When William Hartnell landed the role of Doctor Who Number One in 1962, he was experienced enough to have learned that when you get a good, steady well-paying gig in an otherwise shaky industry, an industry where more people fail than succeed, you don’t trade that Good Thing in on the vague promise of doing “something different.” It was for this reason that he was so disappointed in his co-star, Carole Anne Ford, when she decided to leave the show at the beginning of its second season. Why throw away a good thing? And he was right. To this day, Carole Anne Ford is remembered for being Susan on Doctor Who, not for anything she did later. Fifty Years down the road, the youngest Doctor ever — Matt Smith — pitched his high-profile, steady, well-paying gig so that he could go off and play bit parts in bad movies that nobody will remember. Young people never seem to learn.
The same thing is true, and perhaps even more true, in the music business: and so I was dismayed, upset, and even hurt earlier this year when musician Marianne Sveen announced that she would be leaving my favorite band, the Nordic all-gal group Katzenjammer, in order to pursue her solo career.
Previous to this, she had already taken time off to work as a producer and as the solo act Dandylion; I bought a few of her solo EPs myself. But did she ever reflect that maybe people were only interested in her solo career because of her association with Katzenjammer?
I ask the question because it's evident now now that her selfish decision has killed the group. In the wake of Sveen's announcement, fellow band-member Anne Marit Bergheim yesterday posted on Facebook that she is moving on as well: leaving no doubt that my favorite band was an “all for one and one for all” outfit: rather than replace Sveen on tours with a new musician, Katzenjammer has decided to fold the tents for good.
Does Sveen know that her decision to kill Katzenjammer could make her the most reviled woman in rock history outside of Yoko Ono? Does she know that the polite interest in her solo career will probably evaporate now that she’s burned down the only reason that anyone outside of Norway ever even heard of her?
And so the history of Katzenjammer seems now to be written: just another really talented almost was. They never became a household name in the USA, but they could have done. They could have done so much more, together. Ten years, three genius albums that grew in accomplishment from release to release (last year’s Rockland seemed to make the specific statement that the women of Katzenjammer had the substance, the experience, the raw power and the songwriting skills to go toe-to-toe with the best in the business) … all now dissolved, gone the way of that other Fab Four, The Beatles.
All because Marianne Sveen doesn’t know a god-damn good thing when she sees it, and wants to chuck it all so that she can do “other things.” Specifically, “other things” that will never amount to half of what she has already accomplished working with Anne Marit Bergheim, Turid Jorgensen and Solveig Heilo as part of Katzenjammer.
We didn’t know when David Bowie released his last album that it would be his last album, and the same is true about Katzenjammer and Rockland. It turns out that the lovely title ballad, penned by Anne Marit, didn’t just close out the album: it was the swan song for the band’s entire history. You can listen to it in the video above this post. I don’t suppose that any other group ever said goodbye more beautifully.