How a Finnish Movie Begat an English Pop Song

Back in 1984, Music Box would from time to time play decent music in between Wham’s Last Christmas and King’s Love and Pride. I’d never heard of a band called XTC until one night, when they showed the video for Making Plans for Nigel. I was hooked, there was no going back. XTC remains one of my favourite groups ever.

On the same album (Drums and Wires, one of if not the band’s greatest) as Nigel, there’s a paean to all things motorized titled Roads Girdle the Globe. Here’s Andy Partridge’s recollection of how the song came to be:

I was staying up late one night, and I saw a foreign film on television, which was the main spark to writing “Roads Girdle the Globe.” (…) It’s a Finnish film from 1970, by a filmmaker who also wrote it. His name is Risto Jarva, and the Finnish title of the movie is “Bensaa Suonissa.” The English title was “Gas in the Veins.”

Pertti Melasniemi is already wearing the cheese helmet.

I can remember very little about the film, other than it’s about a car-crazy couple, I think. I think it’s a bit of a proto-“Crash” (…) So it was this early car-crazy couple film — car equals sex, you know. Watching this Finnish film, something clicked in my head: Wouldn’t it be greatly cynical to write a hymn to the motorcar? Because a lot of people treat cars like a religion. They have to have the correct car, all they talk about is their car, they watch car programs, they get car magazines…

Andy’s summary of Bensaa suonissa is quite accurate. In a somewhat ironic twist of fate, Risto Jarva died in a car crash getting back from the premiere of his last and most famous movie, Jäniksen vuosi (The Year of the Hare). Roads Girdle the Globe was later covered by the wonderful(ly) British duo Dave Stewart and Barbara Gaskin on their Up From the Dark album.

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