Last time I went through the Swedish entry in Eurovision Song Contest 1963, “En gång i Stockholm” by Monica Zetterlund. This time I will continue my journey through some of the Eurovision songs that didn’t receive any points at all. Today I have reached the Finnish entry in Eurovision 1982.
In the early 80’s the cold war reached a climax. That was indeed a perfect background for anti-war songs, so in 1982 Ralph Siegel’s and Bernt Meinunger’s gentle “Ein bißchen Frieden” performed by Nicole would be the German runaway winner of Eurovision Song Contest 1982.
In the other end of the scoreboard we found another anti-war song, “Nuku pommiin” (oversleep or literally: sleep until the bomb), which was anything but gentle. It was performed by the Finnish singer Timo Kojo, commonly known as just Kojo. He was born in 1953 and started his musical career in 1977 with the band Madame George before turning into a solo artist in 1979. He continued his career through the 80’s and 90’s, but his Eurovision entry from 1982 was a complete failure score-wise, receiving zero points. Afterwards in Finland ice hockey matches going 0-0 would be referred to as Kojo-Kojo.
In the following I will examine the musical and lyrical elements of the song, leading up to a judgement of it and an explanation of why it didn’t score anything.
1. The composition
The form can be explained as follows: 1: a short intro (I, 1:28 in the video), 2: verse 1 (A1, 1:33), 3: chorus 1 (B1, 2:02), 4: middle piece (C, 2:16), 5: chorus 2 (B2, 2:43), 6: solo (S, 2:58), 7: verse 2 (A2, 3:20), 8: chorus 3 with an outro (B3, 3:49). It is not the most common form of a pop song, though there are other examples of it. The verses end with six bars of the V-chord (A major), functioning as a long build-up to the chorus (the backing vocals repeating the line “Nuku tuuti, aa… aa… aa… tuuti”), containing a rising tension towards the “explosion of the bomb” (the chorus).
The main key is D-major, and the song is kept within that key most of the time, except in the solo part where it modulates one note up, to E-major, but then it goes back to D in the final verse. The harmonic structure in the verse is not very remarkable, based mostly on the I (D-major), V (A-major) and IV (G-major) chords apart from the so-called double dominant (II-major chord, here E-major) that is leading up the build-up part in A. It gets a bit more interesting in the chorus and the middle piece where the tonic (that is, the main chord, here D, and without gin) does not appear at all, except in the final chord at the end of the song. With the tonic missing there is a lack of a solid harmonic fundament, thus signalling a sense of disorder or uncertainty.
Other aspects of the composition contribute to the uncertainty. First of all there is a striking lack of emphasis on the 1-beat in the bars (except in the 4th and 8th bars) – both in the melody and in the instruments. Here are some examples from the melody:
The lack of emphasis of the 1-beat in the bars also occurs in the middle piece after the first chorus, whereas the solo part is an exception.
Another aspect of uncertainty is the short intro that does not contain a clear pulse. Combined with the non-emphasised 1-beat in the beginning of the first verse, the verse starts in a (probably intentionally) messy way.
Live, the song was accompanied by a pre-recorded backing track consisting of the rhythm instruments: guitar, bass, drums, plus probably the solo guitar in the solo part, whereas the strings and wind instruments were played live by the orchestra. The strings play a prominent role in the intro and in the final chorus, where they have an upwards figure (quite contrary to the topic of the song), whereas the wind instruments are remarkable for their disharmonic blows in the chorus. Finally there is a big bass drum on the stage which is used in the chorus – the obvious “bomb” in the song, responding to the singer’s “Pommiin, pommiin” and “Nuku pom, nuku pom”.
The instrumental arrangement often contains the same lack of emphasis on the 1-beat as the melody does. F.e. where the bass drum and a bass line would traditionally mark 1 and 3, they mark the 8th-note immediately after 1 as well as 3.
3. Vocal performance
Kojo’s performance of the song is remarkable for sounding very untrained and raw. His vocal sound is very hoarse, and sometimes he is also a bit off-key. There is something a bit funny about it which was probably not the intention, but it does contribute to an overall feeling of disharmony and uncertainty (see the composition section).
The lyrics, translated into English, are as follows:
If someone soon throws some nuclear poo here on our Europe
What will you say when we get all the filth on our faces
If someone slings a bomb to your neck, you probably won’t even notice
Lullaby, ah-ah-ah, lullaby
Lullaby, ah-ah-ah, lullaby
Lullaby, ah-ah-ah, lullaby
Sleep, sleep, oversleep, it’s easier that way
Over-, over-, oversleep, it calms you down
You slept too long, dreaming under the skies
You just rub your hair, start negotiating
Now the gang’s sitting, taking part in a negotiation follow up
The brain of science and the rage of the others plot their intrigues
If you don’t wake up this time, you won’t wake up at all
As the translation shows, the song refers to the threat of the nuclear bomb in a very unsentimental way: “If someone soon throws some nuclear poo here on our Europe”. It suggests the possibility of sleeping through a nuclear war, playing on what seems to be a pun in Finnish with ‘sleep until the bomb’ referring to oversleeping. It can easily be understood as an ironic statement about doing nothing about the imminent threat, as it says: it’s easier to just sleep and ignore it.
5. synthesis and judgement
As we saw in the preceding sections, “Nuku pommiin” contains a lot of elements that contribute to a sense of disorder and unsentimentality. We have elements of musical irregularity (the intro), uncertainty (lack of emphasis on 1), disharmony (wind instruments in the chorus), roughness (raw and unschooled vocals + strong words in the lyrics). All this leads to an overall feeling of something grim. In other words, the music and lyrics correspond to the topic, and as such it was a welcome counterweight to the decency that otherwise dominated the contest in those years. “Nuku pommiin” is not pop, it is raw reality, and as such it probably didn’t appeal to the traditional Eurovision audience. On a rock festival it would probably have gotten more applause.
Despite the refreshing grimness and unpolishedness, the song is not entirely successful. It does not quite reach the energy level of f.e. some the best punk and new wave bands of the era despite being musically reminiscent to some of then, especially The Clash. The song clearly contains some punky anger, but Kojo sounds strangely exhausted vocally (his winning reprise in the Finnish final was even more exhausted). Also, the composition is not flawless: f.e. the guitar solo seems a bit out of place, and it doesn’t really add anything to the song.
In any case: at least some votes would have been welcome, and it may have helped Eurovision in getting a better image among rock listeners. But given the weak sides of the song, combined with the fact that it was so far away from the usual Eurovision schlager, the zero is still understandable.