Beatlefan internet columnist Kit O’Toole talks in Issue #223 with Norwegian Beatles expert Roger Stormo, whose blog/news site WogBlog has attracted a worldwide audience, boasting readers from the United States, the UK, France, Germany, Japan, Canada, the Netherlands, Russia, Australia, and Brazil. A past president of Norway’s Beatles fan club Norwegian Wood, Stormo has written articles for the organization’s newsletter and co-authored the Beatles discography “The Beatles in Norway.” Here is an expanded version of his conversation with Kit.
When and why did you start WogBlog?
I originally started up a blog in mid-2008 after finding that I had stories I wanted to tell that didn’t warrant publication in the Norwegian Wood fan club fanzine that I usually write for. I was also keen on having an international audience, so with that in mind, I started writing it in English. I originally called it Wogew Central because “Wogew” has always been my handle on the internet, in various forums, on usenet, chat rooms and other user groups. I then hit upon the idea of renaming the blog to just WogBlog, because it was catchier and rhymed — a terrible idea I’m afraid, because “wog” is not a polite word, which escaped me at the time.
How would you distinguish WogBlog from other Beatles sites?
First and foremost, I am writing from a Norwegian and European perspective. This sets the blog apart from most Beatles blogs, because a great number of writers are U.S.-based and a few are British. Secondly, I write the blog mostly for my own pleasure. It was never intended to be a news site as such, but I tend to write news either when I have an exclusive, or when there’s a new major release, or when I feel like it. Also, I feel that many of the other writers are skeptical when new information comes from non-U.K. or non-U.S. sources, whereas I often find that, for instance, “foreign” branches of the record companies aren’t as tight-lipped about upcoming releases as their parent companies.
You have broken some big stories. Without revealing your secrets, how do you find leads?
These are all happy accidents — either I am alerted by some of the people I know in the fringes of the record industry, or I can stumble upon something while combing through the internet on the lookout for something else entirely. Here’s an example: A record reviewer friend of mine got a release plan from Universal Music, listing upcoming releases. He informed me that, alongside the re-release of “The Beatles Live at The BBC,” a second volume also appeared on list. I mentioned it in a blog post. A day or so later, as I was Googling around, I found that MCA Music (which is the Universal Music company in the Philippines) actually had posted an image on their Facebook account of what was supposedly going to be the cover photo for the release. As we all now know, this was a colorized version of a well-known Dezo Hoffmann photo. So, I felt I had enough to be able to write a blog post, and I included the photo there.
What is your favorite article you have written, and why?
A holy grail for many people over the years has been to find amateur films from John Lennon’s guest appearance at Elton John’s concert at Madison Square Garden Nov 28, 1974. I discovered that a girl called Mary Jane said [in YouTube comments] that she had footage from the actual concert. I contacted her in 2011, and she was able to transfer her home movie to digital and send it to me. I encouraged her to get in touch with Elton’s management, which she did.
Elton was very happy that actual film from the event had been discovered, and invited Mary Jane to come backstage at one of his concerts. His company bought the film from her, and in a thank-you note to me, Mary Jane told me that my interaction and encouragement had saved her family house, which she was able to keep thanks to the money she got from Elton’s company for the film. A year ago, Elton published part of Mary Jane’s film to YouTube.
Your blog is based in Norway; how does the location influence the content you produce?
Let me tell you about Norway and The Beatles. Norway is a country which was never visited by The Beatles as a group. …
Eventually, Paul McCartney came to Norway to play a concert with Wings in 1972, which was a big event for all the Norwegian Beatle people. He didn’t return until 1989, but has played here several times since; last time was this summer. Ringo visited Norway for a TV show, “Cilla in Scandinavia,” and shot a video for “It Don’t Come Easy,” but didn’t come here to play until his lone concert here in 2011. John and George never visited Norway.
Observing The Beatles from Norway is looking at them from a distance. And we are happy whenever there’s a Norwegian connection; in the new “Eight Days A Week” film, one of the photos of The Beatles in Denmark was taken by a Norwegian photographer. You would never have noticed, unless you’re from Norway. And it was probably one of my blog posts that alerted the production company about these photos.
What Beatles and solo projects are you most anticipating in 2017?
Like in 1979, I am always looking forward to the next Paul McCartney album. Ringo, not so much, but I will buy it and play it for a while. I don’t know if there’s going to be some kind of new release from The Beatles in 2017, but, if they do finally get around to that “Let It Be” movie, I’d be very pleased!