rock’n’roll. “Swedish 50’s style group The Boppers had just had tremendous success, Rockpile was still around and at the local gas station you could find lots of cassettes with 50’s hits. So playing rock’n’roll in the early 80’s didn’t seem that odd to us”, Arnell remembers.
Guitarist Eric Jones and drummer Mats Forsberg joins Finell and Arnell. They call themselves Mr Jones Band.
Joakim Arnell starts writing songs, but the future hit-maker is off to a shaky start. “I tried and tried but never was satisfied with the results. My own songs just didn’t turn out they way I wanted.” Not giving up, he continues to write until he gradually begins to capture the 50´s spirit he’s looking for.
Mr Jones Band puts out a self financed EP with covers.
Guitarist Thomas Holmberg replaces Eric Jones, and the band once again changes their name—this time to The Refreshments. The group records a four-song demo, of which “Love On Time” is released on the 2009 box set “Rarities” cd.
The Refreshments put out their first EP, which like the Mr Jones EP consists of four covers— “School Days”, “The Promised Land”, “You Better Believe It” and “New Orleans”. Janne Oldeaus, renowned guitarist in Stockholm bands like Rost and Mosquitos, joins the group in time to overdub some of the lead guitar parts. The band distributes the record for free at a gig in the Folkets Park back home in Skutskär. After the show, dispirited group members finds that the audience has thrown away most of their records and left them on the ground. Despite this bad sign the band stubbornly decide to quit their day jobs and go professional. A gruelling 250-gigs-a-year schedule commences. It will soon turn The Refreshments into one of the hardest working rock’n’roll bands in the country.
Knackered by the heavy touring schedule, the band disbands in the early autumn. “We we’re worn-out and decided it would probably be a better idea to put the band on hold for a while. I went back to my old job as a teacher”, Arnell says. But soon the lure of the road was too strong. Armed with new guitarist Tord Eriksson, The Refreshments re-grouped and started playing every place that would have them—pubs, jails, private parties, American vintage car gatherings etc.
The Refreshments finally decide to record an album of original material. Having toured with Mickey Jupp, they decide to spice up the group’s sound by having Rockpile legend Dave Edmunds play on the album. They fail to reach Edmunds, but instead Micke Finell gets hold of fellow Rockpile guitarist Billy Bremner, who’s working as a session guitarist in Nashville. Bremner agrees to come over and play. He ends up producing the album, and calls A&R manager Hans Larsson at BMG Sweden. Larsson—a dedicated Dave Edmunds and Rockpile fan—loves the band’s sound and signs them.
The Refreshments debut album “Both Rock’n’Roll is released, but sales are down to a meagre 3-4 000 copies. Only one thing to do: keep on touring.
Despite the disappointing sales of the first album, Bremner has decided to stay in Sweden and continue with the band. In the autumn he replaces Tord Eriksson as the group’s guitarist.
Second album "Trouble Boys" is released, but sales are only marginally better. Drummer Mats Forsberg throws in the towel and is replaced by Niklas Aspholm. Even Billy Bremner starts to wonder whether the rigour of non-stop touring really is worth the price.
But when things are at the darkest, Dave Edmunds calls and offers The Refreshments to back him on a tour of Scandinavia. To Edmunds’ amazement the band know all his songs by heart; even suggesting that he should include his 1968 Love Sculpture hit “Sabre Dance”. When a reluctant Edmunds politely implies that it’s not easy to get the song right, The Refreshments cheerily answers: “Try us.” They easily run through the complicated patterns of this extremely fast ballet music piece.
Hans Larsson forms his own company Darrow Entertainment. The first record to be released on the new label is The Refreshments third album “Are You Ready”. When the album is finished Billy Bremner leaves the group as yet another victim to the group’s touring schedule.
His timing proves to be unfortunate, because almost instantly the group’s luck turns. “Miss You Miss Belinda”—a song Arnell considered to be so weak that he put it as the final song on his demo of new material—unexpectedly becomes the group’s breakthrough song.
Top selling group Barbados makes a Grammy-winning Swedish version of “Miss You Miss Belinda” which becomes a major hit, alongside The Refreshments own English version. In the process “Are You Ready” quickly sells 50 000 copies, giving the band their first gold record.
The second release on the new Darrow label is the live album "A Pile Of Rock - Live", which captures the previous year’s phenomenal tour with The Refreshments featuring Billy Bremner and keyboard legend Geraint Watkins backing Dave Edmunds. The album confirms The Refreshments position as one of Scandinavia’s tightest band in the old school of rock’n’roll.
New members Robin Olsson (guitar) and Johan Blohm (keyboards) enter the group on their first commercial high.
With the title nicked from an old advertising-poster for Wurlitzer jukeboxes, "Musical Fun For Everyone", is the group’s fourth album—co-produced by Bremner but the first without him in the line-up. It’s evident that The Refreshments have no problems standing on their own, and the album is their fastest selling record to date, continuing the string of non-stop gold and platinum albums that will characterize The Refreshments career from now on. Boosted by confidence, the band embarks on yet another tour with Dave Edmunds and Dr Feelgood.
Fifth album "Real Songs On Real Instruments" is the first to be produced by Joakim Arnell and includes the band’s biggest radio hit to date—"One Dance, One Rose, One Kiss". Geraint Watkins makes a guest appearance at the organ. In the autumn the 20-track compilation ”Here We Are - Best Of The Refreshments” is released. Drummer Niklas Aspholm is plagued by sinew problems that make him unable to play. Original member Mats Forsberg retakes his place behind the drums, partly persuaded by the fact that the group now is down to a mere 125 gigs a year.
Continued touring and Swedish national television performances with Dave Edmunds, Billy Bremner and Geraint Watkins.
The ever-prolific Refreshments success streak continues and they release two new albums—the sixth studio album ”On The Rocks” and the Christmas record ”Rock’n’Roll X-mas”. Chuck Berry’s legendary pianist Johnnie Johnson makes one of his last appearances in the video to “On The Rocks” track “We Just Can’t Win”—a fitting homage to a true rock’n’roll hero. ”Rock’n’Roll X-mas” includes standards and original songs like “I’m The Real Santa”. The album takes a sleigh ride to the #1 position in the Swedish charts in December, while the band is touring the country with their Christmas show.
The band tours Sweden with veteran rocker Jerry Williams and The Boppers. Seventh studio album ”Easy To Pick Up, Hard To Put Down”, a 15-track collection of new material and lovingly chosen covers like the two Chuck Berry numbers ”If I Were” and ”Going Back To Memphis”. The live dvd “One Night With The Refreshments”, featuring special guest Albert Lee, is released.
Piano player Johan ”JB” Blohm releases the critically acclaimed solo album ”Reconsider Me”. During the summer, The Refreshments tour with Smokie and Status Quo. Before the tour is over they have smashed the attendance record at the majestic outdoor concert site Dalhalla. The live dvd “Refreshments Live” featuring special guests Dave Edmunds and Billy Bremner is released in the autumn. In December they once again embark on a ”Rock’n’Roll X-mas”-tour with Eva Eastwood and Geraint Watkins.
New album ”24-7” gets a Grammy nomination while the band slows down their touring into a more human 70-gigs-a-year schedule. They embark on a sold out summer tour and gigs with Status Quo, before celebrating 17 years and more than 3 000 live shows with the best of-collection ”It’s Gotta Be Both Rock And Roll”, which immediately soars to the #1 position on the Swedish charts.
The annual “Rock’n’Roll X-Mas” tour is a new success with guest appearances by Nisse Hellberg and Mats Ronander. During Christmas, The Refreshments holiday rocker “I'm The Real Santa” travels the world as the theme song for the Disney movie “Santa Claus 3”.
Four years after “Rock’n’Roll X-mas” The Refreshments returns to holiday mode with a new sizzling home made brew: “Christmas Spirits”, including 14 hard rocking and sweet country seasonal greetings. For the annual ”Rock'n'Roll X-mas” tour, The Refreshments has requited two prominent guests—the country picking guitar phenomenon Albert Lee, singer/pianist Linda Gail Lewis and Annie Marie Dolan (backing vocals).
Having cherry-picked a few rock’n’roll standards here and there on their studio albums, the band now decide to dedicate a whole album to their musical roots—an album where almost every song is a million seller and a Billboard Hot 100 or R&B chart topper.
”The Refreshments Jukebox – Refreshing Classics” is a 15-song affair, presenting well-known tracks like Fats Domino’s “The Fat Man” and Chuck Berry’s ”I’m Talking About You” as well as more obscure gems like Little Bob & The Lollipops ”I Got Loaded” and Danny Wolfe’s ”Pucker Paint”. The album is of course released on vinyl. The live dvd “Refreshments Jukebox - Refreshing Hits & Classics” is released in the autumn.
The 2008 ”Rock'n'Roll X-mas” tour features acclaimed Swedish blues/rock artists Louise Hoffsten and Sven Zetterberg.
The band kicks off their 20th anniversary with new album “A Band’s Gotta Do What A Band’s Gotta Do”, once again a chart-topper and Gold selling album in Sweden. “I started thinking about the time that’s passed since we started the band in the autumn of 1989, and the lyrics became a summary of what we’ve done so far”, Arnell says. During the summer they tour with Status Quo and special guest Alan Jackson.
Part of the 20-year celebration is a television recorded show in the Central Café in Gävle, where the band used to play before they started to outsell the 180 capacity pub. Four Refreshments guitarists share the stage: Thomas Holmberg, Tord Eriksson, Billy Bremner and Robin Olsson. A splendid time was definitely guaranteed for all.
Before the year was over the band also managed to squeeze in a Rock´n´Roll X-Mas tour featuring guests like Eva Eastwood and Gil Edwards, as well as the release of an 8 cd retrospective box.
The summer is celebrated with a Rock’n’Roll Summer tour featuring Eva Eastwood and veteran rock’n’roll act The Boppers, breaking a few attendance records along the way. The autumn sees the release of the “Central Café - 20th Anniversary Concert" recorded the year before. The Christmas season is also a busy period with a Rock’n’Roll X-Mas tour featuring guests Nisse Hellberg and Sven Zetterberg, as well as the cd release of "Christmas Wishes - Best Of Rock´n´Roll X-Mas", with the band’s best seasonal rockers plus five new ones. That album also marks the debut of new guitarist Jonas Göransson, who replaces Robin Olsson.
In the spring The Refreshments makes a successful visit to the SXSW festival in Austin, making quite an impression with their old school rock’n’roll approach when they play legendary venues like Antone’s. A few months later they release their tenth album, ”Ridin’ Along With The Refreshments” which is the first album to feature Jonas Göransson’s guitar work from start to finish. This album too heads straight to the top of the Swedish charts. Together with Rockpile legend Dave Edmunds they embark on their annual “Rock’n’Roll Summer” tour with guest Dave Edmunds. And of course, no Christmas without the “Rock’n’Roll X-Mas” tour, this year with guests Eva Eastwood and the X-Mas Horns. No peace for the wicked.
In the spring the band releases their 11th album ”Highways And Byways”. A few months later founding member and saxophone player Micke Finell decides to bid the road farewell, and The Refreshments are trimmed down to a quartet in the process. The trip continues.
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The Refreshments ”Let It Rock”
- the Chuck Berry tribute, recorded in Sun Studios!
Something life-altering happened when the members of Sweden’s The Refreshments discovered Chuck Berry some 30 years ago. A world of classic rock’n’roll opened up in a time when you saw more hair metal bands and synth duos than duck-walks
But in the industrial town Gävle a bunch of teenagers sat mesmerized by the record players and searched their way back in time. To Chuck Berry and the legendary Chess studio in Chicago. To Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and of course Elvis Presley, who all recorded their first records in Memphis’ classic Sun Studios.
In 1989 they formed The Refreshments and they haven’t looked back since. After almost a quarter of a century, sales of more than half a million albums and 3 500+ shows, they have without doubt earned the title as Sweden’s hardest working and most rootsy rock’n’roll band several times over.
But it wouldn’t be until January 2013 until a lifelong dream came true: to to travel to the USA and record a tribute album to their constant source of inspiration—Chuck Berry—in Sun Studios, the Mecka of rock history. It turned out to be a dizzifying experience for Joakim Arnell (vocals/bass), Johan ”J.B” Blohm (piano/vocals), Mats Forsberg (drums) and Jonas Göransson (guitar).
Copyright 2012 The Refreshments. All rights reverved.