A kid was born in July 1966, with time the oldest of three siblings, and perhaps also the one that seemed to believe in something out of the ordinary, far more than the rest of the family members. I think it would be fair to say that my childhood and teenage years were pretty normal, like every other kid. Or perhaps even luckier than many others, referring to a lot of people nowadays, growing up in broken families.
So, the late 1960’s and especially the 1970’s marked the period that was my youth. I had nothing to be concerned about whatsoever. My parents weren’t wealthy by any means, but we were good. Both worked, mom as a social worker in an elderly home, and my dad worked at a factory after he hung up his chef apron for good, getting tired of the restaurant business working hours, I guess. As a family we did and shared so many memories. It was a healthy, wholesome environment.
I spent most of my childhood in an apartment complex in a small town on the east coast of the Danish island of Jylland.
With my mom being Norwegian and my dad being Danish, I often felt more at home in Norway than in Denmark.
Mom was the person who introduced me to music by getting me my first ever record. Care to guess what it was? Of course - Elvis Presley! I still have the vinyl album today!
I grew up painfully shy. Anyone who knows me today would say I’m the furthest from being shy, and that’s probably true, but I am still holding back on a lot of things. Not from shyness though, but because life has slapped me around so many times that I am now more careful about things.
So you could say that my musical interest started with Elvis Presley at the tender age of three. He was a stranger in my world and I didn’t understand a word he sang. But something about him made me calm. I have this early memory of my mother telling me that, whenever he appeared on the television, young Tommy sat quietly in awe in front of it. Following the guy on the screen, his every move. I admired him in my own special way. I fell in love with his voice at that very early age.
There is no doubt that Elvis Presley was the starting point to my music passion. But hey, wait a minute, you might say. How on earth could you go from that music to the hard rock genre, with Motley Crue and Kiss? Just sit tight and listen, my friends. The album that I remember most from the early days is “Elvis Golden Records Volume 2.” I seem to remember an afternoon in October 1975. I was nine years old. I had been in school that day with only one thing on my mind. I wanted to head to the city center and go to the only real record store in town, “Rillen” at Lillegade Street.
At this time, I was slowly beginning to be the youngest and best customer at the store. From 1974 to 1986, I bought so many records that I became friends with the staff, and in 1981, I got my first job there. I was in heaven. But that’s a story for a later time.
The school day ended, and I went to the city. I had done my paper routes, done the dishes, and tidied up my room, and my weekly allowance was in hand. I knew that my parents were already thinking that I spent a little too much money on music. Boy, were they in for a disappointment in the coming years, because since then, I have NEVER slowed down. Rather, it has gone through the roof, to put it mildly.
Fully aware of my parents’ opinion, I still went happily to the music store. I parked my bike outside and went in. I was unstoppable. I was king in this store, at the age of nine, I ruled the place. I was on the move, starting to build my record collection, and this certain release by Elvis Presley had spoken to me the last times I’d been there to just check things out. Now I had the money, so I went for it. They still had the 12” album, which was awesome. I simply loved this one. The cover is a close-up of the man himself. It was powerful. It was raw, and masculine. I know, I know, those are weird thoughts for a nine-year old. Though I have to say I really did see Elvis as a man of power. More God than man, for sure. Funnily enough, my maternal uncle was all into Elvis as well, and has several albums and singles that I got from him. He had sold most of the vinyls to make a quick buck.
I could never do that. Although, some years later, I had decided that I would sell some of my vinyls that were really just fillers. I put an ad in my local paper. A few people called, and some wanted to come by to have a look when I was away for a few hours. My mom said she would take care of it. I showed her the stack of records that I would be ok to part with, and went out the door. When I came back, she had sold lots. I had a good amount of money on my hands for a ten-or eleven year old, but… no, this can’t be! She had forgotten which stack was for sale! So she had just told the buyers to go through it and pick whatever they wanted.
Needless to say, she had kept the shitty stuff and gotten rid of tons of my most loved albums. I love my mother to death, but I can never truly forgive her for that one. All I was into was gone - Elvis, The Sweet, Slade, Bay City Rollers, Suzi Quatro, and others. Later, I found out that a kid I went to class with had bought a great deal of them. But he was not interested in letting me buy them back. I could have sworn I would never talk to my mother again after that incident!
Since then I have held my records so dear. It’s almost like they’re my children. No matter what I have bought since then, I have held onto it for dear life. Have never traded or sold since. They are all memories from my life up until now, and they each tell their own story. How could I then part with them?
The first time my paths crossed with hard rock music was in 1976. At the age of ten, I went to check out the local magazine newsstand, as so many times before. Back in 1976, there was a much bigger market for music magazines than what it is today. One of my favorites was the Danish magazine called “Go”. They often had features on my favorite artists, like Elvis Presley, ABBA, The Sweet and the Danish act, Gasolin. It was a great magazine. I went through it, and saw something that made my jaw drop. A four-paged article with two full-paged pinups of four masked men - monsters, or perhaps comic book heroes. I had absolutely no idea who or WHAT they were, but I stood there just staring for a long time. Finally I put it back in its place and left.
Days later, I couldn’t forget what I’d seen. So I went back to the newsstand to buy it. Went home, locked myself in my room and read the article. It detailed the first European tour for the band. They had just played in Copenhagen. They called themselves KISS. Four New York based guys were about to rule my life for many, many years to come. I didn’t even know their music, but judging from their looks, it had to be aggressive rock. The next day, I again went to the Rillen Music Store to check if they had anything with them in stock. And they did. The cover designs were awesome. Super heroes, they were. Only one problem - I didn’t have any money. So I left.
A short time thereafter, our family visited my dad’s relatives, in the Danish town of Nyborg, where we stayed with my dad’s sister Grete. Back then, some of her children still lived at home. To my surprise, my cousin, Anne, had several cassette tapes with KISS. I was finally able to hear them. The tape “Rock N Roll Over” was my first ever acquaintance with KISS. Some of the songs that really hit me were “Hard Luck Woman”, “Makin’ Love”, “Love ‘Em, Leave ‘Em”... Songs that slowly but surely got me into the band.
From here on out, my life would never be the same again. The next few years… oh, boy. Have to apologize to my family for some of the things I did during these years. It wasn’t always so respectful towards them I was in my pre-teens when I started sneaking into their purses to see if they had some spare change for something I couldn’t afford myself. Did I get caught? Of course I did! Or a couple of years later, when we visited family in Norway. They lived several miles outside of Drammen, which was a bigger city. I had gotten word of a music merchandise store there, that I of course wanted to visit. I had no idea how to get there by public transportation, and neither did I want to spend money on it. So I walked. I didn’t tell my family because there’s no way they would have allowed me to go if they knew.
Only today can I understand how worried they all must have been. By the time I finished shopping, it was getting dark. I stayed at the store. I remember the girl who was the store clerk. She was so nice and friendly, she had a lot of cool posters from magazines that I got for free. This was the year 1980. So the new KISS posters from the “Unmasked” era had just been released. They were awesome.
The girl in the store offered to drive me back to my aunt and uncle’s. That was so sweet of her, but it was also when all hell broke loose when I came home to my family. This is how the addiction started for me. I wanted stuff. I collected stuff. If I had the cash, I would buy it. Or I would sell my personal belongings to get money. My monthly allowance was not enough. Again, I do apologize to my family. Thank God I grew out of it, but then again, what kid has not been in mama’s purse to check for some extra cash? I dare say we all have.
The situation got harder in the years 1979 through to 1982. It was no longer only about the money and the dedication to the music. Starting from the 7th grade, I grew to be more and more of an outsider, only because I didn’t want to share in the things my peers did. Which was chasing girls and partying. I rather wanted a poster or an album. I was loyal to the music. And they looked stupid to me. They did all I didn’t care about, so all of a sudden, we didn’t have too much to talk about anymore.
In case you are wondering, I’ve only been drunk off my mind a handful of times in my life. I find alcohol disgusting and I don’t like drunk people. I will have the odd beer or two. I have never once tried drugs. Never smoked cigarettes. And trust me - I never will.
Neither was I concerned about my clothes or hair. I had the new music releases to worry about. It wasn’t popular when I didn’t want to join them. So I was pretty isolated in the last school years. What came out of that is I got very tired of school. So for the first time in my life, music was a comfort to me. It was no longer just my biggest interest, it became my best friend. And all of a sudden, certain songs got a new meaning for me. You know when you first start to connect certain songs to your first love, a special vacation or whatever.
It just amazed me because in my younger school years, I’d been very popular. Had plenty of friends, and got love letters from girls in my class. I had a crush on the school janitor’s daughter. Her name was Janne Sorensen and she was in my class. Man, she was cute.
See, again I tend to drift away. Going back in time in my head. Back to the story - in the year 1981, the local music store Rillen asked me to help out in my spare time, to work there. My heaven on earth. I loved it. I had always dreamt of working with music. So this was literally a dream come true.
Now in my 15th year, I got another shock that year. My heroes, the four masked New Yorkers, cut their hair. Not only that, they released a soundtrack album, “Music From the Elder.” It was not the music they were associated with up until then. But I LOVED it. I remember the day - I got the LP as a gift from the record store along with a 7” box set with Elvis Presley, and a 100 danish kroner in cash.
The most memorable KISS record, for me, came in 1982. “Creatures of the Night.” I still say that everyone should own a copy of this release. It’s a classic. It was produced by Michael James Jackson, and I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for the recording. By the end of the tour for this album, KISS introduced a new band to the scene - MOTLEY CRUE. I didn’t know the first thing about this band yet, KISS still filled up my days to the max. Over the years, I had built up a huge collection. In 1998, it was said it was one of the biggest private KISS collections in Europe. Today, I’ve sold more than 90% of everything.
The “Creatures of the Night” album was the last KISS album with them in full makeup. Two of the original members had already left the band, and now they dropped their trademark. Without the makeup, they became just another rock band. So then, again, flashback to my days at the record store. Finding “Shout at the Devil” by Motley Crue. For me, it was and still is very important to be entertained in a way that makes me forget everyday life for just a moment. When an act just comes on the stage in a shirt and a pair of jeans, and performs the songs… Well, that’s not really my cup of tea. I need the big show aspect.
In 1984, it was advertised that Motley Crue would come to Europe for the first time, supporting Iron Maiden. I had two tickets for the show in Copenhagen, but a couple of days before the shows, I got sick. So I had to stay home in bed, and my dad and my brother went instead. Even though I didn’t see it myself, they rocked this tour. It was awesome. These four young Californian guys were hungry and created chaos everywhere they went. I was a young adult now, had just turned 18, and wanted nothing else but to stay true to the music. I had already said five years earlier that “I am never going to get married or have kids.” Things like that would simply be in the way of my dreams. I still don’t regret it, but I probably would have if I lost my interest in the music. I have no interest in the so-called normal life. I don’t really have any other interests, except for traveling the world and meeting new people and seeing other cultures.
So the “Shout at the Devil” record is how it all started for me, with Motley Crue. But the band didn’t bring much merchandise with them on tour in Europe. It was the same deal all over again when they came back for the tour with their next album, “Theatre of Pain.” So I started to hunt for things. I often asked my brother to step in and buy things in my place, because I still tried to be loyal to KISS. During their “Animalize” tour in Europe, I saw them at nearly all the stops. I bought so much tour merchandise. That’s how it is with Motley Crue now, too - a financial nightmare. Merchandise was huge in the 1980’s. The official products alone were plentiful, and all kinds of things. Shirts, posters, scarves, buttons, patches, stickers… and compared to now, each item only cost a few bucks. Not like now, when things have spiraled out of control financially. After Motley Crue’s reunion tour, it just snowballed as far as the merchandise line goes. It’s hard to be on top of it.
The first time I saw the band members off stage was also in 1984, by the end of the European tour. All I got was a glimpse, a chance to say a quick hello and nothing more. If only I knew what was ahead of me. I remember I almost didn’t believe it was really them because these newfound heroes of mine were somehow not real. Just like KISS. And then again not at all, really. They weren’t comic book heroes. But the visual aspect of the “Shout at the Devil” tour was right up my alley. By 1984 and forward, I was gravitating more towards Motley Crue than KISS, but I was still trying to get everything that both bands released. I started to have financial problems because I just couldn’t let KISS go.
I was slowly but surely leaving a normal life behind. I couldn’t find happiness in the ordinary. I didn’t want to be like everyone else. Still to this day I don’t long for it at all. People who don’t have a passion for something bores me. I can’t help it, it gets to me and drives me insane. I have absolutely nothing to talk to them about, and vice versa, I’m pretty sure.
The years of 1984 and 1985 were huge for me when it came to traveling and merchandise. On both the KISS and Motley Crue front. On the side, I also bought a lot of records. Sometimes when people go through my collection, they go, “What the hell?!” They are dumbfounded when they find pop records in my collection. With that being said, there are very few pop releases that I like. It feels fake and not real. I need real music - electric instruments and some good old PA stacks. But I have such a passion for music in general that I really want to go and see these huge names, the cornerstones in the music industry - no matter what genre.
I didn’t know any stories behind any of the Motley Crue or KISS songs back then. It was only about the sound for me, whether I liked it or not. But around 1985 or so, I started reading a lot about my musical heroes - books and biographies. Although I have to say Elvis is the exception to the rule. I read a lot about him already in school. He simply meant too much for me not to.