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Vaavi was formed in summer 1978, when ex-Uutiset ja Sää members guitarist Kari Hipponen and drummer Tommi Micklin joined forces with bassist Jari 'Iku' Viitanen from Jawa. The original vocalist Jorma Nurminen only stayed for a couple of months, but he was the one who came up with the name for the band. This lineup recorded a demo, which, according to a review in Hilse magazine, sounded like Sham 69 and Johnny Moped. Songs on the demo included Jumala suojelkoon tedejä, Suomalainen yleisö and Nyt rakkautes, huomenna muu (a cover version of Ramones' Today your love, tomorrow the world). Like many others at the time, Vaavi members too had their own fanzine called Vatkain ja Abel. After Nurminen's departure Kari Hipponen's brother Erkki, from Uutiset ja Sää joined the band for a couple of weeks. Later he formed his own band Pupukuusikko. The next one to hold the vocalist's post was Tapio Nyman (also from Uutiset ja Sää), who stayed a little longer. At this point they started taking things a little more serious, and writing songs of their own. Previously they had been playing cover versions of songs by Johnny Moped, Sex Pistols and even Bay City Rollers, but now Ramones and Undertones became their major influences.

In spring 1979 they were one of the finalists in the new wave category of the Finnish rock championship competition, held in Seinäjoki. They only played a ten minute set, but came second, Ratsia being the winner. The second place brought them a recording deal with Rokit, which offered to release one single for them. In April 1979 they entered MSL-Studio to record songs for the single Mihin jäi punk/Uhoan voimaa, produced by Jyrki Siukonen of Kollaa Kestää, released in summer 1979. The A side is written by Nurminen and Hipponen (despite the fact that it was credited to Hipponen) and is probably Vaavi's best known song. The B side is a real burst of energy, written by Hipponen. In May they recorded a song for the Hilse compilation, also in MSL-Studio. The song was Lällätys, recorded live in studio, with references to Miettinen of Hilse and many others in the lyrics. Lällätys is one of the better songs on the album, along with Se's and Ratsia's tracks. Like previously, Siukonen was in charge of the production (if you can call it that). Since the deal with Rokit consisted of one single only, they got a new deal with Love Records' successor Johanna. In September 1979 Vaavi recorded songs for an EP in Finnvox Studios, but it wasn't until next year that the EP was released. The record was named EP:n nimi. Out of the four songs, two were Sham 69 covers, the two others being their own material. The EP was released in a fold-out cover, and produced by Siukonen and the band. In early 1980 the band's best effort so far was released, in the form of the single Hei Anne (milloin tulet?)/Me voitais vaikka rakastella. The A side is a reggae tune, and the other A side is a catchy pop song. Regardless, it wasn't a hit. At the time of the release the old vocalist Nyman had already been replaced, as ex-Jawa Ilkka Isotupa joined the band on vocals and guitar, and was already participating in the recordings of the band's debut album, started in January. Nyman joined Pupukuusikko and later Kari Hipponen's band. The album Neljä nolattua neroa (named after the Finnish title of the Marx Brothers film Monkey business) was released in April 1980. First 1500 copies of the LP came with bonus VaaviEP, featuring two originals and two covers: Mitään (originally Profit by Ebba Grön) and Rakkauden orjat (Teenage kicks by Undertones). The album was produced by the record label boss Atte Blom with the band. The LP isn't your typical new wave album: the songs, with their unusual chord progressions and rhythm changes, are harder to grasp, if compared for example to Ratsia's material. The album's catchiest song Tytöt hymyilee was also released as a single, and was shown on television in Levyraati. The story behind the song went like this: Hipponen and Siukonen were walking on the street, and all the girls were smiling. That's where they got the idea that they both write a song called Tytöt hymyilee ('The girls are smiling'), not as a collaboration but two separate compositions. Kollaa Kestää's version was released on their only album Jäähyväiset aseille. Vaavi's version is sung by Viitanen. Another easy-for-ears song is Tuu mun viereen, a slow love song. Other than that, the album is quite hard, for example take a listen to Elämää vain paperilla (also the B side of Tytöt hymyilee single). Lällätys was also included on the album, but with new lyrics and renamed to Mikä sais sut lopettaan? On the bonus EP there are some humorous cuts too: Pogo party is a funny story about a day in the life of a punk boy. RARF, aka Rock against Raija Forsström, is about the case when the planned Sex Pistols gig in Finland was cancelled because of the pressure from 'concerned citizens', personified in Forsström. Mitään is a good reproduction of Ebba Grön's energetic performance, and Rakkauden orjat sounds decent too, if you keep in mind that nobody can sing the song the way Feargal Sharkey did on the original version. Later Vaavi made a new failed attempt on the song. Most of the album's songs are written by Hipponen, but others participated as well. Micklin played the keyboards parts. That summer was also released the triple album Metropolis, featuring live recordings by Ratsia, Pelle Miljoona, Widows and others. Four Vaavi tracks were included on the album, and since the recordings are from the previous year, vocals are handled by Nyman. Tulevaisuus? and Suomalainen yleisö are songs from the early days, and Uhoan voimaa and Me voitais vaikka rakastella are known from Vaavi's singles. More live material came available when double album Provinssi-rock '80 was released in fall 1980, featuring Vaavi's track Keskiyöhön asti, a cover version of Wilson Pickett's In the midnight hour. The live album was pressed in limited numbers, and has become quite hard to find. It should be stated that Vaavi was above all a live band, gigging extensively, about two hundred shows in a little over one year.

The year 1980 was busy time for them, as in fall they already started recording their second album. First came single Kun rakkaus kuolee/Lauantaiaamuyö (B side not on album). The A side differs greatly from their previous material, it's almost disco. Perhaps they were desperately trying to score a hit. Nevertheless, they didn't get one. The B side is a fast rock standard, and was included on Suomi-ilmiö compilation LP the next year. Both songs were credited to the whole band, with lyrics by Hipponen. The new album Ruusuinen tulevaisuus was released in early 1981, with the aforementioned Kun rakkaus kuolee as the opening track. Again most composition and all lyrics are written by Hipponen. The songs are more pop oriented, and one might think that it would have been more accessible to the public (for example Sadetta, Miten mä tuun?), but it sold poorly, and the band was just about finished. The albums' songs, with Lauantaiaamuyö included, were however published as sheet music. In a local paper Hipponen stated that he didn't want to be involved in situations where emphasis is on the show, so he quit the band in summer 1981. He was replaced by ex-Jesse Bullet's Heaven Hannu Korkeamäki. However, with the main composer gone, the band was in trouble. A new single was in the plans, even a catalogue number was reserved for it, but it was never released. Instead a compilation album called Mihin jäi punk was released, featuring single and EP tracks plus Tää päivä, a previously unreleased song, written by Isotupa. The band's activity gradually slowed down, and the last lineup from 1982 consisted of Micklin, Korkeamäki on guitar and vocals and former Xtaasi and Ratsia member Kari Starck on bass.

Kari Hipponen's solo single Vihreä talo/Juosta was released in 1981, featuring Vaavi (Hipponen, Micklin, Isotupa, Viitanen) plus Pekka Aarnio on additional vocals on the B side. Pentti Degerström (ex-Pupukuusikko) played drums on the A side. Vihreä talo is a pop song, and Juosta a little more experimental stuff. Then Kari Hipponen formed a group called Siniset Sydämet, with his brother Erkki on bass, Jussi Blomqvist on guitar and Kari Saaristo on drums. This lineup however didn't play on the group's only single Toukokuu/Mä pelkään, as Erkki Hipponen and Saaristo were replaced by Tapio Nyman and Pentti Degerström. Then it was time for Hipponen to join Yari's (Se) Seitsemäs Maailma project, featuring ex-Lama member Charlie on drums. This lineup made a tour and Seitsemäs Maailma LP. Logically the next step was Hipponen and Degerström to join Se in 1983. They played on Se's last album Lasi kirkasta vettä. Hipponen also co-wrote two of the album's songs. Even though those were Se's final recordings, the lineup changed once more before the breakup, as Hipponen and Degerström were replaced by, surprise surprise, Micklin and Korkeamäki. After Siniset Sydämet Hipponen had already moved to Tampere, and there he played in a band called Oona. His guitar playing can be heard on Oona's only single Aika vastaan/Meidän huone, released in 1985. Isotupa played in Borderline (briefly featuring Viitanen as well) until he was kicked out of the band. Micklin, Viitanen and Isotupa also had a band called Shake Appeal, and I happened to witness their only gig in Salo. The band's set consisted of covers by Stooges, New York Dolls, Sex Pistols and such.

It was only a matter of time before Hipponen too wanted to get Vaavi back together, so in December 1984 Hipponen, Micklin, Isotupa and Viitanen brought the band back to life. The comeback gig was held at Salo business school, and in addition to their old songs they also played covers, including Katrina & The Waves, and Ramones of course. What had changed was that instead of Isotupa, now Viitanen handled the lead vocals. Gradually their repertoire grew, and so did the lineup: ex-Korppi, ex-Borderline, Ex-Automaatti Mika Heinonen joined the band on bass, allowing Viitanen to concentrate on vocals. Eventually they got a chance to make a record as Atte Blom's Megamania offered them a deal. Single Ei palata voi eiliseen/Älä itke Iines was released in 1986. The B side is a Tuomari Nurmio cover, and A side is a pretty generic pop tune. The same year they recorded songs for a full-length album, to be called either Tatuoitu or Pieni, likainen sydän. The problem is that it was never released. As a person who has heard it, I can say that, even though as a whole it isn't as good as their previous records, there are some really good tracks that should have been released, for example beautiful songs like Viimeiset kyyneleet and Tuhannen vuoden ikävä. At least something was released, as the single Rakkauden orjat/RaMaVit ('Rahaton, maaton, vituttaa') came out in 1987. Rakkauden orjat is the aforementioned new take on the Undertones song, but the flipside is Vaavi at its best, a catchy rock song about the sufferings of a small man when life gives you a rough treatment. The band got fed up as the album release was postponed time after time, so they played their final gig in 1988.

Later Hipponen concentrated on producing other bands, and worked as sound technician at YO-talo in Tampere. His early productions included Ratsia's Elämän syke, and later he worked with many Hiljaiset Levyt bands, for example Jalla Jalla, Alivaltiosihteeri and God's Lonely Men. He did make an appearance on record too, as he played on one song in a group called Twang Bang Boom. Isotupa and Micklin later played in Innerspacemen, appearing on one of their albums and a couple of singles. Micklin also played in Kelpo Pojat, but they didn't release anything during his time in the band. In the 2000's he played in V-Chips with ex-Melrose Repa Nurmi. Isotupa played in a macho band called Firing Dicks. They (as well as Borderline) were featured on Dedication to the swan compilation, released in 1998. Vaavi made a reunion gig in December 23th 1994 at movie theater Bio Jännä in Salo. Soon after that a career-spanning Vaavi compilation called Tytöt hymyilee was released. It contained two previously unreleased tracks: Myrskyn lapset, one of the stronger tracks from the unreleased album, and a Ramones medley called Ikuisesti Ramo, recorded in 1984. Juosta, originally released as the B side of Hipponen's solo single, was also included. Vaavi planned on continuing gigging under the name Vaari ('Vaavi' = 'baby, toddler', 'Vaari' = 'grandfather'), but if they did do so, I managed to miss them. Instead, Isotupa, Hipponen, Heinonen and drummer Pepe Lindholm had a CD-single Punapää/Pieni likainen sydän out with their band Rokote. The B side was a new version of one of the unreleased Vaavi songs. In Rokote it was Heinonen's turn to be the lead vocalist. They also played the song Punapää in Jyrki TV show. The band, however, wasn't very successful, and it was buried quite soon. In 2006 Vaavi made another reunion gig at Papparock in Salo. The gig started with Nyman on vocals, and Viitanen handling the latter part. It was a great show, especially the first part. Nyman probably hadn't been singing since he did his part on Pojat's Punk it CD. On that album Pojat played versions of old Finnish punk rock songs with the original vocalists. The Vaavi cover was naturally Mihin jäi punk?. In 1990 the same song got a treatment by an anonymous group, and two versions of the song were released as a single. According to an interview made in 2003, Hipponen had quit playing, and no longer worked at YO-talo, making further Vaavi reunion gigs less likely. The 2006 gig was a memorable event anyway. But even that wasn't Vaavi's last performance, as a version of the band played at Jyrki Homanen's, the head of Salo's department of youth services, retirement party in 2007. On that gig drums were played by Pepe Lindholm, instead of Micklin, the one and only Vaavi drummer. After Vaavi Viitanen worked at radio station Auran Aallot and later at Radio Suomen Salo. Heinonen played in Suzy Gang and Rockrose. Korkeamäki, in addition to his production and recording works (for example he played guitar on Suurlähettiläät's debut album), became known to a larger audience as one of the judges in Finnish Idols competition show.

text by Vesa Vahtera, translation by Jarkko Kuivanen