Friday, 1 April 2011
Welcome To My World 5: Finland, Finland, Finland,
The country where I want to be...
As Monty Python once said of the northerners with a long term love of the King and his influence on Finnish music is apparently quite strong. You may remember the eccentric professor whose album of Elvis covers in Latin made the world news (future post).
So, when I came across a notice for the imminent release of Elvis: Suomessa in Finland (Elvis in Finland) I asked contemporary archaeologist and Finophile James Dixon to pick up a copy for me on his summer trip. I confess that I did not realise until it arrived that the album that James sent me, Elvis: Suomessa in Finland, is actually volume 2. Volume 1, released just before Christmas 1987, featured Finnish Elvis covers from the 1960s, and represented Elvis’ early popularity in a Finland that was, like the rest of Europe, going through extreme social change. Volume 2 continues where 1 left off, but with only a few 1960s hits, before we move into the 1970s and ‘80s and then the ‘90s. It “wishes to celebrate the long road of The Official Fan Club of Finland”, 25 years of keeping Elvis alive in Finland.
The cover of this wonderful compendium features a superimposed Elvis head on a neatly suited man who has a map held out and is asking directions from a 1960s Finnish policeman. They are standing outside Helsinki’s marvellous Helsingin päärautatieasema (Central station), designed by the great Finnish national romantic architect, Eliel Saarinen, who abandoned his original design for modernism. Elvis wasn’t Finnish, and never went to Finland, but if he’d got there he would have felt comfortable enough in his beige suit to ask for directions from a friendly cop. The back cover shows Elvis, jacket nonchalantly thrown over one shoulder, sitting in Senaatintori square. A Finnish Jackie O lookalike stares opened mouthed, her sunglasses in her hand.
Some of the songs are straight covers – complete with exact fade-out, if slightly more plucky guitars, like Eero Raittinen’s tribute to Elvis, Epailet Vain (Suspicious Minds). Others are much more, um, Finnish? I love drawling, plucky, Loputon Blues (A Mess of Blues) by Topi Sorsakoski. Topi didn’t know the song, and when the band started singing it, he said “Is this an Elvis song?”. Jussi, the singer “looked at me and went: ‘F****ng hell!'”, it says in the liner notes, although when I compare with the Finnish version, actually what Jussi said was “v**u, -tana!”. Translations on a postcard please. But the first track is my true favourite, growly, roary, whoopy, fun and just a little bit dark – Kaikki Hyvin Mama (That’s Alright Mama) recorded by Rauli Badding Somerjoki in 1985. He died in 1986 a proper rock'n'roll death. And Ma Eroon Paase En (Gonna Get Back Somehow), recorded by Danny in 1968 is so fabulously late-60s, its almost unrecognisable as an Elvis song. Not sure why, but I like that. All in all, it’s a really fun album. Lots of steel guitar, wah wah, lounge sounds, echo microphones, and Finns!
Big thanks: James Dixon and Saini Manninien