The Savage Rose
By Peter Elsnab, journalist and Jesper Nykjær Knudsen, music editor og journalist, 2006
An unruly flower
If the youth revolt’s messages of peace and love are your credo, how can you agree to go and play for the American troops in Vietnam? The Savage Rose simply couldn’t, a decision which their American record company had trouble in accepting, sinking all prospects of a breakthrough in the United States for the Danish band.
The Danish rock sensation was otherwise well on its way to conquering the USA with its innovative mix of pop, jazz, classical music and psychedelic rock - with a touch of the dramatic added. And on top of it all - that voice. Annisette Hansen was just 18 when she joined the newly-started Savage Rose band in 1967, attracting major attention from the very word go.
Calm yet stormy
Annisette lent in fact a totally unique character to the Koppel brothers’ playful, varied, easy yet at the same time challenging compositions. With her big, controlled voice, she was able to alternate with ease between the tranquil and the turbulent, transforming the otherwise textually daunting hit single “A Girl I Knew” into a pop, funky song of great beauty:
“She couldn’t see what happened /’Cause she wasn’t there/They only felt her/And they weren’t fair/To her and to her/lifeless body/And I lost a girl I knew,” sung by Annisette in impressive style. The themes of the début numbers are love and marriage, while the musical inspiration of those ever-questioning composers was found in the late Beatles records, Bob Dylan and Jefferson Airplane.
The group was originally conceived as an album band, but already well before their début album came out in 1968, expectations were seriously on the ascendant. Savage Rose gave a début concert on the Open Air Stage in Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, becoming an immediate stage success, performing music that brimmed over with love, youth rebellion and a spirit of solidarity.
USA lay wide open just ahead, but like a wild, ungovernable rose on the heath, Savage Rose has never allowed its growth or direction to be dictated to it from outside. Savage Rose chose to remain faithful to its political stance and activities in preference to living life as pop stars.
Did you know?
Three of the seven band members who participated in The Savage Rose when they released their debut album were retrieved from the Dandy Swingers group. This was the case with bassist Jens Rugsted and guitarist Flemming Ostermann, both of whom were invited by Koppelbrødrene. The only 18-year-old Annisette Hansen, who became lead singer in The Savage Rose, had with Dandy Swingers recorded a convincing version of "River Deep, Mountain High" and was already becoming a popular name for the Danish music scene.
The committee's justification
By the Committee for Music, 2006
The release of The Savage Rose’s eponymous debut album was a defining moment in modern Danish music. It was released in 1968, in the middle of the hippie period, in which beat, hash, the Vietnam war, student rebellion and a restless need for expression also heralded the dawn of the Danish beat scene. Suddenly, there they were: brothers Anders and Thomas Koppel, the sons of a highly regarded composer and piano professor had started a band, with some influences from classical music; but with the help of others including jazz drummer Alex Riel, they set new standards for Danish rock. Their ambitions were sky high, lyrically as well as musically, and the attitude, nonchalant. However, despite clear influences from The Beatles and contemporary American beat artists, The Savage Rose created a remarkable, original debut album with a range of exciting, atmospheric and complex songs.
The group was led by one of the most seminal vocalists in Danish rock. It belonged to Annisette, a voice that at the time was mostly associated with Janis Joplin; however, it was nonetheless fully and completely her own. The phenomenon of The Savage Rose quickly became spread outside of Denmark and led to the legendary American critic Lester Bangs to write in music magazine Rolling Stone that right now it was in the Nordic countries and not the USA where music was happening. The album also established the use of the English language in Danish rock – a use that later would be almost as typical for Danish rock as the use of the Danish language.