The folk- and beat music boom in the 1960's gave birth to Irwin Goodman (real name Antti Hammarberg). But when the international folk music went out of style, Irwin continued successfully doing popified - truly Finnish - folk music. The catchy melodies composed by Irwin together with witty and often daring lyrics written by his good friend Veikko "Vexi" Salmi was a winning formula. The songs often dealed with contemporary topics in humorous manner, like this song "Viuhahdus" (The Streak) that was recorded in 1974. Streaking was the hype thing at the time, and Irwin and Vexi took a Finnish view on it. Actually this song is not "officially" a cover song, becouse the composer in the records is Irwin Goodman. But there's been quite a lot of debate if this is a plagiate or not - now you judge for yourself. The original (or "The original") is done by the US duo Dean and Jean already in 1964 and called "Hey Dean Hey Jean". It wasn't hit in Finland, but reached numer 32 in US Pop charts. Dean's real name was Welton Young and Jean's was Brenda Lee Jones (later Brenda Lee Nelson). They recorded as a duo from late 1958 through 1966, scoring some minor hits. The subtitle for the song is "Party song", and thats what it really is.
Paula Koivuniemi has been over 40 years among the most popular Finnish female singers. She recorded her first single in 1966 and is still recording and performing actively. She has recorded hundreds of songs and I guess this is not the last time we have the pleasure of hearing Paula's alto voice in this blog. She recorded the "Ikivanha leikki" (The ancient game) in 1993. The original song is called "Todo, todo, todo" (Everything, Everything, Everything) and performed by a Mexican singer Daniela Romo (real name Teresita Presmanes Corona). She started her career in film and television soap operas in the 1970's. Later she also took singing and has become a superstar in Latin music world. This song was from her 8th album "Amada más que nunca" (1991). It was pruduced by a famous Argentinian producer Bebu Silvetti and is a splendid example of the 'tropical' pop music genre.
Tapani Kansa (see previous entry) recorded "Sä luota päivään nousevaan" (You can trust in the rising sun) and it was released as a single in 1973. The lyrics were made by Tapani himself. This optimistic ballad was well received by Finnish audience. The original was once again of Italian origin. "Il Mondo Cambiera" (The world will change) was a hit for Gian Luigi 'Gianni' Morandi in 1972 and was an entry in the Italian TV's 'Canzonissima' song contest. Gianni is famous Italian singer and actor, who recorded his first song already in 1962, and since then made 34 albums and sold altogether 34 million discs.
Lars 'Lasse' Mårtenson was among the most popular Finnish pop- and jazz singers in the 1960's. He started his career in 1950's with the group Lasse Mårtenson Trio, in which he sang lead and played keyboards. Later he went solo and recorded several pop hits and appeared in many TV Shows. He represented Finland in Eurovision Song Contest 1964 performing his own composition "Laiskotellen". Since the 70's Lasse has concentrated in composing music for movies and television. In 1965 he recorded the jazzy "Yeh yeh" that suited very well for Lasse's laid-back singing style. The original - almost instrumental - tune was recorded in 1963 by Latin Jazz legend Ramón 'Mongo' Santamaria. It was written by Mongo's pianist Rodgers Grant in collaboration with saxophone player Pat Patrick. Jazz vocalist Jon Hendricks later added original lyrics and recorded the song at the Newport Jazz Festival 1963.In 1965 the song became international hit as a vocal version by British rhythm and blues and jazz singer Georgie Fame (real name Clive Powell).
Seija Simola might be one of the most underrated Finnish female pop singers. She had a long career starting in the 1960's, but never really hitting big, although representing Finland in Eurovision Song Contest in 1978 (she came in 18th). The 70's was the most succesful decade for Seija and in 1973 she recorded "Ring ring", which was not a typical song for a balladeering girl. The original song was performed by a promising new group from Sweden with a long and awkward name Björn & Benny, Agnetha & Anni-Frid, and was called "Ring Ring (Bara Du Slog En Signal)". The song was written for the 1973 Swedish National Final of Eurovision Song Contest. It didn't win but it (the English version) became a hit all over Europe, reaching number 1 in Belgium. Quite interesting story about "Ring Ring" can be found here.
The Raittinen brothers - Eero and Jussi - are the icons of Finnish rock'n roll. Their career spans from 1960 till the present day and they are still going strong. Their group Eero, Jussi & The Boys has been the longest-standing active rock'n roll band in Finland. The backing group The Boys has over the years included a major part of Finnish rock musicians, and therefore sometimes it's called 'The Academy of Finnish Pop Music'. The song "Sinä vain" (Only you) was recorded in 1966 when Jussi was serving in the Army. And thus the performing group is just Eero & The Boys. However, Jussi wrote the Finnish lyrics. The original song was written by Tony Hatch and co-written by Petula Clark who (of course) also performed it. The original recording was made in 1965. Although it only reached number 23 in UK charts, the song had evidently some strong qualities, hitting Top 10 in USA (versioned by The Vogues), and doing well in Finland when re-recorded by Jorma Kääriäinen & The Agents in 1997.
"El Bimbo on vain mies ..." - I guess every Finn knows the beginning for the song "El Bimbo". This outcome of the 70's disco boom has stuck firmly in our memories. Marion (real name Marion Evi Rung) recorded the song in 1974. Marion has twice represented Finland in Eurovision Song Contest - in 1962 and 1973. In 1974 Marion won the Grand Prix in Sopot Song Festival and the German record producers became interested in her and subsequently she recorded "El Bimbo" that became hit in Germany selling nearly 100 000 copies. The Finnish version did also very well in Finnish charts. I was really amazed in learning that the song originates from Afghanistan(!). It was written and performed by legendary Afghan singer Ahmad Zahir in 1971 on his album 'Lylee' and called "Tanha Shodam Tanha" (I'm Lonely). Ahmad was shot dead (some say assassinated) in 1979, being only 33 years old. His song became a huge disco hit in Europe in 1974 when performed by French group called Bimbo Jet. This group was actually two guys called Claude Morgan and Laurent Rossi who recorded the tune with studio musicans. The song broke out all over Europe and even charted in the USA. The songs popularity was due to it's specific dance coreography and to the slang word "Bimbo" (aka "Bitch"). More then 1,3 million units where sold in France alone. Bimbo Jet's Claude Morgan has been registered as composer of the song. I wonder if Ahmad Zahir ever got any royalties ...
Updated on 03.02.2010: added the rare English language version by Marion.
The final entry for now (I guess there will be a sequel ...) in 'Finnish Wild West In Song' is "Lännen tie" (The Trail of the West) by Matti Heinivaho. Matti started our mini series and thus it's appropriate that he will end it, too. The song was recorded in 1966 and famous for it's whip effects and cowboy yells. It was perhaps the most popular of the Finnish western songs in the 60's mainly becouse of the popularity of television western series 'Rawhide' that was shown in Finland at the time - and was also called 'Lännen tie'. 'Rawhide' was a series which aired on the American network CBS from 1959 to 1966 and launched the career of Clint Eastwood. The theme for "Rawhide" is (again) composed by Dimitri Tiomkin in 1958 and was originally recorded by Frankie Laine (real name Francesco Paolo LoVecchio). Laine was a successful American musician, singer and songwriter whose career started in 1930's and lasted 75 years, He sang songs stretching from big band crooning to pop to western-themed songs to jazz and blues, all delivered with his inimitable singing style.
The entry number 4 in 'Finnish Wild West In Song' is "Balladi Yksisilmä Jackista" (The Ballad of One-Eyed Jack"). Kukonpojat recorded this C&W ballad in 1961. The lyrics were by legendary lyricist Reino Helismaa, who had a special affection for western stories. He wrote lyrics to numerous western ballads in addition to writing several radio comedies with western motifs. The original song "The Ballad Of The One Eyed Jacks" is inspired by the Marlon Brando movie 'One-Eyed Jacks' that was released in 1961. The song was not included in the movie but it also tells the story of Kid Rio and his clash with sheriff Longworth. It was recorded by famous rockabilly- and rock 'n roll singer Johnny Burnette in March 1961, as a B -side to his 5th single for Liberty record label. BTW, a 'one-eyed jack' is not a person named Jack (as in the Finnish version) but, in a deck of cards, the Jack of Spades or the Jack of Hearts, both of which are seen in profile (and thus only one eye is seen).
The song number 3 in our series 'Finnish Wild West In Song' is "Kastelholman luutnantti" (The Lieutenant of Kastelholma). The vocal group Neloset cut the song in 1961. Neloset (The Quadruples) started as The Saints in the end of the 50's when all the boys were in the Boy Scouts. The original member Jukka Kuoppamäki - who's singing lead on this record - left the group after couple of years and joined in another popular vocal group - Kukonpojat. Another original member Jaakko Kyläsalo made a successful career as a journalist. The 'Kastelholma' in the song is a famous castle (pictured above) on Finnish Alandia island. The original song "The Ballad of the Alamo" tells a story of the battle of the Alamo that was fought in 1836 in San Antonio, Texas. The legendary conflict was a part of the Texas Revolution, in which Mexico attempted to retake the province of Texas from USA. The song is composed by famous songwright Dmitri Tiomkin for the movie 'The Alamo' (1960), starring John Wayne as Davy Crockett. Marty Robbins recorded a version of the song in that same year and got a hit with it in the pop charts.
The second song in our series 'Finnish Wild West In Song' is "Kostaja" (The Avenger). It was recorded by vocal group Kukonpojat and released as a single in 1960. The name Kukonpojat means something like 'Young Roosters", and it was clearly a better choice of moniker for the group that started as The Chickens. At the time there were quite a few aspiring vocal groups in Finland who got their style from popular US groups like Kingston Trio or Brothers Four. This same song was also recorded by their rival group Neloset in the same year. Some members of Kukonpojat - like Jukka Kuoppamäki and Georg Dolivo - did later succesful career in other groups and as solo artists. The original song "Big Iron" is written and performed by C&W singer Marty Robbins (real name Martin David Robinson). It was first released as an album track on his 'Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs' in September 1959. The song tells a story of a gunfight duel between the shady hero and an outlaw named Texas Red.
Updated on 17.11.2009: added Frederik's version (1971).
Now - let's start a mini series called 'Finnish Wild West In Song'. In the late 50's and early 60's songs that told stories of the Wild West were exceptionally popular in Finland. Perhaps the arrival of televison with many Western TV-series and the invasion of many famous western movies were adding fuel to the fire. We open this theme appropriately with an Opening Theme (pun intented). Matti Heinivaho recorded "Arosusi" (Steppenwolf) in 1968 as his next to last single (lyrics by legendary Juha Vainio). Matti had begun his career in 50's as a vibraphonist and a singer, and had some hit singles in the 60's. Many of them with 'western' flavour. Later he established a long career working in Finnish television as a producer and director. I guess it takes a lot of guts to make a vocal version of Ennio Morricone's music. But the Finns have always had that kind of guts. The original "Arosusi" is the opening theme of the Sergio Leone movie "Per Qualche Dollaro in Piú" (For A Few Dollars More 1965). The guitar playing and the famous whistling are done by Alessandro Alessandroni.
Närhi (real name Seppo Närhi) entered show business in the 70' as a member of a dance band doing rearurant gigs. In 1975 he started solo career as a recording artist and had couple of pop hits. Due to health problems he had to withdraw, but his daughter Laura Närhi has had great success in recent years as a lead singer in the group Kemopetrol. One of Närhi's hits was "Minä sekä toi kuu" (Me and the moon) in 1976. The lyrics to this song were done by Hector (see this entry). The original 'moon' -song was written and performed by Michael Nesmith in 1971 with the title "Silver Moon". This ex-Monkee had a quite successful solo career, and his extraodinary 'Nesmith Country' -music has won many hearts - in Finland, too.
Annikki Tähti was perhaps the first really succesful Finnish female artist in popular music. She started her career in 1952 and made her first recording in 1953 along with a first appearence in a movie. In 1955 her single with the song "Muistatko Monrepos'n" in the a-side became the first Finnish Gold Record. In 1956 she had a big hit with "Kuningaskobra" (King of cobras). For some reason this song was so popular in Finland that it was recorded by 4 different artists at that same year! What's more peculiar, the lyrics of the song didn't tell a word about love but - snakes! Does this say something about the nature of Finnish people ;-). The original song "The Snake Charmer" is an old foxtrot from USA. It was composed by Teddy Powell (real name Alfred Paolella) in 1937, and was a sizeable hit in the big band era. I haven't got hold of any vocal version of this song but let's hear one of the earliest recordings by Ben Pollack and his Pick-A-Rib Boys, one of the most interesting 'small big bands' of the era. The recording was made on the 21st of September 1937.
The breakthrough song for Kirka was "Hetki lyö" (The moment strikes), published as a single in the autumn of 1967. It was officially done by the group D'Islanders, but the song was chosen espcially for Kirka to sing, and today it's solely remembered as Kirka's song. In those times D'Islanders was working as the backing group for Danny. And in fact it was Danny who picked up this song for Kirka. The original one was a small hit (and one of their last ones) for The McCoys in the spring of 1967 and was called "Beat The Clock". It was written by the band's producer, Richard Goettehrer.
Fredi recorded the song "Sympatiaa" (Sympathy) in 1970 as b-side of a single. It wasn't a great success in those days but this haunting song is still a favourite of many. At the time Fredi was more and more writing his own lyrics - also with this song. The original "Sympathy" was a hit (their only one) in 1970 for an English group called Rare Bird. They were considered as a progressive rock band, but the styles of their songs ranged from heavy to almost jazz. The speciality of the group was to have two keyboard players in the line-up. One of them - Graham Field - wrote "Sympathy" and has called it "a sad little song, inspired by a tramp who cleaned my car by mistake".
One can say that Timo Jämsen (real name Keijo Ahola) was the first successful Finnish Rock'n'Roll singer. He had a success in the 'Rock King of Finland' contest in 1959 (but didn't win). He recorded several solo singles before joining in the guitar group Esquires in 1963. Timo's legendary single was "Kohtalon tähti " b/w "Tuollainen tyttö" (That kind of girl) in 1961. The A-side was Elvis -cover (I guess it will be a 'finnpick' in the very near future) and this b-side was Cliff Richard -cover. And very competent covers they were! Cliff Richard's single "A Girl like You" came out also in 1961. It was written by Jerry Lordan, the same guy who wrote 'Apache' for the Shadows.
Kisu struck gold again with a Spanish melody in the 70's. In 1977 he recorded "Onnestain on puolet sinun" (Half of my happiness is yours). It was a success, and coincidentally(?) was again a cover of Santabarbara song (as was his 1973 hit "Uneen aika vaipuu"). Santabarbara had a huge European hit with the original "Donde estan tus ojos negros" (Where are your black eyes) in 1976.
Folk music took Finland by the storm in the beginning of the sixties. Hector (real name Heikki Veikko Harma) was one of the forerunners in the Finnish folk movement. Later in the 70's he really made his breakthrough, first in the group Cumulus and later as a prominent singer-songwriter on his own. Hector's first single was "Palkkasoturi" (The Mercenary) recorded in 1965. The Finnish lyrics were also done by him. The original is the classic folk anthem "Universal Soldier" written by a canadian folk singer Buffy Sainte-Marie. The song was in her first album (1964) 'It's my way!'. It became internationally known in 1965 when Donovan made it a hit.
Seitsemän Seinähullua Veljestä (Seven Stone Crazy Brothers) is a group formed by Pentti Oskari Kangas in 1966. It has been very popular comedy act for 40 years now, performing music and comedy bits on stage. The song "Nakit ja muusi" (Sausages with mashed potatoes) was recorded in 1984, and has become one of their most requested songs. The original was done in 1983 by a German group with a peculiar name Schrott nach 8 (meaning "Scrap iron after 8 o'clock") and it was called "Zuppa Romana" (Roman soup). It was their only big hit. The original lyrics consist mainly of the names of well-known Italian dishes, as the Finnish version mixes in some fine examples of the Finnish Cuisine.
After Pepe Willberg left Jormas, he joined in the group called Paradise that eventually changed its name to Pepe & Paradise. The breakthrough for the group came in 1972, when they had a big hit with "Elämältä kaiken sain" (Life gave me everything). The original was the second solo single (1970) of Tony Burrows, a famous session singer, whose name is not very known, but whose lead vocals can be heard on numerous hit records, for example on 'Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes)' by Edison Lighthouse. The song was written by renowned songwrights - Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway.