Eppu Normaali was and still is one of the most popular Finnish rock bands. They started with the punk wave, but later moved to more mainstream rock and pop. However, always retaining their originality. They rarely did any covers, but this "Nuori poika" (Young boy) is one example of those. It was released as a single B-side (A-side was "Jee Jee") in 1978. The original song was written and performed by Englishman Eric Frank Goulden, better known as Wreckless Eric. Goulden wrote the song in 1974, and recorded it in 1977. Additional musicians on the record were his Stiff record label stable mates Nick Lowe on guitar and bass and Ian Dury on drums. It was never a chart hit, but nevertheless has become a classic. You can see Eric perform the song, here.
We now commence a mini-series of Finnish rock groups not-yet-presented-here-in-Finnpicks. These 3 groups are/have been among the most popular Finnish artists, but as they have almost exclusively recorded their own material, their Finnpicks debut has been in the waiting. The first one we present is Sleepy Sleepers, legendary punk-orientated fun-rock band, active from 1974 to the end of 80's. Later in was evolved to internationally famed group Leningrad Cowboys. In 1980 they released album "Metsäratio", and one of the tracks was "Painimaan" (Wrestling). Even if the lead vocalist Tiina Tiikeri wasn't Debbie Harry, the performance was recognizible as a cover of Blondie's "Atomic". It was released on Blondie's 4th studio album "Eat To The Beat" in 1979. "Atomic" was composed by band members Jimmy Destri and Debbie Harry, and the arrangement gave it a spaghetti western treatment. The guitar riff is directly influenced by the one in the Neil Diamond song "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon". You can see the band perform the song, here.
The end stop in our Grand Tour of USA is the northern-most state. Lea Laven recorded "Alaska country" in 1972 for her album "Vuosikertaa". The arrangement was in the the capable hands of Veikko Samuli and the Finnish lyrics were from the pen of Chrisse Johansson. The original "Alaska Country" was a track on Shocking Blue's second album "Scorpio's Dance" released in 1970. The album was partly recorded in New York and continues the band's exploration of Americana and country music. Alaska Country" was one of the most obvious references to America. Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It was purchased from the Russian Empire in 1867.
We now leave California and head for "whitier pastures". Tapio Rautavaara recorded "Kohti Alaskaa" (To Alaska) in 1961 together with vocal group Neloset. It was on the flipside of earlier finnpicked song "Kylmää vettä" (see here). The Finnish lyrics were written by Sauvo Puhtila. The original song was called "North to Alaska" and it was featured in the 1960 movie "North to Alaska", starring John Wayne.It was performed by Johnny Horton, an American country music and rockabilly singer most famous for his semi-folk, so-called "saga songs".
Muska recorded "Kalifornian aurinkoon" (To the California sun) in 1979, and at the time it was released only on a single.It was on the flipside of other 'Grand Tour of USA" -entry, "Tennessee -valssi" (see it here). The lyrics were - surprisingly - made by the Finnish punk rock legend Pelle Miljoona (b. Petri Tiili). The original song was called "California Sun", and it was a big surf hit for US group The Rivieras in 1964, reaching number 5 in the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The Rivieras were one-hit-wonders, five high school boys from Indiana - who had never been to California. The first recording of "California Sun" was made as a rhythm-and-blues song already in 1961 by Joe Jones (b. Edmond J. Melder), an American R&B singer, songwriter and arranger. His main claim to fame was "You Talk Too Much" in 1960.
Tapani Kansa recorded "Kalajoen hiekat" (The sands of Kalajoki) in 1978, at the time that everything was discofied. This was the disco version of the original that - for some inexplicable reason - never before had been covered in Finnish. The Finnish lyrics that depicted the fun and sun in the sands of Kalajoki were done by Tapani himself. Kalajoki, in the western coast of Finland, has been named "The Riviera of the North". The original song was the classic "California Dreaming", the 1965 song by Mamas & Papas. The song was written by the group members John and Michelle Phillips already in 1963. You can see Mamas & Papas perform thes song here, , but here in Finnpicks we present the first recoded version done by Barry McGuire (of "Eve of Festruction" fame), a good friend of the group. Mamas & Papas are doing the bacground vocals on this. You can read the background of "California Dreaming", here.
Paula (see earlier entry) recorded "Sacramento" to the Finnish lyrics of Pertsa Reponen in 1972. It was a non-successful single with another Middle Of The Road cover ("Ennenvanhaan"/"Samson And Delilah") on the flipside. Sacramento was one of the biggest hits for Middle Of The Road, released in 1972 and hitting number 1 on almost every European singles chart. You can see a promotional video of the song - filmed in Scotland, not in Sacramento - here. Sacramento is the capital of the state of California. In 2002, Sacramento was cited by Time magazine as America's most ethnically and racially integrated city.
"Antaa tulla lunta tupaan" (Let the snow inside the house, for all I care) was the title (lyrics by Hector) of the song that Cay & The Scaffolds released in 1972. The Scaffolds was one of the pioneering Finnish guitar groups, founded in 1962. For three years it was quite popular, scoring the first Finnish vocal beat group hit with self-penned "Girls" in 1963. The vocalist was at that point Cay Karlsson, and the group's name was changed to Cay & The Scaffolds. The band broke up in 1965, but was briefly re-united in 1972, when they recorded today's finnpick, with the cover of Don McLean's "Vincent" on the flipside. Hector later re-wrote the lyrics for Kirka, who recorded this song in 1983 for his album "Täytyy uskaltaa" with the title "Viikon verran sankareina" (Heroes for a week). The original song "It Never Rains In Southern California" was a big hit for Albert Hammond in 1972. It was written by Hammond and his songwriting partner Mike Hazlewood. You can see Albert perform the song, here. BTW - you can monitor the weather in Southern California here.
We now continue our Finnpicks Grand Tour of USA, that was interrupted a couple weeks ago. This is the last leg, cruising the western part of the North American continent. The pop band Kalmar Union (see earlier entry) recorded "Ei siinä mitään" (It doesn't matter) for their sole album in 1973. It was not released as a single. The original song was called "Ventura Highway" and it was one of the hits for the band America. The writer and vocalist is band member Dewey Bunnell, who has said that the song has the most lasting power of all the songs he has written. The song went to number 8 on the Billboard Top 40 Pop Charts in 1972. Actually there is no "Ventura Highway", but it's the first part - from Los Angeles to the city of Ventura - of the U.S. Route 101 (US 101), which is one of the last remaining and longest U.S. Routes still active in California state, and the longest highway of any kind in California.
We continue with the theme Aspelund and Australia. Yesterday Ami Aspelund sang about boomerang, today her big sister Monica sings about kangaroo. Monika Aspelund (see earlier entry) recorded "Katso kenguru loikkaa" (See the kangaroo jump) in 1960 together with vocal group Four Cats. It was her first single and she was only 14 years old. The original song was called "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport " and it was a smash hit for Australian all-round entertainer and singer Rolf Harris. Rolf wrote it in 1957 - inspired by Harry Belafonte's calypsos - as an Australian calypso . The song was number 1 for four weeks in Australia in 1960 and and reached the top 10 in UK.
Ami Aspelund recorded "Bumerangi" in 1973 and it was released on the B-side of her massive first hit single "Apinamies" (see earlier entry) The song was also included on Ami's album "Mentävä on". The original song was called "Yellow Boomerang " and it was one the numerous hits for Scottish pop group The Middle of The Road. In 1973 it climbed up the charts all over the world. You can see them perform the song, here.
This is a familiar song, but I wasn't aware of the first Finnish version - sung from the female point of view - until recently. Seija Lampila (see earlier entry) recorded "Ikkunaprinssi" (Window prince) in 1957. It was not a hit and remained a forgotten gem. However, the same song became more popular when released by Olavi Virta in 1958 on the B-side of his mega-hit "Poika varjoisalta kujalta". But the biggest Finnish breakthrough came in 1982, when Rauli Badding Somerjoki released his classic version as "Ikkunaprinsessa" (Window princess). The original song "Glendora" was a great succes for Perry Como in 1956. The song deals with a man's unusual attraction to a department store mannequin, and his disillusionment when, at the end of the song, he happens to see it disassembled during the store's renovation.
Päivi Paunu recorded "Eilen kun mä tiennyt en" (Yesterday when I didn't know) in 1969 for her album "Hei vain" and it was also released as a single on the B-side of her home-made hit "Oi rakkahin". The same song received more success in the following year, when Tapio Heinonen (see earlier entry) released his version, using the same lyrics. The original song was of French origin. Armenian-born Charles Aznavour (b. Shahnour Vaghenag Aznavourian) co-wrote and performed "Hier Encore" (Yesterday again) and the song was released in 1964. It turned out to be one of Aznavour's greatest hits. In 1969 US country singer Roy Clark made his version as "Yesterday When I was Young", and It was big hit in both Country, Pop and Adult Contemporary Charts. It also broke through internationally, appearing on charts in many countries. This is the version that inspired Päivi and Tapio.
It's a long time since we last presented Johnny. Well, here's Johnny! ... He recorded "Ai, jai, jai" in 1973 for his album "Jonglööri" It was released also as a single, on the flipside of his version of "Coconuts From Congoville" (finnpicked earlier, see here). The Finnish lyrics were crafted by Vexi Salmi. The original song was called "Hi, Hi, Hi" and it was a smash hit in 1972 for Paul McCartney & The Wings. It was banned by the BBC because of "unsuitable lyrics." The song still managed to be a hit, reaching number 5 in the UK and number 10 in the US. BTW, the name "Wings" is said to have come to McCartney as he was praying in the hospital while Linda was giving birth to their eldest child Stella.
Lea Laven released "Siis jos vain" (So, if only) on her album "Lea Laven" in 1987. The Finnish lyrics were provided by Chrisse Johansson. It's quite a mystery why this classic had not been covered before. Well - a couple of years later it was finnpicked again, by The Clifters. They performed it on their "Sexi on in" album under the title "Ou Lenita" (Oh Lenita) to new Finnish lyrics by Jaana Rinne. The original song was one of the most famous pop songs "He's So Fine" originally made by all-girl vocal group The Chiffons (finnpicked earlier, see here, see also the "My Sweet Lord" entry). It topped the Billboard Hot 100 Chart in the spring of 1963. The Tokens (of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" fame) produced the song and played on the backing track.
Well, well - it's springtime and robins sing. Saksa Brothers recorded "Rokkaava Robin" (Rocking Robin) in 1974 for their album "Rankka päivä". This pop group was quite extraordinary in Finland, as it consisted of altogether 5 brothers: Voitto,Arto,Jussi,Reijo and Harri. However, they did not not gain any greater success. They usually recorded their own material, but did also some covers. This "Rokkava Robin" was one of those, sung to the Finnish lyrics by Jussi Saksa. The Finnish "Robin" was a rocking guy, not a bird. The orignal song "Rockin' Robin" dates back all the way to 1958. It was written by Leon René under the pseudonym Jimmie Thomas and recorded by Bobby Day (b. Robert James Byrd) in 1958. It was Day's only hit single, reaching number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Bobby Day was the original "Bob" in the duo Bob & Earl. He was also a successful songwriter, best known for "Over and Over" by the Dave Clark Five and "Little Bitty Pretty One" by Thurston Harris. In 1972 Michael Jackson recorded and released a cover version of "Rockin' Robin", and you can see hime perform it, here.
One more ESC finnpick after last nights ESC 2011 ... Seppo Närhi recorded "Mary Ann" for his album "Vieraat huoneet" in 1979. It wasn't released as a single and it is one of the lesser known Närhi songs. The Finnish lyrics were provided by Juha Vainio. The original "Mary Ann" was the British entry in the Eurovision Song Contest 1979, performed by pop group Black Lace. It placed 7th in a field of 19. The writer of "Mary Ann", Peter Morris wanted the group to sound like chart-topping band Smokie. And obviously they did, because Smokie's publishers, RAK Music, insisted that Mary Ann was a rip-off of Smokie's song "Oh Carol" and threatened to take legal action. You can see Black Lace's ESC performance, here. Here's the pair:
Two days to ESC 2011 ... Anna & Kirka Babitzin recorded "Hienompaa tiedä en" (I don't know of any finer) to the lyrics of Pertsa Reponen in 1977 and it was released on a single as a a B-side to cover of "Cindy" (finnpicked ealier, here). The original song "It's Nice To Be In Love Again" was the Irish entry in 1977 Eurovision Song Contest. It was performed by group called The Swarbriggs Plus Two. The Swarbrigg brothers Tommy and Jimmy had already represented Ireland in 1975 contest, but this time they had joined with twö ladies (Nicola Kerr and Alma Carroll). The brothers had also written both of those songs. The 1977 song did very well and placed 3rd. You can see their ESC performance, here.
Three days to ESC 2011 ... In 1977 Jouko, Kosti & Paavo recorded "Sai laulu aikaan sen" (It was caused by a song) in 1977 to the lyrics of Pertsa Reponen. It was released on their debut album and also as a single, but was lost in oblivion. The song was considered to have some hit potential, becouse two other Finnish versions were released in that year. The original song was called "Ensename a cantar" (Teach me to sing). It was the Spanish entry in the Eurovision Song Contest 1977, performed by a singer named Micky. The song is an up-tempo number in which the banjo plays an important part. At the close of voting, it had received 52 points, placing 9th in a field of 18. You can see the actual ESC performance, here.
Danny and Armi Aavikko (both finnpicked several times as a solo artists) had a very succesful period as a duo in the 70's. One of the lesser known recordings they made was this "Päin seinää". It was included on their massive big seller album "Tahdon olla sulle hellä" in 1977. It was released also in single format, but failed to hit the charts. The original song was called "Rock Bottom"" and it was the UK entry in the Eurovision Song Contest 1977, performed by Lynsey de Paul and Mike Moran. The song was also written by them. It fared well, receiving 121 points and placing 2nd in a field of 18, just behind France's Marie Myriam. You can see their lively ESC performance, here.
Now it's time for our yearly countdown to Eurovision Song Contest. This years contest takes place in Düsseldorf, Germany next Saturday, the 14th of May. Out first countdown entry is "Sen eläisin uudelleen" (I'd live it all again) and it was recorded by altogether 3 duos in 1976 and one more in 1980. We present here the versions by Lea Laven & Leo Luoto and Päivi Paunu & Martti Metsäketo (both from 1976). The original song "We'll Live It All Again" ("Noi lo rivivremo di nuovo" in Italian)was the Italian entry in ESC 1976. It was performed by famous male-female duo Al Bano & Romina Power. Romina sang in mainly English and Al in Italian. Italy placed in 7th, while Finland took the 11th place with "Pump-Pump". You can see the ESC performance, here.
Well - it's Mothers Day and we just have to play this song. Jari Huhtasalo was 13 years old when he recorded "Äideistä parhain" (The best of mothers) in 1972. It went all the way to number one in the charts and has become an evergreen. Jari never repetaed this success, but he has been active as a musician and singer and recorded several albums in recent years.The original "Mother of Mine" came from UK, and was performed by 13-year-old Scottish singer Neil Reid. He won the British TV talent show Opportunity Knocks 3 times and as result he was given a recording contract, and this was Reid's first single. He later became the youngest artist to top the UK album charts. However, he was unable to follow up his success. The song was written by session guitarist Bill Parkinson, who wrote it about/for his own mother.
Now we have reached the last stop (for now) of our journey accross USA. And there we meet two great late singers. Kari Tapio recorded "Aikaan täysikuun" (When it's full moon time) in 1989 for his eponymous album. The song cecame a radio hit. The Finnish lyrics were written by Kari himself. The original song "California Blue " was on the "Mystery Girl" -album, the last album recorded by Roy Orbison, posthumously released in 1989. It was also a minor hit when released as a single. The song was written by Orbison with Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty.
Now we go west ... Markku Aro recorded "Älä lähde rakkain" (Don't go darling) in 1972. It was released on the "Oo mikä nainen" -album and on the flipside of "Täyttä totta" (cover of Slade's "Look wot you dun") single. The Finnish lyrics this time were made by Vexi Salmi. The original song "Don't Go Down To Reno" was written by famous songwriting duo Mitch Murray and Peter Callander and performed by Tony Christie ((b. Anthony Fitzgerald). Christie is best remembered by his rendition of "Amarillo" (see earlier entry). Reno, Nevada is known as "The Biggest Little City in the World", ant it's famous for its casinos and liberal divorce laws. Like the lyrics say: "In Reno town for a few dollars down, you can buy yourself a separation". You can see Tony perform a live version in 1979, here.
Next stop in Finnpicks Grand Tour of USA is El Paso, Texas. Tapani Rautavaara - with vocal group Neloset - recorded "El Paso" in 1960, and it was released as a single on the flipside of "Toverukset" (see earlier entry). Reino Helismaa, who was especially famous for his western songs, provided the Finnish lyrics. The original "El Paso" was written and performed by Marty Robbins, and was first released on his album "Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs" in 1959. It was released as a single, and became a major hit on both the country and pop music charts, reaching number one in both at the start of 1960. It won the Grammy Award for Best Country & Western Recording in 1961. Marty's western ballads were eagerly covered in Finland (one example is here). The Texan city of El Paso stands on the Rio Grande, across the border from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. The two cities form a combined international metropolitan area, sometimes called Juarez-El Paso.
From Kansas to Oklahoma ... The brothers Mika and Turkka Mali (see earlier entry) recorded "Torron Zorro" (Zorro from Torro) in 1978 for their debut album "Runkomäen iltamat". The hilarious Finnish lyrics were made by Turkka Mali. Torro is a village near Forssa, where the brothers Mali originate from. The original song was called "Okie From Muskogee" and it was a huge country and cross-over hit for Merle Haggard in 1969. It was written by Haggard and Roy Edward Burris (drummer for Haggard's backing band, The Strangers) during the height of the Vietnam War. The song depicts small-town life, where conservative values were the norm. The singer states how proud he is to hail from Middle America, where its residents were patriotic, and didn't smoke marijuana, take LSD, wear beads and sandals, burn draft cards or challenge authority. Muskogee is a city in Muskogee County, Oklahoma. "Okie" is denoting a resident or native of Oklahoma. You can see Merle perform the "Okie" -song, here
Hector recorded "Tie jatkuu äärettömiin" (The road goes on infinitely) in 1969, and it was released on the B-side of his "Kuningatar" -single (cover of Peter Sarsted's "Where Do You Go To My Lovely"). The Finnish lyrics are of course written by Hector himself. The original song "Wichita Lineman" is a classic song written by Jimmy Webb in 1968, first recorded by Glen Campbell. It appeared on his 1968 album of the same name, and reached number 3 on the US pop charts. Rolling Stone -magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" ranked "Wichita Lineman" at 192. It has been referred to as "the first existential country song" and some have praised it as "the greatest pop song ever composed". Wichita is a county in Kansas, USA.
Finnpicks Grand Tour of USA now takes turn to South, deep South ... Marion recorded "Mississippi" in 1977 for her album "77". It was also released on single format, on the B-side of her Abba's "Dancing Queen" -cover (called "Prinsessa"). The Finnish lyrics for Mississippi were crafted by Juha Vainio. The original "Mississippi" was worldwide smash hit in 1975-76 for Dutch group Pussycat. (see earlier entry) It is estimated that "Mississippi" sold over five million copies worldwide. The lyrics of the song are about the history of music, about how rock music became more popular than country music. The name of the Mississippi state derives from the Mississippi River ('rolling along' in the song), which flows along its western boundary. Again, the name of the river comes from the Ojibwe - one of indigenous languages of USA - word misi-ziibi, meaning "Great River". You can see Pussycat perform the song, here.
We are still staying in Tennessee... The Saari brothers Jouko, Kosti and Paavo recorded "Nouse Joensuussa junaan" (Board the train in Joensuu) in 1977 for their album "Jouko, Kosti ja Paavo". The Finnish lyrics were provided by Pertsa Reponen. The song was not released as a single. Maybe becouse it was released some 10 years after the original hit tune. "Last Train to Clarksville" was the debut single by The Monkees, released in August 1966.The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 on November 1966. Though the Clarksville in the song's title appears to refer to the city of Clarksville, Tennessee, co-writer Bobby Hart states that this is just a coincidence. The plot comprises a phone call from a military person to his wife / girlfriend, requesting that she 'get the last train to Clarksville' in order to have one last night together before he has to leave on his morning train. He doesn't know when he will return, so this may be a long or dangerous assignment. This day's bonus is later (1989) Finnish version by Clifers, called "Go Go Kake". Updated on 23.10.2011: Added the first Finnish version (1967) "Lähde pois" (Go away) by Harri Haka.
Here's the bunch: