Nationalteatern, challenged only by Hoola Bandoola Band, was the brightest shining star on the Swedish progressive rock scene in the '70s. And unlike many other progressive rock bands, they included a big dose of rock & roll, making the music quite easy to access. Also distinguishing Nationalteatern, the lyrics, while being highly political, were more of socio-realistic stories than the programmatic and dogmatic teachings of so many of the band's contemporaries.
Initially formed as a free theater group in Lund, 1968, Nationalteatern moved to Göteborg and started to put heavy emphasis on the musical part of the plays. The musical maestro of the group was Anders Melander, and he also played most of the instruments at the recording of the groups debut album, Ta Det Som Ett Löfte......Ta Det Inte Som Ett Hot. Much of the music stemmed from previous plays and was far from coherent. Still the song "Ut I Kylan" became a minor hit, getting some airplay. On the second album, Livet Är En Fest, Ulf Dageby was allowed more room, and he was later to evolve into the group's driving force. The album was more straightforward than the previous one and contained more rock, something that proved very successful. The title song was written by Dageby and would become Nationalteatern's biggest hit ever. Kåldolmar Och Kalsipper, released in 1976, was mainly a children's album with theatrical music. But on Barn Av Vår Tid, the first album featuring Totta Näslund, the group returned to rock and to lyrics about working class kids.
The problem of combining music written for plays with music written for rock albums resulted in Nationalteaterns Rockorkester being formed in 1980. As the name indicates, the group was to concentrate on writing rock music, leaving the theatre to others. The formation only lasted for a year and a half though, and Näslund and Nikke Ström went on to form Tottas Bluesband, while Dageby recorded a solo album, En Dag På Sjön, and wrote film music. Meanwhile, the theatre lived on, releasing the children's album Peter Pan in 1987, and in 1991, Nationalteaterns Rockorkester was reunited. The album Nationalteatern Rockorkester LIVE was recorded at the ensuing tour, but the group soon disbanded again. In 2000, Dageby took the initiative to a new reunion, taking the band on a nationwide tour. ~ Lars Lovén