The Pirates and friends in Finland – November 2006 

(click on thumbnails for bigger pictures - sorry about the quality, I'd left my camera in England and had to use the wife's "Box Brownie")

Unfortunately due to my workload “She who must be obeyed” (my wife Anita ) and I were unable to make it to The Pirates first gig at Tampere in mid-Finland on Wednesday 15th November but we arrived to a blanket of snow late on Thursday 16th and settled in at our airport hotel for the night. The next day (Friday ) after collecting our hire car with suitably studded tyres we set off on a 120Km drive to Kouvola for The Pirates second gig of this three leg tour.  

More by luck than judgement we found that our internet-booked hotel was just 200metres from the venue: "The House of Rock" - so in the afternoon we walked down there to check it out. As we arrived I was recognised by the guys from “Doctors Order” ( more about them later ) and they gave us a pair of much coveted Doctors Order T Shirts. I’d been in touch with them via email for some time prior so it was great to meet them in person. They’d also brought me a copy of their earlier CD to go with the new release “The Doc Pack” which they’d sent me a few weeks ago. And for 10 minutes I got to be an unofficial “roadie” and carry in the snare and bass drums and a few other “necessaries”.  Doctors Order had been The Pirates support band in Tampere, and on many previous tours, and would be doing the honours again at the third gig in Loviisa on Saturday night. They were also lending The Pirates a drum kit and a couple of amps. The rest of The Pirates kit was hired in.  Just as the last piece was being carried in a massive 20 foot black GMC truck pulled up and out from behind the blacked out windows came Mick, John and Mike – when The Pirates travel they do it in style.   We all chatted for a while and then “The Boss” ( Anita ) and I left them to the rest of their sound checks and we went shopping.  Upon leaving I noticed the A3 poster - which I now have - had Mike Roberts' name on it as well as Mick Green and Johnny Spence - nice touch and I know Mike was well pleased.

The support band this night, “Mala and  the Gas Station” went on at around 10:30 to a very enthusiastic crowd and did a strange mix of Rockabilly meets Rhythm & Country. They mixed standard rock and roll numbers with their own versions of Johnny Cash classics “I walk the Line” and “Wanted Man”. It seemed to go down well but judging from the huge number of Pirates T-Shirts on show it was obvious who they were waiting for. At midnight Mick, John and Mike took the stage to a tremendous reception and proceeded to play their hearts out for over an hour. The sound quality in the hall was superbly mixed by the guy at the controls but it was obvious Mick missed his own guitars and the cheaper Portuguese replica he had was no match for his talents – but he still made it sing beautifully. The Pirates were fantastic – there’s no way of understating the effect that they had on the crowd …. maybe it was the other way around, perhaps the dynamo effect from the floor gave the lads a bit more “get and go”. Either way it was great set and a terrific sound. 

At this point I’d like to thank the many, many Finns who made it their quest to look after Anita and I at both gigs – and I don’t just mean all the offers of free drink ( I could have been paralytic for weeks if I’d taken them up ).  The “locals” really are a great bunch and we were well looked after in Kouvola and again in Loviisa. You can see a few of them below.  I must admit to feeling a fraud in gaining this notoriety because of The Pirates but I’m more than pleased to be their Ambassador.  Over the course of both evenings we were accosted ( nicely ) by so many fans wanting to hear all the latest news and, touchingly, many of them asked after Frank’s health and were genuinely saddened to hear of his retirement. And it's not just casual observance by these fans - they know all the words and the history. Several told me of how they'd been to London in the 70s and seen The Pirates for the first time and one even recalled going to Hamburg and seeing Johnny Kidd and The Pirates in the early 60s..    

Maria, Jari &Juhi                                                                  Jankka on the left              Mika, Pete and Timmy (Timo)

Timmy writes: "We did have some great time that night at House Of Rock and I can hardly wait for next Pirates Finland tour!". We certainly did and our thanks to Timmy for looking after us so well  - Ray & Anita

(if you see yourself in these photos send an email to bigbloke@thepirates.co.uk and I'll put your name to the photo_

On Friday morning, after barely 4 hours sleep, “Management” (Anita) and I set off towards the next stop: Loviisa. It should have been about 30Km back towards Helsinki but we decided on a drive out in the beautiful country and ended up make a 200Km circle which took us to within 10Km of the Russian border. We reached our Hotel and our fantastic suite at the Degerby Hotel at around 4pm ,in the dark – they have less  hours of sunlight up there. It wasn’t until I looked out of one of our windows that I saw that the venue- the Zilton –was directly opposite. Lucky again ! 

The Zilton is a small venue probably capable of taking 200 comfortably but was expecting up to 350 that night. They were even bringing them in by coach from Helsinki – 60 Km away !  “Doctors Order” took the stage at 10:45 and lit the place up. I can only describe them as “an earthquake on six legs”. They’re a R&B / R&R outfit who are extremely popular in their home land of Finland and real good friends of The Pirates having supported them on many tours. They’re a three piece comprising
  Teppo Nattila – aka “Teddy Bear” on Gibson Ripper Bass and lead vocals
  Arto Hamalainen – aka “Grand Archie” lead guitar on Gibson Les Paul & Ibanez Musician (played as a slide guitar) and vocals
  Harri Tuominen – aka “Dirty Harry” on a pearl white Premier drum kit

They’ve been around since 1998 and have several distinctive and highly acclaimed albums to their credit. Their CDs carry the Finnish genre label of “Naughty Rock” which is a polite way of saying that some tracks contain language you wouldn’t want your granny to hear. They’ve attracted many guest artists onto their album including Peter Gage (Dr Feelgood) who provides Vocals and Harmonica on two tracks of their latest CD “The Doc Pack” and here’s a scoop…
This very week (November 2006) The Pirates and  Doctors Order got together in the studio and laid down 6 new tracks. They're going to be released as a min-album by the Doctors early next year.  Mick plays on every track and John sings vocals on rockabilly version of "drinkin' wine"

You couldn’t wish to meet 3 more pleasant or more polite guys. And smart dressers too.  On stage they wear crisp dark suits, shirts, coloured ties and silver toed spats on their feet. Off stage when mingling with their audience they wear their uniform black and silver surfer-boy style shirts beautifully embroidered with their own name and “Doctors Order” proudly on display. Their stage act is electric.  Their musicianship is first class and they’re showman to the end. They write most of their own material and have some interesting arrangements of standards and classics, including as I witnessed tonight a stonking “I Can Tell”.   True, true professionals.

They have a trademark item where Archie wanders off into the dance floor trailing a 30 foot guitar lead behind, plays some blinding strings and joins the throng of revellers who want to dance all night. This man can play !!  He’s then joined by Teppo and Harry for a spot of accapello before, without stopping, they all return to the stage and launch into yet another blistering attack of Rock and Roll.

Teppo provides a very solid bass ( using it like a lead guitar at times ! ) whilst belting out vocals at what can only be described as fog-horn level and in a voice as gruff as his Teddy Bear persona – excellent.

Watching Harry is like watching Keith Moon meets “Animal” from the Muppets.  His hands are a blur as he seems to hit every drum and cymbal at once and never missing a beat. I could watch this guy all night.

So there it is – Doctors Order: 3 superb musicians, real entertainers with a large loyal fan base and above all, thoroughly great guys.   It was a privilege and great fun to share some time with them between gigs. 

1.00am came and it was time for the main event: The Pirates entered the arena and the atmosphere was wild.  Mick had solved his guitar problem by borrowing Archie’s Gibson – something which Archie was most proud of and I’ve promised to send him the photos. Again the sound was superb. I normally find Pirates gigs deafening and all too often Mick’s guitar distorts in a cacophony which, combined with the others, leaves me deaf for hours after. Tonight it was perfect – you could hear everything clearly and come away with 20/20 hearing intact. Mike did a drum solo which sent the audience into rounds of applause and cheers.  John wore his new hat and sounded better than I’ve heard him for a while. And Mick ! – well, Mick played those strings like he was born with them – amazing riffs and perfect chords. Perhaps, again the audience spurred them on. At the end of the set John had to apologise that, due to location of the stage they could hardly go off and come back on for an encore so “Good night and Thank you”.  No Chance !!!    The crowd started singing “Shakin..” and the guys gladly did a belting encore before trying to make their way through the crowd and back to their rooms.  A superb performance and certainly the best I’ve seen from them. It had the masses up dancing from start to finish right in front of the stage. That’s not something you see over here where we all tend to stand enthusiastically in front of the stage. In Finland they dance. 

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip and we thank Mick, John, Mike, Teppo, Archie, Harri and all the fantastic people of Finland for making it so special. I can thoroughly recommend it to anyone who’s thinking of going next year for the repeat.

Ray & Anita