ooked on a Feeling" was originally a hit for B.J. Thomas, who recorded it at the American Recording Studios in Memphis. It was January of 1969 when Thomas took the song to number five, his biggest success to that date. Almost three years later, the song received a startling new arrangement from British entrepreneur Jonathan King.
He has also recorded cover versions of American hits under a wide variety of assumed names, including 100 Ton and a Feather ("It Only Takes a Minute"), Bubblerock ("(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction") and 53rd and 3rd ("Chick-a-Boom"). "Hooked on a Feeling" was released under his own name and peaked at number 23 on the British chart in early 1972. It was a radical departure from the Memphis production of Chips Moman; the first thing one noticed was the opening chant, "ooga-chaga, ooga-ooga chaga." He wasn't talking about Chaga Khan, but nobody was quite sure what it meant.
The King arrangement was heard by Bengt Palmers, head of A&R for EMI Records in Sweden. He was working with a group known in their homeland as Bjorn Skiffs and Blabus, which translated as Blue Denim. Palmers suggested they incorporate the song into their stage act and the group performed it for four months before deciding to record it.
The song was released just for the Scandinavian market, where it became a big hit. When executives at EMI International heard it, they decided to try an American release.
An English name was needed for the group and Palmers suggested altering Blue Denim to Blue Swede. Their version of "Hooked on a Feeling" entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 87 on February 16, 1974, and went to number one on April 6, making them the first Swedish group to top the American charts. Coincidentally, April 6 was the very same day that another group from Blue Swede's homeland won the Eurovision Song Contest, launching them on an international career that would make them the second Swedish group to have an American number one. The winning song was "Waterloo" and the group was Abba.
The members of Blue Swede were bassist Bosse Liljedahl, keyboardist Anders Berglund, saxophonist Hinke Ekestubbe, drummer Jan Guldback, guitarist Michael Areklew, trumpeter Thomas Berglund and lead singer Bjorn Skiffs.
When Bjorn was 14, he started his own rock group, Slam Creepers. They became well known in Sweden but in 1969 Bjorn split for a solo career. Four years later he signed with EMI in Sweden. His first album for the label was called Denim Jacket.
When he decided to put a group together in 1972, he contacted some of Sweden's top musicians from other bands and asked if they'd like to form a new group and start from scratch. Bjorn's Denim Jacket album was the inspiration for the group named Blablus.
Blue Swede had one more American hit in late 1974, a re-working of the Association's "Never My Love." Eventually, the group broke up and Bjorn continued with his solo career. He went on to record the role of the Arbiter in "Chess," a musical written by Time Rice ("Evita," "Jesus Christ, Superstar") with Bjorn's countrymen, Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus from Abba.
- Fred Bronson, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Billboard, 1988.
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