As you have noticed, the Finns prefer to cover European songs, but every now and then we widen our perspectives and pick up something completely different. Let's go to the 80's for awhile and listen to a song made by Finnish comedian, actor, singer, screen writer and director Pirkka-Pekka Petelius. He had a quite successful recording career in the 80's, and one of the most popular songs was "Tra la la" released in 1985. It tells a story of a boy that vehemently denies being a gay, although everybody else think he is one. The word "gay" or similar other expressions are not explicitly said in the lyrics but replaced with "Tra la la". The original came all the way from Argentina. A very popular rock group called Los Twist, famous for playing satirical songs, recorded it in their "Cachetazo al vicio" -album in 1984 and for some reason found its way to Finland. The original title of the song was "Acuarela Homosexual" (Homosexual Watercolor).
Lasse Liemola was actually the first Finnish pop singer. He started his career in the end of the 50's and was the first one to sing pop songs that were especially targeted to the young people. In 1961 he recorded the song made famous by the US teen star Ricky Nelson. The Finnish title for "Hello Mary Lou" was "No niin Mary Lou" (Well, Mary Lou). Becouse everybody has heard the original version by Ricky, let's hear a little bit different version by the composer of the song, Gene Pitney. This version was cut in 1962.
Carola (real name Carola Standertskjöld) was among the most popular Finnish female singers in the 60's. Her style was perhaps more jazzier and bluesier than her contemporaries had. Her songs have stood well the test of time and recently released compilation album turned out to be a success too. The song "Nuori tumma" (Young darkie) was released on 1968 as a B-side to 'La La La (version of Spanish Eurovision winner). The tune was a German original called "Zigeunerjunge" (Gypsy boy) and recorded by Alexandra (real name Doris Nefedov), a Lithuania-born singer, guitarist and composer, who died in a car crash in 1969.
This song is not a real Finnish version, but as it is sung in Finnish and made for the Finnish audience, I will let it pass. Hootenanny Singers were the top Folk singing group in Sweden in the 60's. As to widen their audience in Scandinavia they released 1964 a song in Finnish called "Gabrielle". Although their pronounciation of the Finnish language made people smile, the singing and the melody were strong enough to make it a hit. All we Abba fans know of course that one of the members of the group was Bjön Ullvaeus. The original song originated from Soviet Union (i.e. today's Russia). It won the Sopot International Song festival in 1963, and was then performed by Tamara Miansarova. The title of the song would transcribe something like this "Pust vsiegda budiet solnce" meaning 'May there always be sunshine'. The song is very patriotic and became very popular in Soviet Union and was frequently performed by children, usually dressed in their Young Pioneers uniforms. So, let's hear an example of those versions, too.
Kirka (real name Kirill Babitzin) made his breakthrough in 1967 with a big hit called "Hetki lyö". His extraordinary use of his voice kept him apart from other contemporary male singers. One of his hits in '70's was "Mamy Blue" released in 1971. The eponymous original song was recorded by a French singer Joel Daydé in June 1971. There has been much debate over what really was the original version, but it seems that the first one with English lyrics was Daydé's gospel version. The lyrics were written by Phil Trim, who was the leader of the Spanish pop group Pop Tops, whose version is probably the most famous one. The song was composed by Hubert Giraud, a well-known French composer since 1950's, who wrote several entries for Eurovision Song Contest.
One of the lesser known Johnny's hits is "Sanoit liian paljon" (You said too much). It was released as B-side of a single in 1967. This beautiful ballad and lyrics seemed to suit well for the not-so-talkative people of Finland. The original was an instrumental tune called 'Felicia' and recorded in 1965 for their 5th album 'Going Places' by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass. It was written by TB's guitarist John Pisano and named after Herb Albert's maid (!).
Rauni Pekkala was one of the female Finnish pop stars in the beginning of the 60's. She hadn't so many great hits as others, but a steady following. She's still active and performing today. One of the songs she is best remembered by, is "Miesten tähden" (For the men) from the year 1964. The original was a 'schlager' from Germany and sung by a Swedish super star Siw Malmkvist. The original title was 'Liebeskummer lohnt sich nicht' (It doesn't pay to have love troubles). It was also released in 1964.
Teen starlet Theresa (real name Theresa Rosenius) was a true one-hit wonder. I don't know if she ever cut but this one single. But the A-side of that single (in 1965) "Menolippu" has assured her a place in Finnish pop history. The original was Neil Sedaka's lesser known recording "One Way Ticket (To The Blues)" from the year 1959. Many of us probably remember the disco version by Eruption in 1979.
Eero Raittinen released his second solo single in 1968. On the A -side was "Rakkaudelta näyttää hitto vie" (Damn, it looks like I'm in love). This tune has some inexplicable charm, and it still sounds fresh today. The original song was the Swedish entry in 1968 Eurovision Song Contest, and was called "Det börjar verka kärlek, banne mej" (Damn, it's beginning to look like I'm in love). It was performed by Claes-Göran Hederström and it placed in 5th.
Kisu (real name Kristian Järnström) was only 13 years old when he started his career as a pop star in the 60's. At that tender age he was the drummer for the popular Finnish rock/pop group Topmost. In the 70's Kisu went solo. One of his minor hits from 1972 was "Kun paljon antaa" (When you give a lot). It was a version of a Spanish hit song "Soy rebelde" (I'm a rebel) sung by a girl named Jeannette (real name Janette Anne Dimech) in 1971. Four years later she would become famous for her touching interpretation of 'Porque Te Vas' in the sound track of the Carlos Saura movie "Cria Cuervos" ("Raising Ravens"/"The Secret of Anna" 1975).
One of the greatest hits of Fredi was "Kolmatta linjaa takaisin" (Back on 3rd lane again). It was recorded in 1968 and has become a Golden Classic. Not only becouse of Fredi's singing but also becouse of the witty lyrics by famous Finnish lyricist Juha Vainio. The original was an instrumental tune called "Beautiful In The Rain" composed and recorded by British orchestra leader Tony Hatch. The vocal version was done by Petula Clark, but for some reason never got the attention that it really deserved. That is - nowhere else but in Finland!
Eero & Jussi were two singing Raittinen brothers starting their career already in the 50's. Eero Raittinen went solo in 1966. His 4th single was "Uhkapeluri" (The Gambler) released in 1969. The song was a hit then, and is still hitting the charts today when re-done by a popular Finnish singer Jorma Kääriäinen. The original (again) is from Italy. It was recorded by a famous Italian pop star Gianni Morandi in 1968 and was called 'Il Giocattolo' (The Toy).
Another hit for Fredi in 1968 was "Milloinkaan en löydä samanlaista" (I'll never find another one like you). It was a beautiful pop ballad - quite suitable for Fredi's voice, and it has become a classic. We all know the Engelbert Humberdinck's version of the song as 'The Man Without Love", but the original is again an Italian song with the title "Quando m'innamoro" (When I'm in love). It was a finalist in 1968 San Remo Music Festival (it placed in 6th), and was performed by both Anna Identici and the Sandpipers. Here I present the Anna's version.
p.s. As I later found also the Sandpipers version, I will put it here, too ... p.s.2 I replaced Anna's version with a better sounding studio recording ...
Fredi (a.k.a Folk-Fredi, real name Matti Siitonen) began his career in '60s and is still going strong. He started as folk singer but soon changed into pop, and his specialty are the powerful pop ballads. "Pieni nukke" (A little doll) is one of those. It was recorded in 1968 and quickly became a hit. The original is an Italian song called "La Bambola" (The Doll), which was performed by deep-voiced Patty Pravo (real name Nicoletta Strambelli) in 1968.
Ami Aspelund (real name Anne-Marie Aspelund) got a good start to her career with the hit song "Apinamies" (Apeman) in 1973. Probably she wouldn't want to be remembered by this particular tune, however. She represented Finland in the 1983 Eurovision Song Contest ("Fantasiaa"). And BTW, her sister Monika was Finnish representative in the same contest in 1977 ("Lapponia"). The original 'Apeman' was a minor hit by UK band Jungle Jim in 1971 with the title "Big Fat Oranguman". The original song is of course presented from a man's point of view. And Ami's version is feminine - but definetely not feminist. Nothing has been left to told about the group Jungle Jim, but the authors of this song - Tony Cole, Graeme Hall & Steve Wolfe wrote the UK entry for the 1972 ESC (New Seekers' "Beg Steal & Borrow").
The song "Dirlanda" must be one of the most requested tunes in Finnish karaoke bars. It was recorded by Kai Hyttinen in 1972. Kai was one Finland's most popular artists in the end of the 60's and throughout the 70's. His version of the song tells a joyful story about a girl - with the "form of Venus" - in the Greek city of Rhodes, very popular tourist site for Finns. The boy in the song doesn't speak Greek, but he still wants to sing a song for the girl. So he uses the sounds of the sea waves as lyrics, as those were the sounds he heard when he first met the girl. The original 'modern' version of the song however tells a sad story about a woman drowning herself, and the last thing she hears is the sea water singing 'Darla dirla dada'. This version - totally in different mood than the Finnish version - was recorded by legendary French singer Dalida in 1970. The song originally is a Greek folk song first recorded (and sometimes credited as composer) by a Greek sponge diver named Pandelis Ghinis. The purpose of the song was to encourage sponge divers and to give the rhythm while oaring. Also there the sound of sea water is undoubtedly present.
Updated on 14.11.2009: Added the original Pandelis Ghinis recording. Dirlada is a sponge divers song from Kalymnos island. It's career started when Domna Samiou, the Greek folklore music legend, discovered Pandelis Ghinis, a sponge diver's boat captain, who sung it on a very special way and recorded it. The lyrics of the song are made by Ghinis and mainly describe what he and his men would do with the wifes and daughters of other sponge diver boat captains ...
Kristian (real name Bengt Huhta) won a song contest in Finnish television in 1968. This launched his career that lasted only couple of years. His initial backing group evolved into famous Finnish pop group Wigwam. In 1969 he released a song that became a minor hit. It was called "Seikkailu" (Adventure). The original was performed by a teenage Italian songstress Nada in 1969 Sanremo Music Festival and was titled "Ma che freddo fa" (But What The Cold Makes). The Sanremo Festival has been a source for many Finnish cover versions, as you will see ...
Updated 08.10.2011: Added Tuire Lehtomäki's version "Käyn tyhjää rantaa" (I walk on empty beach).
Johnny (real name Eljon "Johnny" Liebkind) was competing with Danny for the title of the most famous pop singer in Finland in the 60's. "Ihana aamu" (A wonderful morning) was his later hit in 1970. I personally remember it well, as it was played when I was serving in the army, in connection with the wake-up call at 6:00 AM. The original was a jazzy number from Hungary entitled "Kicsit szomorkás" (A little bit sad), composed by Gabor Nadas and recorded by József Németh in 1965. As the name suggests, it is in very different mood as the up-beat Finnish version. Johnny's version is similar to the Swedish version by Doris entitled 'What A Lovely Way' (1970).
A summer hit in 1966 for Danny was "Vähän ennen kyyneleitä" (Just before the tears fall), a beautiful haunting ballad. Not much is known about the original composition "El Angel de la Guarda" (Guardian Angel), but as the Spanish composer Alguero Dasca Augusto has written several movie scores, I guess it could originate from a sound track of a Spanish movie. The recording that might be the original sung version, is from Nana Mouskouri's Spanish language EP of 1965.
Updated on 11.08.2009: The older(?) version by Italian singer Mina is here.
Let's go to the 60's. Danny (real name Ilkka Lipsanen) was perhaps the most popular male pop artist in Finland in the 60's. In 1964 he recorded his first single "East Virginia" together with his group - the Islanders. Danny had found the song from Joan Baez' first album ('Joan Baez' - 1960). The folk song of Baez was given a a clever pop arrangement and consequently became number 1 hit in Finland. The song originally was a traditional American folk-blues number, known usually as 'East Virginia Blues'. As an example here I give you folk-legend Buell Kazee's version (published in 1958).
Updated on 22.1.2009. Added the Finnish language version "Tuntematon" (1965).
Disco music was the craze of the day in 70's. Almost every Finnish artist was obliged to record a disco song. Tapani Kansa did several of those. One of the most popular was "Kesän lapsi" (A child of summer) in 1976. Kansa's and Katri-Helena's versions of the song re-surface every summer as summer retro-hits. The original(?) came from France and was done by a group called Banzai et Les Clodettes. The lead 'singer' Banzai and the all-girl backing group were in the Claude Francois stable. The Clodettes were usually seen as the dancing group performing with the legendary Francois, and the name of the group was of course taken after his first name.
If the 'Brasilo brasila' wasn't really coming from Brazil, this one definitely was. 'Vicky' Rosti (real name Virve Rosti) had a very big hit with this song in 1976. "Tuolta saapuu Charlie Brown" (Here comes Charlie Brown) was one of her most popular songs and it's still fondly remembered and frequently requested by Finnish audience. The song was written and performed by a popular Brazilian musician, Benito di Paula. As there was almost none of the Brazilian music played in the Finnish radio those days, I think very few people have ever heard this original version.
Updated on 21.09.2009: Added version by German singer Benny. This was probably the version Vicky covered.
Let's have another one from Taiska. In 1976 she recorded "Brasilo brasila". It reflects the well-known tendency of the Finns to love anything EXOTIC in those days. It usually was a sure bet to pick up an exotic sounding song for the artist to cover. The exotism might have been in the name of the song or in the melody or arrangement. This Taiska's song has it all - carnival music from Brazil. But it was not from Brazil. Not a long way. The song was the Eurovision Song Contest entry in the national semi-finals of Luxembourg in 1976 (it placed in 2nd). It was presented by a group called Best Wishes, of which we haven't heard anything since. But the composer of the song was ESC -legend Ralph Siegel. He has been composer for 18(!) ESC entries and his big moment came in 1982, when Nicole won with his 'Ein Bisschen Frieden'.
We start by saying "Moi moi vain". Which is what Finns usually say when they meet. Meaning something like 'Just saying Hello'. It was also the title of the single by a popular Finnish female singer Taiska (real name Hannele Suominen) in 1976. The original was "Take Me High". the first (and only) solo hit single for Mariska Veres, whom we all know as the lead singer of Shocking Blue. She recorded it in 1975.
This is the the Finnpicks Music Blog. I hope it will be interesting for all oldies music lovers . This blog will feature Finnish pop music mainly from '60s and '70s. I try to demonstrate what kind of music was popular in Finland those days and what kind of music was picked up by Finnish artists to record in this Golden Age of Covers. Hence the name 'Finnpicks'. Enjoy!