- 21 reasons why the party never ends!
For almost three decades The Refreshments has gone against every current trend and stubbornly delivered their very own mixture of high-energy ”rock” dosed with just as much ”roll” as needed to create a unique sound.
The proof is here, in the shape of 21 rock’n’roll belters making up the cream of their output since their debut album ”Both Rock’n Roll” 1995. With half a million albums sold (of which twelve gold and two platinum), a Grammy nomination and more than 4 000 live shows, The Refreshments without doubt has deserved the title as Sweden’s most popular and hardest working rock’n’roll band.
If you disregard qualities like talent and persistence, a big part of their secret probably can be attributed to the relentless touring. Just like most of the classic bands they adore, The Refreshments has honed their sound in front of their audience. By travelling all over their native Sweden to play their music night after night, they’ve developed a rock’n’roll sound that for more than two decades has made a steadily growing audience dance, tap their feet and pump up the volume on their car stereo – sometimes simultaneously.
By acting as a backing band for touring British rock legends like Dave Edmunds, Billy Bremner, Mickey Jupp, Steve Gibbons, Albert Lee and Geraint Watkins, they’ve also built a reputation as one of the tightest bands in Europe.
Unlikely enough, it all started in the 80’s. In a time when synth pop and soft metal ruled the airwaves, some teenagers from Gavle, Sweden, realized that they loved Chuck Berry, Rockpile and classic rock’n’roll more than anything that was on MTV or radio.
Their recording career started when former Rockpile guitarist Billy Bremner in the autumn of 1994 looked up Hans Larsson, who at that time was an A&R representative at record company BMG in Stockholm. ”Billy was very enthusiastic about an unknown rock band from Gävle and offered to produce them. Since I loved Rockpile and classic rock’n’roll, I listened to their demo and became convinced that they had something special”, Larsson says.
What happened in the decades that followed is detailed in the “Refresh your memory” segment below. And before anyone really understood what happened, it’s spring 2017 and the band allows itself to pause, take a look back and make a career summary with modern classics like ”A Guy Like That”, "One Dance, One Rose, One Kiss", ”Musical Fun For Everyone”, ”55 Ford”, ”Hello Sun, Goodbye Rain”, ”Jukebox” and ”Dreams Of You”.
With 21 songs spanning from the debut album’s musical statement ”Both Rock’n Roll” from 1995 to the album closer ”Hallelujah” almost twenty years later, this collection is both a great introduction to and reminder of the unique treasure of songs that this little old band from Gävle has built up over the years.
Or as a wise person once said: ”there’s only two kinds of music – rock and roll”. Trust The Refreshments to deliver.
Refresh your memory (the story so far):
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.
The Refreshments put out their first EP, which consists of four covers— “School Days”, “The Promised Land”, “You Better Believe It” and “New Orleans”. The band distributes the record for free at a gig. 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, they decide to quit their day jobs and go professional. A gruelling 250-gigs-a-year schedule commences.
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 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. Despite the disappointing sales, 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 in 1997, but sales are only marginally better. Drummer Mats Forsberg throws in the towel and is replaced by Niklas Aspholm. Good news comes when 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”. Commercially the group’s luck turns when “Miss You Miss Belinda” becomes the group’s breakthrough song. “Are You Ready” quickly sells 50 000 copies, giving the band their first gold record.
After living with The Refreshments’ dreaded 200 gig a year schedule, Billy Bremner finally got off the bus in the spring of 1999. This lead to a few changes in the group. Robin Olsson became the band’s new master of the Telecaster, boogie piano maestro Johan Blohm expanded the group’s sound as its fifth member and Joakim Arnell took over Bremner’s production duties. “If there were any worries among fans how the band would hold up without Bremner, I think the two consecutive albums ”Musical Fun For Everyone” (2000) and "Real Songs On Real Instruments" (2001) was proof enough that band actually was in better shape than ever”, Hans Larsson says.
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. 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 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, while the band 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 requites the country picking guitar phenomenon Albert Lee, singer/pianist Linda Gail Lewis and Annie Marie Dolan on 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 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.
Before the year is over the band also manage 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 autumn sees the release of the “Central Café - 20th Anniversary Concert" recorded the year before. A new Rock’n’Roll X-Mas tour coincide with the release of "Christmas Wishes - Best Of Rock´n´Roll X-Mas", featuring the band’s best seasonal rockers plus five new tracks. The 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, where they play legendary venues like Antone’s before releasing their tenth album, ”Ridin’ Along With The Refreshments”. 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.
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 Chuck Berry tribute ”Let It Rock” is recorded in the legendary Sun Studios in 2013, before the band tries to put some rock and roll into the Eurovision Song Contest with the song ”Hallelujah” from their 12th album ”Wow Factor”, released in 2014.
In May 2016 The Refreshments are back on the scene with their 13th album “Straight Up”, and shortly thereafter pianist Johan Blohm’s boogie-woogie masterpiece ”JB’s Boogie” is passing a staggering 12 million views on YouTube.
Which brings us up to date with “Very Best Of The Refreshments” and 21 irresistible highlights from an amazing career in both rock and roll. The road goes on. Stay tuned. Stay refreshed. Sven Lindström