An occasional series in which John Beresford explores the stories behind Ralph McTell's discography.
In January 2008, Ralph offered to answer some of John's questions.
First on John's list was a recording that linked Ralph with the Eurovision Song Contest...

Here In My Heart

It was a wintry January morning. I had arranged to phone Ralph at an agreed time, and, after a few glitches, we finally got connected…

[Ralph] Hello.   [John] Hello.

Yeah.   Contact!

Jolly good.   Right. How are you doing Ralph?

I’m fine, actually. I’ve had a few, what can I say, lurgies and things after the tour, but I had a nice Christmas and then I went down like a tree. But I’m much better now. I’m probably ninety percent right and feeling pretty good.

Good, good. The days are starting to get a little bit longer, although here in Manchester it’s dark and miserable like it often is in Manchester.

It’s still pretty miserable here. It’s going to be a terrible gale and storms later on but we’re crunching on through, you know. It’s fine, I’m happy to be in this kind of fallow period at the moment and enjoying it really.

Good. OK, well, as you know, I’ve been following your recording career for some years now, Ralph, and I’ve picked up in more recent years on eBay quite a few interesting items.


EBay’s wonderful, you’re probably familiar with it anyway - I know you are. So I’ve got a lot of recordings from all over the world with your name on them, OK, and of course what I don’t know is what else is out there. It keeps surprising me what turns up on the internet.

I don’t think there’s much, John, I don’t think there’s much left.

Well, I wonder. I keep thinking, “No, there can’t be any more”, and then another one turns up on eBay. So, if you don’t mind, I’d like to ask you a few questions about some of them.


OK? Let’s see if there’s a story here because I’m running a series of articles on Andy’s website, ‘Ralph Albert and Sydney’, which I’ve called ‘Telling Tales’. It’s little tales we might be able to tell about some of the more obscure items in the oeuvre.


OK, so, number one, if you don’t mind – Mr Finn Kalvik.

Ah Finn, oh yeah.

That name mean anything to you?

Oh yeah, of course, yeah.

I picked up on eBay a vinyl 45 of a song that Finn sang in the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest for Norway - in Norwegian of course - and on the English side of this recording your name appears as a co-author.

[Takes deep breath] It’s a long story.

Go on.

During the sixties, the first European country to latch on to the singer songwriter phenomenon in Britain was Norway, and certain artists became very, very well known there - in particular, for reasons best known to the Norwegians, Roy Harper and Bert Jansch.

Here In My Heart

And two men in particular - one was called Peter Skodvol and the other one was called Jan Ranheimsater - don’t worry about the spelling - began to follow Roy around and immersed themselves in the beginnings of the British acoustic music scene. They knew more about John Martyn, John Renbourn, Bert Jansch and co; and eventually they found me. I was a bit of an also-ran, but I went out to Norway for a concert early on in my recording career, and it was very well received and I subsequently worked there quite a lot.

And during that time I met a guy called Finn Kalvik, who was about the same age as me. Finn looked more like a boxer than a folk singer really; a broken nose and a very charming half-Brummie, half-Cockney accent in English. But he worshipped Bert and Bert’s guitar playing; and, Bert being Bert, he wouldn’t let him get very close, so he latched on to Danny Thompson and myself. He came to England quite a lot and soaked up the scene and learned the guitar styles and took them back to Norway.

And, to cut a long story short, he had a huge hit with a version of ‘Streets of London’ called ‘The Streets of the City’, in Norway. Which kind of helped establish him as a very important Norwegian singer-songwriter in the kind of British manner, the folk singer manner, and he toured successfully for years and years and years. Although he wasn’t a great voice or a really great guitar player, he had a wonderful personality, and he played all over Norway - the little clubs and the big halls - and did orchestral arrangements.

Finn Kalvik and Benny Andersson

He became very close friends with Benny Andersson from Abba, and he got nominated in one of those quirky sort of ways the Norwegians have (and the Scandinavians have - witness the Finland entry a few years ago), they asked him to be their representative for the Norwegian entry for the Eurovision Song Contest. Well, this is a two-edged sword because, one, Finn thought it was really kind of hip and groovy, and the fact that, you know, he was so left of centre and they wanted him to do it; and therefore with tongue in cheek he could go ahead and do it.

He wrote a song called ‘Aldri i livet’, I think, which means ‘Always you’re here in my heart’, or something…

Or, ‘Never in my life’, perhaps?

…something like that, yeah, and he started to get involved, thinking, “Hey, this is where I can turn into not only a folk superstar but maybe travel the overground”.

Benny and the girls and boys made the studios available to him in Sweden, and they were very close friends so they actually played on the track. And out of the blue I got a phone call. It was Finn. He said, “Ralph, they need an English translation for this song, man, can you do anything for me?”, and I said, “Well, I doubt it”.

I’m not a huge fan of Scandinavian songs sung in English – I think they miss subtlety to me in the main – but Finn is an old friend and a nice guy, you know, so I wanted to try and help him if I could. So he sent me this lyric, and I thought, “Oh my God, how can I turn this into anything?”, and I had a go and…

He sent it in Norwegian?

…he sent me his English translation of the Norwegian lyric, and I had a go at it and I sent it back, and he said, “Hey man, this doesn’t rhyme”. And I said, “It does rhyme. But I mean”, I said, “it’s a difficult song to sing, you know, difficult to make a rhyme for it.” And then he said, “Listen, man, I’ve got the girls in the studio” - that was, you know, Anna Frida and the other one - “they’re waiting to do the backing vocals. Can you…?”

So I sat up till four o’clock in the morning trying to knock this thing into some sort of shape, and I sent it back to him over the wire. I don’t know how we did it now, it was primitive. But he got it, and he said, he went, “It’s fantastic man, its fantastic”. So he recorded it, and the girls and everything, and they put it out.

Well, Nanna being Norwegian, I just said to her, you know, “Do you fancy going to Ireland? Let’s surprise Finn”. So we went to Dublin for the song competition, I mean, as ironic as it sounds. And then we found that we had to dress up a little bit. And anyway we got there, and it was… Ireland is huge into the song contest. I think it was the year that England won it with Bucks Fizz, I’m not sure…

It was Bucks Fizz, yeah.


Here In My Heart

Composed by Finn Kalvik
English lyric by Ralph McTell

Morning is singing a song that I hear
Each time I wake up beside you
Night-time has passed and has banished the fear
It's not a dream, this is really true

But if I have to go, just let my promise show
Though we may be apart, always you're here in my heart

Always you're here in my heart
Each day that passes I'm learning
Always you're here in my heart
Our song will keep on returning

Two hearts in rhythm make true melody
One on its own sounds so lonely
Our song together is music to me
When we're apart – distant harmony

But if I have to go, just let my promise show
Though we may be apart, always you're here in my heart

Always you're here in my heart
Each day that passes I'm learning
Always you're here in my heart
Our song will keep on returning

…but anyway the only way we could get in was because the Norwegian representatives were so nervous and excited about what was going on that they couldn’t sit in the auditorium while the judging was going on. So they said, “Well, look, you can have our seats”. So we sat in the Norwegian seats, and as the song came on they zoomed in on Nanna and me sitting there. So we went round the world, and people were ringing me up from all over the world saying, “What the Hell were you doing at the Norwegian…?”, 'coz they didn’t twig on to it.

Finn on Eurovision, 1981

Anyway, Finn went out and sang the song, and gave it his best shot, and he got absolutely zero points from anywhere. He didn’t get one single point. And I was so relieved that he wasn’t singing it in English, because he had to sing it in Norwegian that year, and so it didn’t reflect too badly on me. But he was in a state of shock afterwards. And it wasn’t the first time that Norway had got ‘nil points’.

Apparently they hold the record for getting ‘nil points'.

Yeah. Well, I’ve never seen a man so shocked and in such a state. He was drained of colour and everything, and I did my best to comfort him. And the irony of it was, you know, it was shocking for me, and I thought, “Wait till the press get hold of this”. Well, of course, a few did, but thankfully it didn’t make big news; except for John Walters, the John Peel Show man, happened to notice it, and made a big feature of it on the radio that I’d written the lyric. And I told him pretty much a shortened version of what I told you.

Finally, the irony was the single went on to sell 60,000 copies because of the fact that it got no points. Finn did rather well out of it. I don’t know whether I got anything from it, I don’t remember now. But it was the beginning of the end of a close friendship, because Finn went on to do much better and bigger things, and he became a huge star again and he’s very successful again in Norway.

He wrote to me recently, asked if I’d collaborate with a song - his publishers wanted me to do it. He sent me the song and I just said, “No, I don’t think so, Finn, it’s not really what I want to do”, and he understood and that was fine.

So that’s that story, really.

Finn Kalvik, 2007

That’s the only collaboration you’ve had directly with him?


Right. I picked up another CD - well, I didn’t actually pick it up, I found it on the internet - by Finn, and it’s a sort of maxi single CD of all the English lyric songs that he wrote; and two more of them have your name as credits as well. But elsewhere they’re credited to Wizz, which I found fascinating.

Well, what’s that, then?

There’s one called ‘On The Run’, and one called ‘Wake Up To Love’.

Ah, ‘Wake Up To Love’ I’ve never heard of. What was the other one called?

‘On The Run’.

‘On The Run’. No, I don’t know that.

In Norwegian, if you’ll forgive my pronunciation, it would be ‘Pa Flukt’, and ‘Wake Up To Love’ is from ‘Kom Ut, Kom Fram’.

Nothing to do with me.

Nothing to do with you - that’s what I thought - and somehow ‘W. Jones’ appears as the co-author on another website. So anyway that’s…

Never In My Life (Aldri I Livet)

Composed by Finn Kalvik
English translation from Norwegian

The dawn is humming a soft, carefree song
Like when I saw you for the first time
In your timeless eyes there are answers
That no one else that I know has

Every time I go away, do you think of me then?
Every time I go away, do not forget the promise I made

Never in my life
Have I thought of leaving you
Never in my life
My friend, before I join the wind

You have given life a new harmony
The time in loneliness is gone
I have been blinded, but now I can see
Darling, because you have taught me how

Every time I go away, do you think of me then?
Every time I go away, do not forget the promise I made

Never in my life
Have I thought of leaving you
Never in my life
My friend, before I join the wind

  I know nothing about that.

…so, I won’t add those two to the list. [All right.] But ‘Here In My Heart’ is a Ralph McTell song.

It’s a Ralph McTell trans… well, yes, lyric, yeah.

Fantastic. In actual fact the lyric isn’t far away from the English version of the Norwegian that I’ve got in front of me on the website.


The other fascinating thing is, you go to Finn’s own website and there is no mention of this incident. It’s been excised.

I think that’s their trying to bury the truth, isn’t it? [Laughs.] Instead of making a meal of it and having a bit of fun.

That did not surprise me.

There’s some great photographs… in fact, there’s a photo of Finn and I, if you want to check it out, in one of the brochures going way back. You’ll find a very sunny picture taken of me and Finn on New Year’s Eve, where I’m completely off my head on wine and corn liquor probably. But it’s a very shiny, sparkly, happy photograph. He’s very blond with long hair. It’s in one of the programmes which I’m sure you have, and I weighed about five stone less than I do now.

I shall look that up - all with long flowing hair and…?

That’s right, very long flowing blond hair, and I’m the skinny…

I can almost imagine it; I shall have to look that one up…

It’ll be from about 1975 or something, yeah.

Fantastic. Thank you so much for that – that’s put some beef on that little story.


Can I move on to another question?

Yeah, go ahead.

[Go to Next Tale: The Levee Breakers]

Finn and Ralph (photograph in Ralph's 1988 tour programme)

With thanks to Ralph for sharing his time and his memories.
The text of this interview is the copyright of Leola Music Ltd, and may not be reproduced without permission.
All illustrations are the copyright of their owners or publishers and are reproduced here for information only.
Thanks to Marianne James and Richard Cross for the photograph of Finn and Ralph from their programme collections; and to Henrik Damborg for the stills from the TV broadcast (see Postscript).


A video of Finn's Euovision performance has turned up on YouTube, including a shot of Ralph and Nanna...

Ralph and Nanna applauding Finn.


The final score.

...and the song has achieved something of a cult following in Norway, judging by this YouTube video from 2008.

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