Wigwam are perhaps best known for their album Nuclear Nightclub, released in the summer of 1975. But the story of the group begins much earlier than that. In this first part of our Wigwam biography we will concentrate on the original line-up, which in fact is a term that covers a number of different line-ups between 1968 and 1974.
The founder member of Wigwam was drummer Ronnie Österberg, whose career started in a group called the Fighters sometime around 1963. After that band had broken up, in 1964, Jim & the Beatmakers were formed. Ronnie Österberg, at the age of just sixteen, was one of its founder members. The vocalist was Raul ‘Jim’ Wikström. Jim & the Beatmakers are now one of the most legendary groups belonging to the Finnish beat group era, though they only cut two singles. The first was ‘My Only One’/’The Truth’ (His Master’s Voice TJ 300). It is a fine, simple pop song that was a big hit in Finland during 1964. But towards the end of that same year after the band started to fall apart. Österberg left and joined another Helsinki group instead, called the Sounds, who mainly worked as a backing band for Finnish pop singer Johnny Liebkind.
However, it wasn’t long before Österberg left the Sounds and instead joined a group called the Scaffolds. He toured Sweden with this band and played drums on two of their records (released on Parlophone). The Scaffolds broke up during the latter part of 1965, and after that he played for a while with the English musician Jim Pembroke, who had formed a band called the Pems. Later on, Österberg and Pembroke would become an inseparable unit. Both were members of Wigwam throughout the group’s entire career.
Jim Pembroke had moved to Finland in May 1965. During that same year he performed as second vocalist with Jim & the Beatmakers. He also cut his first single ‘If You Need Me’/’Say yeah’ (RCA Victor FAS 947) in 1965 with a group called the Boys. By the end of the year another groups called the Pems were formed as backing band for Pembroke. Österberg was the drummer of the original line-up.
It wasn’t long, however, before Österberg left the Pems and was replaced by Raikka Rautarinne, who appeared on the Pems only single, ‘I Don’t Mind, I Got Mine’/’Anyday’ (RCA Victor FAS 954). This single was released in the spring of 1966. Both songs were written by Pembroke. It was not a huge success so Pembroke decided to return to England.
After leaving the Pems, Österberg went on holiday in France. Following many colourful events, he returned to Finland and became the drummer of the Boys, backing various Finnish solo artists (such as Danny and Eero Raittinen) during the summer of 1966. The Boys changed their name to the D'Islanders, and Österberg stayed with this group until the formation of the now-legendary Blues Section.
During the spring of 1967 the first Finnish rock group with a thoroughly independent style saw the light of day under the name of Blues Section, promoted by a newly launched ‘progressive’ record label, Love Records. The man behind the idea of forming this band was bass player Måns Groundstroem (formerly of the Roosters). He had experienced the then-current blues revival first hand in the shape of John Mayall’s Blues Breakers performing in Stockholm. Together with Otto Donner (Love Records’ owner) he decided to form a blues band and record an album for the label. The first musicians they asked to join were Österberg and Pembroke. Subsequently, Hannes ‘Hasse’ Walli and sax player Eero Koivistoinen joined. The group cut a number of singles and one excellent album. This eponymously titled album comprises ten tracks, of which four are written by Pembroke. Despite its qualities the music is quite removed from the blues. Blues Section also backed several other Love Records artistes. The company were constantly lacking funds, and in an attempt to be commercial asked Österberg to cut two singles with Blues Section backing. The singles were credited to Österberg alone and differ quite a lot from the group’s normal style. Moreover, they are sung in Finnish.
After many line-up changes Blues Section finally split up in August 1968. Österberg went back and re-joined the Boys, but almost immediately left again to become part of Finnish pop singer Kristian’s backing group. Österberg recommended Vladimir ‘Nikke’ Nikamo as guitarist, and Nikamo in turn recommended Mats Huldén as bassist. Huldén had previously played in Frankies, and another band called the First. Nikamo came from playing with a number of bands up through the sixties, such as the Creatures, Mosaic, and ABC. This combination of players would form the basis of Wigwam.
From the outset Österberg, Nikamo and Huldén decided only to remain Kristian’s backing group for as long as it gave them some financial stability. In the slightly longer run, however, their intention was to form an independent group to fulfil their private musical ambitions. Hence, it didn’t take long before their cooperation with Kristian came to an end. In January 1969 the trio approached their old friend Jim Pembroke and asked him to join them. Pembroke at the time worked at Love Record’s office.
The group was named Wigwam, and soon after entered the recording studio. In the spring of that same year the first Wigwam single, ‘Must Be The Devil’/’Greasy Kid’s Stuff’ (Love Records LRS 1023), saw release. Pembroke had penned both songs. The producer was Hasse Walli (ex Blues Section). The A-Side in particular was good, even though it resembled some of the Blues Section material. They group described their musical style accurately by stating, ‘Sometimes it’s greasy, sometimes it isn’t.’
Around the time of the release, Wigwam toured Northern Finland together with a group called the Roosters. The latter had a pretty convincing repertoire consisting of songs by Traffic plus one exceptionally good song of their own called ‘Luulosairas’ (‘Hypocondriac’), with music and lyrics by the Roosters’ keyboardist/vocalist, Jukka Gustavson.
Everyone in Wigwam was impressed with Gustavson, and after the tour they approached him with a view to join Wigwam. Gustavson didn’t need to be asked twice, but immediately became a group member. Wigwam spent the entire summer of 1969 in Huldén’s parents’ summer cottage rehearsing material for their debut LP.
The first Wigwam album, titled Hard ‘n’ Horny (Love Records LRLP9, produced by Otto Donner and engineered by Erkki Hyvönen), was released in November 1969. It is still one of the most exciting and excellent debut LPs made by a Finnish rock band.
In several ways, Hard ‘n’ Horny stands as a milestone in Finnish rock music. It is the first Finnish rock album release good enough to be compared with the international scene. It was also one of the first recordings in Finland where the group had been given complete artistic freedom by their record label. In fact, it was only Blues Section who had previously shown that a Finnish rock LP could be more than just a collection of singles, which again would be mainly lame cover version of foreign originals. Hard ‘n’ Horny finally proved that there was at least one Finnish group that reached international levels. For example, Rolling Stone Magazine's rock critic Lester Bangs was very positive towards the album, even comparing Wigwam with the Beatles and the Who.
Stylistically, the album is evidently separated into two different categories. Side 1 comprises of five Gustavson compositions, while Side 2 is taken up by Pembroke’s ‘Henry’ concept. This stylistic split between Side 1 and Side 2 makes it clear that there were two gifted composer in the group whose musical views were very different. Still, this musical bipolarity only serves to exacerbate the richness and variety of the material. Somehow a balance is created, which works very nicely. You could say, that it is Gustavson’s and Pembroke’s talents put together that gives the album a feeling of wholesomeness.
There are some interesting details on the record, as becomes evident right from its first track, which presents five seconds of ‘bird song’, recorded in the studio. This, in fact, was only the very start of a one minute hymn by Huldén called ‘633 Jesu Fåglar’ (a Swedish title meaning ‘633 Jesus’ Birds’). The rest of the song was left out of the album simply because of lack of space. The Swedish lyric, however, can be found on the lyric sheet, which was issued along with the first edition of the album. Otherwise, all of Side 1 is composed by Gustavson. His personal style and excellent musicianship is very pronounced. ‘En aio paeta’ (‘I’m Not Going To Escape’) is the first track on the album with lyrics – and what fine lyrics they truly are! Through them Gustavson expresses very strongly his bleak views on life, albeit without becoming patronising. Instead, this is a profound philosophical mind asking questions. The same goes for another of Gustavson’s songs, ‘Neron muistolle, hyvää yötä’ (‘In Loving Memory Of A Genius, Good Night’), which contains so many piercing observations that some of them had to be left out on the final version. The woman’s voice on the track belongs to Marjoriitta Gustavson (Jukka’s sister). The first Gustavson contribution with English lyrics, ‘Guardian Angel, The Future’, works very well, too, particularly the middle part in which the composer pays tribute to his idol, Steve Winwood.
Side 2 is a completely different experience. Pembroke’s nine-part ‘Henry Concept’ was by far the most advanced and well-balanced piece of rock music produced in Finland until then. It resembles the late output of the Beatles, an impression strengthened by the surreal lyrics.
There are a few guest musicians on the LP: Fritz Jenkins (double bass on ‘Henry’s Mountain Range And Thereabouts’, and the DDT Jazz Band who can be heard playing Dixieland style jazz on ‘Henry’s Hard ‘n’ Horny All-Niter’). Finally, the string arrangements were written and conducted with great feel for the overall style by Otto Donner.
The making of Hard ’n’ Horny wasn’t an easy task at all. Gustavson had never been in a recording studio before. He later recalled those times as being marred by creative pain. By now, Wigwam was a group who knew what they wanted, but at the same time they were a pretty disorganised bunch of people, making it impossible for producer Otto Donner to speed up the proceedings. After the recordings were over, it was discovered that the expected studio time had been vastly exceeded. Consequently, Love Records didn’t have the means to produce a sleeve for the record!
Still, the LP had to be released before Christmas (together with another debut album by a Finnish progressive group, Tasavallan Presidentti). So the only option was for the group to make the sleeves themselves. Hence, the first 400 copies of Hard ‘n’ Horny were released in hand made covers. All the group members contributed by making drawings and writing texts, meaning that these 400 sleeves were all individually different. This first edition also included the lyrics for the LP and Pembroke’s drawing of his fictional characters Henry and Boris, as well as the members of the line-up. After the first pressing was sold out, Love Records printed ‘real’ sleeves for the following pressings. The only information on this red-and-white sleeve is the group name and the album title. The back of the cover only showed the Love Records logo and the catalogue no. Unfortunately, the lyric booklet wasn’t included with later editions.
After the release of their debut LP, Wigwam found time to release their second single in December 1969, titled ‘Luulosairas’/’Henry’s Highway Code’ (Love Records LRS 1028). The A-side was a previously unreleased song by Gustavson, while the B-side was taken from the album [albeit presented here in a vastly superior mono mix with longer organ solo fade-out, cj]. Like the LP, this release received a lot of praise from the critics. It sold surprisingly well, too, and reached the Top 20 in the Finnish singles chart.
‘Luulosairas’ is a solid classic of a record, a pearl of a composition striving for perfection. Its top notch music and lyrics strengthened Gustavson’s reputation as one of the most promising songwriters in Finland. Lyrically, he picks up on the theme already featured on the album’s Side 1 by drawing on general human anxieties and the lack of communication between people.
The success the group enjoyed with ‘Luulosairas’ boosted their image tremendously during the winter of 1969-70. But they didn’t allow success to change their musical ambitions in the slightest. Early in the new year their third single, ‘Pedagogi’/’Häätö’ (‘Pedagogue’/’Eviction’, LRS 1047) saw release. Lyrically, it was a much more difficult affair than its predecessor. It was also a complete commercial flop, and Wigwam’s last ever composition to feature lyrics in Finnish.
The A-side, written by Gustavson, was every bit as fine a song as ‘Luulosairas’, if not better. Driven by a tough swinging beat, ‘Pedagogi’ features Gustavson’s organ playing and singing at their best. Pekka Pohjola joins as guest musician on violin. Musically, ‘Pedagogi’ is a more straight-forward song than its predecessor. It displays vividly what possibilities there are in combining the Finnish language with rock music. Hence, Gustavson can safely be seen as a pioneer among Finnish rock lyricists.
The B-sided, ‘Häätö’, written by Mats Huldén, confirms the record’s reputation as the most uncompromising and extraordinary Finnish 7” single ever released. Featuring a strange mixture of some kind of Kalevala-inspired poem, recited by Otto Donner, it also includes a part written in the style of Gustavson, as well as an interruption by Pembroke with what sounds like a fragment from a nice pop song (got it?).
Unfortunately, ‘Häätö’ would be Huldén’s final composition for Wigwam. In April 1970, he left the group to concentrate on his University studies. As most people reading this will already know, he was replaced by Pekka Pohjola, who had already played with the group on ‘Pedagogi’.
Pohjola had started his career as a rock musician playing bass in a group called ABC. Formed in the autumn of 1969, ABC was a brain-child of veteran drummer Raikka Rautarinne. The intention was to make a kind of Finnish version of the British band Cream. After the original guitarist, Nikke Nikamo, had quit the band and been replaced by Jukka Hauru, they were labelled with the image of being a ‘super group’. However, audiences didn’t get many chances to experience what they were up to, since the broke up after only one gig. Pohjola went on to play bass for the Boys, and then Wigwam. The original idea was that Huldén should continue to play bass on the songs which featured Pohjola on violin. This idea, however, was soon scrapped and Pohjola became Wigwam’s only bass player.
With this new line-up the group went on to record their second album in the summer of 1970, this times overseen by an outside producer, the American musical ‘Jack-of-all-trades’, Kim Fowley.
A popular character with the flower power fraternity on the US West Coast scene, Kim Fowley had initially learned about Finns via Blues Section records. These so exhilarated Fowley that he decided to take a plane to Finland to produce Wigwam’s second LP. After his arrival the group found themselves under pressure to write new material. Wigwam’s second album, titled Tombstone Valentine (LRLP 19), was produced by Fowley and engineered by Erkki Hyvönen at Finnvox Studios in Helsinki. It was released shortly before Christmas 1970.
Tombstone Valentine differs significantly from its predecessor. Perhaps that was why it was a disappointment to many fans, who preferred Hard ‘n’ Horny. Fowley was certain that Wigwam could become ‘the new Beatles’. Hence, he got them to simplify their style (for instance, songs were drastically shortened). Gustavson’s Hammond sound and vocal songs, particularly, were left little space. Also, with the sleeve the group went for a more commercial style featuring photographs of the band. The picture on the front was taken by Jukka Vatanen, using infra-red technique. The front sleeve shows Wigwam leaning against the gate outside a cemetery, while the back shot shows the group sitting among the crowd at the Ruisrock Festival in Turku, Finland. Also printed on the back were the lyrics. There is no guitar playing by Nikke Nikamo on the record, since Fowley thought that his playing style and his looks weren’t suitable for the group. Instead he invited Heikki Laurila and Jukka Tolonen (of Tasavallan Presidentti) to play guitar on the album. Nikamo’s departure didn’t change things remarkably for the group, but the problematic situation under which it occurred was a sign of things to come. Tolonen’s contributions gave rise to rumours that he was about to join the band permanently. But he remained loyal to Tasavallan Presidentti and remained an ‘outside member’ of Wigwam, occasionally joining them for jam sessions on stage when the group performed in Helsinki.
Four of the songs on Tombstone Valentine are written by Pembroke; ‘Autograph’ is co-written by him and Fowley. The title track is the most interesting song, featuring Kalevi Nyqvist on accordion. The lyrics were later translated into Finnish and the songs covered by Finnish actor and singer Vesa-Matti Loiri, using the backing track from Wigwam’s original recording! Other songs from the LP were also covered by Finnish artists (‘Autograph’ and ‘Wishful Thinker’), the reason being, perhaps, that Tombstone Valentine is by far the most mainstream orientated of all Wigwam’s LPs. All Pembroke’s four songs are excellent examples of his ability to write fine pop songs.
Pohjola has two songs on the album, the first of which – ‘Frederick And Bill – is propelled along by an unusual riff (the lyrics are by Pembroke). The other composition, called ‘1936 Lost In The Snow’, initially had lyrics, but the idea didn’t work well and the track was turned into an instrumental. Both songs showed that with the arrival of Pohjola, Wigwam had gained not only a very gifted musician but a brilliant composer, as well.
Two of Gustavson’s three contributions are a kind of tributes: ‘In Gratitude’ pays tribute to Steve Winwood (once again), while the jazzy ‘For America’ is a tribute to the American jazz organ player Jimmy Smith. However, the real masterpiece on the album is the closing song, titled ‘End’. In fact, it features Gustavson alone and is a simple instrumental arrangement augmented with some great lyrics (dealing with man’s destructive attitude towards nature). ‘End’ is undoubtedly one of the most outstanding Wigwam songs ever.
In between the songs on Side 1 is a rather strange track called ‘Dance Of The Anthropoids’. In fact, this is part of an electronic composition by Erkki Kurenniemi. It was Fowley’s idea to put part of this piece on the LP. He was fascinated by the recording when hearing it on a Love Records compilation LP called ‘Perspectives ’68 – Music In Finland’ (LRLP 2). It has nothing to do with Wigwam but serves as a fine introduction to the song ‘Frederick And Bill’.
Perhaps Tombstone Valentine isn’t exactly a typical Wigwam LP due to its too overtly commercial features. While Kim Fowley tried to create ‘the new Beatles’, the group were making a tribute album to their own idols. The well-known Wigwam sound can only be heard sporadically. Too often the limelight is stolen by the tearing guitar sounds of Jukka Tolonen, making parts of the album very hard to listen to.
Perhaps Kim Fowley’s work as producer on Tombstone Valentine wasn’t a great success, but his sincerity cannot to be disputed. For instance, he organised the release of a Wigwam album in the US. This double LP, MGM/Verve Forecast (FTS 30892), is divided into two parts. The first record contains the whole of Tombstone Valentine, although the track listing differs entirely from the Finnish version. The second LP comprises three tracks from Hard ’n’ Horny – ’Pidän sinusta’ (’I Like You’), ’Henry’s Mountain Range’ and ’Henry’s Geographical And Astronomical Mistakes’, as well as eight Blues Section songs plus ’Anna suukko vain’, Kirka’s debut single with backing by Blues Section. The inside and the back of the gatefold sleeve have photographs by Jukka Vatanen taken at the same session as the front picture of the Finnish album version. The uninitiated would have no idea that some of the tracks were recorded long before the formation of Wigwam!
Some Blues Section material had already been released in the USA under the Wigwam name. Perhaps the most curious ’Wigwam single’ is the 1969 US release ’True Confession’/’Helsinki’ (Imperial 66400), where the A-side in fact is our old friend ’End Of A Poem’, and the B-Side is another name for ’East is red’, both tracks from Blues Section’s LP on Love Records.
As a promotional pilot single for the Tombstone Valentine double LP, ’Wishful thinker’/’Call me on your telephone’ (Verve Forecast KF5114) was released in the USA. However, sales of the actual album were poor despite rather positive reviews in Rolling Stone Magazine and the leading record business music paper, Billboard. In Sweden, Wigwam had gained some popularity among prog-rock aficionados. Consequently, loads of Tombstone Valentine double LPs from America ended up in import record shops in Stockholm, where the occasional Finnish tourist could purchase his copy at the extravagant price of one or two Swedish Crowns! [c. 20 pence, cj]
Obviously, Wigwam had an interest in securing a foothold in the Swedish market. At home in Finland, their gigs would mainly be at dance hall out in the countryside where, more often than not, they had to suffer either indifferent or downright hostile audiences. Thus, their most satisfying appearances would take place either at clubs in Helsinki, or in Sweden. An important contact of theirs in Sweden was radio DJ Roger Wallis, who would present their records on his rock oriented Saturday Show.
Roger Wallis also worked as assistant engineer on Wigwam’s next album, when the backing tracks for this LP were laid down at Sweden’s Network Studios (in the town of Vaxholm) during December 1970. Chief recording engineer was Thomas Larsson, and this time around the band would record without the aid of an outside producer. Right from the start there was a clear distribution of the work between the band members: each of the three composers would contribute four songs. Because more material had accumulated than was needed for a single LP, it was decided to make it a double album – the first of its kind in Finland. The band weren’t entirely satisfied the way their previous album had turned out. For instance, Pekka Pohjola later said he thought Tombstone Valentine consisted of ’bubblegum music’, more suited to please Fowley than the group. Hence, the next Wigwam LP would be made in a manner that would explore the group's full potential.
It took almost a year to make the new album, called Fairyport (LRLP 44/45). It was the autumn of 1971 before the band had overdubbed the backing tracks with instrumental solos, vocals and woodwind arrangements. All these overdubs were made at Finnvox Studios in Helsinki, with Erkki Hyvönen engineering. Sometime during the summer of 1971, one of the group’s gigs at the Hämis Club in Helsinki was recorded. The result can be heard on Side 4 as a 17 minute jam session titled ‘Rave Up For The Roadies’.
Packed in a beautiful gatefold sleeve, Fairyport was released in December 1971, nearly a year after the recordings had started. It is the first Wigwam album that can be classified as ‘progressive rock’. 1971 was a vintage year for this particular style of music all over Europe. In Finland, Jukka Tolonen made his first solo album and Tasavallan Presidentti had just recorded their second LP in Sweden.
It can only be said the Wigwam compared well to first class groups such as Genesis, Pink Floyd et.al. In fact, it could be argued that Fairyport was the best record released that year.
The artwork for the sleeve was unique, too. Gustavson directed the design, giving ideas to artist Jorma Auersalo, who made the fine painting for cover. The photographs inside the sleeve and the 18 page lyric booklet were taken by Finnish underground artist Peter Widen. He had also started work on a short film about the group, but it was never finished.
The music represents a great artistic achievement. Compared with its predecessors it was a huge step forward, musically as well as lyrically. Fairyport show Wigwam as a very clear-minded and well-balanced rock band. In fact, it represents the original line-up at its most consistent. Side 1 includes the strongest conceptual idea ever to appear on a rock album recorded in Finland.
The opening song, ‘Losing Hold’, is simply a delight. It is one of only two Wigwam songs ever with music co-written by more than one band member, in this case Gustavson and Pohjola. Another unusual feature is that Gustavson sings a lyric written by Jim Pembroke. This had never happened before, and would never happen again. The splendid cooperation between bass and organ makes you long for more of the same. After ‘Losing Hold’ follows the first Pembroke song on the record, ‘Lost Without A Trace’, with is Jim at his best, with a melody line that equals any pop masterpiece ever recorded.
The title song closing Side 1 is the first part of a Gustavson four-part concept called ‘Joined To Conscience”. Once again, the track features Wigwam at their very best. Gustavson’s vocal work is on par with his idols (such as Steve Winwood and Stevie Wonder), with emotional outpourings that bring great profoundness to the song. The piano and organ solos half way through the track put Gustavson in the same artistic league as other keyboardists such as Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman, with even more emotion on display.
Side 2 continues with the second part of Gustavson’s concept. ‘Grey Traitors’ gives a preview of certain lyrical themes later used by Gustavson on the following album, Being.
Before Fairyport, Gustavson’s lyrics had mainly been concerned with the lack of communication between people. But now a whole new dimension enters in the form of the relationship between God and man. Sometimes these lyrics are purely stream-of-consciousness. To help Finnish listeners, a booklet with the lyrics translated into Finnish is enclosed along with the English lyrics. Gustavson mostly wrote his lyrics in Finnish. They were translated into English by ex-Wigwam member Mats Huldén, who made a fine result out of a very difficult task. The other two parts belonging to the concept are ‘Caff-Kaff’ and ‘May Your Will Be Done My Lord’.
Without too much consideration Pembroke’s ‘How To Make It Big In Hospital’ was chosen to close Side 2. It brings the listener’s feet back on to the ground, perhaps in a slightly brutish manner. Then on to Side 3 and Pohjola’s ‘Hot Mice’, written in his typical style. It can only be said that Pohjola’s compositions on this album are of a very high quality. On ‘P.K.’s Supermarket’ (the titles were invented by Pembroke) is a rather reckless take on a near-Baroque musical style. Pohjola plays piano, bass, celesta and harpsichord. ‘One More Song’ was intended as an instrumental until Pembroke put lyrics to it and sang them over the backing. On ’Rockin’ Ol’ Galway’ Pohjola provides some fine bass lines, and there is a rare chance to hear Pembroke play the harp harmonica. Concluding Side 3, ’Every Fold’ is another excellent song in the style of Tombstone Valentine. It shows Pembroke as a singer-songwriter in a class of his own.
The recorded sound on Fairyport wasn’t altogether of high quality. The drums stay too much in the background, and the bass drum, in particular, can hardly be heard. This is a great shame, because Österberg was the rhythmic foundation of the four-piece version of Wigwam. His straight-forward, solid drumming holds together even the most high-flying ideas.
If the backing tracks recorded in Sweden were technically poor, the live recording on Side 4 of the album, 'Rave-up For The Roadies', is even worse. This is a seventeen minute excerpt from a stage jam with Jukka Tolonen on guitar. This time, as well as on the studio tracks of the album, he merges well with the group’s style, and his playing adds strength to the music, whereas on Tombstone Valentine it only made for headaches.
On the whole, Fairyport stands as a milestone in Finnish rock. It is a great shame that it didn’t receive the success it most certainly deserved. One little incident sums up the whole situation perfectly: When Fairyport was presented and very positively reviewed on Swedish Radio by Roger Wallis, a Finnish teen magazine called Suosikki (‘Favourite’) complained that Love Records must have bribed the presenter. How pathetic! [particularly considering the financial state of the label, cj]
During the autumn of 1971, while Wigwam were still recording Fairyport, Love Records suggested Pembroke record a solo album. In December he went into the studio and started work on an album called Wicked Ivory. It was released in August 1972 under the pseudonym of Hot Thumbs O’Riley. The entire Wigwam line-up appeared on the LP, so it was an obvious thought to include some of the songs in the group’s live repertoire. Particularly, the song ‘Grass For Blades’ became popular among their audiences, and from 1972 onwards it was played at practically all Wigwam’s gigs. Otherwise, their stage repertoire consisted mainly of songs by other artists, such as Procol Harum’s ‘A Whiter Shade Of Pale’ and ‘A Salty Dog’, ‘Let It Be’ by the Beatles, John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’, and even Jean Sibelius’ ‘Finlandia’. But the group they covered most was the Band. At one gig, no less than eight out of eleven songs came from the Band’s catalogue. It is significant that the only Gustavson song that was ever played live was ‘Fairyport’ – and it only stayed in the repertoire very briefly. The same went for Pekka Pohjola’s contributions, which were far too complicated to perform on stage.
The release of Pembroke’s first solo LP, and conflicting musical interests among the group members, reflected on their work schedule, which was quite fragmented during 1972. The situation got even worse when Pohjola, too, started work on his first solo LP, something he had been longing to do for a long time. The resulting album was called Pihkasilmä Kaarnakorva and was released toward the end of 1972. The only other Wigwam member to appear on it was Jukka Gustavson. Pohjola had complained that he felt restricted in Wigwam an needed to work with larger concepts and compositions.
Finally, Gustavson had been approached by Love with a view to record his own album, too, but he had already started work on the next Wigwam LP and decided to stick with that.
An eponymously titled Wigwam compilation album was released in 1972 (LXLP 511). It came out as part of Love Record’s ‘Nice Price’ series. The list of songs had been chosen by Ronnie Österberg.
If 1972 had been a non-happening year for Wigwam, the following year would become the most intensive in their career, mainly because that was when they recorded their concept album Being.
The entire planning for the new album was carried out by Gustavson. He also wrote most of the material, because Pembroke and Pohjola were both short of new songs due to their recent solo works. Gustavson’s idea was to make the new album much more coherent than the previous ones. One thing that was done to achieve this was to demand that the entire group was present in the studio when work was carried out on the project. This also served to keep the band together. The rehearsals took place in a mansion inhabited by Christina Donner, in Espoo near Helsinki. Apart from Gustavson’s contributions, three Pembroke songs and two compositions by Pohjola had to be integrated into the overall project.
Kim Fowley had declared himself willing to produce the group once more, but they eventually decided to go for ex-Tasavallan Presidentti bass player Måns Groundstroem instead, and in February 1973 the group entered the studio for the first time to work on the new album. The making of Being turned out to be very laborious and extremely slow. As always Gustavson was highly self-critical. He did not want to avoid do anything half-heartedly. He had a very clear vision of what Being should sound like. He was also very particular regarding his own material, and the other group members hardly had any say when it came to arrangements. This put further stress on internal relationships.
Gustavson became frustrated when Being was still not finished during the summer of 1973, and because the group weren’t willing to perform the new songs on stage. This depressed him considerably, since Being was the one Wigwam project he held dearest. The other group members also became frustrated, as the making of the album seemed to carry on forever. It caused Pembroke to start writing new material for his second solo LP, which was scheduled for recording in October and November 1973. However, this was postponed when work on Being carried on and didn’t finish until November. It was released in February 1974.
Being (LRLP 92) is a masterpiece. It is still one of the most brilliant contributions to the progressive rock phenomenon. It shows Wigwam at their best so far, and once again Gustavson’s lyrics are very profound. They are also complicated and difficult to understand, a great challenge to anyone. The booklet that was included with the record has all the lyrics printed in English along with their Finnish originals. Once again, Mats Huldén made an impressive job of his translations.
Being was a logical step forward on the path of Gustavson concepts. It shows us human beings within different social environments, some of which are based on ideologies. Communism, Capitalism and Fascism are criticised equally and heavily in the lyrics.
Being undresses the ridiculousness of having any political system at all, with ideologies shown as a mechanism serving only to grind the individual. It is greed and egotism combined with all kinds of ideologies that ruin all hope for a brighter future and cause the destruction of nature and eventually all life on Earth. These lyrics gave way to all kinds of interpretations, and many found them quite over the top and avant-garde.
Being starts with two songs that are joined together, ‘Proletarian’ and ’InspiRed Machine’. From the very first bars it becomes obvious that Being isn’t just another album by just another group. The excellent vocal work by Gustavson mirrors the bleak and pessimistic lyrics. The original text was longer and included a verse were the ‘Sovietist Religion’ was criticised. However, the group’s Leftist record label insisted that Gustavson take out such references to the U.S.S.R! Due to this act of censorship the lyric lost some of its edge.
The up-tempo Pembroke song ‘Petty Bourgeois’ lightens up the atmosphere nicely. Pembroke, too, sings very well here, varying his voice in a manner he had also employed on his first solo LP. Pohjola’s first contribution to the album is a beautiful tune called ‘Pride Of The Biosphere’. Pembroke recites the lyrics, which are actually a monologue spoken by a fictitious army chaplain. The first side closes with a more than nine minute long song called ‘Pedagogue’. It is, in fact, an entirely re-arranged version of the group’s 1970 single of the same name.
Side 2 opens with a Stevie Wonder inspired song called ‘Crisader’ and is undoubtedly the strongest contribution on the album. On the whole, Side 2 features a lighter mood than Side 1. ‘Crisader’ is followed by a Pohjola instrumental called ‘Planetist’ and includes an excellent sax solo by Pekka Pöyry. This in turn is followed by Pembroke’s ‘Maestro Mercy’, a beautiful tune backed by the acoustic guitar of Taisto Wesslin. The song ‘Prophet’ is a typical Gustavson contribution, an extremely dark vision of a future run by the ‘Tellus Cultures’. Pohjola contributes a brilliant bass solo followed by a short synthesizer solo by Gustavson. The album closes with a fine hymn-like tune by Pembroke called ‘Marvelry Skimmer’, a wise choice of song to round things off.
Being deservedly received some fine reviews. In a rock critics poll conducted by the music magazine Soundi, the album left its competition a long way behind. But there were some even more important coming reactions from England, when New Musical Express journalist Ian McDonald wrote excitedly about the LP, calling Wigwam the best rock band of the day [outside the UK and the US, cj]. However, despite these fine reviews the album was not a huge commercial success.
To pay their label something back for the excessive studio time they had used up during the making of Being, Wigwam agreed to play backing on two debut albums by Finnish songstresses Muska Babitzin and Maarit. Pembroke even gave away two songs to be included on Maarit’s LP. However, both songs were subsequently included on his own second solo album [with English lyrics, cj], titled Pigworm (the songs in question were ‘Resign To Surrender’ and ‘Sweet Marie’). Likewise, Gustavson worked out a fine arrangement for Stevie Wonder’s ‘You’re The Sunshine Of My Life’, included also on Maarit’s album.
During December 1973 a new group member was added to Wigwam’s line-up. This was guitarist Pekka Rechardt. He had already on three occasions played with the group on stage, substituting for Pembroke. Despite this he wasn’t the first candidate to be considered. The group had also rehearsed guitarist Janne Ödner, but when he didn’t work out to everyone’s satisfaction, the choice fell instead on Rechardt to be the only guitarist the group had included since the departure of Nikke Nikamo.
It was hoped that this move might dissolve some of the friction within the group. But by the spring of 1974, shortly after the release of Being, Gustavson told the others he would leave the group shortly. His decision was kept secret from the media, since the others were still trying hard to make him change his mind.
Wigwam were making ready for their first appearances outside the Nordic countries, a joint tour of the UK with Tasavallan Presidentti. Still, Gustavson refused to change his mind, and on the tour which started at Easter 1974 he kept to himself more than ever on one side of the stage, giving space to the new guitarist. When the others had finally accepted Gustavson’s departure, Pekka Pohjola also announced his, saying that he would concentrate on solo work from now on. It was all done quite amicably, which was reflected when Pohjola and Gustavson both contributed as backing musicians on Pembroke's second solo LP, Pigworm. This was recorded during March and April 1974.
After the British tour, the ‘original Wigwam’ performed their last three gigs in Helsinki during June 1974 (at Natsa-Club, Alibi Club, and Tavastia-Club). These performances were recorded and the best of them ended up on a double live album titled Live Music From The Twilight Zone (LXLP 517/518).
The release of the live album was delayed until the spring of 1975. There had been some difficulties in choosing which part of the material to use, since the songs that were musically best weren’t technically good, and vice versa. Finally eight songs were picked, none of which had previously been released on the group’s other records.
The live double LP is a fine presentation of Wigwam as a live act. Their stage repertoire had always featured many songs borrowed from other artists, dressed in arrangements that favoured long solos and some free jamming. From time to time they had attempted to perform their own more complicated songs on stage, but either the views on how to play them had differed too much, or the players’ technical abilities were too uneven. The last of these attempts concerned the song ‘Fairyport’, on which the idea was for Rechardt to play cello (formerly his main instrument). But again this attempt failed. Likewise, the live LP doesn’t include the group’s old stage favourite, their version of Finlandia. The band had become bored with it after playing it over and over too many times. The only Pohjola composition featured is ‘Nipistys’, a track from his solo album.
The cover songs work more-or-less. The seventeen minute version of ‘The Moon Struck One’, from the Band’s songbook, features the group at their finest. ‘Let It Be’ also works fairly well, but ‘Imagine’ lacks enthusiasm and drive. The last song from the final gig by this line-up is a blues number called ‘Help Me/Checkin’ Up On My Baby’. It is included mainly for documentary reasons. The first of two compositions Rechardt contributed to the group are place right after one another on the release to show the wide span of his abilities. The beautiful instrumental ‘Groundswell’ caters for solos by both Gustavson and Pohjola. The next song, ‘Pig Storm’, doesn’t fit in too well with the other material. It is a bit shame that no Pohjola compositions other than ‘Nipistys’ were ever performed live. Side 4 is completely taken up by Pembroke’s ‘Grass For Blades’. It features some nice soloing, particularly by Rechardt.
Perhaps Live Music From The Twilight Zone isn’t quite as good an album as it could have been. It seems too stylistically diverse and a bit uninspired in places. But viewed as a historical document it is a highly important record.
The group produced the record together with Tommi Liuhala, who also engineered it along with Måns Groundstroem. On the front of the sleeve the group is seen standing on a hill in Helsinki, a dark and threatening cloud about their heads. The overall impression is of sadness, and you can sense that this is a group that is falling apart. Inside the gatefold sleeve is a chronological listing of the group’s recordings and line-up changes, along with Tapio Korjus comments on each track. Finally there are photographs of the individual members.
During the spring of 1974 it remained uncertain if Wigwam would carry on. However, it was eventually announced that a new line-up would continue with entirely new songs, as Österberg, Pembroke and Rechardt would be joined by an old friend, Måns Groundstroem, on bass.
See also Wigwam 1975-78.