Band biography in English below. To read the bio in Swedish please click this link.
Paul Chukuwma Edoh (1939 – 1996) moved to Europe, from the short-lived West African republic Biafra which was situated in the eastern regions of Nigeria, during the early 1960s. The road led to swinging London. Club Afrique on Wardour Street,was a place where Nigerian musicians meet for jazz sessions on Sunday afternoons. Here Paul met several like-minded musicians and started playing congas with the band African Messengers. The band also included outstanding musicians like Peter King, saxophonist Humphrey Okoh, trumpetist Mike Falana, bassist David ‘Happy’ Williams and drummer James Menin. The African Messengers mixed jazz with African highlife and toured all over Europe, even winning the World International Jazz Contest in Switzerland in 1964. They were considered the most prominent band in their genre and one can now hear their 1964 single release; ‘Highlife Piccadilly’, on the compilation ‘London Is The Place For Me’.
In London Paul met Birgitta from Sweden and in 1969 he followed her back home so that they could get married. They settled in Linköping and Paul soon started playing with a local dance band. The young 18-year-old Linköping musician Wilhard Lang, who had been playing for a while with his one year younger childhood friend, the talented guitarist Arne Johansson, was very eager to get a real group together. Wilhard soon learned that the great drummer Paul Edoh had moved to town and became determined to save him from the lame dance band so that they could start a real progressive band together.
Wilhard went to see the band one evening and spoke to Paul. He was even invited to come and hang in Paul’s pad after the show and they chatted and listened to some great records, including Tony Williams Lifetime. Wilhard suggested that they start playing together and Paul said he would like to come by and check them out. Some days later he did and after listening for a while Paul exclaimed;
– Well, I’ll quit that fucking dance band and we’ll start a trio.
Soon they started jamming and composing their own songs . Many times this began with Paul singing the rhythm and the others followed. After awhile, they realized that it would be good to expand the setting with an organist so Arne brought along his friend Lars-Göran Gustavsson. Lars-Göran had previously been a guitarist but had now really gotten in to keyboards and acquired a Hammond L-100 organ with a Leslie cabinet. With the band now complete, they started gigging. Paul Edoh’s Class Breakers mostly played Linköping, Norrköping, Tranås and also at a bigger festival in Umeå. They travelled around in their Ford Mustang with a specially adapted trailer, which had the band logo painted on it, and that carried their instruments and massive backline consisting of Marshall amps and cabinets. This was around the same time that the first discotheque wave swept across Sweden, when performing live bands were exchanged by DJs. This dramatically reduced the work oppertunities for artists like Class Breakers and they experienced how many other local bands couldn’t get a job anywhere. The Class Breakers however had a firm foot in Linköping’s elite clubs; Maxim and Moby Dick, where they and the other heavy local bands; Mendoza and Madison Drive, had regular bookings. The Class Breakers, however, was clearly the most unique band that performed exclusively self-penned material and with a strong African influence.
With the gigs in place they thought it would be good to step things up a bit by maybe getting a record out. Paul had come into contact with Nils-Bertil Andersson from Överum who ran his own music studio; the Nila Studio, from a small cellar basement. The studio equipment included something as unusual as a vinyl gramophone disc cutting machine that Nils-Bertil incredibly enough had built himself. He talks about it in interviews in some local magazines from the time. Nils-Bertil says that a commercially produced disc cutting machine would be way to expensive to purchase, estimated to cost around half a million Swedish Krona at the time, so the only thing left was to build one himself.
One early autumn morning in 1970, the Class Breakers loaded up their Ford Mustang and headed to the Nila-studio on route to a gig in Norrköping later in the evening. The plan was to record two of their songs; ‘It’s Raining’ a heavy rock number with an unusual, but fantastic, amount of acid fuzz lead guitar breaks, backed with ‘Africa Speaks – Sweden Answers’ an instrumental fusion of a local Nigerian melody that Paul had heard many times during his childhood mixed with psychedelic rock music. (In 1971 Paul and the band got a shock when they heard the band Osibisa’s debut album which included a song called ‘Ayiko Bia’, that featured the same basic melody as the Class Breakers song ‘Africa Speaks – Sweden Answers’. It seems both bands had gotten inspiration from the same traditional African tune).
The band set up all their equipment in a semicircle in the Nila-Studio and started playing their two well-rehearsed songs. They figured that they could quickly record both songs on the first take. Of course the Class Breakers nailed it but unfortunately the Nila studio wasn’t up to par. What was thought to be a quick job turned out to be a very time consuming affair as they encountered many unexpected technical problems in the studio. After each perfect take by the band they were forced to replay it over and over as there were constant errors with the recording equipment. This was very frustrating for the guys and they were not only getting totally fed up with the whole thing, they were also starting to run late for their show in Norrköping. This stressed them out even more and in the end they simply decided that it just didn’t work . In a last desperate effort Paul added an overdub with congas after which they speedily took off and headed for the discotheque Översten in Norrköping without even listening to a playback of the recording.
Some time later the band got a severe shock when they finally got to hear the mix-down of their recordings. It didn’t sound at all like the band did live. The sound was thin and the final take that end up on tape was one where the band had already gotten fed up with the technical difficulties in the studio and more or less given up. So they were not so pleased with their performance either. Surprisingly the music was on an actual vinyl single that Paul had gotten from the studio. This was of course because the Nila-studio had its own record cutting machine so that they were able to produce the discs directly themselves. Even though they had some interest from a Danish record label they all agreed that these recordings were so bad that they couldn’t be released under any circumstances. The remaining copies of the white-label test press single remained in the small basement cellar studio in Överum. Eventually that single became one of the rarest and most sought after records from the late 1960 – early 1970s Swedish psychedelic era that was only whispered about in closed circles of the most in the know record collectors. That I now release these recordings, sourced from the original master-tape, despite their shortcomings is of course because they contain some fantastic and original music that just has to be heard properly. The recordings are a unique document of an alternative underground music movement in Sweden.
In 1971, the Class Breakers entered a pop band contest in Motala where the jury consisted of members from the most famous Swedish pop band at the time; Hep Stars. Unfortunately the Class Breakers didn’t win but were definitely considered the most interesting of the bands, as noted in an article by Gunnar Bengtsson published in the local newspaper Östgötakorrespondenten ;
“Paul Edoh Class Breakers – a band from Linköping with their own sound. Paul Edoh Class Breakers has an ordinary setting; guitar, organ, bass and drums. But the band is one of the few local pop orchestras that has it’s own sound and succeeds in producing certain innovations within the framework of their knowledge. The band has been playing together for almost eight months. During this time they have managed to develop a relatively unique style, thanks to Paul Edoh himself. Through his knowledge of African folk music he has had the opportunity incorporate these themes in his music. The themes has then been reworked to suit the pop music. Paul Edoh is allegedly somewhere between 17 and 27 years old and plays the drums. He has previously played rhythm instruments in other orchestras, preferably the congas. The guitarist in Paul Edoh Class Breakers is Arne Johansson who is 18 years old. He has played the guitar for six years and his role model is Jimi Hendrix. Arne was one of the contributing reasons to the band’s good position in the pop competition, he was named by the jury as “one of the few musicians who uses the inside of the head when he plays”. On bass and vocals we have Wilhard Lang and the organ is handled by Lars Göran Gustavsson. ”
The gigs at the local discotheques continued but the guys in the band wished that something new, something bigger, would happen. They then came up with the idea that they should all try to move to London. There they would start working with Paul’s old musician friend; Humphrey Okoh, who now played with the well-known American vocal group Johnny Johnsson and the Bandwagon, and also had his own band called Niger. The idea was that Paul, who previously lived in London and who they thought still held a English residence permit, should go to London first and arrange things together with Humphrey. Then Arne and Wilhard would follow and they would start rehearsing for a tour in Germany that was already being planned. Paul brought his drums and hopped on the boat to England, but once he embarked he immediately got in problems with the English customs. It was suspected that he would work as a musician and for that he needed a work permit. Since Paul had gotten married in Sweden a become a Swedish citizen his English resident permit was now void and he was forced to go back on the next boat.
This was the last straw for the guys and they felt they were loosing the spark. The band finally disbanded completely when Paul, and a little later also Wilhard, moved to Stockholm to seek fame and fortune in the big city. Arne, on the other hand, had had enough of the music industry and started working as a truck driver. He only came to pick up the guitar again much later after retiring. Paul and Willard began playing with the Nigerian saxophonist and composer Chris Dele Okonkwo in Stockholm. They appeared on Lennart Swahn’s TV show ‘Immigration Music’ on national TV. The band also played at one of the bigger venues in town, the amusement park Gröna Lund, on the national, but this year unusually cold, May 1 holiday. They performed only dressed in African dashikis on a stage that was covered with ice (!). Some years later Paul and Wilhard formed the band Sababas that made sporadic gigs and continued to evolve the unique sound they had first created with Paul Edoh’s Class Breakers
Thanks to the Wilhard, Lars-Göran, Paul Edoh’s family, Christer Öjring and Martin Thornström.
(The text above is copyright Subliminal Sounds and may not be reprinted without written permission from the author).