My Wednesday was off to a good start. It’s 64 and sunny. My jetlag is wearing off. I had an onion bagel that was perfectly toasted for breakfast and no subway buskers performed “The Girl from IPanema” on my way to work.
Then, Friend-of-Scroll Jason Diamond sent me the news: Ulf Ekberg, founding member of Swedish group Ace of Base, has a secret Nazi past. Not just a secret Nazi past, a not-so-secret Nazi past…in a Nazi punk band…called Commit Suicide.
In 1998, a small Swedish record label called Flashback Records released Uffe Was a Nazi!, a limited-edition collection of Ekberg’s output with Commit Suiside. The cover is a photograph of Ekberg giving the Nazi salute. Although only 1,000 CDs were produced, it was an extremely damaging attack on Ekberg’s Nazi past and has become a major collector’s item. Uffe Was a Nazi! includes five songs, like “Rör inte vårt land,” which translates to “Don’t Touch Our Country,” and “Vit makt, svartskalleslakt!” which translates to “White Power, Black Skull Slaughter.” It also, amazingly, finds the band rethinking the white-power, skinhead-punk act Skrewdriver’s “Smash the IRA,” translating the lyrics to German and renaming it “Smash the VPK.”
Eventually Ekberg helped found Ace of Base, sold 30 million records, and made millions of dollars making millions of people endlessly happy in the 1990s. All the time were we ever suspicious that beneath that placid Scandinavian veneer and within those addictive and cloying tones Ace of Base had a National Socialist molten center?
I wasn’t. But looking now at their songs, maybe I was blind. Consider one of the band’s biggest hits “The Sign”:
I,I gotta new life
You would hardly recognize me I’m so glad
How could a person like me care for you?
(Why?)Why do I bother
When you’re not the one for me
Ooooo, is enough, enough?
Is this about a relationship or a protest song about the Treaty of Versailles?
Also, it seems possible that their other major hits may have been abridged for an American audience. After all, how can we possibly know that “Don’t Turn Around” wasn’t originally titled “Don’t Turn Around. Seriously.” Or that the song title “All That She Wants” had one of those parenthetical additions to read “All That She Wants (Is A Pure Blood Aryan Like Me)”
We may never know.