Early September 1991 I heard (and saw!) Crucified by the Swedish Army Of Lovers for the first time. I thought it was an extremely fun, likeable song as well as the group’s theatrics. After yet another great single I bought the album.
Army Of Lovers
In 1982 Alexander Bard released a solo single using the name Baard. From 1985 onwards he used the name Barbie. As Barbie, he released an album and some singles. He was accompanied by Camilla Henemark (aka Katanga) and Jean-Pierre Barda (aka Farouk). The name Barbie has no connection with the doll brand, but is an abbreviation of Barbara Hitchcock, the secret child of Marilyn Monroe and J.F. Kennedy, who was sent to Mars for her own protection…
In 1987 Army Of Lovers was founded. The group name is inspired by the 1979 documentary Armee Der Liebenden oder Revolte der Perversen by director Rosa von Praunheim. The documentary portrays gay activism in the United States between 1972 and 1978. By this time Camilla Henemark named herself La Camilla and Jean-Pierre Barda dropped his nickname. The group released their first music in 1988 and in 1990 their debut album Disco Extravaganza was released to modest success.
Massive Luxury Overdose
The second Army Of Lovers album was released on August 26, 1991. It was huge success all over Europe and sold well over 3 million copies.
The music is kitsch, the image camp, but the delivery is very tongue-in-cheek, which sits very well with me. The videos are all very entertaining and the music is infectious. The main composer Alexander Bard had the ambition of becoming the new ABBA. With catchy songs like Crucified, Obsession and My Army Of Lovers the album doesn’t lack hits.
The group’s image is rooted in the gay-scene and possesses, besides the humor, an LGBTI activist background. The playing with religious imagery, history and folklore was designed by stylist Camilla Thulin. Army Of Lovers was more than the group’s three main members. The group worked with a steady team of stylists, video makers and photographers.
But, are Army Of Lovers to be taken seriously? Isn’t it all just camp, humor and irony? At first sight perhaps, but that ultimately does the music on Massive Luxury Overdose a disservice. The link to ABBA isn’t an exaggeration, as the pop sensibilities on this album are very rich. The singles have been picked very carefully, as they are all highlights on the album.
Of course, the best-known song is Crucified containing the chorus “I’m crucified, crucified like my saviour” and spoken lyrics, that put the Army Of Lovers on the European map with a bang. An irresistible funny and happy song, which has more substance than meets the eye. Candyman Messiah almost mimics Grace Jones. Obsession is equally catchy as Crucified.
The original performances of Supernatural and Ride The Bullet were placed on the debut album Disco Extravaganza. Supernatural benefited from the remix. Walking With A Zombie has an infectious 1930s vibe. The closing My Army Of Lovers was also part of the debut album, in the exact same version. The song is a reinterpretation of the 1986 Barbie song Barbie Goes Around The World. It’s the undisputed highlight in the group’s entire body of work. Beautiful dreamy music with seductive spoken lyrics by La Camilla. I can’t shake the thought that the song must have been an inspiration for Madonna’s Justify My Love. Just for this song alone, the question at the beginning of this paragraph must be answered with a resounding “Yes”.
No less than 5 singles were released around the release of Massive Luxury Overdose, two of which were also placed on the debut album and were re-released.
(released in May 1991 and again in April 1992 in the US)
- My Army Of Lovers
(released in July 1991)
(released in September 1991 and again in September 1992 in the US)
- Candyman Messiah
(released in November 1991)
- Ride The Bullet
(released in January 1992)
Following the American release of Massive Luxury Overdose the new song Judgment Day was also released as a single in June 1992.
All songs written by Alexander Bard, Anders Wollbeck, Camilla Henemark and Jean-Pierre Barda, unless stated otherwise. The tracklist below is the original release, also known as the Swedish version.
- We Stand United
- Crucified *
- Candyman Messiah
- Obsession ~
- I Cross The Rubicon
- Supernatural (1991 remix) $
- Ride The Bullet (1991 remix) ^
- Say Goodbye To Babylon *
- Flying High
- Walking With A Zombie
- My Army Of Lovers #
|*||Written by Alexander Bard, Anders Wollbeck and Jean-Pierre Barda|
|~||Written by Alexander Bard and Anders Wollbeck|
|$||Written by Alexander Bard, Emil Hellman, Leif Jacobsson and Magnus Frykberg|
|^||Written by Alexander Bard, Anders Wollbeck, Camilla Henemark, Emil Hellman and Jean-Pierre Barda|
|#||Written by Anders Hansson, Norell/Oson/Bard and Peo Tyrén|
Army Of Lovers
- La Camilla – vocals, bass
- Alexander Bard – vocals, computer and sitar on Supernatural (The 1991 Remix)
- Jean-Pierre Barda – vocals, drums
- Anders Wollbeck – guitar and syntovox on Flying High
- André Ferrari – percussion
- Anders Gustavson – saxophone
- Annette – guest vocals on I Cross The Rubicon and Walking With A Zombie
- Katarina Wilczewski – guest vocals on Ride The Bullet (The 1991 Remix) and Flying High
- Tim Norell – keyboards on My Army Of Lovers
- JM Fax – guest vocals on My Army Of Lovers
- Erika Essen-Möller, Jean-Paul Wall, Katarina Wilczewski, Malin Bäckström, Rickard Evenlind – background vocals on We Stand United, Crucifed and Say Goodbye To Babylon
- Jean-Paul Wall, Rickard Evenlind – background vocals on I Cross The Rubicon
- The Army Tabernacle Choir (The 69 Caruso, Vickie Benckert, Victoria Victor) – background vocals on Supernatural (The 1991 Remix)
- Ixi Qaxi – background vocals on My Army Of Lovers
- Fredrik Boklund, Martin Persson – videoclips
- Jean-Pierre Barda – hair and make-up
- Camilla Thulin – stylist
- Carl-Johan Paulin – photography
After Massive Luxury Overdose
Unfortunately, it all went downhill quickly. Late 1991 La Camilla, an essential part of the group’s image, was fired. It’s still unclear what sparked it: jealousy or misbehavior by La Camilla? On Youtube a clip from a Swedish live television show can be found where Army Of Lovers are confronted with La Camilla. It provides for some cringing moments, in which La Camilla effortlessly reaps all sympathy. Both gentlemen are extremely obnoxious. Then again, irony and deviant humor was what the group thrived on. Was it all a game? Even though I sincerely wish it to be the case, I’m afraid it isn’t.
To perpetuate the group’s new found success, La Camilla was immediately replaced by Michaela Dornonville de la Cour. Some new songs were recorded, which were released on Massive Luxury Overdose, the American version, which also spawned the Judgment Day single. Some videos were also re-shot. However, it didn’t take long for all to realize that La Camilla was indeed an indispensable part of the group’s image. Slowly but surely, the success waned. La Camilla released two solo singles, I Am Not In The Mood For Lovers and Everytime You Lie, both receiving modest success.
Singer Dominika Peczynski was added to the line-up and the albums The Gods Of Earth And Heaven and Glory Glamour And Gold were released in 1993 and 1994. The song Israelism became a huge hit in Israel, despite the controversial video (that got banned by MTV).
Michaela Dornonville de la Cour left the group. In 1995 the group had run its course, so a compilation album was released: Les Greatest Hits. Lo and behold, La Camilla was welcomed back into the fold and the group scored two minor hits: Give My Life, one year later followed by King Midas.
After 1996 the group kept reconvening in different line-ups, usually to promote yet another ‘greatest hits’ compilation. In 2013 the group, in its original line-up, entered the Melodifestivalen in Malmö, Sweden, with their new single Rockin’ The Ride. The competition’s prize was a ticket for the Eurovision Songfestival, But it all was a major flop, the group didn’t even get past the first round. La Camilla was blamed and was fired again and (publicly) spitzered by both gentlemen and her replacement Dominika Peczynski. The truth was that the song was simply bad.
Even though the group was only able to rise above themselves for a very short amount of time, it sure was a great ride and highly entertaining!
What’s your take on Army Of Lovers? Entertaining or too campy? Let me know!
This story contains an accompanying video. Click on the following link to see it: Video: Army Of Lovers and the ultracamp of Massive Luxury Overdose. The A Pop Life playlist on Spotify has been updated as well.
Army Of Lovers 1991 image: pinterest.com
Army Of Lovers – Massive Luxury Overdose, Army Of Lovers – Massive Luxury Overdose – American version & Army Of Lovers – Les Greatest Hits images: spotify.com
Army Of Lovers – Crucified – Video image: hq-music-videos.com
Army Of Lovers – Massive Luxury Overdose – The singles image: discogs.com/apoplife.nl
Army Of Lovers 1991 with signatures image: facebook.com
Army Of Lovers in The Netherlands 1991 image: velvet.hu