Today is officially the last day of Summer. This is fortunately not exactly true, the summer is just slowly fading away here in Finland. Kurre (see previous entry) recorded "Kesä häviää" (Summer fades away) in 1995. This was not the first version of the song, Kisu recorded it in 1982 with different lyrics (I add it here if I get it from somewhere). The original "Sommaren är kort" (Summer is short) was a great success in Europe for Swedish singer Tomas Ledin in 1982. Since 1970's Ledin has been one of the most popular recording artists in Sweden. In 1980 he represented Sweden in Eurovision Song Contest with the song "Just Nu". Tomas has some close ABBA connections; in 1982 recorded a single ("Never Again") with Agnetha Fältskog and in 1983 he married to manager Stig Andersson's daughter Marie.
Updated on 17.10.2009: added first Finnish version done by Kisu.
Anita Hirvonen - frequently presented in Finnpicks - recorded "Vaikka väkisin" (Even if by force) in 1969. It was released as a rather successful single. The lyrics were done by Juha Vainio. As usual, the lyrics in Anita's songs were strong and daring for a woman singer. The role of Anita Hirvonen in 'liberating' Finnish female singers in this respect was significant. The original song "Pes mou thn alithia" (Tell me the truth), was sung by famous Greek singer Vicky Leandros (b. Vassiliki Papathanassiou) . She is the daughter of musician and composer Leandros Papathanassiou (aka Leo Leandros, aka Mario Panas). She achieved worldwide fame after winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 1972 with the song "Après Toi" (representing Luxembourg). Already in 1967 she sang for Luxembourg in ESC with the song "L'amour est bleu" - "Love Is Blue"
Let's pick another one from Cherry Laine. The Queen of Covers Lea Laven recorded "Niin tai näin" (Be that what may) in 1979 on her "Rotunainen" album. The lyrics were done by one of the very few successful Finnish female lyricists Chrisse Johansson. The original song "Catch The Cat" was Cherry Laine's biggest success and it was written by her producer Bernt Möhrle. You can see her performing it- in the company of two 'cat dancers' - here.
On this day of Friday we are proud to present a song called "Perjantaina" (On Friday). Satu Pentikäinen (see previous entry) recorded it for her 1981 album "Pellit auki". The title of the original song was addressing a different day of the week. "No More Monday " was co-written and performed by Cherry Laine. She released two versions of this song; one in Germany in 1980 and another in France in 1981. Cherry was Jamaican-born singer who moved to England in early age. In the 70's she became a protegee of the German producer Bernd Möhrle and broke through in 1977 with "Night in Chicago" which was a disco hit all over Europe.
There are over 300 Finnpicks presented already and we haven't heard of the legendary covers band The Clifters yet. We correct that shameful omission now and present "Et mua saa" (You can't have me) from the year 1987. The Clifters was formed in 1979 with lead singer and guitarist Jiri Nikkinen as the driving force. Their first single was released in 1984 and first album "Kuningas" (The King) in 1987. This and the following album "Kuningatar" included some cover songs but the great breakthrough came in 1989 with "Sexi on in" (Sex is in) -album that contained nothing but covers. Clifters copied the original sound and performance very carefully, but the lyrics made by Jaana Rinne, were far from the original ones. These odd little stories written in peculiar 'street language' brought the band the street credibility they otherwise may never have gained as a covers band. This "Et mua saa" was one of their first covers and originally written as "Set Me Free" by Ray Davies. And his band Kinks released it as their 7th single in 1965.
Pop singer and Finnish ye-ye girl Kristiina Hautala recorded "Kuinkas hurisee" (How's it going?) in 1967. It was on the A-side of earlier Finnpick "En katso naamion taa" (see it here) On this song she was backed by the Orchestra of Esko Linnavalli, who also was responsible for the arrangements. The lyrics were by Sauvo "Saukki" Puhtila. The original song "So What's New" was sung by Peggy Lee (b. Norma Deloris Egstrom) and written by herself in collaboration with jazz guitarist John Pisano (Finnpicked before, see here) Peggy Lee started her career already in the beginning of 40's, and she scored several hits in the end of 40's and throughout 50's, most notably with "Fever" in 1956. This "So What's New" was a minor hit for her in 1966.
Jouko & Kosti (see earlier entry) recorded "Mama Loo" in 1973 when the new European Disco sound was breaking. After couple of less succesful singles this was sort of a come-back. The original "Mama Loo" was big European hit for Les Humphries Singers in 1973. The Les Humphries Singers was formed in Hamburg, Germany by the English born Les Humphries. The group consisted of a large number of singers of diverse ethnic origin, one of them being Liz Mitchell, who later fronted Boney M. This "Mama Loo" - a Les Humphries composition - was based on "Barbara Ann" by The Beach Boys. The group represented Germany at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1976 with the Ralph Siegel song "Sing Sang Song", reduced to only six singers (usual line-up was at least 20 singers), and came in 15th place.
Ossi Ahlapuro (see entry here) recoded "Etäisyys" (The Distance) on his first album in 1970. This beautiful song is almost forgotten but deserves to be resurrected. The original song "La Lontananza" (The Distance) was written and performed by the great Italian singer and songwriter Domenico Modugno. He has written such classics as "Lazzarella". "Volare" (the only song originating from Italy to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100) and "Piove". This "La Lontananza" is famous for it's chorus part and it tells a melancholy story of reindez-vous interrupted by a siren, and what happened thereafter ...
We start now a mini-series that will pop up every now and then. It's called "Both Sides Now" and in it we present both sides of a particular single. On the flip side of yesterday's Finnpick "Piiri pyörii" Johnny performed another early disco song "Dum dum". The lyrics were done by Pertti Reponen and arrangements by another 'old-timer' Esko Linnavalli. The original came all the way from Argentina. An Argentinian beat group called Kingston Karachi had South American hit with "Dum Dum" in 1971. The song became also a hit in Spain, both in original and in Spanish cover versions. I guess it was frequently played in tourist resorts and gradually the popularity of the driving song spread all over Europe. The song has Afro influences and at least partly sung in some African language.
Johnny - our old buddy - released "Piiri pyörii" (It goes around) as a single in 1973. It was a modest hit for him, but his popularity was already waning at that point. The song was an early disco tune and the original was called "Mighty Mighty and Roly Poly". It was of Italian origin and released in 1972, charting in Italy, Germany and even "bubbled under" the Billboard Hot 100 in USA. The performimg artist was called Mal (b. Mal Ryder), a British native who became an Italian pop superstar when his group, The Primitives, started charting in 1966. Mal went on to star in films and sell millions of discs through the 1980s, and he still resides in Italy.
We leave the Finnpicks Humour Week behind us with still another Shel Silverstein song. Shel did write also non-novelty songs, however, often with a twist. This is one of those. Petri & Petterson Brass (see previous entry) recorded "Sylvian äiti" in 1972. It was their second single, but wasn't as successful as their first one "Maalaismaisema". The original song "Sylvia's Mother" was the first big hit for Dr. Hook in 1972. At this point the band was still bearing the moniker 'Dr. Hook and The Medicine Show'. The song reached number 5 on the Billboard singles chart. The song tells the story of a man trying to say one last goodbye to his ex-girlfriend Sylvia Avery (Sylvia Suominen in Finnish version), but unable to get past her mother, who tries to interfere.
Another Shel Silverstein song, this time performed by the Finnish band (The Heirs of Wilbury), whose name paid homage to Travelling Wilburys. They were quite popular in the 90's presenting almost exclusively novelty songs. They recorded several albums and singles, and originated from the town of Turku. They used the (in)famous Turku dialect in some of their songs, like in the beginning of this "Vilperin PerikuntaAkapulkon kulta" (Akapulko gold) on their first album in 1992. The lyrics http://lirama.net/song/201607 are almost direct translation of those in the original "Acapulco Goldie". It was from the same Dr. Hook album - "Belly Up" - as yesterday's Finnpick. The "Goldie" in the song is a hooker, or 'puta', as she's called in the spanish-speaking Mexico.
We leave the Finnpick Humour Week with a couple of Shel Silverstein songs. Vesku Loiri - yes, again - released "Roudari Roope ja hengari Hertta" (Roope the Roadie and Hertta the groupie) in 1973 on the B-side of his "Uuno Turhapuro" single (Uuno Turhapuro is the most legendary of Vesku's 'alter egos'). The lyrics were done by our (and Loiri's) old friend Jukka Virtanen. The original song "Roland the Roadie and Gertrude the Groupie" was written by poet and singer-songwriter Shel Silverstein and performed by US pop-country rock band Dr. Hook. It was on their 1973 album "Belly Up" and was also released as a single. They started as Dr. Hook and The Medicine Show releasing in 1971 their debut album, which included their first hit, "Sylvia's Mother." Shel Silverstein wrote the lyrics for many of Dr. Hook’s early songs - in fact, he wrote their entire second album.
Kontra's biggest hit, in 1978 was "Jerry Cotton" (see entry here). On the B-side was "Punaisen Paronin paluu" (The Return Of The Red Baron), a sequel to previous year's "Ressu ja punainen paroni" (see entry here). The original song was of course a sequel, too - the follow up to "Snoopy vs the Red Baron" by US band The Royal Guardsmen in 1967 and reaching no. 37 in the charts of that year. This time it wasn't purely an air battle, but Snoopy landed for a 'pistol duel' with the baron.
We interrupt this Finnpick Humour Week for a special announcement. Today is the 40th Anniversary of Woodstock Festival. Woodstock Music & Art Fair (informally known as Woodstock Festival) was held at Max Yasgur's 240 ha dairy farm in the rural town of Bethel, New York - 69 km southwest of the town of Woodstock. Joni Mitchell was originally booked to perform, but canceled at the urging of her manager to avoid missing a scheduled appearance on The Dick Cavett Show. However Joni was so impressed about the festival that he afterwards wrote a song to honour the event, a song simply called "Woodstock". She wrote this song in a hotel room in New York City, watching the reports of the Festival on television. "The deprivation of not being able to go provided me with an intense angle on Woodstock," she told an interviewer. The song was later released on her third album, Ladies of the Canyon in 1970. The Finnish pop-rock group Karma, very popular in the 70's, recorded it on their 1976 album "Huomenta suomi". It was called "Kesäpäivä" (Summer day) and the lyrics were by another popular Finnish artist Erkki Liikanen. It was never released as a single and is sadly forgotten becouse it is a decent version of the song.. The most famous version of "Woodstock" was done by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, who themselves played in Woodstock. The song become a hit and the recording most associated with the festival.
Updated on 02.10-2009: added Joni Mitchell's original
Let's take another ride with Vesku Loiri. In 1970 he released a single that was extraordinary as it covered two songs from the same artist. On the B-side was "Kansallinen toveruusviikko" (National brotherhood week) and on the A-side this "Voi saasta" (Oh, pollution). The sharp lyrics were written - surprisingly - by a veteran lyricist Sauvo Puhtila. Both songs were originally written and performed by US satirist, songwriter and mathematician Tom Lehrer. They both were written for the television series 'That Was The Week That Was', but these and other his songs were performed in somewhat censored form. In order to give the public the chance to hear the original lyrics, Tom recorded a live album called 'That Was The Year That Was' in 1965. This "Pollution" might be the first popular song about air and water pollution.
In addition to Simo Salminen (finnpicked yesterday) , Vesa-Matti "Vesku" Loiri was one of the regular members of Spede Pasanen's 'wild bunch'. Vesku (see previous entry) has been entertaining Finns more than 40 years now. He is multi-talented musician, singer, comedian, actor and who know's what else ... He has recorded several novelty songs, but lately concentrated on more serious pop and chansons. In 1968 Vesku released single with "Saiskos pluvan" (May I have 'tis dance) on it, and it became an instant hit. The original was one in the surprisingly long row of instrumentals that have had a vocal version in Finnish. The tune called "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" was written by bluegrass artist Earl Scruggs in 1949 and was recorded by Scruggs with Lester Flatt and the Foggy Mountain Boys. On it, Scruggs plays a Gibson Granada 5-string banjo, while Flatt is playing lead guitar. It was used as background music in the 1967 movie 'Bonnie and Clyde', especially in the car chase scenes. And I guess that was the trigger for Vesku's cover version.
Simo Salminen has been one of longest-running Finnish comedians. In the 1960's he started with another Finnish comedy master Spede Pasanen, doing TV Shows and movies. He always was the side-show character, but he was a better singer than Spede (not much ;-)) and therefore he even cut some novelty singles. He recorded "Tenkka-tenkka-poo" (hard to translate, but means something like "Wait a minute, I need to think ...") in 1968. The lyrics - as nearly always on his records - were done by Jukka Virtanen (see previous entry). The original song was an old British traditional rugby song called "Lily the Pink". It was made famous by the group named The Scaffold. The group was a result of the meeting of Michael McCartney (brother of Beatle Paul), who changed his name to Mike McGear to avoid accusations of coat-tailing, and Post Office engineer John Gorman. Their lineup filled out with Roger McGough. The Scaffold blended absurd humor with catchy songs and made chart-topping singles. Their biggest success was "Lily the Pink" which featured Jack Bruce on bass. In 1973, the Scaffold officially ceased to exist, being blended into a group called Grimms.
Brita Koivunen (see previous entry) released the song "Neiti Sievänen ja minä" (Miss Sievänen and I) as a single in 1961. It wasn't the first recorded Finnish version of this song, but it is the most known by far. And a great hit for Brita. The witty and humorous lyrics (by Sauvo Puhtila) tell the tale of the dangers of reaching too high in love life. The original was a song "Fröken Johansson och jag" (Miss Johansson and I) written by the Swedish legendary singer, songwriter, actor and playwright Thore Skogman. He has been previously finnpicked, see the entry here. The 'Miss Johansson' was one Clara Johansson, who owned a bakery shop that Thore used to visit. The song was a best-selling Swedish hit in 1960 for Lily Berglund. I have not got hold of that version, so we listen to the 'next best', a version done by Thore Skogman himself.
Let's start this Finnpicks Humour Week with the one and only Reino "Repe" Helismaa He truly was a jack of many trades; lyricist, composer, singer, entertainer, actor, script writer and novelist. He's primarily known of his lyrics, which he wrote to about 1500 recorded songs. Numerous of those songs have become classics of Finnish popular music. Repe's own recorded songs were mostly of humorous nature, of which this "Meksikon pikajuna" (Mexican Express) is fine example. Repe recorded it twice, in 1949 and in 1963. In the latter year it became a surprise hit for him. I remember myself been greatly irritated when the A-side was always played on the radio, and I never heard the end of the story of this train robbery taking place in the Mexican Express. It was on the B-side, you see. Well, we now present both sides. The A-side is from the 1949 recording, and the B-side from the 1963 recording. I was always wondering why the original song was never played anywhere. The reason for that was quite obvious; the original was a German instrumental called "Orient Express" from the 1930's. The composer was Gerald Mohr, who seems to have written several numbers for German dance- and salon orchestras in the 1930's. I don't know if this is the original recording (probably not), but this is the oldest I could find, from the year 1933, performed by Hans Bund und seinem Tanz-Orchester. The Orient Express is of course the famous long-distance passenger train, the original end-points being London and Istanbul. Ever since it took to the rails in 1883, it has been known as the finest train in Europe; the "Grand Hotel on Wheels".
Robin - our Finnpick veteran - recorded "Salainen asiapoika" (Secret errand boy) in 1967. It was the B-side of his "Riders In The Sky" -cover "Aaveratsastajat". Neither of these was a hit. The original song wasn't a hit in Finland, either. But it was quite interesting early specimen of Dutch pop/rock that usually was not known, let alone covered in Finland. It was originally called "Russian Spy And I" and performed by a band called The Hunters. This single released in 1966 became The Hunters' most famous song, recieving much radio airplay. The virtuoso guitar lick brought lead guitarist Jan Akkerman instant recognition all over Holland. At the time he was only 18. In 1970 he formed the famous Focus and some years later, Akkerman was awarded by the UK pop publication, Melody Maker, as the "Best guitarist in the world"!
p,s. The unintentional(?) humour of this Finnpick seves as a introduction to Finnpick Humour Week. Stay tuned ...
The song of the day is - literally - "Lauantai" (Saturday). It was recorded in 1980 by Satu Pentikäinen, who started in 1977 as a backing singer for Tapani Kansa, when she was only 14 years old. Her first record “Menolippu” - disco cover of earlier Finnpick “One Way Ticket” - was released in 1978 and was an instant hit. "Lauantai" was on her first album "Satu".The original song was called "She Was Too Young" anf petformed by Dutch pop group The Cats, succesfull in the Netherlands and Germany from the late 60's to the mid 80's. This song, a minor European hit, was written by band member Cees Veerman.
A year after Marion Rung was Finland's representative in 1962 Eurovision Song Contest with "Tipitii", she recorded this teeny pop song "Pekan tyttö" (Pekka's girl"). At the time she was still only 17 years old. The original, "Bobby's Girl", was the first recording (1962) of Brooklyn, New York teenager Marcia Blane (b. Marcia Blank). With its spoken introduction and "You're not a kid anymore" backing refrain, the song quickly won the hearts of teenage America, entering the charts in mid-October, and by December it was at number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Susan Maugham did a UK version of the song.
The Queen of Covers in 70's, Lea Laven recorded "Vuosikertaa" (Vintage) in 1972. Arrangement was done by future master arranger and songwriter Veikko Samuli. And this was one of the 8 (!) Shocking Blue covers that Lea did in that year. There are altogether 12 Robert H. J. Van Leeuwen -written songs covered in Finland and of those, Lea has done three out of four. Perhaps her voice has some similarity to Mariska Veres'. I bet we hear more of these in the future Finnpicks. Well, this "Vuosikertaa" was Shocking Blue's 1971 hit "Blossom Lady". This Dutch band was formed in 1967 by the guitarist Robbie van Leeuwen. The band's name was inspired by an Eric Clapton track called "Electric Blue". The lead vocalist Mariska Veres' vocal style was quite different from most female singers of the day. Mariska was half-Hungarian and half-German, and had often sung with her father, who played violin in a gypsy orchestra.
Whereas Danny built his career in the 60's and 70's almost entirely on cover songs, so did his rival Johnny. In 1966 he recorded "Hymyillen" (Smiling) which was released as a single. The single was practically a double A-sided one, becouse on the flipside was the cover of Kinks' "Sunny Afternoon" and both sides did very well. The original of "Hymyillen" was one of the biggest hits for the Swedish group Hep Stars, and was called "Sunny Girl". It was written by band's keyboard player Benny Anderson. And even if this was only his second composition you can hear this master of melody was blooming already, long before the Abba days. "Sunny Girl" became Bennys break-through as composer and the song made him believe on himself as a songwriter.
Kari Kuuva (see previous entry) wrote himself nearly all of the songs he recorded. One of the rare covers that he did, in the beginning of his career in the 60's, was "Pikku Nina" (Tiny Nina) in 1965. It was the follow-up to his big break-through single "Tango Pelargonia". The tongue-in-cheek approach is not so eminent as in it's predecessor, but anyway, a subtle pastiche it is. The original tune was originally written by a Chilean composer Sergio Fernandez Garay. The original title was "Norma" (also frequently called "Norma Mia") and it was covered in many countries and in many languages. Most likely the version that Kari covered was done by an Italian singer Tony Dallara (b. Antonio Lardera). All in all, he's famous for two songs only; his 1958 hit "Come Prima", and the 1960 Sanremo Festival winner "Romantica". Both were international hits. This "Norma" was on the B-side of his 1963 single. BTW, our earlier finnpicked (here) Turkish lady Ajda Pekkan did an interesting Turkish version of this song in 1964 (when she was only 18). See and hear it here.
One of the better hit singles for Danny was in November 1971 recorded "Valvoin tänään aamukuuteen" (Today I stayed up til' six in the morning). The driving arrangement was done by Jaakko Salo. Again, the original song wasn't hit in Finland, but Danny picked it up for covering anyway. The original song was called "I Woke Up In Love This Morning". It was performed by US "TV group" The Partridge Family. "The Partridge Family" was an American television sitcom about a widowed mother and her five children who took on a music career. The series was originally broadcast from 1970 to 1974 (It has never been broadcast on Finnish TV). The show was produced by Screen Gems, which at the time was just finishing its run with The Monkees, another show about a fictional musical group. Despite the fictional nature of the "band", the Partridge Family's records sold very well. The lead singer "Keith Partridge", played by David Cassidy, made later a hugely succesful career as a solo singer - and under his own name.
Frequently finnpicked Taiska didn't release so many singles. but most of them have become Finnish pop classics. Like this "Rannalla" (On the beach) that was on the B-side of her 1980 single. And I consider it to be better than the original, thanks to lyrics by Raul Reiman, arrangement by Jori Sivonen and - of course - the sincere vocals by Taiska herself. The original was called "Angelica And Ramone" and was a minor hit for the Swedish pop group Secret Service, which has been finnpicked before (see here). The song was written by Claes Af Geijerstam, famous Swedish musician, radio personality and DJ.
Updated on 13.11.2009: Added Björn Skif's original version.
Tuomari Nurmio (b. Hannu Juhani Nurmio) is regarded as one of the most original Finnish singer-songwriters. "Tuomari" means a judge in Finnish. Nurmio adopted this nickname, since he has a master's degree in law. His music draws on the traditions of American country, blues and roots music, adding them his own energy. His lyrics have romantic, humorous undertones, often depicting the dark side of urban life. Nurmio rarely performs or records any covers, But in 1995 after getting interested in Karaoke culture he recorded an album of cover versions called "Karaokekuningas" (Karaoke king). One of its songs was "Sinulle" (For you). The original was called "Silhouettes" and a performed by a doo wop group called The Rays. It was an American group formed in New York in 1955, and active in the 1950s. Their biggest hit single was this "Silhouettes," a moderately-slow doo wop piece of pop music that reached number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1957, Bob Dylan also recorded "Silhouettes" during his legendary Basement Tapes sessions of the late '60s, but that version remains unreleased.