Markku Aro (real name Markku Puputti) was among the most popular pop singers in Finland in 70's. He represented Finland in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1971. Markku is still recording and performing actively today. In 1975 he recorded "Hunajaisin huulin" (With lips of honey) that was a minor hit as a single. The original - called "Sugar Candy Kisses" - was performed in 1974 by Mac and Katie Kissoon, a male/female vocal duo consisting of brother and sister. They were born in Trinidad and raised in England. The song was written by producers and songwrights Wayne Bickerton and Tony Waddington, whose biggest claim to fame was writing several worldwide hits for The Rubettes.
Updated on 03.02.2010: added a good version by Pauliina (real name Paula Erko) also from the year 1975.
Perhaps the most famous Finnish singer of all times has been Olavi Virta. His most productive time period was in the 50's, when he was not only recording and performing but also acting in starring role in several movies. The song that always makes us to remember Olavi Virta is "Hopeinen kuu" (The silvery moon). He recorded it in 1960 with the background singing group Nordias. I guess the majority of Finns know the words and melody of this song by heart. The original 'moon' -song was sung by Italian legendary singer and actor Fred Buscaglione (or just 'Fred') in 1958 and it was called "Guarda che luna" (Look at the moon). Fred was killed in a car accident in 1960, when he was only 39 years old.
The recording career of Eino Grön started already in 1958. He got his first in 1959, and several more in the 1960's. He is still performing actively today. Eino was (and is) especially famous as a singer of tangos. On of those tango hits of his was "Seinillä on korvat" (The walls have ears), recorded in 1963. Elvis Presley performed the original "The Walls Have Ears" in 1962 in the movie 'Girls, Girls, Girls!'.
Jormas was perhaps the biggest pop and rock group in Finland in the 60's. Originally called as the Beatmakers, they were renamed after their manager Jorma Weneskoski. The song "Saat miehen kyyneliin" (You make a man shed tears) was recorded in June of the year 1966. The song became their 5th single, and first one to be sung in Finnish. It was at the time exceptional production, adding strings and horns to the rock sound of Jormas. This combination and the powerful vocals of the lead singer Pepe Willberg and harmonies of the group made the song a big, big hit and it has remained popular ever since. The original was recorded by P. J. Proby (real name James Marcus Smith) in his 1965 album 'P.J. Proby ... In Town'. The song was written by Les Reed and later recorded also by Tom Jones.
In the b-side of Taiska's 1978 single was "Viistoista siis" (So, fifteen). The single wasn't any greater success, but this song was extraordinary, perhaps even unique, in the sense that it dealt with a woman's (seemingly sexual) attachment to an under-aged boy. We have often heard men singing about 'young girl, much too young girl', but a woman singing about 'young boy' is quite unusual, even today. In the song, the law-abiding woman apologetically tells the boy that he should be at least 15 years old before they can really do something. The original song was performed by Olivia Newton-John in her album 'Have You Never Been Mellow' in 1975 (released as a single, too). It was written by John Rostill and Bruce Welch from the Shadows. The storyline in this original version is quite different; the woman sitting in the bar begs that a cowboy would not play B-17 in the jukebox, becouse "it was our song, it was his song, but it's over".
After parting ways with the group Virtanen, Mauri 'Moog' Konttinen put up his own group Kontravirtanen, but after one EP the name was shortened to Kontra. Contrary (;-)) to Virtanen, Kontra did mostly cover versions with the their inimitable style and with Moog's inimitable lyrics. Their secong single, and Kontras's biggest hit, in 1978 was "Jerry Cotton". It told about the FBI agent Jerry Cotton, whose escapades were read in eponymous kiosk magazine by every Finnish schoolboy in the 60's. This fictional character was born in print in Germany in 1954 and was very popular in German speaking countries. There were even 8 movies made of Jerry. The main character was played by American actor George Nader, whose name is mentioned in Kontra's song. There was also a hint about Jerry's sexual tendencies ("I care about women just formally, it's much nicer with Phil Decker"), that in a way turned out to be true - George Nader was gay ... The original song was picked up from an underrated Kinks album 'Schoolboys In Disgrace' (1975). This Ray Davies -written concept album - and this song - told about a naughty schoolboy, who eventually would grow up to be Mr. Flash (the villain in The Kinks' rock opera, Preservation: Acts 1 & 2).
Perhaps the biggest hit for Johnny was "Hymyhuulet" (Smiling lips) in 1963. It was his break-through as a solo artist after playing drums in the legendary Finnish guitar combo The Sounds. The song of course covered Cliff Richard's "Lucky Lips", but the original was done in the 50's by the US songwright stalwarts Leiber and Stoller and recorded by Ruth Brown in 1957. It was a minor hit for her and peaked at 25 in charts. Ruth Brown was a R&B singer and actress noted for bringing a popular music style to rhythm and blues. She earned nickname 'Miss Rhythm' and later when inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 'The Queen Mother of the Blues'.
Virtanen was one of the first Finnish rock groups to perform their own material and in Finnish language. The group's sound was simplistic and raw and the lyrics in the songs dealt with themes unheard before. On their first album 'HAL-00' in 1974 they sang about "Hottentotti" (The Hottentot). It was an old childrens song and the first Finnish version was done by actor duo Maikki Länsiö and Esa Saario already in 1961. It told a story of young African boy saving his village from the assault of the enemy tribe. The Hottentots were really the Khoikhois ("men of men"), a Khoisan ethnic group of southwestern Africa, closely related to the Bushmen. They were traditionally known to white Dutch colonists as the Hottentots, a name that is currently generally considered offensive. The word "hottentot" meant "stutterer" in northern dialect of Dutch. The original "Hottentotti" -song was written by a Norwegian Thorbjørn Egner in 1954 and it was called "Visen om Vesle Hoa" (A song about Vesle Hoa (the name of the young hero in the song)). Egner was a playwright, poet and composer who did several children songs that became popular all over Scandinavia. As sign of the 'politically correct' times, the song about Vesle Hoa was recently removed from a new edition of Norwegian childrens song book, for being racist and offensive.
p.s. The name 'Virtanen' is very, very common last name in Finland. By coincidence, this "Hottentotti" -song brings together the most famous Virtanens in present day Finland; Pertti 'Veltto' Virtanen (singer) , who is a Member of Parliament and Jukka Virtanen (lyricist, not member of the group), who is a prominent producer, playwright, entertainer, etc.
Updated on 18.09.2010: added thr first Finnish version by Maikki Länsiö and Esa Saario.
And now something completely different. Novelty records are always been near to the heart of Finnish people. Our first example of those is a real classic. Tippavaaran vanha isäntä (Old Man from Moonshine Mountain), or just Tippavaaran isäntä, recorded "Pigalle" in 1961. He was the most popular character in the popular radio comedy 'Kankkulan kaivolla' (At the well of Kankkula). He was 105 years old and famous for his moonshining activities. (Finnish moonshine is home-made vodka. The most common name is 'pontikka'.) Talking favourably about booze in radio programs was of course a risky thing those days and Finnish Radio received complaints over Old Man Tippavaara's prominent role in the program. The Program Council cleverly responded that one should not be worried, becouse '96 percent of the program contents does not come from Tippavaara'. The character was played by a famous finnish actor Oke Tuuri. The original "Pigalle" was of German origin, although it's singer Bill Ramsey was born in USA. Bill was a jazz man and worked in the US military radio station AFN as a producer. He became friends with a German jazz pianist and arranger Heinz Gietz, who also was working with such top stars as Caterina Valente. Gietz proposed that also Bill should try his wings in popular music. Bill thought his proposition was interesting. And when asked whether he would rather do rock and roll or something amusing, the jazz singer opted for the latter. Ramsey would later be a popular singer and entertainer and film star in Germany. "Pigalle" was inserted in at least two of his movies. The song (written by Gietz) tells of course a story about Paris' red-light district Pigalle - "the worlds greatest mouse trap".
A couple of years after playing drums in Topmost, Kisu went solo. The first solo single came out in 1970. He had several hits in the 70's but he eventually left singing in the background and made succesfull career in production work. In 1973 Kisu recorded his most succesful song "Uneen aika vaipuu" (The time falls into dream). The original song was done - also in 1973 - by a popular Spanish pop trio Santabarbara. It was called "Charly", and despite it's title, was sung in Spanish. The tune was written by the group's base player and was a hit in almost all European countries. Who is Charly? Well, it's a bird ...
After doing some successful co-operation in the folk music scene with Österberg brothers, Bosse & Robert, Anki Lindqvist (real name Agneta Elisabeth Lindqvist) went to solo. At first she used her whole name, but eventually it was shortened to just "Anki". One of the songs she is best remembered by, is "Ne kesäyöt" (Those summer nights). The original song was done by Marianne Faithfull, and it was published as a single in August 1965. It was no wonder that this beautiful melodic tune was soon picked up by Finns.
The First calls itself "the oldest rock band in Finland". It was born in 1964, and is still gigging actively. The first 3 singles of the band were all sizeable hits. The second one was "Meni hermot" (Lost my nerves) in 1967. It was originally an Italian tune recorded (also in1967) by our old friend Little Tony, and called "Cuore matto" (Mad heart). It was his biggest hit. Tony has recently done come back, and wants to celebrate his 50 years in music by representing San Marino in next year's Eurovision song Contest(!). Perhaps The First should try to do the same for Finland ...
Eija Merilä (real name Eija Muhonen) was a promising new singstress already in the 60's, but her breakthrough came in 1971 when she recorded the cover of Lynn Anderon's "Rose Garden". In 1964, however, her second single was "Yö saaristossa" (A night in the archipelago). This beautiful song has became a Finnish dance band classic, and is guaranteed to fill the dance floors, at least in the dance balls for elderly people ;-). The song sounds so much like a traditional Finnish song, that it was a big surprise to find out that it is in fact of Polish origin. The original was called "Kasztany" (Chestnuts), and was recorded in 1956 by a popular Polish singer Natasza Zylska (real name Natasza Zygelman). She had many hits in Poland in the 50's and 60's, but in 1963 she emigrated to Israel.
In the b-side of Danny's first single in 1964 was this song 'Hey boba lou', making the record - together with a-side's "East Virginia" - one of the best debut singles in Finnish pop history. The song is simple but irresistible. The original came all the way from Canada. Although Ronnie Hawkins was born in USA, he moved to Canada in 1958, and recorded this song in 1959 with his Canadian backing group The Hawks. Of course it's widely known that a later edition of the Hawks eventually toured with Bob Dylan and evolved into the Band. Robbie Robertson doesn't play guitar on this recoding but Levon Helm bangs the drums.
Under just 2,5 years of existence Topmostmanaged to cut 6 singles and 1 album, and was the most populat pop group in Finland in 1967. The group sang usually in English but all their biggest hits were in Finnish. The drummer of the group Kristian "Kisu" Järnström had success as a solo artist in the 70's. The 6th and last single of Topmost was "Meni remonttiin" (Went in repair) in 1968. The original was done by a little-known British group Young Idea. The group was actually a duo (Tony Cox & Douglas MacCrae-Brown) whose cover of The Beatles' "With A Little Help From My Friends" was a Top Ten hit in 1967. "Mr. Loving Luggage Man" was the follow-up single in the same year, but didn't have success in charts. Which is quite peculiar, becouse it's very catchy song. Don't know how they picked up in Finland (perhaps from Pirate Radio?), but I'm glad they did. This record is nowadays even harder to find, and the version you hear here is a bit scratchy, sorry about that.
Ann Christine (real name Ann-Christine Nyström) was perhaps the first Finnish female modern pop singer. Her contemporaries in the start of 1960's were singing mostly 'schlagers'. But Ann Christine was a real pop girl - a 'ye-ye girl' - if you like. She recorded this "Odota en" (I will not wait) in 1964 as a b-side of her 6th single. She performed on the Eurovision contest in 1966 in Luxemborg with the song "Playboy". The original song was (again) from San Remo music festival. In 1964 festival the song "Quando vedrai la mia ragazza" (When you see my girl) was performed by Little Tony and Gene Pitney. As we already have presented Little Tony earlier, let's now listen to Gene.
In the wake of folk music boom, the US American bluegrass and country music also became more known in Finland. One of the first pop C&W covers was Johnny's "Hyvin menee kuitenkin" (It's going fine, anyway), released as a single in 1966. The original, "Flowers on the Wall" was a song made famous by country music group The Statler Brothers. Written by the group's original tenor, Lew DeWitt, the song reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in January 1966. In the following years, "Flowers on the Wall" became one of the trademark songs of the Statler Brothers'. The song gained new exposure when it was used by Quentin Tarantino in Pulp Fiction.
The folk music movement took Finland by the storm in the beginning of the 60's. Among the first pioneers were the Österberg brothers Lars and Robert. The cut a couple of unsuccesful singles, but they hit big in 1964 as Bosse & Robert and with the song "Nellyn palmikko" (Nelly's pigtail). It tells a story of a young man climbing up to his girlfriend's quarters with the help of her long pigtail hanging out of the window. And what happens, when ... The brothers later joined forces with Anki (Lindqvist) and made several hits as a trio. Words and music for the original song "Footprints in the Snow" were done by Harry Wright already in 1880's in USA. It has been a bluegrass standard since, but it was popularized by Bill Monroe and his band when recording it in 1939. The girl Nelly is the same in Finnish and US versions, but the story is different. One can wonder why, becouse the "Snow" -theme would have suited well for Finns ;-).
One of Danny's biggest hits was "Tuuliviiri" (Wind vane, a.k.a weather vane) released as a single in 1968. This uptempo tune matches up well against the original Italian version. It might be even better. The original was done by Little Tony (real name Antonio Ciacci), born in San Marino but making his career in Italy (Tony's biggest hit internationally must have been "Cuore Matto" in 1967). This is one of his lesser known songs, and hard to get hold of nowadays. The original song "Mulino a vento" told about somewhat bigger device than wind vane, namely windmill. Tony was sometimes called "Italian Elvis".
Johnny recorded "Ei se kesää tee" (It doesn't make it summer) in 1966 and the song was published in his first album "Johnny". It has irrestistible drive and beat while telling that it does not make it summer if the girl smiles ... The original song was Gerry & the Pacemakers' 6th single "It's Gonna Be Alright" in 1964 and was written by Gerry Marsden himself.
When Finnish tabloid newspaper ILTALEHTI recently organized a public vote for most popular love songs of all time, this song came 10th. "Se jokin sinulla on" (You've got that something special) by Ronny & The Loafers. The song was published in 1964 and remains as the only record the group ever made. So truly it is a one-hit-wonder. The song has that something special in it - as the title suggests - and has won the hearts of newer generations, too. Sadly, Ronny (real name Aatos Bolström) died in traffic accident couple years after the song came out. The original song was a b-side of Gerry & The Pacemakers' 4th single 'I'm the One' in 1964, and was called "You've Got What I Like". It is hard to understand why this little masterpiece has been largely forgotten worldwide. But luckily we Finns have picked it up, and made it a part of our pop music history.
Famous Finnish entertainer, singer, musician and actor, Vesa-Matti Loiri has had many stage characters. One of them was Jean-Pierre Kusela in one of his TV shows. It was a parody of a typical French chanson singer and crooner - someone like Jean-Claude Pascal, for example. The most memorable and hilarious song in Jean-Pierre's repertoire was "Naurava kulkuri" (Laughing vagabond) from the year 1986. It is impossible to listen this song without laughing, or at least smiling. The original song was actually in quite different tone. This C&W -flavoured tune was called "Gambler's Guitar" and written and performed by Jim Lowe already in 1953. Jim's greatest moment came in 1957, when his "Green Door" was a big hit. A German version of "Gambler's Guitar" hit the European charts in 1958 and was done by Fred Bertelmann. The title was "Der lachende vagabund" (Laughing Vagabond) and it was included in the movie of the same name. The Finnish versions (incl. Jean-Pierre's) are based on this interpretation.
Updated on 18.09.2010: added the first Finnish version by Per-Erik Förars.
In the latter part of 70's everyone was cutting disco songs. So did Danny. In 1976 he recorded "Pelkkää tulta". Although it was ridiculed by the 'serious' music fans, it became a hit on the dance floor. The original - "I'm On fire" was done by 5000 Volts. The group was formed in UK by two fairly well known session vocalists,Tina Charles and Martin Jay as a group called 'Airbus' in b-side of their first single, "Bye Love". After flipping the sides after encouragement from club DJs around the country, and renaming the band to the more electric sounding 5000 Volts, the song became a worldwide hit. Tina Charles continued later to make disco hits on her own.
Kai Hyttinen recorded this beautiful tune 'Nostalgia' in 1976. It is one of those rare songs, in which the lyrics of the song don't mention the title of the song. I don't know any other vocal versions, but there might be some. The original performance was an instrumental, done by Belgian guitarist Francis Goya (real name Francis Weyer). In 1975 he released this tune as his first solo single and with it he rode to international fame. Originally this is his father's composition, rearranged by Francis and initially presented as a memory to father.
The Finns have always had a fling for sad slavic ballads. Heikki Aarva recorded one of those in 1963, and it was titled 'Tuulella ei ole ystävää' (The wind has no friend). The warm-voiced Heikki was working for Finnish Television as editor and producer and he had a quite short career as a singer. But this song has become a classic. It was originally a Russian song called 'Pesnya o druge' (Song about friend) from the 1962 movie 'Put k prichalu' (aka Road to Berth) directed by famous Georgian director Georgija Danelija. The song was performed - sung and whistled - by Eduard Hill, a renowned Russian singer from St. Petersburg.
Updated on 15.01.2011: added Tapio Rautavaara's version (1963), with different Finnish lyrics.
Let's hear some more from Taiska. She recorded a song called 'Villi vapauden kaipuu' in 1980 published in the eponymous album. This perky dance beat tune originated from Germany, and was performed by Tony Marshall (real name Herbert Anton Hilger) in 1978 with the title 'Auf der strasse nach süden' (On the south-bound road) . The song became known all around the world when David Hasselhof recorded it in 1989 as 'Looking For Freedom'. The freedom theme made the song a symbolic song for when the Berlin Wall was torn down in November 1989.