Baby Grandmothers’ Kenny Håkansson on The Shadows – “Apache”


Before there was the current wave of Swedish psychedelia, there was Baby Grandmothers. The trio helped shape the sound that would trickle down to Dungen, Skogen Brinner, The Works and Life on Earth. Much of that was due to the guiding hand of guitarist Kenny Håkansson, who would shift the band’s sound from a more basic rock approach into shades of psychedelia that pushed farther than their peers. A few years back the band’s early recordings were resurrected by Dungen’s Reine Fisk, a collection which surely seemed like the definitive archive of their works. However, the band, not content to be consigned to merely Swedish history, is back with a new album for Subliminal Sounds this year. Before diving into the new sounds, Håkansson takes us back to where he began, with one of the key surf singles of all time from The Shadows.

Håkansson, recalls that the single came into his life via an older brother, who’d purchased the single in 1960. He notes, ”Apache” by the Shadows, is the most important single tune for me. It is hidden today, wasn’t hidden the early sixties, but since then I haven’t seen it. Also “FBI” was a favourite. It made me love the electric guitar. It turned my life into what it is today. Electric guitar with amps, boxes, pedals, processors and strings, and cables, and even such small items as picks. I am a guitarist who loves echoes and reverbs very much. That led me on to Hendrix (ed note: for whom they opened on his ’60 Swedish tour mind you), wah-wah, fuzz/distortion and loud. That then led me to more distortion…. Thank you very much Hank B Marvin!! Bruce Welch!! Jet Harris!! Tony Meeham/Brian Bennet!!”

One could argue that the impact of “Apache” isn’t necessarily hidden. The song was originally written back in 1954 by songwriter Jerry Lordan and the first recording came via Bert Weedon in 1960. Thankfully, Lordan wasn’t satisfied with that recording and after some time touring with The Shadows, the band heard him playing it (on Ukelele no less) and they expressed interest. The band also cut the single in 1960 and, owing to the fact that their version oozes about sixteen more pounds of cool than Weedon’s, it proved to have staying power with listeners as it reached #1 on the UK singles chart.

There were a few other versions that gained attention, Jørgen Ingmann’s ’61 version was the first to chart in the US, reaching #2 and Edgar Broughton Band would combine the tune with Captain Beefheart’s “Drop Out Boogie” for the notable “Apache Drop Out”. Still, no version likely had more impact than Incredible Bongo Band’s ’73 cover that took the track and added a funk organ and lush production. That version stands as the basis for The Sugarhill Gang’s take, which is inescapable if you’ve ever been to a sporting event or, you know, seen television in the last 30 years. The Incredible Bongo band’s version is sampled exhaustively by producers too numerous to name. However, it stands to note that none of them would be anywhere had The Shadows not made the song cool in the first place. So, maybe not hidden, but definitely a gem.

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