Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The Unique Sound of Andy Sundstrom - Andy Sundstrom/Sven Libaek (1963)

Earlier this year I wrote a post about a single by Andy Sundstrom from 1963 playing a couple of songs composed and produced by Sven Libaek. I have now come across the EP from which this single was taken thanks to Urban Bowerbird reader Rex. The Unique Sound of Andy Sundstrom features the two songs from the single - Northern Territory and Theme From Black Orpheus - and two more Libaek-penned tunes; Free Fall and Theme From An Unwritten Movie. Although I didn’t realise this after hearing the single, Sundstrom plays these songs not on a guitar, but on a balalaika. This has added a whole new layer to the music for me and makes Andy a bit of a pop oddity. Whoever thought that balalaika surf-pop from the early sixties Australian music scene even existed? Two of the tracks, Northern Territory and Theme From An Unwritten Movie would be recorded by Sven with his usual jazz ensemble of the time and included on The Music Of Sven Libaek released four years later. The third track, Free Fall, was written by Libaek and performed by Australian surf group The Atlantics on their Bombora LP from 1963. (I’m not sure who played it first - both recordings came out in 1963).

Back cover liner notes: Three years ago ANDY SUNDSTROM came to Australia as a crew member on the 38 foot ketch “Sarong”. He had a guitar under one arm and a balalaika under the other. He wasn’t planning to stay too long, as all his family live in Denmark, his country of birth. However, he fell in love, with Australia, as do so many other visitors and migrants - and he’s still here! He hasn’t wasted his three years here either, on the contrary, he has established himself as one of Australia’s leading entertainers. 

ANDY’S speciality is the balalaika and in playing it he has been referred to as the “fastest man on strings”. However, his first CBS disc was far from a fast one. It was a haunting melody simply entitled “THEME FROM AN UNWRITTEN MOVIE” and although it was not a hit for ANDY it certainly made a stir among the public as well as disc jockeys and show business personalities. It was NORTHERN TERRITORY that really established Andy as a top pop artist with his balalaika. His beautiful rendition of THEME FROM BLACK ORPHEUS also became extremely popular with the public. All these tracks you will find on this E.P. and in addition, his latest entitled FREE FALL, a virtuoso surfin’ number.

This collection could easily have been entitled - “The Best of Andy Sundstrom”, but THE UNIQUE SOUND OF ANDY SUNDSTROM seemed more appropriate. It is indeed a unique sound - this strange haunting and brilliant way of playing that rather unusual instrument the balalaika, with a pop flavor. ANDY has created a new branch of Australian entertainment business. A branch that is growing in popularity every day.

Label: CBS, produced and composed by Sven Libaek
Released: 1963
Players: Andy Sundstrom - balalaika, guitar (no other musicians credited)

EDIT: Urban Bowerbird reader "randbasic" emailed me a reconstructed version of the artwork for this record. It looks great.

EDIT 25/09/2016: Here's a short article talking about Andy's work on this EP from Australian Womens Weekly in 1962. 


  1. Good old balalaika surf pop! Love the Free Fall track particularly, Ill have to track down the Atlantics version. Unique sounds indeed.

  2. Yeah, the Atlantics version is rad too. It's from the brilliant Bombora LP which was also produced by Mr. Libaek.

  3. This is great, I'm so excited to play it... but I'm almost more excited to find out that Bombora was produced by Libaek! I mean, I have it, but I had no idea! Thanks for educating me, fellow.

  4. Happy to help. Thing is, in the early sixties, pretty much everything released on CBS was produced by Sven. I'm very interested to find out who recorded 'Free Fall' first, and wether Sven wrote it specifically for Andy or the Antlantics, or if it was written for something else entirely.

  5. Have just discovered your blog and am being blown away by your quest for ever more extraordinary musical discoveries. Keep up the amazing work!

  6. Thanks for the kind words Phillip. Always glad to see this stuff is being heard by appreciative ears!

  7. Where can a digital copy of Andy S's work be purchased? I am particularly interested in a copy of Northern Territory.

  8. Woofess, you can download the EP with the 'Mediafire' link at the bottom of the post. If you want to actually purchase some of Andy's stuff, as far as I know, none of his releases are commercially available at the present time.