John's Children
 
 
Fun in Finland
by Andy Ellison
photos by Steve Wright


I had always wanted to go to Scandinavia, the beautiful girls, the cheap vodka, the endless fjords, the midnight sun........ the beautiful girls. Anyway, the three bands that I've played in never quite made it that far north, well except when I went to Aberdeen, Scotland, supporting Eddie and the Hot Rods way back in the late 70's with Radio Stars. Then out of the blue, I was asked by Mikko Kapanen, the John's Children's Finnish Webmaster, who lives in Helsinki, to possibly, come over to Finland and play some gigs with Mikko and his brother Kassu, who are both great musicians in their own right, (having played in various Finnish bands).

So in 2009 when Mikko came over to stay at my place on the Thames, near Windsor, and suggested the idea that his brother Kassu and good friend Ville would learn all the songs....... I said 'Yeah!'

So in June 2010, I board a plane at Heathrow, with my good friend, and funnily enough the Radio Stars Webmaster, Steve Wright, as a fellow passenger. We are flying Finnair, or as Steve says, holding tightly to his baseball cap, Thinair. The Nordic captain makes us all feel very comfortable by explaining that he was a bit hung over due to a party he went to with his co-pilot the previous night, so won't be flying at the usual altitude, as his friend who has taken over co-pilot duties, doesn't like heights. We order double vodkas.

Just over two hours and a lot of vodkas later we stagger out into the impressive modern, sanitized, and almost empty, Helsinki airport. It's 11pm at night and still quite bright. We are greeted by Mikko, and his pal Ville, who drive us into town.

Our hotel is in the same road as our first gig on the Friday, and just around the corner from their rehearsal studio. It's 1 am by now, but hey this is Helsinki, the Restaurants may close at 9, but the bars stay open 'till 4 and beyond, so let's go and have a few beers. I sample Helsinki's finest, a strange brew called, "The Rat killer", or at least that's what I thought it was called. Ville, with his pageboy hairstyle and baby face looks, impresses, as does Mikko with their amazing command of the English language, sounding more British than Terry Thomas. In fact they speak better English then anybody I know around norf London. 'Cheerio!' says Ville as we stagger back to the hotel.



The next morning it is glorious sunshine, and Mikko has very kindly taken us to one of the islands on the Helsinki Coast, where we wander around most of the day looking at the wild life. Part of the island has a prehistoric village, all in working order. I photograph the sparse wooden hut, with bear skins on the beds, and send the photos back to the UK saying, "My Finnish hotel room is ample but a little bit threadbare".

In the evening it's back to town for our first rehearsal. We've got two rehearsals before our first gig at the 'Bar Loose' on the Friday night. Somehow Mikko on guitar, his brother Kassu on bass and friend Ville on drums, have, with just a few rehearsals, managed to capture the early essence of John's Children. I'm quite taken aback as I sing out "Sarah Crazy Child", "Jagged Time Lapse", "But She's Mine", etc. This is going to be brilliant!

I must admit I had no idea what I was taking on by coming to Finland and playing John's Children's songs with people I'd never played with or even met before, except, briefly with Mikko in England, the year before, but this was feeling really good.

The following day's rehearsal goes even better.



So after running through the set twice, we call it a day, agreeing we don't want to hone it too much, leave it with the unpredictability of the original JC. So it's off to the nearest bar. I get to know the three of them quite quickly and get on with them really well. Kassu, Mikko's brother, who always wears a hat, (Trilby), is the laid-back cool dude, and looks like he has just stepped off the streets of Camden Town, North London. Ville is also very easy going and a bit of a joker, also the most talkative. Meanwhile Mikko, the main mod, may seem at times quite serious, sometimes staring thoughtfully into the air. But when he picks up his guitar, his whole persona changes into the wild, extrovert, Pete Townshend like figure, with a great sense of humour.

As we approach the Bar, I noticed Mikko had arrived by bicycle and parked it outside on the main street. I say, "Aren't you locking it up"? and he replies, "No-one ever locks anything up in Finland, no-one steals anything". I'm amazed as I tell him, 'You'd only have to leave that in London for 2 minutes and it'd be gone'. I suggest an experiment..........."Let's leave your guitars out in the street and see if they're there tomorrow morning'. Mikko agrees, but after a couple of pints he decides not to test the infallibility of the Helsinki youth after all, and runs out to retrieve the guitars.

It's Friday, the day of the first gig, but first I have to play a solo set at one of Helsinki's best loved record stores, 'Fatty Sounds'. I grab my union Jack acoustic guitar, jump in a taxi and head across town. We are a bit early so, Steve, Mikko and myself, stop off into what has to be the most extensive heavy metal music shop in the world. There are corridors and labyrinths of mayhem, skulls, Rammsteins............ Steve is in his element. I forgot to tell you that the whole of Finland is obsessed with heavy metal. Every shop you go into is playing it, every bar, every young male looks like they are out of some strange tattooed death metal band. No Kylie's, Keanes or Cowell fodder here........... it strikes me as a bit of a breath of fresh air.

I step out of the darkness leaving Steve in the shop and head across to Fatty Sounds. It's 5 PM and I should be playing in the shop. It's a bit daunting playing just with an acoustic guitar, with no mike, especially in a small music shop. I play about five numbers including a couple off my CD, 'Fourplay', sign some posters and cd's and then have to race across town to our sound check for tonight's gig.

Kassu can only stay for a short time as he has another gig to play before ours....... and then another one after we play, and possibly one in the middle of our set.

The 'Bar Loose' is a great venue, there is a bar and restaurant upstairs at street level and then a downstairs club, which is reminiscent of the old speakeasy in 60s London. I had brought with me the JC backdrop, which took up most of my suitcase, and we try to hang it at the back of the stage, below the lights. The Bar Loose sound engineer suddenly appears announcing 'You can't put that up! We have very strict fire regulations here in Finland!' I quickly reply that this is a very special fire retardant material, knowing well, that it's a cheap bit of schmutter that I got from a stall in Petticoat lane, East London, and then sprayed the 'Come and Play With Me in The Garden' logo on to it, with highly flammable fluorescent pink paint spray!

We are not on till 11 PM, so I retire to the hotel. I foolishly think I should have a quick nap. Lying on the bed I drift into a well earned sleep, with Sky news on. Suddenly it reports of hundreds of people who died tonight in huge fire in a club in Helsinki........... I wake up in a sweat. It is ten to eleven! I jump into my white outfit, white jeans and white Ramones T-shirt and run down the road to 'Bar Loose'.

Down in the dressing room, Kassu passes round the Salmiakki, apparently a strong Finnish liquor (The taste of Finnish folklore)........... and very good for your voice.



The gig is amazing, and ends with the band surprising me, smashing up their equipment.... Hey this really is John's Children........... I pull down the backdrop and throw it over Mikko, it all gets messy. Later, when the club has turned into a night club I grab Ville, telling him it is the tradition in JC, that I always dance with the drummer........ we clear the dance floor.

The next morning, (Saturday), we are off to Turku, some 200 miles from Helsinki, and Finland's second largest city, once the capital. We are playing at the Kuka club, a staunch Finnish mod venue. Kuka means Who. Ville arrives at the Hotel with a hired car, I pop down the road to retrieve Steve from the sex shop on the corner.

As I do so we notice this beautiful, young, very pretty, petite and innocent looking girl, going into the shop. Two minutes later she sheepishly appears around the door and notices us as she sidles up the street, quickening her pace. To our surprise she is holding a see-through plastic bag with the most enormous blue dildo.........we look at each other and burst into laughter...... that will surely kill her!

Tonight we have to scale things down a bit, as the stage is a bit limited. Ville has brought bongos. Mikko is going to play my acoustic guitar. Steve and I are staying in this strange computerised hotel a few blocks away. We use codes to get in and get out.......the corridors are like something from The Shining.



The gig is packed, and fun was had again, by all. Including, hopefully, the people who sat at the tables that i jumped on........... A completely different gig from the night before, but still great. Afterwards I sign some posters and Cd's. I notice Steve is very merry tonight, he usually doesn't drink much, and I watch as he spins around the venue.

Mikko, Kassu and Ville slope off to some more clubs. I think I should help Steve back to the computerised hotel. I manage to steer him out of another sex shop on the way, then he starts chatting to some girl on the corner. I drag him away, saying she was not the sort of girl you like to take to bed. I help him to his room, and then retire to mine.

I'm not sure how long I had been asleep when I am awoken by a loud siren, and the giant 40 inch TV switches itself on, with a loud voice repeating something in Finnish. Just as I am about to unplug it, it speaks to me in English, "Leave the Building now!... Leave the building now!." Initially I think, oh no what has Steve done? When I get a call from him. 'Help! Andy, what is going on....... I was just dancing round the table, when the TV starts speaking to me in my head, I'm confused!' I try to explain to him that we must leave the building. 'Meet you outside'. The corridors are packed with half dressed people scurrying to the nearest lift. Outside the street is packed with half asleep men and women and three fire engines. After about fifteen minutes and still no sign of Steve, we are told we can all go back in. As the first of us enter the main doors back into the hall, out of the lift steps Steve clutching all kinds of John's Children memorabilia and paraphernalia, there was no way he was leaving this stuff behind!

Anyway it's back to sleep....... except that I'm awakened again by banging on my door. "Open up please, open up now!" What the hell is this? With the lights still off I crawl to the door and peep through the spy hole. There are two quite thick set men in the corridor. Bang, bang, again "Open up now!' Thinking they must be part of the Fire Brigade earlier, I begin to open the door. They look very aggressive "You have girl in there"?.... this is strange, "No" I reply, and then they lurch towards me, I slam the door. They are very angry and keep banging on my door for the next few minutes....... and then it all goes quiet. It takes a while for me to go back to sleep.



Ville picks us up next morning and it is back to Helsinki airport. All I can say is that it has been one mad week. And I want to thank Mikko, Kassu and Ville for a great experience. I'd love to come back sometime, just don't put me in that hotel in Turku.

The Pilot announces that his wife will be attending him in the cabin tonight due to his former co-pilot going to a 'KISS' concert the night before..............

"Get the Vodkas in, Steve".

Setlist: "But She's Mine" / "Sara Crazy Child" / "Mustang Ford" / "Arthur Green" / "Perfumed Garden Of Gulliver Smith" / "Hippy Gumbo" / "It's Been A Long Time" / "Cornflake Zoo" / "Come And Play With Me In The Garden" / "Train In My Head" / "Jagged Time Lapse" / "Midsummer Night's Scene". Encore: "Smashed Blocked" / "No Russians In Russia" / "Desdemona"


John's Children VS. The Who 1967
In April 1967 John's Children embarked on a German tour in support of Track label mates The Who. This tour is an essential (and the most infamous) chapter of the story of John's Children's short but explosive '60s heyday so let's have a closer look...

The Who/John's Children West Germany April 1967 tour dates:

Friday 7 April The groups arrive in Essen.
Saturday 8 April Messehalle, Nuremburg.
Sunday 9 April Thalia-Theater, Wuppertal
Monday 10 April Jaguar-Club, Herford.
Tuesday 11 April Rheinhalle, Düsseldorf.
Wednesday 12 April Friedrich-Ebert-Halle, Ludwigshafen.

The gig on the 12th was the infamous one where John's Children caused a full scale riot. To understand the full extent of the mayhem one should read Dave Thompson's book about the band John's Children (a.k.a. Growing Up With John's Children). Here's Andy's comments about the gig from the booklet of the Smashed Blocked! CD: "A few dates into the tour, rumblings were coming back from The Who camp, regarding us going down too well, stating that we were creating a highly charged atmosphere among the crowd and making it hard for The Who to come on and play. Kit Lambert had a heated argument with our manager at a restaurant in Cologne. In the Bentley on our way to the next gig at the 12,000 capacity Massehalle in Ludwigshafen, Simon told us gravely 'Kit says if you do that again you're off the tour'. We though if we don't do it there's no point in playing, and if we do it we're off, 'so let's do it!' Marc thrashed his guitar with chains, Chris thundered out his tribal beat, John and I fought on stage, throwing ourselves into the audience, where I ran amok, tossing pillows of feathers and chased by irate security guards. Suddenly the auditoriumn erupted, with chairs flying everywhere and there was a huge surge to the stage. Some were trying to hug us and the rest, mainly nazi style bouncers, were intent on kicking us. John and myself made it out though a side door to the dressing room. I had to rip my shirt off to get free. Simon was there and said 'leave everything and just get out'. Chris fell into the room with a jack boot mark in the middle of his chest, followed by Marc. We managed to scramble out of a back door to the Bentley. Simon screamed the car round in a circle and sped towards the nearest exit. The rest seemed like a slow frame replay, I watched in disbelief as the riot police began firing water cannon up through the top windows of the stadium, as chairs rained out with shards of glass."

The band's equipment was confiscated by German authorities and deported back to England and The Who kicked the band off the tour. Both Andy and Chris have said The Who never came on that night but according to the book Anyway Anyhow Anywhere: The Complete Chronicle of The Who 1958-1978 by Andy Neill and Matt Kent the riot only almost prevented The Who from playing.

The Who carried on with the rest of the tour without John's Children:

Thursday 13 April Circus-Krone-Bau, Munich.
Friday 14 April Münsterland Halle, Münster.
Saturday 15 April Sigerlandhalle, Siegen & Rhein-Main Halle, Wiesbaden.
Sunday 16 April Oberschwabenhalle, Ravensburg & Donauhalle, Ulm.
Wednesday 19 April Stadthalle, Bremen.

Kit Lambert sent a camera crew with The Who to attempt a concert film and the Munich show (the following night of the riot) was filmed in colour. A couple of months later Chris Townson deputised for Keith Moon as The Who's drummer on a short British tour after Moon had injured himself demolishing his drum kit onstage.

The Who's British dates featuring Chris Townson on drums were:

Saturday 3 June Floral Hall, Southport.
Thursday 8 June Ulster Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Friday 9 June Golden Slipper Ballroom, Magilligan, Co. Derry, Northern Ireland.
Saturday 10 June June Palace Ballroom, Douglas, Isle of Man.

At the last show The Who retaliated the Children's annoying behaviour in Germany with flash powder; Townson went out with a bang...!! Unfortunately there are very few bootleg recordings of The Who's 1967 shows and the ones Townson played are not among them. Chris: "Alas I am not aware of any bootlegs, however I came very close a few years ago to finding a picture of the great moment in Ireland (courtesy of Andy Neill and an Irish journalist). Unfortunately I am obscured by Daltrey's arm... I know it was me, but...!!"
Chaos in Cattolica... The Italian Job
By Andy Ellison



Well here we are in Italy, first time for John's Children. Rimini..... what a beautiful place this is!.... is it?... I dunno know, cos I never get a chance to see it. Anyway here we are at the Airport, only four of us, Chris , Ian , Martin and me, because boz is gigging in Botswana with the Pol Potts. And there's Paul from the Untouchables, the Mod, Philosopher, art critic, writer and all round good geezer and a couple of Italian mod drivers. to take us down the coast. Catollica looks very sedate. A quiet fishing port with a few hotels, a night club named the Golden Gate, some smart restaurants, beautiful beaches and it's crammed full of English, German and Italian mods, swarms of buzzing scooters and even a few Union Jacked, Austin Mini Coopers. The first night was going to be a chill out night ...... you know just a couple of beers and then bed ....... well we've got the gig tomorrow!!! So....... lets go clubbing until five in the morning at the Golden Gate where the mod festival has already started........ dance madly, drink loads of Jack Daniels, get cornered by the Engine driver who tells me that Martin is me in a 70s sitcom that I was in, but wasn't really. On the way back, we try and hijack a fishing boat, and then abuse shoals of jelly fish.....'You bastards!!!!' ....You…... etc etc....... We shout, precariously hanging over the side of the jetty.......they take heed, and leave the harbour forthwith. The following day, not a jelly fish in sight. Time for bed ..... no... Hang on, there's the Pirate pub open all night and conveniently beneath our hotel, where the mod festival seems to be continuing. People are still dancing wildly, methinks persians are afoot, (well at least 10 inches). Finally we stagger up to our three bedroom apartment with a balcony, over looking the port (not sure why I'm mentioning this, anyway it's jolly nice). The sun is rising and we try and grab a few hours sleep (if you can call it that, because the Lancaster Bomber in the bed next to me is on full throttle, I poke it occasionally, but it just hits you back).

The sound check is at three. We are picked and taken down to the Golden Gate in a couple of cars. Of course the doors are locked and the sound guys are waiting outside. We sit forlornly in the foyer, hungover, tired and hungry. Luckily Paul the mod who has come with us, is there to teach us all about the incongruity of Byzantine art, as he studies the ceiling fresco a la Michelangelo, in the club foyer. "Cor look at the size of thet geezers.......etc" and other such artistic observations.



We don't play until midnight, so after the strangely zen....zzzzzzzzz like sound check, we return to the hotel to see if Boz has arrived. Which he hasn't, so we try and grab an hours sleep (well I call it that..... but as drift into deep, deeeeeeep frescos of wildly dancing persians, shouting obscenitiess at mod jellyfish. The Lancaster Bomber returns.......... and the phone rings)..... and the phone rings ... "oh... hello...... Hi Boz where are you?" Of course he's in the pub below. We head off back to the Golden gate where the party is in full swing. For some reason or other we don't even check if our guitars are in tune, perhaps it's because we've just spent another hour at the bar. So it's straight on stage and into 'But she's mine'. This is one of those gigs, the ones that gradually come in flashbacks two or three days later. I seem to remember singing in the toilet at one point and flushing the loo to the sound of Jagged Time Lapse, I think I got on some blokes shoulders as he was having a piss, marching me back out throwing toilet rolls everywhere. Singing behind the bar as I sometimes do.... don't ask!! All right ask!.... it's because it's .....uum there. Sofas are suddenly being thrown on stage and people are fighting and rolling around in front of us. I start to take my clothes off. A naked Italian rushes into the throng, (woody type of word, Throng, thronnnnng.......sorry.) After the encore and about 10 minutes of winding down time, it's back out to Harry the bird, Cheesy, Fulvio, Mickey Wink and other very silly named DJ's, who transport us back to the swinging 60's. We carry on dancing and drinking until 4am. So what do you think so far?? Yeah fuck it, let's go to the Pirate Pub!!

I don't sleep that night......... ...... later I go to the cafe next to the river and wait. I'm joined by the others at about midday and we head off for lunch in the most amazing storm, thunder, lightning and torrential rain. But where's Martin? As we sit in the covered patio of the restaurant the rain becomes a torrent and roads become rivers. Out of this monsoon a misty figure approaches bedraggled and angry. "I've just spent 20mins trying to get out of my room", Martin says, looking a trifle peeved. "someone locked me in! so I've kicked the door down!" Chris, Martin and Ian go to the airport at 6pm, but Boz and I and a few English mod weekenders are not going until tomorrow night. Guy one of the mods sits next to us in the outdoor cafe, shivering, head in hands shaking constantly and groaning. He staggers up saying " I........I must get some air.... I'll go over....... there." Actually the air over there is exactly the same.!! He is so wired he jumps up runs across the road, changes his shirt then returns, leans forward still shivering, clasping his head. I don't think I've seen any body quite so ill. I'm interested to know how much substance abuse a human can take. As we wave good bye to Chris and the others, a thought crosses my mind. Why did they take so long getting their bags from the hotel?

Suddenly the heavens open up again, this is serious rain, we, Janine, Sancha Francois, Boz and myself run for cover to the nearest restaurant. The rest of the evening is spent, drinking a lemon liqueur Grappa and red wine, followed by food fights as Francois eventually falls under the table. Its still raining when we leave and head for the Pirate Pub. Here things become a little blurred, but I seem to remember boz leaning over to me at our point, looking worried, saying he'd just been threatened by a guy with a gun! I'm offered some marzipan (or something like that) by one of the girls, Later I go downstairs to the toilet and I'm followed. Someone (marzipan distributor) comes in and locks the door while I'm having a piss........... Hmm........!?

Boz and I stagger up to the third floor apartment. Entering the door we at first wonder if we've got the right flat. The place is empty. The balcony door swings wildly in the wind and rain................. Out on the balcony are all the beds and most of our clothes. Flashback to the afternoon.......Shit!!........ (as the others drunkenly waved goodbye). Worried about how much we are going to be stung for the already smashed bedroom door, Boz and I drag the the sodden beds in, and arrange them as neatly as possible. It isn't long before the floor is about an inch deep in water as the mattress's continue to drip. I decide to go and see Francois on the floor below, but things are not too good there, as he is in the process of letting off all the fire extinguishers. Somehow we manage some sleep and then hastily pack ready to leave later in the afternoon. We creep downstairs past the hotel owner, who is mysteriously below the counter groaning and deposit our bags and guitars with some friends in a nearby hotel. We are refused lunch in the restaurant we ate in last night, but strangely, they offer us some more strong liqueurs. Fortified, I think swimming is a great Idea. Although it's still very windy, I head off down to the beach, strip off, run into the warm sea (at least I think it was warm). Try and reach some rocks out passed the pier, but the large waves pounding over the top of the rocks force me back. Francois joins me. As we come out of the sea there are the mod girls, with their cameras.

Oh well, it's back to the airport. What a beautiful place Rimini is......is it.........?? Special thanks to Rob Bailey and all ........see ya

Andy
The Legendary Kitchen Gig
Saturday 13th January, 2001.
By Chris Marshall



Pink, white, red. The acid hitting or was it '67 and "Come and Play with Me in the Garden"?

1967
Knocked out by "Desdemona", "Come and Play", "Go-go Girl".

1981
Sell the picture sleeve to raise cash.

1988
Recovery. Buy Bam Caruso's A Midsummer Night's Scene.

1967-2001
Regard John's Children as transcendent rock icons. Never liked Marc Bolan that much though.

1999
See London gig advertised in "Guardian". I'm going to Swanage so can't make it. Reflect on impoverishment of modern tourism.

2000
I get electronic.

2000 (April)
It's Dingwalls. Immediately invest in Chaos T-shirt. Puzzled by response of Bolan fans. They can't believe I'm the other way round. Colin tells me he's seen Andy by dressing room. Get out pen and spare Mikko site page. Fan meets Andy. Pen doesn't function. Return to Brighton.

2000
Age counts.

2000 (November)
E-mail Martin Gordon. I make proposition. Shyly. It's 10 by 16. Approximately.

2000 (November)
Martin e-mails me. Shades of Numanesque modernism.

2000 (30th December)
Streets of Camden freeze and sing. The Monarch. JC astound. "Is Chris Marshall in the audience?". Live interview follows. Unpaid.

2001 (early January)
The kitchen stretches and yawns. Waiting.

2001 (early January)
Andy e-mails....I reply....He phones. Can't make it. Will send signed album if ....

2001 (12th January)
Lots of jelly and icecream. 50. Pink, white, red.

2001 (13th January)
The kitchen. Get out that party suit. Have a drink. Relax. Put away more dangerous utensils. Get them out again. A touch of "Say those Magic Words". Then the magic works. "I opened the door and it was….". He's come and he'll play. Tunes up. A position between the freezer and the dishwasher. And now it happens. Acoustic. Nervous at first (so he said). Powerful. Mindblowing. Utensils scatter. It reads like this:

"But She's Mine"
"Sarah Crazy Child"
"It's been a Long Time"
"Arthur Green"
"Cosmic Dancer"
"Mustang Ford"
"Eleanor Rigby"
"Perfumed Garden of Gulliver Smith"
"Jagged Time Lapse"

Flooded grin and that's me. He's gone down a storm. Photographic evidence. I don't believe it.

Fades away. To white.

Master chef.

Chris Marshall