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Introducing...The Ark

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17:09 CEST+02:00
In his weekly look at the fab side of Swedish celebrity, Paul O'Mahony profiles the glam rockers following in the footsteps of Abba to defend Swedish pride in Saturday's Eurovision Song Contest.

Who are they and why are they famous?

The Ark are the bell-bottom wearing, glam-rocking sons of Sweden who are off to Helsinki to represent their country at the 2007 Eurovision Song Contest this weekend.

Oh yes, the annual feast of Nordic pop, Mediterranean schmaltz, East European tribal techno, nul points for yet another Belgian ballad, Portugal as perennial laughing stock, political voting patterns, near bankruptcy for the host network, lavish sets, the emergence of Abba, Céline Dion, Lulu, Riverdance and

monsters from Finland scaring all the old people.

Yes, that's the one.

And what are Sweden's chances of bringing the cherished prize back across the Baltic this year?

Not bad, actually. The Ark's song, 'The worrying kind', is a glammy foot-stomper that could easily pass as the illicit lovechild of David Bowie and T-Rex.

A bit like that seventies band Edison Lighthouse maybe?

Funny you should say that because the writer of one of that group's songs - Love Grows (Where my Rosemary Goes) - has actually accused The Ark of nicking his tune?

And did they?

Doubtful. The Ark's singer and public face, Ola Salo, is the son of a church minister. He may not be an altar boy exactly but he's no collection box dipper either.

Ola Salo? Isn't that a Finnish name?

Yes, but his real name is Rolf Svensson. He chose the name Ola Salo because of his fondness for palindromes. You know, it's when something reads the same backwards and forwards.

Satan, oscillate my metallic sonatas.

Pardon? Oh, I see, not bad at all. Friends of Salo's in Växjö used a less flattering palindrome for the preacher's son: Gnupung.

Which means?

Gnu scrotum. And speaking of the male apparatus, Salo once dropped his pants after a party in Malmö and was seen walking the streets with his hamper hanging.

Whatever possessed him?

Liquid spirits. But his own explanation also included a more devotional twist: Salo drew parallels with Noah of the original Ark. Long after his days of deluge, boat-building and animal rescue, Noah got absolutely plastered on homemade wine. He was later found by one of his sons in a state of undress.

There you go then, Salo seems to have found a solid precedent.

Maybe, although there are also obvious differences between the builder of The Ark and its current lead singer. Salo, for example, has often made it known that he is bisexual whereas Noah made no such claims.

Nor did Noah ever participate in Eurovision. How long have the band been around for anyway?

The Ark actually formed as far back as 1991 when they were just a bunch of young whippersnappers not long out of the sandbox. But in the year 2000 they struck gold with their first big hit, It Takes a Fool to Remain Sane, and their craft has been cruising along nicely ever since. They have a large and devoted following, which is only likely to get bigger after four million people tuned in to watch them win the Swedish Eurovision qualifiers.

That's all well and good, but has anybody even heard of them outside of Sweden?

Oh yes, The Ark have wowed the Germans, dazzled the Italians and toured Britain and Ireland with The Darkness. But their American adventure had to be put on hold after a major faux pas at their debut US gig on the lawn of the new Swedish embassy in Washington.

Don't say Ola pulled down his pants and blamed it on Noah.

No, nothing like that. While performing he spotted some planes preparing to land at a nearby airport. As part of his on-stage banter Salo joked that he hoped they were headed for the White House rather than the Swedish embassy.

Oh dear.

Indeed. An apology was forthcoming but the battle for American hearts and minds will have to wait.

What are they up to now? Apart from the Eurovision of course.

They just released an album called Prayer for the Weekend. Never short of ambition of self-confidence, The Ark are doubtless hoping that a victory in Helsinki will help propel them into the Abbasphere.

As long as the contest doesn't diggi-loo them back to obscurity they'll be fine.

Heaven forbid.


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