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.
Let's continue our mini series 'Miss Finland becomes a Pop Star". And - as it is Halloween time, this song is perfectly in the mood. Johanna Raunio won Miss Finland paget in 1974. She was 2nd runner-up both in Miss Universum and in Miss Europe paget. Her singing career however didn't start until 1993. The career didn't last long; she recorded only one album. Since then she has focused in acting and has frequently performed in TV dramas and soap operas. Johanna's "Dracula-tango" was on his only album that was released in 1994. The original "Dracula's Tango' was the second single for the girl group Toto Coelo in 1982. The group's name is Latin and means "by the whole extent of the heavens" or "heaven-wide". This song was a follow-up to their worldwide hit "I Eat Cannibals" but for some reason wasn't nearly as big as a hit. It was written by the groups manager Barry Blue, who had a couple of big glam rock hits under his own name. One member of the group, Anita Mahadervan, later changed her name to Anita Chellamah, and formed Cherry Bombz with several former members of legendary Finnish group Hanoi Rocks.
Pirkko Mannola was crowned Miss Finland in February 1958. In that same year she came 4th runner-up in Miss Europe paget. And in no time she was also a singing pop star recording her first single in that same year. In the following year she amde her first movie and couple of years later she was voted as The Best Finnish Film Actress. It really was happening for Pirkko. With a slightly mofified name Pirko Manola she also cut records in Germany. As it happens, in 1962 she was in the national preliminaries of Eurovision Song Contest for both Finland (as soloist) and Germany (duetting with Wyn Hoop). Pirkko recorded "Kuinka rakkaus alkoi"(How the loving started) in 1960. She recorded quite a bunch of covers in those days, so I guess we will hear more of her in future Finnpicks. The original was totally Paul Anka's song, sung and written by him. Paul was as popular in Finland those days a he was all over the world. And his songs were quickly finn-covered. This "Adam And Eve" was not one of his megahits, becouse it was hidden in the B-side of "Puppy Love" released in 1960.
This is Finnpick number 100!.So, I think it's appropriate to choose a song that bears the title "Sata kelloa" (A hundred bells). It was recorded by Pasi Kaunisto in 1973. Pasi's recording career began in 1968, and he was very populat artist in the first years of the 1970's. After this his popularity waned and at one point tried new career as undertaker (!) but has since come back into music business, performing mainly spiritual songs and classical music. The oroginal version of "Sata kelloa" was coming from Italy and was called "Cento campane" (A hundred bells). It was the theme song for the very popular TV serie in 1971 - "Il segno del comando" (The sign of the commander). (The series was shown in Finnish televison with the title "Käskijän merkki" in 1973). The song was recorded by the singer Nico Tirone. Nico had been a member in 60's Italian beat group called Nico e i Gabbiani (Nico and The Gulls), and continued as solo artist in 70's with the moniker Nico dei Gabbiani. 'Cento campane' wasn't a big hit in Italy until a year later when recorded by Lando Fiorini.
Kristiina Hautala was for s short period of time in the end of 60's perhaps the most popular Finnish female pop singer. She represented Finland in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1968 with "Kun kello käy" (it got 1 point and shared the last place). Kristiina released "En katso naamion taa" (I don't look behind the mask) as a single in 1967. The original song was called "A banda" (The band), telling a stroy of a marching band. It was composed by a famous Brazilian musician Francisco Buarque de Hollanda, popularly known as Chico Buarque. He is a singer, guitarist, composer, dramatist, and writer. The music he has written often comments on Brazil's social, economic and cultural reality. He first gained reputation when bossa nova rhythm came to light, and Nara Leão recorded his songs, one of which was "A banda" in 1966. Nara Leão was a Brazilian bossa nova and MPB (popular brazilian music) singer and occasional actress. She was known as the "the muse of bossa nova."
In the first part of the 60's the televison really made a breakthrough in Finland. In with the television came the TV stars, and specially two TV doctors made an impact; Dr. Casey and Dr. Kildare. They (rather, the actors who played them) became the first true TV celebrities. Subsequently, it was no wonder that a song was made about them. In 1963 Erkki Pohjanheimo made his breakthrough with the single "Kutsukaa tri Casey" (Call Dr. Casey). Erkki won a singing contest arranged by the youth magazine 'Suosikki' in 1961 and things started to happen. At he same time he was working for the Finnish Television as a camera man, and when he dropped his singing career in 1967, continued as a succesful TV-director and -producer. The original song "Calling Dr. Casey" was written and performed by legendary American singer-songwriterJohn D. Loudermilk in 1962, as a B-side of his single. John started his music career in his native North Carolina under the pseudonym Johnny Dee. He didn't have a great success as a singer, but after reassuming his birth name and moving to Nashville, his commercial success specially as a songwriter earned him a place in the Nashville Songwriters Association International's Hall of Fame. His best known composition is the classic "Tobacco Road".
Here's the one song that I - until recently - thought was a genuine Finnish children song. But how wrong can one be. Brita Koivunen (see previous entry) recorded "Saku Sammakko" (Saku The Frog) in 1961 together with Four Cats. It was a huge hit among both children and adults, and has since been one of the most sung number in sing-a-longs. Everybody knows "Saku Sammakko". The original song is an extremely old English folk ballad. "Frog Went A-Courtin'" has been sung with slightly different title and lyrics for over 400 years! The story is however always the same; what happened when a frog went courting. The oldest known musical version is from the year 1611. The lyrically modernized pop music version was done by Brothers Four. As to emphasize the difference between the original and the new version, they renamed it to "Frogg No 2". The Brothers Four were an American folk group founded in 1957 in Seattle, Washington. Bob Flick, John Paine, Mike Kirkland, and Dick Foley met at the University of Washington in 1956. They are frequently credited as the 'composers' of the song, but the right term would be 'innovative arranging'. The group is generally known as the performers of such evergreens (sic) as "Greenfields" and "Greenleaves of Summer". The frog song has been recorded by several big names including Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. But as an example of an interpretation prior to Brothers Four's version, let's listen to Burl Ives, a famous American actor and singer, sing about how "Mr. Froggie Went A-Courtin".
By coincidence, there's a couple of things common with this song and the previous one. Firstly the Finnish versionist in this one is a rock'n roll brother of Timo Jämsen, namely Pekka Loukiala. Pekka was one of the first rockn'rollers in Finland. In 1961 he was crowned as The Rock King of Finland, after winning a singing contest. His first records were of rockn'roll covers, but later he turned more into mainstream pop. He recorded "Kaunis flamingo" (Pretty flamingo) in the later years of his career in 1966. The second similarity to previous Finnpick is of course the name. "Flaming" & "Flamingo", you see ;-). The original bird song was born in USA in 1963 and performed by a little known group called Tommy Vann & Echoes. They had couple of hits - including "Flamingo" - before disbanding in 1964. Today Tommy Vann is the head of Tommy Vann Productions, a DJ, Karaoke and Entertainment Consulting Firm. The song became international hit in 1966 when recorded by Manfred Mann.
As I promised earlier (see this entry) we present now the A-side of Timo Jämsen's legendary single from 1961. It was "Kohtalon tähti" (The star of destiny). Timo's version fared in Finland much better than the original. And the original was done by the King himself. Elvis recorded "Flaming Star" in 1960 and the song was included in the movie of the same name, a western film starring Elvis Presley. It is said that Elvis gave one of his best acting performances as the half-breed "Pacer Burton.". The movie was directed by Don Siegel. It contains only two songs and only "Flaming Star" was released on an EP entitled "Elvis By Request - Flaming Star" to coincide with the film's release.
Updated on 17.04.2010: added the "original" original version. The song was originally recorded as "Black Star", but when the title of the film changed, that version was dumped.
Now here's something funny. Brita Koivunen was one of the leading ladies in Finnish pop music in the end of 50's and in the beginning of 60's. She started her career in 1954 after winning a singing contest. For 10 years she was releasing many records that became hits, often with jazzy arrangements. Jazz was personally her favourite music genre, but she didn't got the chance to cut a jazz record until 1985. Aside of pop songs she recorded also children songs, and songs that were liked by adults as well children. "Hauska Jose" (Funny Jose) was one of those, and recorded in 1962 with the vocal group Four Cats. The original was called "Happy Jose" and of course best remembered by it's catchy "Ching ching ching, oop-bop a-loop-a loop" -refrase and the laughing bits. It was performed by American band leader Jack Ross (or rather Jack Ross Orchestra) in 1961 and became a small hit for him. But numerous national versions became bigger hits in their respective countries. The tune is mostly instrumental, but broken up by short outbursts of laughter. And it's funny ...
Kari Kuuva is best known for his biggest hit, a tango parody called "Tango Pelargonia" in 1964. But Kari was of course much more than a novelty singer. He is a singer-songwriter of many moods and written hundreds of songs for himself and - especially in the later years - for various other artists. He's been active in the music business for over 40 years, starting as a guitarist and singer in guitar combo Willy and The Wanderers, and leading a folk trio called Kari, Raili & Riitta in 1964. Kari Kuuva's records were almost always his own compositions, but in early 1968 he recorded a cover version called "Asfalttia ja sementtiä" (Tar and cement). The original was of Italian origin, and called "Il ragazzo della via Gluck" (The boy from Gluck Street). It was performed in 1966 by world famous Italian singer Adriano Celentano. Celentano was born in Milan at 14 Via Gluck, hence the name for the song. For the last 40 years Adriano has retained his popularity in Italy, selling millions of records and appearing in numerous TV shows and movies.
p.s. I've added the English language version called "Tar And Cement" done by Verdelle Smith, an American R&B/folk singer. It was a big international hit for her in 1966 - although it only reached number 38 in the US charts.
The singing baseman Pekka Helin started his career in school bands in the 60's, and turned into professional musician in 1969. He was a often used as a session bassist, but did also gigs in the backing group of Kirka and with his own band. In the 90's he led a r&b band called Soul for Sale. For some reason he published his first solo album just recently (in 2007). His first solo recording however was a single called "Mä sorry sano en" (I wont't say I'm sorry) in 1979, released under the name Helin. It was a time of rockabilly revival and the original song was done by famous British revivalist group Matchbox. The group was very popular in Finland in those years. This particular song is not one of their best-known efforts, but it is definitely a good one. It was from their second LP called "Settin' The Woods On Fire" (1978) and composed by the band's guitar player and main songwriter Steve Bloomfield.
For some reason Italian songs have always (well, at least in the 50's, 60's and 70's) been near to the Finnish heart. It's in a way quite peculiar, becouse Italians and Finns are quite far a part as people. But I guess the magic of melodic and rhythmic songs overpowers both slavic and latin people. A fine example of this is Katri Helena's (see previous entry) "Tyttö niin pieni" (A girl so tiny), a single and a small hit for for her in 1965. The original song "Il Peperone" (Pepper) was composed and performed by a lesser known Italian star Edoardo Vianello in 1965. Edoardo's heydays as a pop singer were in the beginning of the 60's and this song was one of his last commercial successes.
Tapani Kansa was perhaps the "Finnish King of Covers" in late 60's and in the 70's. Many if not all of his biggest hits were covers. One of the lesser known songs covered by him was "Kauempaa ja kauempaa" (From further and further away) released as single in late 1967. The orignal song was of French origin even if the title "Manchester et Liverpool" was quite British. The song was performed by Marie Laforet (b. Maïténa Doumenach). She was a French singer and actress, whose parents were Armenian. She became very popular actress in French films and interpreted many roles in the 1960s. She starred a.o. in "La Fille aux Yeux d'Or" (The Girl with the Golden Eyes), which become her nickname. Some of her most memorable pop songs were written and/or arranged by French composer André Popp, such as this "Manchester et Liverpool" in 1966.