THE GREATEST SONGS OF THE 1960s THAT NO ONE HAS EVER HEARD
518) Thor’s Hammer — “My Life”
“My Life” by Iceland’s Thor’s Hammer entered Valhalla upon placement in the underground garage/freakbeat/psych canon by Nuggets II, which calls it a “wild yet melodic rocker, bursting with harmonies and some crackling fuzz guitar work.” (Mike Stax’s liner notes to Nuggets II) Richie Unterberger says it’s a “[b]rash mod stomper . . . with snarling vocals, Keith Moon-like drumming, and fuzz guitar” and an “engaging, tough mod rocker”. (https://www.allmusic.com/artist/thors-hammer-mn0000584715; https://www.allmusic.com/album/from-keflavik-with-love-mw0000211096)
Then Anorak Thing opines that:
“My Life” . . . [has] more restrained “beat group” style vocals but [an] insane barrage of fuzz and distortion that only comes from places where the climate is harsh or the people are backward like some of the best 60’s sides from rural America or Australia.(http://anorakthing.blogspot.com/2010/11/icelandic-freakbeat-mayhem.html)
Now, I am not sure whether AT is saying that Iceland has a harsh climate or that Icelanders are backward, but I can attest to the insane barrage of fuzz and distortion!
As to Thor’s Hammer — who went by the name of Hljómar in Iceland — Richie Unterberger recites their saga:
Thor’s Hammer was the most notable ’60s Icelandic rock band . . . . In part that’s because they were able to record in London for Parlophone, and even get a solitary 45 released in America in 1967. . . . In the mid- to late ’60s, they made quite a few recordings, the best of them in a ferocious mod, British Invasion style reminiscent of the early Who and sub-Who groups like the Eyes. . . . Thor’s Hammer formed as Hlijomar (in English, the Sounds or the Chords) in Keflavik, Iceland, in 1963. In a small, isolated country that didn’t even have television in 1963, a rock band of any kind was a novelty. They became extremely popular [there] and began recording for the Icelandic market in 1965, also supporting some visiting British acts on their Icelandic tours. They named themselves Thor’s Hammer for English-sung recordings made in London and released on the Parlophone label.https://www.allmusic.com/artist/thors-hammer-mn0000584715
Their initial releases were sung in their native tongue, but the group and their record company quickly realized that to export the group’s popularity, they would need to sing in English and adjust the band’s name accordingly. . . . In late 1965 Thor’s Hammer traveled to England for recording sessions which included ones for tracks that were to be used in an upcoming movie starring the band, called Umbarumbamba. Among the songs recorded was “My Life[.]” . . . The song was released on an EP, issued in conjunction with the movie in the fall of 1966. The film was something of a flop, however, and the record consequently sold poorly. Though the band’s popularity was fading in their home country, they pursued their international ambitions with a 1967 single for Columbia Records. However, the single — cut by U.S. session men, with the band’s vocals added later– sank without a trace. In Iceland, the group’s career . . . eventually recovered and they thrived in a more progressive vein until their final split in 1969.
Now, Umbarumbamba wasn’t a feature — only 15 minutes long, it is a “stylized account of an Icelandic country dance.” (https://www.icelandicfilms.info/films/nr/783) Supposedly, the film has never been screened since. Well, I want to see it! If anyone who reads this blog has done so, let us all know!
I am not sure what Umbarumbamba means — Google Translate tells me that it’s English equivalent is Umbarumbamba. Maybe one problem here is that Iceland don’t have the best international marketers — naming their country Iceland when it is so beautiful while Greenland gets to call itself Greenland (what a joke)! Maybe if they had named it Ummagumma, it would have been a blockbuster.
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