Tom Zacharias was born in Stockholm 1948 and happened to attended the same private school as the soon to become Swedish king, Carl Gustav. Tom spent a lot of time playing tennis and got a ranking as of the top elite junior tennis player in 1963. But he soon left the sports world embarking instead on the gloomy road of a struggling actor. He ended up as a Swedish Lenny Bruce but after a brawl, when he peed on the unappreciating audience from the stage, he got thrown out of the posh establishment where he performed.
Tom became the first Swedish male pin-up boy when he posed for the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet in 1970:As an alternate to beautiful girls – Summer boys! “It is at the request of Aftonbladets female readers that we show a full page of beautiful summer boys today. Everyday we pay due attention to the readers with pictures of beautiful girls. Summer girls. As some female readers appropriately pointed out it is unfair that we only satisfy our male readers. What do you think of the male shape, charming smile and virile charm. This hairy lion is named Tom Zacharias, 22. He is dark and brown eyed and, as you can see, very athletic. This spring he graduated from Calle Flygares school of theater. Right now he works with a cabaret. He also likes to sing opera and is very interested in sports.”Tom was involved with a few TV and film productions but generally cultivated his growing status as a peculiar outsider artist in the Stockholm nightclubs, populated by the entertainment industry. Eventually he got contracted by the record label MNW to cut a single. Unfortunately the record ended up a commercial disaster with only a handful copies ever being sold. But Tom wasn’t to be let down and he soon recorded his debut album Är du ärlig – är du härlig (If You’re Honest, Your Beautiful), which was released in 1973. Here Tom appears as a seeker. The album contains many soft, poetic songs about love, vulnerability, parts humans plays in society and togetherness. The humor goes hand in hand with tenderness. But one also finds songs about the violence in Vietnam, about the world societies abundance and the hunt for riches and about the wonder world of technical achievements that breeds super humans. Tom Zacharias did everything himself, wrote the lyrics and music, sang, arranged and played on this album.
In his book “Plommon Pop Progg Rock” Bo Anders Larsson (legendary Swedish producer…and also the artist behind the legendary Swedish psych LP I Am The Scorpion produced by Kim Fowley) gives a description of how it was to work with Tom: “Tom Zacharias was a special character. Was he mad or a genius? That’s the question one asks when being exposed to his music and lyrics. But these were the things that got one interested. During my 20 years in the record business Tom appeared at frequent intervals. It wasn’t to make money that one got involved in his projects, but for the thrill to see where Toms fantastic plans would lead. Tom had an unique ability to book studios, studio technicians etc and get both known and unknown musicians to contribute to his records, for free. Personally I made the recordings without getting paid and I never even thought about it.”
Tom himself hardly remembers anything from these recording sessions but what is clear is that the record company that was supposedly releasing the album folded just as the record came out and the album never reached the public. Tom made some spectacular guest appearances in Stockholm. For example he performed for thousands of people opening for one of Sweden’s biggest artists; Sven-Bertil Taube. However Tom was totally in a world of his own and the public couldn’t make heads or tails of his bizarre appearance, dressed in only a kimono and high lacquer boots.Two years later, in 1975, Tom’s album Horar gör vi alla (We’re All Prostitutes) was released and on this one he’s backed by a full band. What would have made any ordinary recording session like this impossible was the fact that the keyboard player was at the time convicted for manslaughter. But of course this didn’t stop Tom. The keyboard player was escorted to the recording session in handcuffs and on one catastrophic incident the keyboard player even attacked his guard and bit him in the neck. But against all odds, Tom succeeded in getting everything together and the LP was released. Horar gör vi alla contains higher musical skills than the previous LP and the whole tone of his performance has changed. Zacharias singing is harder, more aggressive. Cynicism and irony is mixed with the absurd.
– I felt more impatient then. More irritated. Something had to happen, Tom says in an interview from 1973.
Although it was hard for him to explain exactly what it was that must happen. He talked about the technological development, that worried him a lot. About how the material values takes up a lot of room on the cost of the peoples spiritual and emotional life. About how the humans impoverish their relations to each other. And about the art that will wake up the human emotions. Music that will make people feel more strongly. To cry, shiver, sweat, laugh and to get mad like hell. -These kind of artistic expressions never reaches the masses because it gets strangled due to the lack of economical funds. I also think the record companies are scared. Strong feelings are scary. It can become inconvenient. One knows that nothing is as dangerous as passions. I know some who have become mad solely over the album title We’re all prostitutes. I want people to get provoked. But when the anger has subsided the point is that they will start to think and think once again, Tom said.
Tom Zacharias works on the hypothesis that provocation gives insight. And that insight leads to change. This has been his motto both as a musicians as well as an actor. And it’s not only the public that has been provoked but also his employers. He has lost many jobs. -I cant make a difference between me as a working- and a private person. I got to live as I learn. And I see it as my duty to challenge authority. I refuse to wrap myself up in a nice package and sell myself with red silk ribbons around my neck. I rather loose my job than be fussy for the authority and to renounce myself, Tom said. That’s a philosophy that doesn’t make one any money. One also gets isolated and feels strongly out of society. Like an outcast, an unaccepted, a deviate. That in turn leads to feelings of being irritated and impatient. All this is mirrored in his albums .-There are many that work in the way that I do more or less out of the limelight. I think that together we can create a new spirit in this country. A spirit for more tolerance for things that breaks with the norms.
-A spirit where feelings not are scary anymore. Where one openly can show what ones feelings are, Tom said. Tom, of course, shows very openly what he feels. He is as intensive in his anger as in his enthusiasm. That might scare people sometimes. His emotionality can be perceived as provoking. But he seldom leaves one unaffected, whatever one likes him or not.
Just as the We’re All Prostitutes LP was being released Tom got an offer by the businessmen and inventor Stefan Brydolf, who now works as an astrologer in Tallin. He wanted Tom to write, perform and produce two records with new creative erotic rock and to write an erotic novel for him! The deal was struck on the spot with a handshake and Tom went home to start on the new project. But he soon started to worry. -What the hell have I gotten me into? Sure – to record a couple of albums shouldn’t prove to be a problem, but to write a novel…how shall I accomplish that? Tom thought. He isolated himself in his apartment and got to the work at hand. -It was an hellish task filled with anguish. What should I write…now she’s fucked this and that senseless and then…what happens next? Tom says. But after three weeks of constant writing, practically around the clock, his literary debut was ready. The erotic novel about a pathologically sadistic woman, got the title Rebecka and was illustrated with some juicy drawings. However there was no success this time either and today this book is practically impossible to find.
During the intensive weeks of writing Tom also succeeded in writing the lyrics and music for what was to become the legendary Belinda albums. After this mastodon task Tom was totally exhausted. But there was no time to rest because the albums had to be recorded. As usual he procured a good recording studio and got together some highly skilled musicians. Most of the tracks were recorded live on the first take and the Belinda album was actually finished over night. This peculiar record got pressed right away with a sleeve featuring a photo of the guitarist Tommy Broman’s girlfriend at the time, Karin, on the cover. The follow up Belindas Döttrar (The Daughters of Belinda)was recorded approximately three months later. This recording was more planned and the musicians even got to rehearse a little before they went in to record. As with the first album, the recording session was done speedily and the whole project wrapped up in 2 to 3 days. Tom points out that it could have been done even faster if there hadn’t been so much intoxicants around. On the Belindas Döttrar album Tom was assisted by a lady from New York who went under the alias Helen Bed in the album credits. In reality this was Suzie Heine, a woman that Tom was hanging out with during the time. The cover picture was taken during festive circumstances in Stefan Brydolf home with two young models, though Tom thought they could very well have used some more mature women. The records were never sold in regular record shops but exclusively through advertisements in men’s magazines and porno shops. But the sale’s went exceptionally well and this got Stefan Brydolfs business sense in full spin. How could they further exploit these lucrative recordings? He assumed that nothing like it had ever been recorded anywhere in the world. So why not conquer the biggest market of them all: North America. Sure he knew of some funky music in porno movies but surely there was nothing of this caliber. Tom was consequently asked to select the songs he thought most suited for this export. Suzie Heine translated the lyrics in to English, and off they went in to the studio to re-dub the vocals. They decided that there would be no holds barred for the promotion of the new international Belinda album. They advertised in US magazines like Screw and Mayfair and many others. The presumptive buyer was asked to send an envelope containing Swedish Krona to a p.o. box in Sweden. They were sure that the cash would just flow in and they even started to worry about what ever to hire some people to guard the postbox, as they were sure it would soon be filled with cash. Disappointingly there was never any floods of money letters. The task of exchanging US Dollars to the obscure Swedish Krona and then sending it off to an unknown address on the other side of the globe probably didn’t seem so tempting. So the English language Belinda album never got released and Toms international career never happened . On this CD you can hear the English language Belinda tracks for the first time ever.
After this adventure Tom decided to record a children’s record to be called Vi Barn (Us Children). The review copies were very welcomed by the press and it actually got awarded as the Swedish children’s record of the year. It would prove itself hard to sell the record however as the Smurf records who had just hit Sweden were stiff competition. And as usually happened with Toms unfortunate productions, the record company folded and the taxman confiscated all copies of the album. Once again Toms record never really made it to the public. This was the last straw for Tom who decided to give up artistry and get married as well as study religious history. But it soon became clear that nothing could suppress Toms inspiration, creator’s joy and artistic mission. Once again he started plan the production of a new record. He wrote the lyrics in heavy inspirational bursts which had his neighbors go mad when he started waking them up in the middle of the night ever so often. Tom moved out of his apartment and settled in a cottage in the countryside where he came to spend three years working on his magnum opus Till Frukost (For Breakfast).
As usual he started inviting other artists to contribute to the album, people who’s work he appreciated. In the end, over 50 persons were involved in the project. Known and unknown singers, poets and even opera singers. Tom doesn’t deny that he thought it grand to be the only male singer of the group. Everybody contributed without getting paid, even if they had to work all night long. -I saw no contradiction in having girls sing my lyrics. It was a fantastic feeling. They decided for themselves and they told me that the lyrical contents were about feelings that moved them too. For example, one can hear the legendary soft spoken Swedish folk singer Turid sing: “fuck I’m so horny” in the opening cut “Morbid Longings”, so strongly vibrating and at the same time so sensitive that no one would interpret it as vulgar or ugly, Tom said. Unfortunately nobody was interested in releasing the album. The record companies felt it to be too literary for mainstream audiences. So, in a last desperate attempt to reach his public, Tom decided to do it himself.
Musically the album Till Frukost, which finally was released in 1984, contains rock, opera and everything in between. Slightly avantgardistic but with fine melodies. That which could have turned into a usual singer songwriter album grows in to a brushwood of strong feelings in our inner selves. The record label was adorned by a photo with a nude lady who had placed a guitar between her straddling legs. Tom sent out review copies and it received some partially good critique.
“Zacharias gives an homage to sound chaos”. “A madman but in a positive way”. “Literary cabaret on a higher level”. “Tom Zacharias is a deviate, well worth lending an ear to”. Tom also took care of the distribution himself and the 200 pre-ordered copies were delivered by foot. For the money he earned Tom bought a used car which was going to transport him through Sweden on his record selling trips. Not surprisingly this didn’t really work out as planned as the record didn’t sell and his car broke down.
Today Tom Zacharias lives, and is in good health, in Stockholm city. He is a regular walker-on in many TV productions and was the star of a bizarre televised enema championship. Right now he’s working on a new recording amongst other projects.
/ Stefan Kéry