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Frank Zappa in Finland

EsaJii kirjoitti noin 18 vuotta sitten (0 kommenttia)
FINLAND (The excuses for writing this as it relates to Finland). Written with Juhani Heinonen (all the text in italics). Finland is a large land mass mostly on the lower side of the arctic circle, occupied by some 5 million people. It qualifies as a country by strict standards, which I may have heard in connection with Zappa: It has an airline and a beer (several), therefore it qualifies as a country. The other excuse for the summary is explained in the joke, below.

JOKE (sorry if you’ve heard it before): An Englishman, Frenchman, German and a Finn were told to go an study the elephant, then report back with their findings. After some time, the Englishman presented a study, "Hunting The Elephant" (it must have happened in the previous century). The Frenchman’s study was "The Love Life Of The Elephant." The German made some grumbling excuses about needing more time, but on being encouraged, pulled out from his bag a 1000 page book, "The Elephant, Volume 1". The Finn produced a spiral bound document, it could not have been even 20 pages, entitled "What The Elephant Thinks About Finland".

I think we have enough information relating to Zappa’s interesting views on sex, and the hunting and torture of Zappa in the hands of Englishmen is already part of the Zappa mythology. Comaprison of web pages about Zappa in Finnish (some 50 pages) and German (2050 pages) leads me to think that there is sufficient documentation of Zappa and his relationship to Germans.[see article, for example]. We have references in Zappa’s recordings as well. It is then only necessary to outline what we know about Zappa and Finland to answer the burning question, "What Did Frank Zappa think about Finland?"(You may make your own conclusions at the end). The opinions of Zappa fans might be of some interest as well, and the proof that Finns appreciated Zappa’s art. Zappa has stated, according to Juhani, that he liked Finland, because it was the only place on earth where there were screaming young female fans in front of the stage at his concerts. Of course, such a thing happened to other bands, but never to King Crimson, at the end of the spectrum for female appreciation.

But let’s get to Zappa and music. Zappa records had been released in Scandinavia and had sold quite well, I’m guessing from Hot Rats and thereafter. Waka/Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo were hits there, according to Zappa (jokingly). The first Zappa appearance in Finland was in August of 1973. A few older songs, such as Son Of Mr. Green Genes, were played at the quite respectable Finlandia House, across the road from the Finnish house of representatives. Two concerts were given and the newspapers reported there having been lots of jokes in the first concert. Juhani remembers lots of virtuoso playing in the second concert. Other impressions of Finland by Zappa as reported by Juhani:

I remember Zappa stating in an interview something like "the Finns are crazy people. They even dance to the rhythm of the march. This statement might have its origins in Zappa’s first visit to Finland in 1973. He was at that time taken to a restaurant (with a dance band) called "Vanha maestro" in Helsinki. The music played there was largely "humppa"[which is a sort of fast fox trot]which is a very curious Finnish blending of a German military march and pop song. Another thing that Frank especially liked there was the fact it was ladies night that evening. During ladies’ nights men were actually prohibited to ask ladies to dance. He said that this kind of behavior would be out of the question in the US. [Well, strictly speaking, it is called a Sady Hawkins dance]

The second concert dates were in 1974, and this and related activities really set the Zappa mythology going, as far Finland is concerned. Of course the YCDTOSA Volume 2 recording gives the rest of us some of the flavor of the proceedings.

The events started on Sep 17, when Zappa had arrived for press conferences and social events. He stayed at the Hotel Hesperia, where some days later Zappa’s lighting director Featherstone had gotten maced in the face by the door man ("portsari") at presumably the hotel’s restaurant or night club. There is nobody, other than Finnish drunks, that I would avoid more while visiting there than the Finnish restaurant bouncer, whose job is to keep out customers who look too happy. They are a breed all of their own, and could easily play villains in Zappa songs that need them. The Zappa crew may have had some dealings with room service as well.

The incidents are described in detail by Juhani:

74/09/17 There was no concert this day. FZ was in Helsinki, but it was all PR.

There was a press conference and several interviews for press, TV and radio. In hotel Hesperia there was a cocktail party, where FZ met many of Finland's foremost musicians and artists as well as people from the local ministry of education.

It might be that he also met representatives of a local symphony orchestra to arrange performances of his classical music. I remember that I read somewhere that a symphony orchestra conductor commented Zappa's scores to be so hard to play that they would need quite much time for rehearsals. (On the other hand, this incident might have taken place already on 1973 or on later visits, or maybe there were many similar discussions.)

One incident worth mentioning is the supper in restaurant Saslik, where he first slightly burned his fingers, when grabbing a shish kebob too greedily. He then immediately stuck his sore fingers in a glass of icy Coca Cola and made a terrible scene. The reporter, Raila Kinnunen, of the magazine Apu described how he finally calmed down when he noticed that there would be no blisters in his precious guitarist’s hands. She then assisted him with the shish kebob for the rest of the meal, holding it for him to bite. The rest of the evening was a lot happier...

(The following parahraphs contain an interesting conceptual continuity clue.) When Zappa's entourage was finishing their meal, a group of eight young ladies entered. They were having a "polterabend"[bachelorette] party of one Eeva Helkama, who was going to be married next Saturday. It is quite common in Finland that not only the future husbands, but also the future wives celebrate their last single days rather heavily. Eeva was dressed in very old-fashioned grandma's lace underpants and a Black Jack (a condom brand)T-shirt. She offered an apple to every man in the restaurant. FZ got two apples. The entourages got together and spent the rest of the opening hours of the restaurant conversing and having fun. As a result of this meeting, the whole FZ crew got invited to the wedding. Originally they were not supposed to arrive in Finland until Sunday, the day of the first concerts, but Frank decided to change the flight tickets and arrive already on Saturday.

From Saslik the FZ party continued to the night-club in hotel Hesperia, where a very high-spirited FZ jammed with an Indonesian dance band.

FZ flew to Oslo early next morning.

The incidents have been briefly alluded to in the song Approximate, as Juhani mentions below. The lyrics to the entire concert have been posted (click your back button to return to this article) YCDTOSAV.2 LYRICS. Juhani continues with the Sep 21 and 22 events:

FZ arrived at Helsinki with Gail and the band. They attended the wedding reception of Eva Helkama and Christian von Alftan in hotel Hesperia. Their wedding present was an acapella performance of the tune Approximate, the lyrics consisted only of the words "Eeva and apple".
(Listen to the version of Approximate in YCDTOSA2.)

There were two concerts. If my memory serves, two concerts were originally scheduled for this day, but the demand for tickets was so great that FZ decided to arrange one extra concert for the following monday (23rd). I did not find much evidence for this, but on the other hand I've never forgotten anything (I think). ;-)

The venue of the concerts was "Kulttuuritalo" (=The House of Culture).

From other sources we’ve gathered that for the YCDTOSA Vol 2 concert, Jukka Teittinen was most likely the engineer for the 16 track taping. Jan Noponen (Wigwam drummer in the 1990s) states that "Teittinen äänitti Kultsalla Zapan keikkoja (ei miksannut) - studiohan sijaitsi eri paikassa kuin sali", clarifying that the same person did not mix the live sound and record, as the equipment was in two places. Zappa credits a "Jukka" for recording the solo on Inca Roads that ended up on One Size Fits All. It remains for the Zappa purists to show whether the solos on the two CDs are the same recording. Noponen, about 16 at the time, claims he followed the Zappa entourage to the club Natsa after the concert.

The preparation of the Finnish tango Satumaa required some assistance from another Finn, Matti Koskiala. Described as a veteran musician (drummer), Koskiala is shown in a PICTURE well known to Zappa fans. In the picture are Ruth Underwood, Chester Thompson, Matti Koskiala, George Duke, Tom Fowler and Frank Zappa. Other pictures from this visit were sought by Cal Schenkel, and were produced by a Matti and shipped to Cal, showing Eeva’s wedding party with Zappa. You will have to ask Eeva for a copy, there isn’t one posted.

In any case, the band recorded Satumaa, possibly the most famous tango in Finnish. It starts out with:
Aavan meren tuolla puolen jossakin on maa
missä onnen kaukorantaan laine liplattaa
missä kukat kauneimmat luo aina loistettaan
siellä huolet huomisen saa jäädä unholaan.

Much of the life of Unto Mononen, the composer of the song, was tragic. The tango in Finland served a function similar to the blues in the US, but unlike the blues, is still very much alive. Finnish is difficult to pronounce for English speakers due to the variety of vowel combinations and double consonants it uses. The result was much like a classical orchestra playing a Zappa composition after one rehersal, but the instrumnets catch the spirit of the tango. Other parts of the concert recall their experiences at the hotel. One imagines that Zappa and crew really were served some fish with the heads still on and the eyes ready to fall off.[And there is something odd there? It seems Americans are turned off by food with eyes.] Bouilla baisse is likely to have been on the menu as well. A fishy place, this Finland.

During the same month that the Helsinki concert took place, the Roxy And Elsewhere live album was released. A few of the songs are the same, such as Cheepnis (many prefer the Roxy version). However, comparisons are not fair, as Roxy was intended as a concert for release and had eleven musicians, and Helsinki had only six. Inca Roads in Helsinki is my favorite version and Montana is a one time stage version, wondeful with all its hesitations. The "affz" (newsgroup) crowd can discuss the rest of the trivia and minutiae of the set. Nevertheless, the Roxy album was a favorite for fans at the time, as the Helsinki concert was not released until years later. Some doubt seems to remain about the Sep 23 events, as described by Juhani:

Scheduled meeting with Finland's Secretary of Education at 8am. I'm not 100% sure whether this meeting took place, but I think so. FZ was very highly respected in Finnish cultural circles those days.

The venue of the concert was "Kulttuuritalo" again.

The only source I have seen to mention 23rd as the second date of the 1994 concerts is a Finnish ZF book called "Zappa äänitteillä - recorded Zappa" by Heikki Poroila & Heikki Karjalainen. I do think that they are the ones who got it right! My other sources more or less support this as well.

In 1976, Zappa played Messukeskus, the Helsinki Convention Center/Exhibition Hall. A month later Zappa recorded Ms. Pinky live in Denmark (only the intro was used), inspired by a product advertised in magazine (Kalle) provided by a Finnish fan. This
EVENT is described in the lyrics from YCDTOSA V.6. Or you can play "Lonely Person Devices" from the CD. The studio version of Ms. Pinky was recorded on Zoot Allures, and I seem to remember some mention of a Dutch device. But Eki/Eric certainly fascinated Zappa and he was interested in Finland, warts and all. And especially the warts. The fan, more of an autograph collector("Eki-setä"), has been noted in a newspaper article in Finnish (here).
Juhani had this to report:

FZ and the band arrived at Helsinki on 25th and left on 28th.

The venue of the concert was "Messukeskus" (=exhibition centre). This time, only one concert took place. I had the pleasure to attend this concert, which I however did not enjoy as much as the one in 1973. Maybe I was a bit disappointed of the small band and the lack of obvious virtuoso players (except FZ of course). The acoustics was terrible, at least, where I was sitting (at the side of the stage). Outside, after the concert I heard somebody play the just heard music from a cassette recorder. So, I know that this concert was taped, but it has not come up in the trading circles and nobody I know has heard about the tape since.

At least the following tunes were played:
Stink foot
The Poodle lecture
Dirty love
Filthy habits
How could I be such a fool
I'm not satisfied
Advance romance
Unknown, with the word "heart" in it
I don't remember this one at all, but it was
mentioned in a magazine, so it must be true ;-)
Eleanore's mud cap (=Illinois Enema Bandit)
Black Napkins
Encore: Dinah-Moe-Hum

The unknown tune may have been Don’t Want A Man Like Me (Finnish fans are encouraged to fill in the gap, e-mail us).

After the concert the band went to a club called "Natsa" and three members of the group (NMP, etc.) jammed there with Finnish musicians. FZ was himself was reportedly jamming somewhere with Pekka Pohjola. FZ especially liked to play with Bassist Pohjola, whom he had met already during his previous visits. He was planning to record something with Pekka, but this plan was never realised. PP has recorded many solo albums (jazzy rock), one symphony and played among others with Mike Oldfield and Made in Sweden (the George Wadenius group [Wadenius was a one time Saturday Night Live band leader and also in Blood Sweat and Tears]).

One funny anecdote maybe deserves to be mentioned here: When the FZ group members were having a day off on 27th, Roy Estrada decided to go to a club called "Vanha ylioppilastalo" (=old student house) to attend a concert of Jukka Tolonen (Finland's foremost guitarist then). The club had an age limit of 18 and there was a doorman, who the regulars called "the gravedigger". He refused to let Roy in, because he had no passport along to prove his age. The Finnish friends accompanying Roy tried to convince the overzealous doorman by talking about a famous American celebrity. His comment was "I am not interested in celebrities!" So, Roy never heard the Tolonen group that night.

[BTW, Jimi Hendrix had a similar kind of experience in Helsinki 9 years earlier. For some reason, he never came back to Finland.]

Oh boy! Now we have a new question, for which we have even less data: What did Jimi Hendrix think about Finland? As far as Pekka Pohjola goes, he had some international connections (e.g.Oldfield) through recordings that Wigwam made in England at the Virgin studios. Prior to that he had recorded instrumentals (he writes no lyrics, not even song titles) on two Wigwam albums, with one track entitled Hot Mice (not a rip off musically). His use of woodwinds and other wind instruments may have been encouraged by hearing Zappa recordings [to buy Pohjola CDs, visit]. All in all, Zappa seems to have a good time in Finland. Often it depends on your first visit and whom you meet then that sets the course of your following visits. In the late 60s a young Englishman arrived in Finland on May Day. It’s a time for partying. He met some people he liked, joined a band and stayed for 30 years. Finns know who that might be. In the right season Finns know how to party. But back to ‘77 and Juhani’s personal experiences and references:
The venue of these concerts was "Kulttuuritalo". There were two shows. The sources I've seen, seem to claim that both concerts had the same repertoire.

At least the following were played:
Peaches en Regalia
The Torture never stops
I'm the Slime
Titties and Beer
Illinois Enema Bandit
You're an Asshole
Black Napkins (the last piece)
Encores: Dinah-Moe-Hum, Willie The Pimp

Once more, I had the pleasure to attend a FZ concert. Wonderful show. Extremely tight music and FZ seemed to bee in good mood. The special surprises for me were the covers of Bolero, Stairway to Heaven (almost dropped out of my seat, when it began) and I'm The Walrus. And Frank of course remembered the 1974 incident and played Whipping Post.Before playing it, continuing from the normal spoken outro of "Dancing fool", Frank grabbed a wig that made him look like he was in 1974 and rapped as follows (speaking v e r y s l o w l y): "Wait a minute. I've gotten a great idea. Remember a long time ago, when some guy in the audience in 1974 said: Whipping Post! And we couldn't play it; well tonight we can play it." I also remember him gesturing and smiling at somebody in the audience during this banter. This probably means that the guys (brothers Virtanen from Turku), who originally requested Whipping Post were present and were making a notable noise again.

I felt very tired and sort of depressed, when I went to the concert (too much work), but I was smiling widely, when I came out. Music is a very powerful drug!
[The set ended with these tunes and encores]
Florentine Pogen
Inca Roads
Sofa No. 1
Encore 1:
Dancing Fool
Whipping Post
I am the Walrus
Illinois Enema Bandit
Encore 2:
Encore 3:
Stairway to Heaven

No other FZ shows took place in Finland, unfortunately. However, there were plans for FZ to visit a festival called "Meeting of the Worlds" held in Joensuu at midsummer 1990. Zappa's piece Perfect Stranger was played there by Avanti orchestra conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. Salonen and Zappa met in LA, where Salonen was the conductor of LA Philharmonics. Zappa cancelled his appearance on the plea of personal reasons.(Maybe he was already feeling ill?)

[Sources used by Juhani Heinonen to compile his data and organize his personal memories: Magazines "Musa" and "Soundi" (Finnish music monthlies from the '70's), the weekly magazine "Apu" (nr. 39 09/29/1974,includes a cover story of FZ's 1974 visit) and the book, in Finnish, by Heikki Poroila & Heikki Karjalainen: Zappa äänitteillä - Recorded Zappa]

Interest in Zappa has not faded in Finland. In a separate article on these pages I have reviewed the Ambrosius Ensemble’s Zappa album (on the BIS label) favorably [the article in Finnish has some links at the end, click them]. Some of the titles are the usual Zappa covers, such as Inca Roads, Black Page #2 and Igor’s Boogie. The last one is performed on melodica (not an old instrument) and harpsichord, which generally works well with all these tracks. Other tracks are new to these Zappa cover CDs, which I have lost track of by now. The ensemble uses baroque instruments (wind, strings, portable organ) but never to compromise the original work or change the character. The arrangements have been painstakingly worked out for a good feel. All are performed with energy and precision. Many of the short tunes form nicely worked out medleys. Even for the hardcore Zappa fan, this CD should have some appeal, and plays well all the way through. The odd track may be The Idiot Bastard Son, done as a classical type of performance, but even that works for comic relief. I seem to notice an influence of the 1974 concert on the songs selected here.

And what about Eeva? I have no detailed information, but a message board friend reported having gone to school with Eeva’s daughter. She must be over 20 by now. There is no connection between Zappa and Eeva’s daughter, really. Unless perhaps Zappa interfering in the wedding festivities somehow affected the moment of conception. So there we have the discontinuity of conception, as it were. Hey, it could happen!(as Judy Tenuta used to say). Stretching the point further, Eeva’s daughter now becomes the closest thing Finland has to Lucy O’Donnel. She was the inspiration for the drawing that inspired Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds. Although she did not know this for many years, until pesky journalists tracked her down and told her.

Copyright 2001 Esa Järvi except parts in italics Copyright 1998 Juhani Heinonen, used by permission.

APPENDIX 1: Charles Ulrich has posted material related to the concerts. Also, Rino’s has concert playlists

APPENDIX 2: Complete 1988 Concert Set: The Black Page /More Trouble Every Day /Penguin in Bondage / Hot Plate Heaven at the Green Hotel / What's new in Baltimore?/ Sinister Footwear II / Packard Goose Part One / Royal March From L'histoire Du Soldat / Theme From The Bartok Piano Concerto #3 / Packard Goose Part Two / Big Swifty / Who needs the Peace Corps? / I Left My Heart In San Francisco / Let's Make The Water Turn Black / Harry, You're A Beast / Oh No / The Orange County Lumber Truck / Theme from Lumpy Gravy / Find her Finer / Mr. Green Genes / Florentine Pogen /Andy / Inca Roads / Sofa No. 1 /Encore 1: Dancing Fool /Whipping Post/I am the Walrus / Illinois Enema Bandit /Encore 2: Bolero /Encore 3: Stairway to Heaven /

Mike Keneally describes Helsinki in his tour diary.

APPENDIX 3: Sweden

Returning to the joke in the beginning, the follow up question is What does the elephant, or Zappa, think about Sweden? Arch rival Sweden must always be compared to Finland. Well, I don’t have a link to comprehensive information about Sweden. There is a bootleg of a 1968 concert, 40 minutes including King Kong. The 1973 Piquantique CD is part of officially approved bootleg material. Also, Zappa had a short relationship with young musicians Mats and Morgan who had a band Zappsteetoot playing covers. A very amusing story. (but gone from

There is also the Florentine Pogen Connection, part of the swipnet site, which was an excellent Zappa recordings site. (it was at

APPENDIX 4: Norway

Zappa played Norway in 1973, 1980, 1988. The Church of Appliantology is also located in Norway. Also, Tinseltown Rebellion Band

APPENDIX 5: Denmark

Denmark apparently inspired Disco Boy. Frank had visited The Disc Club there, and "it really was poot", according to Frank.

The YCDTOSA Vol 5 had a cut in Denmark, Where’s Our Equipment. Vol 6 has the Lonely Person bit referred to earlier, from Tivoli (3 Mar 1976). Other concerts include 21 Feb 1976, Vejlby Risskovhallen, Aarhus, 29 Feb 1976, Falkoner Theatret, Copenhagen and there is a 90 min bootleg of Oct 1968, Tivoli Gardens. Pictures from 1978 at Petersen’s site.

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