Flash in The Night – Secret Service


In Park Studio, there was a 280 cm long Steinway grand piano. I loved to play some Grieg and Mozart and run through Rachmaninov's piano concert no.2. At the time, I felt a bit extra pressured to write something big. Uffe had never written anything to the band before, but now he had presented a strange song for Ola, “Fire into Ice”.

Ola told me that maybe it should be the next Secret Service single! Now long afterwards,
I understand Ola’s smartness, he wanted to make me compete with Uffe and he really succeeded!

I was going to write the band's new hit at all costs!

In 1981, Synth bands like Visage with “Fade to Grey” and Ultravox with “Vienna” had great success. They had synthesizer sounds and dark chords never heard before. Even their texts were strange, dark and poetic.
I was a little tired of trying to write normal pop songs, so I let my fingers slide into a new darker melody band at the studio grand. A piano solo with a sense of Rachmaninov followed automatically. Everything just came to me!

Ola was delighted and we recorded the song, which was not yet called anything, with the legendary Leif Allansson as engineer in Europa Studios 3. We had the first Linn drum-machine that had just arrived in Sweden and two synths: a monophonic Prophet 1 that could be synchronized with the drum machine and a Prophet 10 that was a monster synth and looked like two Prophet 5 with two keyboards. I had thought of bass notes like in “Gimme Some Loving”. 4 times eight notes followed by 2 quarter notes: F-F-F-F F-C and so on.

We recorded a drum pattern and the Prophet 1 bass, but when we listened, the bass had an eight-note error in sync. We recorded it again and now it became right. Finally, it was time for Prophet 10. When we struck down the first chord, it sang as if the sky opened.
Leif Allansson had brilliantly saved the misguided synth bass, and when he played the background with both bass tracks, panning it left and right and with a lot of delay, we had a sound that was never heard before!

When we got to the studio the following day, there was a rumour that Ola had been injured in an accident! Someone had heard that he collided with his motorcycle and someone else had even heard that he was dead!
We were all shocked and just walked around, waiting to hear more about what happened. Then the studio phone rang. It was Ola who wheezed faintly:

– Tim, it’s me. I've crashed with the bike but still alive! Continue recording! Tim, listen up, keep on recording!

Click! He hung up… Only the day after, we were told that Ola had had a lunch meeting with an artist Annica Boller and would give her a ride back to her work on his motorcycle.
It had begun to rain and the street was slippery. As bad luck had it, a bus was crossing the road, even though it should have stopped! Ola couldn’t break and drove straight into the bus! He broke several bones while Annica Boller, who was behind him, managed to be unharmed.

Ola recovered, and Björn was asked to write a dark, somewhat incomprehensible poetic lyric. He brought his text to the studio when it was time for Ola to sing and we read all through Björn’s text lines.

“As the break of dawn came closer
All my hopes seemed so forlorn…”

Beautiful poetically and incomprehensible... But the line in the chorus that would be the title of the song did not work at all! (I've forgotten how it was) Björn, Ola, me and Ulf walked around and around the studio kitchen and brooded.

“Something with flash” someone said. Like “Flash and The Pan”, but that’s a pop group, said another one. I like the word “night” said a third person, “night” is moody and a good sound to sing.

“Flash in The Night” Ola said! That’s the title, after which he went out and sang.

But something was not right yet. The melody was good, the arrangement was good and now the text was good too ...What was wrong?

We sent a tape to Jaques Atali at Vogue, our record company in France, for his opinion. But time passed and the song fell almost in oblivion. Finally, Ola said that now we have to finish “The Flash”. We would meet up in the Park studio, Ola had ideas.

Unfortunately, I was sick and could not come to the studio, but Ola, Uffe and Acke, our sound engineer went there anyway. They started raising the speed of the 24-channel tape recorder, so the song went much faster before mixing. After mixing, they cut the quarter-inch tape with scissors and tied it back totally differently with scotch (well, that was the way to do it at that time). After they were finished, they called me:

– Listen Tim, Ola shouted by phone! Listen to a super hit!

They played the up speeded and cut tape and I heard on the phone that this was something new and at the same time, so incredibly beautiful. It also became a great hit everywhere, not at least in France where it sold a million copies and also became a signature melody in the French TV News or something similar. The only record company that did not like “Flash in The Night” was our German record label Teldec.

“This is not Secret Service” warned their A&R man Ola on phone, and it certainly did not sound like Ye-Si-Ca. Teldec released it only a long time after it sold millions in the rest of the world, but then it was too late…

The band made a lot of television appearances with “Flash in The Night”, but the most important show would be broadcasted from Cannes and reached out across Europe. Jaques Atali from Vogue was there and we had sent him the tape with the right mix in advance for our playback appearance. The rehearsal began. But then something different than the expected “Flash in The Night” came out in the monitors! It went slowly with another intro and Ola’s vocals did not come in the right places! Ola was confused and looked at the others in the band who were just as shocked. What was this?

Ola called furiously at Jaques Atali. –This is the old test tape we sent you six months ago! Why did you give them this and not the real version that we sent you for the TV broadcast?

Jaques took the cigarette from his mouth, shrugged his shoulders and said calmly that for the live broadcast it would be the right version, which he could guarantee. Everyone felt calm and in the evening, they were on stage again – live streaming across Europe!

“Flash in The Night” started in the band's monitors… but again, the wrong version with slow tempo and cut so that Ola could never start singing... It was rumoured that Ola spent the night chasing Jaques around the whole of Cannes with an axe…

Uffe’s “Fire into Ice” later became flipside of our single “Cry Softly” and of course it was on the album “Cutting Corners”. It was a good song, and without it I’d never written “Flash in The Night”! So, thank you Uffe!

Many years later I met Jean Michel Jarre at an event in Provence. An elegant and sympathetic giant in synth music. I stretched out my hand to thank him for all the inspiration he had given me. But before I managed to say a word, he asked me instead: – Are you the one who wrote “Flash in The Night”? If so, I'm your admirer!

Well, even if I’m an ant in comparison, that was one compliment I truly enjoyed.

Secret Service
Flash in The Night
Secret Service Flash in The Night