Tuesday, September 1, 2009


9-1-09 Finland

I first went to Finland in 1979. I arrived in Turku by a boat from Stockholm. I did not have a hotel reservation. I wandered around Helsinki and eventually found a place called (I think) “Hotel Helsinki” (or “Hotelli Helsinki”). I had enough money for a room, and they let me in, as a 21-year-old without a reservation. I remember that the weather was mild when I was there – perhaps in September ’79 – but the windows of the hotel has large wooden shutters, to cover the windows, presumably when it was super cold.

As a you , Finland was known only to me as a place that issued postage stamps. Definitely the first Finnish act I ever heard was Wigwam. I heard “Frederick & Bill” from “Tombstone Valentine” – produced by Kim Fowley. I wouldn’t have known that Jim Pembroke, Wigwam’s vocalist, was British. By the time I got to Helsinki in ’79, I was deeply enamored of Pembroke’s solo album “Corporal Cauliflower’s Mental Function” (Love Records). I bought a factory cassette of it, at a small record shop in a tunnel, near the downtown Helsinki main train station – and listened to “Island Town” and “Bertha Come Back” while I was in Helsinki. Pembroke also guested with Pedro’s Heavy Gentlemen.

I have also been very fond of Finnish bassist Pekka Pohjola, who passed away not too long ago. His solo albums were a source of wonderment for me, especially “B The Magpie” and his debut solo album with the un-rememberable Finnish name. My friend Dana and I always referred to Mr. Pohjola as “Mr. 24 Notes Where 2 Are Necessary”.

I went back to Finland at least one other time, after my first visit. Please understand that it’s a really long way away – with no real over-ground way to get there. You have to take an over-night boat from Stockholm, Sweden (“Silja Line”, I think it’s called). I also met my first New Zealander in Helsinki, while waiting for the boat back to Stockholm. She saw me reading a British (music?) newspaper – so she knew I spoke English. And, after I met her, I went to NZ seven times in the 1980’s.

If I’ve mentioned a British singer and a Finnish bass player – I must now mention a Finnish guitarist, Jukka Tolonen. He was in a band called Tasavallan Presidentii, and later made a whole heap of cool instrumental solo albums, notably “The Hook” and “Summer Games” (both on Love Records).

And I must also shout out to Philip Page, of Austin, TX – who I have known since the 70’s – who has lived in Helsinki, Finland for ages now. He worked with a mail-order company called Digelius Music; last time I talked with Philip, we were both talking about Japanese music. I can only presume he’s been to Japan by now.

I was also once very fond of a Finnish beer called “Koff”. My friend Cameron and I drank cases and cases of Koff beer. I was told that we emptied out a distributor of Koff beer, somewhere in California. The place where we were getting it one day told us that it was no longer available – I can only guess that we drank the entire available supply of it.

- Ron

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