It's a New Years Eve. Since we're living times of ominious signs in economics, it might be appropriate to listen this song :-). Kivikasvotwas a vocal group that was formed in 1965 while the members were all serving in the Finnish Army. It consisted of Ismo Sajakorpi, Ilkka Hemming, Matti "Fredi" Siitonen ja Georg Dolivo. It was not primarily a recording group, but a group of entertainers that could sing in harmony. They had very succesful TV Show in the beginning of 70's. All individual members have established solo careers, especially Fredi, who has many times been presented in Finnpicks (see for example this entry). The quartet recorded "Tuhon partaalla" (On the brink of disaster) in 1965. The original is the well-known "Eve Of Destruction" sung by Barry McGuire on the crest of the 60's folk- and protest movement. Barry had been in the singing group New Christy Minstrels and co-wrote their first and biggest hit single: "Green, Green." He left the group in 1965 and continued as a solo folk rock singer. His one and only big hit was "Eve of Destruction" that went to #1 on charts. According to McGuire, it was recorded in one take on a Thursday morning and then he got a call from the record company at 7:00 the next Monday morning, telling him to turn on the radio - his song was playing.
Merja Rantamäki is known for her personal singing voice described as "gypsy vibrato". Her first recording and her big breakthrough in 1976 was "Mä mistä löytäisin sen laulun" (Where would I find that song). The end of the the 70's was her prime time with 4 succesful albums under her belt. In the beginning of 80's Merja abandoned her singing career and devoted to family life. The original song was called "A Gde Mne Vzjat Takuju Pesnju" (Where do I take this song ) and was recorded by Russian Olga Voronec in the 60's. Olga was a famous mezzo-soprano performing mainly Russian folk songs. In 1956 at the International Folk Festival in France, the Russian folk song "Kalinka" performed by Olga enjoyed such success that the singer was renamed as "Olga-Kalinka". Her voice ranging from delicate pianissimo to powerful forte contributed to her big success in Soviet Union.
From the end of the 60's through the beginning of the 80's was the era of left-wing song movement in Finland. It had its roots in political theatre in the 60's and the program groups of the radical youth movement of the university students. One of the later emblems of the era was Arja Saijonmaa and her "Ystävän laulu" (Song about a friend). Although the lyrics (written by Juha Vainio) of the song are nothing more than simple story of how a true friend behaves, the song has been labeled as "political". Arja Saijonmaa recorded the song in 1983 and it became one of her greatest hits. Arja was already an established entertainer at the time having recorded with Mikis Theodorakis and making other international appearences. She later made her biggest breakthrough in Sweden. The original song is of Russian origin and called "Pesnya o druge" (Song about friend). It was written and performed by legendary Russian troubadour Vladimir Vysotski. Vysotski sang simple ballads about love. war, peace and everyday Soviet life. However in Soviet Union he was considered as "forbidden singer", and thus his recordings are often made with elementary equipment. The quality of sound is not very good as you can hear yourself. But the feeling of utmost sincerity is there ...
This time another old Finnpick artist Vieno Kekkonen (see previous entry). Her 1957 recording of "Rakkauden kiertokulku" (The circulation of love) has well stood the test of time and has later been versioned for example by Finnish legend Rauli "Badding" Somerjoki (of whom we will be hearing more in future Finnpicks). The original song is a rare 1954 recording of Teresa Brewer, an American pop and jazz singer who was one of the most popular female singers of the 1950s.
Well - I'm back from the holidays. And it's time to present those old finnpicks again. Let's get the wheel slowly turning with our old friend Danny and his recording from the year 1966, "Hiljainen kitara" (Silent guitar). Danny had a remarkable ability to pick up songs that weren't hits in Finland (or anywhere else for that matter) and make fine and tasteful cover versions of them. This is one of those songs. The original "Gringo's Guitar" was done by the famous crooner Perry Como on his 1965 Nashville country album. The album was produced by Chet Atkins, and I guess it is he that plays the Gringo's guitar on the record. The song was composed by Cindy Walker. She was a renowned country artist in her own right, but I don't know if she never recorded this beautiful eerie western ballad herself.
Let's enjoy of some summer feelings in the middle of darkest winter. This song makes me always think happy thoughts. Ossi Ahlapuro and Ritva Oksanen recorded "Maria Isabel" in 1970. It was the A-side of the only single they did together. Both Ossi and Ritva were actors, but both also cut several records, primarily in the 70's. Ossi can be called "voice actor". He has given his voice to several animated movie characters and he has often been heard in radio productions. Ritva is an esteemed all-round actor with many appraised performances especially in TV Dramas. The original "Maria Isabel" was THE summer hit in Spain in 1969. It was performed by the group Los Payos, a trio from Sevilla. The song was their big breakthrough and became an anthem in the Spanish discotheques in the tourist resorts, and many tourists bought the single as a souvenir. What was unique in the sound of Los Payos was the combining of flamenco guitar with the normal acoustic pop guitar and spicing it up with flute.
Here's the pair:
p.s. I will now leave for holiday, so no Finnpicks for 2 weeks ...
Marion Rung , or just Marion, (see previous entry) has been among the leading ladies of Finnish pop music for over 40 years. She started her career in the beginning og 60's and is still recording and performing actively. She recorded "Kylähäät" (Village wedding) in 1976. The lyrics (done by famous lyricist Juha Vainio) tell a story about really wild wedding in some unnamed village. Marion recorded also a German version of this song as "Der Bauer und sein Weibchen". The lyrics in Finnish version are quite different compered to the original song "Campesino". It modestly tells about a peasant who happens to see a lady bathing in the river and then cannot forget this sight. The Spanish lyrics were written by the performer of the song Georgie Dann. Georgie is a French singer who primarily made his career in Spain in the 70's. As this song "Campesino" is composed by an Italian songwriter Franco Bracardi, it truly is an international effort. It was released in 1975 and was a summer hit in Spain.
Jouko & Kosti (see previous entry) recorded "Sisäinen kauneus" (Inner beauty) in 1971. It was b-side of a single and didn't get much attention at the time. But there's something in the song that calls for repeated listening. It grows on you - perhaps there's some "inner beauty" in it, too. The tune is composed by famous songwriters Alber Hammond and Mike Hazlewood, and performed originally by Irishman Joe Dolan (see earlier entry), who has recorded several songs written by Hammond -Hazlewood team. It was released as a single but was not one of Joe's biggest hits. However, the song is very well worth to listen to, and perhaps to listen to again and again ...
For some reason contry & western songs are not so widely covered in Finland. Which is odd, becouse there's a basic Finnish mood in many country songs; wailing and sadness presented with down-to-earth lyrics and hummable melodies. Often with a strong story line. Here's one great country cover song with a sad story inside it. Eero, Jussi & the Boys (see previous entry) recorded "Tummanpunainen" (Dark red) in 1966. It was released as a single and fared very well, probaly aided by the fact that another "story song" "Balladi kanuunasta (Ballad of a canon) was on the other side of the record. This story about a boy and a girl, fast red car, and sheriff (girl's father) was first told in American country ballad called "Candy Apple Red". It was recorded in 1964 by Bill Anderson and George Hamilton IV, both popular country artists in USA, but less known in Finland. I don't know which of the gentleman cut the definite first version but here I represent the Anderson version. He's been named "Whispering Bill", and when you listen to this song you understand why. BTW, "Candy apple red" is the name code used by manufacturing companies to define a shade of red similar to the red caramelized sugar coating on candied apples. So now you know what color the car was ...
Updated 19.1.2009: I have added the George Hamilton IV version.
Arto Sotavalta was only 14 years old when he fronted the group Rattle Sound Five and won second prize in Finnish Battle of the Bands. More success came with the group Rogues in 1966–1969. (This group included future Finnish guitar legend Jukka Tolonen). The first hit for Arto was this song "Löysin rantein" (literally "with limp wrists", a finnish idiom for "take it easy", not to confuse with the homosexual meanings it has in English language world today) recorded in 1967. The original song was Royal Guardsmen's (see yesterdays entry) 3rd and first non-Snoopy single. It was not nearly as successful as the two preceding Snoopy -singles and reached only number 46 in the charts. But for some reason it was picked by the Finns and made to relatively bigger hit here.
In the aftermath of Independence Day and after seeing the war movie "Tuntematon sotilas" (Unknown soldier) for the umpteenth time. this song might well fit in. Pirkka-Pekka Petelius (see previous entry) recorded "Ganjalasta Kajahtaa" (Big noise from Ganjala) in 1993. I guess it must be one of those RUI -records (Recorded Under Influece). Otherwise I cannot understand the parallels between Finnish Marshall of War Mannerheim and Ethopian Emperor Haile Selassie, and references to drugs (Ganja). But perhaps this great reggae version called for those kind of ingredients. BTW, Pirkka-Pekka played one of those unknown soldiers in a later adaption of the above-mentioned movie. The original is this time coming from USA. Royal Guardsmen had a huge hit with "Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron" in 1966. It's a novelty song about the imaginary World War I antics of Charlie Brown's pet beagle in the Charles Schulz' comic strip Peanuts. The Royal Guardsmen were a rock band from Florida the band adopted their Anglophile name during the British Invasion of the Beatles and others. They achieved their fame with this song, their first single. Snoopy, the Red Baron, and aircraft became a recurring theme in their later songs. Royal Guardsmen are currently experiencing a renewal and have recorded a new Snoopy song, "Snoopy vs. Osama"!
p.s. as requested - I've added the Kontra's version.
As this is the Independence Day of Finland, and the 91st birthday of Finland, it's time for congratulations. Robin (real name Esa Simonen) was a gym teacher but also pop singer. He sometimes combined both by performing while standing on his head. He recorded "Mua onnitelkaa" (Congratulate me) in 1968, gaining moderate success with it. The original was the English entry in that years Eurovision Song Contest "Congratulations" presented by Cliff Richard.
Danny (see previous entry) recorded "Maantieltä taloon" (From the road to the house) in 1972 It was quite a big hit at the time and you could hear the song all over the place. I guess Danny was covering the internationally known Chicory Tip version, but the original came fron Germany. And again the man behind it was Giorgio Moroder. He composed the song and the original lyrics in German for "Nachts scheint die Sonne" (The sun shines at nights) were done by the artist who performed it - Michael Holm. Michael is a well-known German singer, musician, songwriter and producer. Although he is generally known as a "Schlager" singer, he also created a band called Cusco that has succeeded in reaching a well-merited position in the alternative music with a distinctive style based on the folk roots of South America.
Enough with that soft stuff! Here's an entry that some consider to be the first Finnish Punk Record. Antti "Andy" Einiö recorded "Farmer John" in 1964. Antti was not a singer (and perhaps you can hear it on the record), but music business man and TV music program host. This was his first and only (well, amost) try in the pop singing. He cut a couple of other rock'n roll songs, but a career as a pop star wasn't his ambition. Antti has especially been known as a promoter, and has frequently given Finns the first opportunity to see the big world stars performing live. In his early years Andy was also an active sportsman, winning Finnish Championships both in hockey and bandy. The original "Farmer John" was delivered with more subdued fashion by American rock'n roll duo Don & Dewey in 1959. Don was Don Bowman (later better known as "Sugarcane" Harris) and Dewey was Dewey Terry. Although Don and Dewey did not have any hits of their own, several of the songs that they wrote and/or recorded would appear on the charts later, performed by other artists. Dewey penned "Farmer John", and it became a hit for the group The Premiers in 1964. Antti Einiö most probably covered Premiers' version.
One more dramatic song about love and eyes and faces done by Seija Simola. "Rakkaus kasvoista kasvoihin" (Love face to face) was on the other side of "Sulle silmäni annan" -single 1969. In fact both songs were recorded on the same day - 10.02.1969. It must have been a good day for Seija,. It was a good day for Finnish pop music, anyway. The original songa again was of Italian origin. "Gli Occhi Dell'Amore" (Eyes of love) was a minor hit single for Patti Pravo (see also this entry) in 1968. Patti is known for her contralto voice and has made a long successful gareer in Italy. She's still performing and doing tours today.
We continue this romantic spree with Seija Simola (see previous entry). She recorded "Sulle silmäni annan" (I'll give my eyes to you) in 1969. The song has become a classic in dramatic pop. It is considered to be one of Seija's finest moments. The original tune once more originated from Italy. It was composed by Vittorio Ferri for his daughter Gabriella to sing. Gabriella Ferri co-wrote the lyrics to "Ti regalo gli occhi miei" (I give you my eyes) She had broke onto the Rome singing scene in 1965 by singing popular Roman songs. During her career, she also performed Neapolitan and Latin American pieces. During the 1970s, she starred on several TV shows, but by the 1990s, she had largely left the stage. Gabriella died in 2004 after falling from a third-floor balcony, but her songs live everafter.
After the disco thumping we will move into more romantic mood. Tapani Kansa released "Sulle" (For you) as a single in 1977. It was medium-sized hit for him and the song has become a regular part of his repertoire. The original song "Il Etait Une Fois Nous Deux" (Once there were us two), was done into an European-wide hit by famous singer Joe Dassin in 1976. It was composed by Dassin's - and our - old friend Salvatore "Toto" Cutugno, and also recorded by Cutugno's group Albatros as "Monja Monja". Joe Dassin was born in USA but emigrated later to Europe. His father was the movie director Jules Dassin. And probably partly becouse of his famous father, he secured his first recording contract in the 60's. The song "Les Champs-Élysées" was his first international hit and "Taka Takata" 1972 made him world star.
We now celebrate the end of our Finnpicks Disco Week by drinking campagne with Lea Laven. She recorded one fine example of Finnish disco called "Samppanjaa" (Champagne) in 1983. The original song didn't actually tell about drinking champagne, but was called "Warsaw nights" And it really was from Poland (although heavily produced by Germans). The song was performed by a Warsaw group called Dwa Plus Jeden (2+1 in Polish, and yes, it was three of them). It was sometimes considered as Polish Abba, but it's hard to see why. The band was fronted by sexy Elzbieta Dmoch who also took care of the lead singing. He was accompanied by two bearded guys who seemed not to have any active role on stage. They sang partly in English, as you can hear also in this song.
Lea Laven (see previous entry) cut several disco records. One of them was "Mennäänks meille" (Let's go to my place) was released in 1982. The original is again coming fron the Frenchmen Jean Kluger and Daniel Vangarde (real name Bangalter) that produced and wrote this for Ottawan in 1982 as "Musique Magique". The song is of course worldwide known with the English title "Crazy Music".
Anita Hirvonen (see previous entry) did her share of Finndisco. One fine example is "Ihanaa Elämää" (Wonderful life) recorded in 1982. It was somewhat different performance than the original one, done in Anita's own style. The original "Raising My Family" was made to worldwide hit in 1980 by singer songwriter Steve Kekana. Steve, born in 1958 in South Africa, lost his sight at age five, but with over twenty albums to his credit, has been a consistent force in the South African music scene since the early 1980’s.
Well, this is pure classic Disco. Mona Carita (real name Mona Hautanen) recorded "Anna kulta anna" (Let me, darling, let me) in 1981. It was destined to be big hit and it was. Mona Carita was picked up and recruited in pop business while attending Paula Koivuniemi's recording session. She and her girlfriend formed a duo named Cissy and made a single that didn't go nowhere. But Mona Carita continued as solo artist and broke through with the cover of Boney M's Rasputin in 1979. However it was probably hard to finad suitable material for her vocal abilities, and her career faded shortly after the disco boom. The original song "Haut les mains" (Hands up) was done by disco duo Ottawan. They were fronted by Martinique-born lead singer Jean Patrick and a girl named Annette, with Frenchmen Jean Kluger and Daniel Vangarde producing and songwriting. We have heard of Kluger-Vangarde before (see previous entry "Kun kohdattiin"). In addition to "Hands Up", Ottawan did also another absolute Disco Classic, "D.I.S.C.O". BTW, the band is said to be created to appeal especially to the gay section of the disco community. We present here both the French and the English versions of the song.
Updated on 01.01.2010: added another popular Finnish version from 1989 by Kikka.
Finnpicks Disco Week proudly presents Silhuetit, a vocal group that performed "Jos mulle sydämesi annat" (If you give me your heart) in 1977. It was the only hit of the short-lived group. It consisted of 4 male singers Arto Alaspää and Martti Metsäketo and two female singers Irina Milan and Marianne Nyman. All of them have had some success in the music business on their own. Especially Irana Milan has a long career starting already in the 60's. The original was a song of Italian origin but sung in Spanish (in addition to the title/refrain there was actually only one other sentence: "la noche me habla de ti") by a band that also had Spanish name "El Pasador". Like Silhuetit, El Pasador remained a One Hit Wonder. They were basically a studio project by Celso Valli, an Italian producer, songwriter and an all-around Italian disco dude, who also co-wrote this catchy "Amada mia, amore mio" song.
Finnpicks Disco Week continues now with Meiju Suvas singing "Tää onnea on" (This is happiness), released as a single and on an album in 1982. The album sold 60000 items and earned a Diamond Disc for Meiju. Meiju was very popular artist in the 80's performing mainly disco-orientated cover songs. In the 90's she turned into covering Spanish and Greek songs, many picked by herself. She is still performing and recently celebrated her 25th year as a performer. Despite the Spanish title, the original was a Dutch song and sung by a duo with a French name - Fantastique. And this style of disco music was labeled as Italo Disco. So very international mix! The duo comprised the talents of Dick Das and Astrid Leuweringen. They had a couple of hits in the beginning of 80's. But rarely heard since.
Next in Finnpicks Disco is Lady Paula. Paula Koivuniemi (see previous entry). She performed "Luotan sydämen ääneen" (I'll trust in the voice of the heart) in 1982. It was released as a single and became one her biggest hits. The original song was called "Let Me Sing" and came from Belgium. It was performed by Emly Starr, sometimes called "Disco Queen Of The Benelux". Emly started her career with artist name "Heidi", but changed it in 1975 when she met singer-composer-producer Tony Winter alias Kick Dandy. Later - in order to make Emly's stage-act visually more interesting - dancers were added, and Emly Starr Explosion or ESE was the new extended name. This song was released in 1981, in the year that Emly represented Belgium in ESC. And it's written - as most of her songs - by her producer Kick Dandy.
Finnpicks Disco Week starts by going straight into your veins! Päivi (not Paunu but Päivi Kautto-Niemi) recorded "Suoraan suoneen" (Straight into the vein) in 1978. It was her biggest hit. And still considered as some kind of camp classic. Päivi Kautto-Niemi is still known as one of the epitomes of Finnish 70's disco music. Even if her active recording career lasted only from 1977 to 1979, she is still performing and also making records every once in awhile. The original song was entitled "Mellow Lovin'", and was performed by Judy Cheeks. Judy was born in Miami, Florida and is the daughter of gospel singer and preacher Rev. Julius Cheeks. With "Mellow Lovin' she hit the American Dance charts in 1978. This remained her only success until the 1990s, when she re-emerged with a string of other dance chart hits. "Mellow Lovin'" and the eponymous album was produced by Anthony Monn in Giorgio Moroder's Musicland Studios in Munich. Monn also composed this song, while Judy co-wrote the lyrics.
Katri Helena (see previous entry) released "Anteeksi suo" (Forgive me) in 1973. It was one her biggest hits, and the song has become a definite karaoke favourite. The original song was called "Pardonne-moi ce caprice d'enfant" (Forgive me this childish whim), and it was an early hit for French superstar Mireille Mathieu in 1970. This song is composed by Patricia Carli, a successful singer herself.
Our old friend Taiska (see previous entry) released her hit single "Ihmemaa" (Wonderland) in 1977. It has some kind of wonderful naiviety that still charms people. The original song was called "Fairytale" and it was sung by Irish singer Dana in 1976. Dana is famous for representing Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1970 and winning with "All Kinds of Everything". She has been popular singer throughout these years, but mainly in her home country. BTW, the song is composed by Paul Greedus, who also wrote Dracula's Tango (see previous entry).
Anita Hirvonen (see previous entry) recorded "Villitsee mun" (Makes me wild) in 1977. It suited well for Anita and became a minor classic. The original "Milisse mou" was a Greek song written by Manos Hadjidakis and performed by Nana Mouskouri. It was released on her live album in 1975. As I have had troubles with my file hosting service lately, I try something new here ...
Next week Finnpicks goes disco! But before that, let's get some quick-one's for the weekend with the company of old friends. Eero Raittinen (see previous entry) recorded "Unta en saa" (I get no sleep) in 1969, and it was a modest hit for him. The original "Alla fine della strada" (At the end of the road) originated again from San Remo Music Festival. In 1969 this song was performed by Italian singer Junior Magli and a British group The Casuals. Let's hear the Casuals' (best known for their "Jesamine" -hit) version. You all of course recognize the song being the same as "Love Me Tonight" that Tom Jones made into an international success.
This is the one song that has - perhaps more than any other pop song - raised the question of who can rightfully claim to be the original author. Päivi Paunu recorded "Oi niitä aikoja" (Oh those times) in 1968. After 2 years modest success as a folk singer, this was her big break-through and the one song she's later been labeled with. She represented Finland in 1972 Eurovision Song Contest together with Kim Floor performing the song "Muistathan". Päivi ended her professional singing career in the 80's. The original song is an old Russian romance "Dorogoi dlinnoyu" (By a long road) composed by Boris Fomin. The oldest recorded version I could find was done in the 1920's by Alexander Vertinsky, a legendary Russian singer, cabaret artist and actor who had a great influence on the Russian tradition of artistic singing. The song has since been recorded by several Russian artists. It even travelled across Europe and to the United States; Maria Schell sang it in the Richard Brooks film "The Brothers Karamazov" in 1958. An American folk singer Gene Raskin wrote English lyrics to it and performed it, with his wife Francesca, in the Greenwich Village folk circuits in New York. This first English version of the song as "Those Were The Days" was recorded and popularized in 1962 by folk group Limeliters. The Limeliters had never a true chart-topping hit record, but they were well known for their large repertoire of songs, which are performed on their more than 25 albums. Paul McCartney heard Gene & Francesca play "Those Were the Days" in a London club and recalled the song when picking material for his protégée Mary Hopkin. And the rest is of course history. It became one of the most popular songs worldwide - ever.
Updated on 15.08.2010: added Annikki Tähti's original Finnish language version (1958).
We end this "Love" -mini series with the song entitled simply "Rakkaus" (Love). It was recorded by Lea Laven (real name Lea Luukinen) in 1986. Lea's specialty is her dark and low voice. She started her career in the end of 60's doing mainly rock gigs. Her big breakthrough came in 1974 when her cover of Cher's "Dark Lady" that was a huge hit in Finland. During her 40 years in business she has been awarded 1 Platinum and 7 Gold Records for album sales. The original song "Only Love", or "L'amour en heritage" (Love in heritage), was composed by famous French composer Vladimir Cosma and made to an international hit by Nana Mouskouri. Nana was born as Ioanna Mouskhouri in Crete, Greece and has sold over 230 million records worldwide in a career spanning over 5 decades, making her one of the world's best-selling female recording artists. In 1985 Mouskouri recorded "Only Love", the theme song to the BBC TV series "Mistral's Daughter". The song topped the UK charts and was also a hit for Nana in its foreign language versions. As the composer is French, we present here the French version.
Let's continue the"Love theme". Fredi (see previous entry) recorded "Sinfonia rakkauden" (Symphony of Love) in 1973, and it was released as a single paired with his cover of David Bowie's "Starman". Perhaps deservedly, "Symphony" has outlived "Starman". Fredi's interpretation fits perfectly in this song and the melody is one of the most memorable ever. The tune is composed by none other than Ludwig van Beethoven and is better known as "Für Elise". But the version Fredi covered was done by one Giorgio Moroder in 1973. Moroder cut several singles as a solo singer under the name Giorgio during 1966-1975, and this was one of them. Giorgio Moroder is an Italian-born record producer, songwriter and performer, whose work with synthesizers during the 1970s and 1980s was a significant influence on new wave, techno and electronic music in general. Particularly well known are Donna Summer's disco hits produced by him. As a singer ... well let's say that it was a wise move of Giorgio to leave the singing to others and concentrate in the production. Judge yourself by listening to this "Lonely Lovers Symphony".
This song is one of the absolute classics. "Rakkauden jälkeen" (After the love) was recorded by Carola (see previous entry) and released as a single in the end of the year 1968. Her interpretation is perfect and the arrangement of the song is lighter and thus more sensitive as in the original. It's not so heavy on the piano, although the piano parts are essential to the song. The original song was composed and performed by the Austrian superstar Udo Jürgens (real name Udo Jürgen Bockelmann) in 1967. There's a piece of information at Udo's website that the English version of the song entitled "The Music Played" became an worldwide success in 1969, but I can't recall ever hearing the English version. It seems to have been especially popular in Japan. Udo is of course best known for winning the 1966 Eurovision Song Contest with "Merci, chérie".
Updated on 18.2.2009: added Matt Monro's English language version.
There's something magical about this song. Anita Hirvonen (real name Anita Lindgren) recorded "Milloin Saavut" (When will you arrive) in 1977, when Anita did massive come-back after some leaner years. For some reason, you want to hear this tune over and over again. Anita was and still is definitely one of the most popular singers in Finland. Her career started already in the 60's and she's still going strong. Her style is somewhat matured along the years. The tomboy-Anita has evolved into romantic Ms. Hirvonen. The original song was written by melody and lyric masters Neal Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, and it was first recorded by Peggy Lee in 1970. This fine version here, however, is by a legendary cabaret singer Jane Olivor, who recorded it in 1976 on her first albun "First Night". Jane is often favourably compered to Barbra Streisand and for a reason. Both Jane and Anita have soul in their voices, even if they aren't exactly soul singers. I try to find also the Peggy Lee's original version and present it here later ...
Updated on 18.07.2010: added Kössi Härmä's original Finnish version (1971).
One of the definite Finnish novelty record classics is "Hanna ja Niilo" (Hanna and Niilo). Before I heard the original (novelty) version, I thought that Jukka Virtanen had made it up all by himself. But this wasn't his original idea after all. Jukka is famous Finnish all-round entertainer and his lyrics have been presented in Finnpicks before; see entry here. He recorded "Hanna ja Niilo" in 1969, encouraged by the good reception the song got in a night club floor show. The original song "Hava nagila" is a Hebrew folk song, the title meaning "Let us rejoice". It is a song of celebration, but the story that's been told in these novelty versions, is far from celebration. It's the familiar story of different stages of relationship, with a heavy dose of abbreviations involved ;-). The original novelty version entitled "Harvey and Sheila" was done by US parodist, satirist and television producer Allan Sherman on his album "My Son, the Celebrity" in 1963.
Updated on 25.03.2010: added Jope Ruonansuu's version. Here's the pair:
Katri Helena covered several French songs. Perhaps more than other Finnish singers. So it's quite appropriate that we end our round-trip in France. Katri recorded "Kun kohdattiin" (When we met) in 1973. And the song was released as a single in the same year. It is still one of the the favourites among her audience. The tune was written by French songwriters and producers Jean Kluger and Daniel Vangarde. In 70's they wrote many disco hits for Ottawan, Gibson Brothers, Amii Stewart a.o. This song was originally called "Ma Jalousie" (My jealousy) and was performed by a French singer with a famous non-French name - Ringo (aka Ringo Willy Cat). His real name was Guy Bayle and he had some national hits in the 70's, but didn't really make it internationally. This "Ma Jalousie" seems to be rare recording to catch, so the example here is not of best quality.
The third stop in our around-the-world trip is Italy. We seem to end up there ever so often. Katri Helena recorded "Vasten auringon siltaa" (Against the bridge of the sun) in 1975, and it was releasd as a single. It has become one of her most popular songs ever. And that's no wonder, since the melody, the lyrics (by Chrisse Johansson) and the prensentation are perfect. The original was performed in 1973 by famous Italian songstress Gigliola Cinquetti, and was entitled "Alle Porte Del Sole" (To the door of the sun). Gigliola is best remembered as the young teenage girl winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 1964 with "Non ho l'eta", and 10 years later finishing second - after Abba. "Alle Porte del Sole" was recorded in English by Al Martino in 1975 and made US charts. Gigliola Cinquetti has nowadays become a professional journalist and a respected TV presenter.
The second stop in our round trip around the world with Katri Helena is Japan. Katri recorded "Olet ystäväin" (You're my friend) in 1980 and it was released as a B-side to her single "Johnny Blue" in 1981. There's something unexplicably fascinating about this simple song. The original one was written by a Japanese singer/songwriter Monta Yoshinori, and entitled "Dancing All Night". Only the refrain was in English, the rest was sung in Japanese. This record was the debut single for Monta, and it was released in 1980 under the name "Monta & Brothers". The single went quickly to Number 1 in Japanese charts and stayed there for 10 consecutive weeks. It was the most popular song in Japan that year. And has become a great karaoke favourite. It's very rare that a Japanese pop song gets covered in Finland, but this was a well-deserved exception. Monta Yoshinori has since made a succesful career also in movies.
Let's now take a round trip around the world with Katri Helena. Well at least a half way around ... And we start from Australia. In 1968 Katri recorded "Äiti kuin äidinäiti" (Mother like mother's mother). It might well have been the first Finnish feminist song proclaiming emancipation of women. Although in humorous manner. The original song "Sadie (The Cleaning Lady)" was performed by Australian pop star John Farnham. He was born in Essex, UK, but emigrated to Australia in 1959. His first commercially-successful recording was this novelty song entitled "Sadie (The Cleaning Lady)". When released in 1967, it hit No. 1 on the Australian charts. Selling 180 000 copies in Australia, it was the largest-selling single by an Australian artist of the decade. John Farnham has remained one of Australia's best-known performers over a career spanning 40 years. He is the only Australian artist to have a number one record in five consecutive decades. During the 80's he for a while fronted Little River Band. And had a worldwide hit as solo artist with "You're The Voice" in 1986.
Now, I thought "humppa" was a Finnish invention. No way it was. But I guess the Finns invented the way to dance to "humppa". "Humba", as it is called in Central Europe, or "Oom-pah music" is traditional German, Austrian, Swiss and Eastern European music. It's specially performed at celebrations of Octoberfest, a traditional Bavarian festival. The term "Humppa"/Humba"/'Oom-Pah' is in imitation of the downbeats played by the bass or tuba and the off-beats played by other instruments to provide rhythmic accompaniment for the melody. In the end of 50's some Finnish orchestra's began to make arrangements for old foxtrot dance tunes in the "humppa" style. And the Finns were eager to adapt it in dancing. The "humppa" craze has happily lived through the years. In 1964 Eemeli(real name Esko Toivonen) released "humppa" single "Humppa humppa humppa tättärää". It was actually not a dance tune, but a tribute to "Oom-pah music". Eemeli was a Finnish comedian. He's style was very straight-faced, and you never saw him laugh. In a sense he was a larger and a more talkative version of Buster Keaton. He starred several movies and TV -shows and made also some novelty recordings. This particular "Humba" -song was of course of German origin. It was called "Humba Tätärä" and composed by songsmith Toni Hammerle, and performed by his friend Ernst Neger. The song was big hit in Switzerland at the time. Today the refrain is frequently sung by the suppporters of many German Football clubs. The MC of the supporters shouts via his megafone "Gebt mir H, Gebt mir U, Gebt mir M, Gebt mir B, Gebt mir A". And then the crowd goes "Humba, humba, humba tätärää" ...
Danny (see previous entry) turned from 60's pop & rock artist into more mainstream pop in the 70's. One - very succesful - example of this is "Kuusamo" released as a single in 1976. Kuusamo is a city in north-eastern Finland. It is very popular as a summer resort and in wintertime the Finns visit in hordes Ruka skiing centrum for downhill- and cross-country skiing. Danny was recently awarded Kuusamo Medal for his merits in making the city famous with this song. The song's original name was something as exotic as "Kuusamo", namely "Africa". It was co-written by Italian legend Toto Cutugno. The first recording was made by Toto's own group, Albatros. They recorded both Italian and English versions. The Italian version was called "L'estate di san Martino" which means "Indian Summer", The same title in French was used in the Joe Dassin's version "L'ete d'Indien'. It was recorded in 1975 and one of the first international hit versions of the song. The song has been covered numerous times all around the world, which only proves taht you can't keep a good melody down.
Lasse Liemola lost his pole position as pop idol in the wake of guitar bands in the first years of the sixties. But in 1961 he was still going strong. In the B-side of his big hit "No niin Mary Lou" (see this entry), was "Viimeinen Mohikaani" (The last of the Mohicans). The singing group Four Cats was helping Lasse on this one. I don't know if it was meant to be a childrens song, but it has since been a little folks favourite and that re-released in many childrens song compilations. The original song came from Germany. It was called simply "Da sprach der alte Häuptling der Indianer" (There spoke the old Indian Chief). The song was composed by a genuine German, Werner Scharfenberger, but it is performed by an US-born Gus Backus. Gus was drafted into the United States Air Force in 1956, and soon transferred to Germany, where he married and settled down. He was always interested in rock'n roll and even cut a couple of records in US, but they were not successful. Anyway, he found success in Germany, and in 1960 had a string of 3 huge hits sung in German language. This song is the second one of those. It is the simple story of "how the west was won", and what happened to Indians.
When this guitar combo changed its name from "The Punks" (sic) to "The Roosters" in 1964, their career was airborne. They had their first gig in The Chistmas Party of The English Embassy in Helsinki! Roosters - like many of its contemporaries - lived through the 60's with ever-changing line-ups, and finally called it a day in 1969. The band resurrected in the 90's and keeps still rockin' - a couple of times per year ;-)."Bella" was their second single and was recorded in 1965. And I can honestly say it is better than the original. The original was written and performed by Jack Scott in 1959. Jack was a US singer of Italian origin (his real name was Giovanni Dominico Scafone Scott), but born in Canada (!). He is better knwown as rockabilly singer, but this "Bella" is definitely not rockabilly. And as I already said, the Finnish version beats Jack's anytime.
Updated on 16.04.2010: added the first Finnish version by Tuula ja Paula.
Kristian (or his record company) was obviously fascinated with Italian songs. One of the numerous Italo-covers he did, was "Se syntikö on" (Is it a sin), released as a single in 1971. It was not a great success at that time, but many still remember it's enchanting refrain. The original song "Il cuore e uno zingaro" (The heart is a gypsy) was the winning song in Sanremo Music Festival 1971, and as always in Sanremo, presented by two different singers, Nicola Bari and Nada. BTW, the first Finnpick by Kristian ("Seikkailu", see the entry here) was also performed by Nada. This 'cuore' -song won over Jose Feliciano's "Che Sara" and describes the heart being like a gypsy, becouse it just wanders and has no chains. It is among the most beloved Sanremo classics in Italy.
One of the most successful Finnish beat groups has been Agents. It was established in 1979. It was playing strictly beat music and guitar pop, and 'by the book'. i.e. in the style it was played in the beginning of 60's, by the Shadows and others. Agents was first purely instrumental group, but since 1981 it has made succesful co-operation with three solo singers. At first with Rauli "Badding" Somerjoki, then with Topi Sorsakoski and until recently, Jorma Kääriäinen. Jorma has also made it as a solo artist. This song "Päivin öin" (Daily nightly) was recorded by Agents & Jorma in 1997. It's a mystery why this fine song hasn't been covered before. The original called "L'edera" (The ivy) was made in Italy and performed by Nella Pizzi in 1959. The song won the song contest "Canzonissima" in that year. It was medium size hit for Cliff Richard in 1964 and was then called "Constantly". I haven't get hold of the Italian original song, but as soon as I do, I put it here.
In her long career, Katri Helena (see previus entry) has so far released 44 albums and compilations and for those, awarded with 4 platinum records and 1 double platinum record! One of the albums that went platinum was "Lady Love" in 1976. It included the song "Palman mainingit" (The sea waves of Palma), that was aso released as a single. The original tune came from France. It was called "Mediterranee" (Mediterranean) and recorded by a Turkish songstress Ajda Pekkan. It was sung in French, as Ms Pekkan at the time tried to make international breakthrough in France (and partly succeeded). The writers of the song were famous French songsmiths Claude Morgan (see previous entry for El Bimbo) and Eddy Marnay (co-writer of "Manchester Liverpool; see this entry). Ajda Pekkan was a superstar in Turkey and wanted very much to be also a worldwide pop star. She was Turkey's representative in 1980 Eurovision Song Contest, but when the song didn't win the contest (as was expected in Turkey) she almost gave up singing and performing. Well, she has since made several come-backs, and is still a popular artist in Turkey.