Background Information

Here are some longer texts listed for your convenience. They are linked below as well.

A Touch of Henry Moore

Henk visited the atelier of Barbara Hepworth in Saint Yves and links the warm atmosphere there with the sculptures of Henry Moore in the statuegarden near the Kroller Moller Museum in Holland.

Henry Moore (1898 - 1986) was a famous British sculptor and carver. In the song, there's a line a reclining figure. The French for reclining figure could well be figure etendue, and (la/une/) figure etendue is a sculpture by Henry Moore! It can be seen at the UNESCO building in Paris.

Indoor Painting, Outdoor Sketching

[Magritte painting] Ceci nest pas une pipe' (This is not a pipe) is the title of a very famous painting of Rene Magritte, the great(est) Belgian modern painter of the 20st century. The painting shows a huge...pipe. The title is to be read as a provoking statement. Ceci n'est pas une pipe, while everyone can clearly see it is a pipe. But Magritte says it isn't a pipe but an artwork, and that is not a pipe, not an article of use, etc.

The statement and the painting are both well known and were very important in the history of modern painting. You can see more Magritte in the WebMuseum or Magritte Homepage.

Soap Bubble Box

Artwork by Joseph Cornell, they are on exhibit in the MOMA (museum of modern art in NY). Also read Derek Martin's review of Joseph Cornells biography.

Christine's World

Title of a painting by Andrew Wyeth, American artist born 1917. The picture shows a crippled woman in a meadow crawling towards a house. It is on display at the MOMA.

Bauhaus Chair

[Bauhaus] The Bauhaus was a German University for building and design (Hochschule für Bau und Gestaltung) from 1919 to 1933. Famous teachers were Itten, Moholy, Kandinsky, Klee and Schlemmer. The Bauhaus style was a return to the essentials, no ornaments, straigt lines. This song was written in 1975, was on the demo the Nits showed Dureco. The song was never recorded after that before Hat.

Office at night (on New Flat)

[Hopper Painting] This is a painting by the American painter Edward Hopper. Also has to do with his painting Night Hawks.

Potato Eaters (B-side of Sleep single)

[Van Gogh painting] Early painting by van Gogh, now in Kroller Moller Museum.

Acres of Tinteretto

Tintoretto (real name Jacopo Robusti) was a Venitian painter and lived from 1518 to 1594. He combined the drawing of Michelangelo and the colours of Titian into unique works, most of which are still on display in Venice.

Death in Venice, (Morte a Venezia). Book by Thomas Mann and movie of Luchino Visconti with Gustav von Aschenbach (Dirk Bogarde) falling madly in love with a Polish boy (Bjoern Andresen). Very good movie, made in 1970.

Don't Look Now: thriller by Daphne du Maurier and movie by Nicolas Roeg (1973). With Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland. About parents of a drowned child, who travel to Venice. Also the phrase midget with a new stiletto will become clear if you watch the movie.

dA dA dA

Henk gave three possible meanings for the title of this song and album. The art form called dadaism was one, the mumblings of a baby was another, and the Russian word da (meaning yes) was the third.

The Lodger

Probably inspired by the film The Lodger made by Alfred Hitchcock. The story of the film takes place in a town where a murderer like Jack the Ripper wanders around. He has killed several women, always blonde. One day a mysterious man rents a room in a guesthouse. Gradually the manager suspects him to be the murderer.

The Night Owl

Long Forgotten Story, Yöpöllö, De Rode Vaas, The Yellow Hotel

Dennis Versteeg has written an excellent article about the arc across these songs.

Some info also appears on the Finnish Cohen pages, select Cohen in Finland and then Leonard Cohen in radio and tv.

The Night Owl refers to Leonard Cohen, who has lived on and off in Greece for years, and who is, of course, the man who wrote Suzanne.

[seppo] This song also mentions the "friend from Finland", which is Seppo Pietikäinen. He has been involved with many culture-oriented tv programs, unsually has been one of the host and/or writers. One was a pop-music program with live performances and videos. It was made with a purpose to make a 'better' pop-program. The Nits performed live there, playing some songs from dA dA dA, just before it was released. Other programs by Seppo Pietikäinen are said to have been eccentric and weird.

You can hear Seppo in the song Yöpöllö, which is essentially Night Owl with Finnish talk-over. Seppo also released an album which featured Henk singing backing vocals. This album may be titled Sutra by a band called Freelance, published 1988 on a Finnish label Bang Trax.

The Young Reporter

The lyrics to the young reporter are about a real reporter named Fer Abrahams (or something like that), he was working for the music magazine OOR and is/was a friend of Henk and the Nits. Now he works for dutch radio3, he is in the production team of arbeidsvitaminen, a program that plays old songs. It is BTW the radioprogram with the most listeners in holland. Fer also did the interview with Henk for the nits in Concert CD.

As mentioned by Henk on the Roskilde festival in Denmark, the song is also based on the famous Kuifje/TinTin cartoons by Herge in which the main character is a reporter who gets into the most spectacular adventures.

Letter to E.

Henk wrote this song several years ago as a wedding present for a friend called Eric. A CD was compiled for him, where each of his friends contribute a song about the women in Eric's life. He had many girlfriends from Italy, they were called Flavia, Antonella, and their names ended on an A. In 1996 Henk and Eric met in Bern, Henk played the song live for the first time and it was a wonderful experience. Later Eric allowed Henk to put the song on the new album.

Walter and Conny

Walter and Conny, the instrumental tune written by Robert Jan Stips on the Omsk album, originally had lyrics! They were alternately sung by Henk, Robert Jan and Michiel.

The characters Walter and Conny were two English teachers on Dutch tv a long time ago (60s or 70s). The lyrics tell about what might have happened to them.

Walter and Conny

(HH: Henk Hofstede, RJS: Robert Jan Stips, MP: Michiel Peters)

HH:    Who is this man in the back all alone in the back of the movies?

RJS:   Stiff nose up, his upper lip looks familiar.
RJS:   The words he speaks and then repeats come from long ago.

MP:    Who is this man in the back all alone in the back of the movies?

RJS:   A light's still on in a cornwall hotel room.
RJS:   The words he speaks and then repeats come from long ago.

MP:    While Conny's on her second honeymoon,
MP:    Walter falls into another (....?).

RJS:    Nobody knows what has happened to Walter and Conny.

MP:    While Conny's on her second honeymoon,
MP:    Walter falls into another (....?).

RJS:    Who is this man in the back all alone in the back of the movies?
This version of the song is a little buit shorter than the released one, but the music is exactly the same. Just try to sing these lines over the various melodies and you'll see they fit! (For instance: the 'who is that man..' goes right over the melody that is played with the whistle sound).

Home Before Dark

This song was inspired by a Swedish gas station and the people from there. Everytime the Nits drive past Sweden (to Finland usually) they stop at this same gas station and visit these people.

Whales of Tadoussac

This song refers to real whales in a place in Canada, called Tadoussac. Tadoussac is a small town at the entrance of the Saguenay river, which is about 5-6 hours north of Montreal. The Nits were touring there and were invited by a friend named Daniel, who owns a club down there, called the "Atomic". One day he took them on a boat to go and see the Whales of Tadoussac. But to see the whales, they had to be patient and wait for many hours. This experience impressed the group and back in the hotel room, they wrote this song. Also, check the picture section and read the full story by Pierre Bourbonnais.

Adieu Sweet Bahnhof

This song is about the train between Amsterdam and Paris. The Centre Pompidou (also known as Beaubourg) is the Paris centre of modern art. It has permanent expositions on modern art (painters, sculptors, photographers). The building looks very strange with all kinds of coloured pipes. The Gare du Nord is a train station, where all trains from the North (Netherlands, Belgium, Northern Germany) arrive. Finally, the Hotel d'Angleterre is a hotel in the centre of Paris, in St Germain des Pres, not far from the river Seine. Ernest Hemingway stayed there and it has a famous staircase. Seems to have lost some glory by now.

Also, ASB is mentioned in this poem by Wilfred Smit (1933-1972):

Drijft men dan steeds verder 
uit elkaar? Het afscheid schuift
een opdringrige oom tussen ons in.
sluit de ogen af - ja dit is vlucht,
een handvol kaarten laten vallen
omdat men in onze vingers knipt.
wurg alle lichten - rasse schreden
maakt mijn vertrek, reusachtig,
als op stelten wadend door de mist.
adieu adieu sweet bahnhof-
een convooi melaatsen wacht
in alle stilte de nalaatste trein


Torni is the name of an old restaurant in the centre of Helsinki and also a hotel with a famous view over the city. The Nits have performed many times in Helsinki and probably grabbed their lunch there.


Alankomaat is Finnish for The Netherlands, and this song contains several references to Finland:

Torni is a hotel in Helsinki, the name translates to Tower. The hotel looks just like a skyscraper in NY except this one is less than 1% of their size.
Esplanaadi is the name of a tree lined boulevard in the center of town, just one block from Torni, with a park in the middle. Nice place to walk in the middle of winter coats.
The kioski Henk buys food from with sinappi and ketsuppi, would be somekind of a local junk food stand. sinappi and ketsuppi stands for mustard and ketchup.
In one end of esplanaadi is the harbour where the huge ferries to Stockholm in fact do make a pirouette as they leave.
The Stockman and the bookshop are in the other end of esplanaadi, Stockman is 'the' major department store in town.

Hoek of Holland

Hoek van Holland is a town at the sea shore, about 20 km off Rotterdam. From this town ferries go to England.


The Saint Louis Avenue is inspired by a street in Quebec, the Rue Saint-Louis.


Dapperstreet is called after this poem, but is also a Dutch street in Amsterdam. The poem is an ode to living in the city, opposed to all the poems praising the beauty of nature. Lines that appear in the song are added in English. A full translation is on Arjan's page.
de Dapperstraat
J.C. Bloem 1887-1966

Natuur is voor tevredenen of legen.
En dan: wat is natuur nog in dit land?
Een stukje bos, ter grootte van een krant,
Een heuvel met wat villatjes ertegen.

Geef mij de grauwe stedelijke wegen,
  (give me the sombre city highroads)
De' in kaden vastgeklonken waterkant,
De wolken, nooit zo schoon dan als ze, omrand
Door zolderramen, langs de lucht bewegen.
  (clouds are framed by attic windows)

Alles is veel voor wie niet veel verwacht.
Het leven houdt zijn wonderen verborgen
Tot het ze, opeens, toont in hun hogen staat.

Dit heb ik mijzelven overdacht,
Verregend, op een miezerigen morgen,
Domweg gelukkig, in de Dapperstraat 
  (suddenly happy in Dapperstreet)
Parts of the poem can be found written on the walls of one of the houses on the Dapperstraat.

Sleep (What happens to your eyes)

This song seems to be inspired by a Danish poem. In Germany it is called Der Erlkönig and was done by Goethe. It is about a father, who wants to take his baby child back to his home, but ghosts and evil spirits want the child for themselves.
J.W. Goethe, around 1815

Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind?
Es ist der Vater mit seinem Kind;
Er hat den Knaben wohl in dem Arm,
Er faßt ihn sicher, er hält ihn warm.

Mein Sohn, was birgst du so bang dein Gesicht?
Siehst, Vater, du den Erlkönig nicht?
Den Erlenkönig mit Kron' und Schweif?
Mein Sohn, es ist ein Nebelstreif.

Du liebes Kind, komm geh mit mir!
Gar schöne Spiele spiel' ich mit dir;
Manch' bunte Blumen sind an dem Strand;
Meine Mutter hat manch' gülden Gewand.

Mein Vater, mein Vater, und hörest du nicht,
Was Erlenkönig mir leise verspricht?
Sei ruhig, bleibe ruhig, mein Kind;
In dürren Blättern säuselt der Wind.

Willst, feiner Knabe, du mit mir gehen?
Meine Töchter sollen dich warten schön;
Meine Töchter führen den nächtlichen Reihn,
Und wiegen und tanzen und singen dich ein.

Mein Vater, mein Vater, und siehst du nicht dort
Erlkönigs Töchter am düsten Ort?
Mein Sohn, mein Sohn, ich seh' es genau:
Es scheinen die alten Weiden so grau.

Ich liebe dich, mich reizt deine schöne Gestalt,
Und bist du nicht willig, so brauch' ich Gewalt.
Mein Vater, mein Vater, jetzt faßt er mich an!
Erlkönig hat mir ein Leids getan!

Dem Vater grauset's er reitet geschwind,
Er hält in Armen das ächzende Kind,
Erreicht den Hof mit Mühe und Not;
In seinen Armen das Kind war tot.

Giant Normal Dwarf

In this song there is a line saying: I will never stick a pole in your eye like the hero of my favourite book. The book is, of course, the Odyssee by the ancient author Homer. The protagonist, Ulysses, is driven around the Mediterranean and taken prisoner by a one-eyed giant, Polyphemos. Ulysses runs a tree in the cyclop's eye, thereby blinding him and then escapes.

Also read Dennis explanation to all Giant Normal Dwarf songs.


Nescio (Latin for I don't know) is the pseudonyme of the Dutch writer J.H.F. Gronloh. Nescio wrote a book (de Uitvreter) about a man called Japi, who is a lazy bum, a do-nothing type of guy who drowns at the end of the book. He jumps of a bridge in Nijmegen. The song is meant as the followup to the book. Japi didn't drown but swam to Italy (I jumped of a bridge and went swimming for hours). He then is called by Nescio (the phone rings on a nightstand, somebody whispers "hello, I don't know") and tells Nescio how beautiful the Italian paradise is (Nescio,io Questo Paradiso, Quello Quadro e Bello). The song was meant to be sung by a Dutch singer Willy Alberti. He was famous for singing Italian songs (in Italian) and Nits thought it would be funny if Alberti sung it. He didn't want it, so Henk sung it himself. Alberti is dead now, but his daughter, Willeke Alberti, still sings.

Check out this Nescio homepage.

Panorama man

The Panoramaman is the name Henk gave to the man that brought his mother a folder of 10 magazines each week, amongst which the magazine Panorama. After a week you give the magazines back and they go to someone else, who gets them for a week. This goes on for about ten weeks, the older the magazines get, the less you pay. It is called the 'leesmap' (reading folder) and if you are the last you can keep the magazines, the 'houdmap' (keeping folder). I've been told that this is very, very Dutch. In the leesmap there also was a cartoon magazine in which Michel Valiant and Archie, the man of steel were. I think this magazine will be either PEP or SJORS. Not both don't exist anymore.

With Used Furniture We Make A Tree

Based on a poem by Anne Sexton (1928-1974):
A woman who writes feels too much,
those trances and portents!
As if cycles and children and islands
weren't enough; as if mourners and gossips
and vegetables were never enough.
She thinks she can warn the stars.
A writer is essentially a spy.
Dear love, I am that girl.

A man who writes knows too much,
such spells and fetiches!
As if erections and congresses and products
weren't enough; as if machines and galleons
and wars were never enough.
With used furniture he makes a tree.
A writer is essentially a crook.
Dear love, you are that man.

Never loving ourselves,
hating even our shoes and our hats,
we love each other, precious , precious .
Our hands are light blue and gentle.
Our eyes are full of terrible confessions.
But when we marry,
the children leave in disgust.
There is too much food and no one left over
to eat up all the weird abundance.
There are also several references to current affairs and other 'modern' things, such as MTV (well known I guess), TMF (dutch music channel similar to MTV) and LPF & Mr. P (Mr. P = Pim Fortuyn, a dutch politician that was murdered in 2002. The LPF is the name of his party and they are currently best known for making a big mess of things..).

Also read Dennis explanation to all 1974 songs.

J.O.S. Days

Back in his childhood, Henk played soccer at an Amsterdam club named J.O.S. (Jeugd Organisatie Sport, Sport Youth Club). This club does not play professional soccer, but has a long tradition, quite a famous club. Reading the lyrics, one gets the impression that Henk did not do too well.

In the Dutch Mountains

Well, there are none. The Netherlands are generally flat, and large parts are even below sealevel. During the FRITS performance Freek sang a translated version of this song Dankzij de Dijken and stated that the only mountains in Holland are the dykes that keep the sea from flooding the country.

A different story has it, that Henk learned Dutch geography at school with a map with all city names removed and foreign countries coloured white. Then he thought that the white areas were the Dutch Mountains.

A third interpretation is as follows: In the Dutch Mountains is the title of a book by Dutch author Cees Noteboom. It was actually translated into English and published in the USA by a small university press, and it's one of those books where the method of storytelling and the use of language are meant to be more important than the actual story, which is of a somewhat fairytale nature, dealing with the difference between the more urban parts of Holland around the big cities and the less urban, more agricultural, bucolic south of Holland. It was written several years before the Nits song, and Henk might have gotten the title from the book, though any connection between the lyrics and the content of the book is tenuous at best.

The words Mountains and Buildings heard on the CD and during concerts were sampled from a TV interview of a Japanese(?) architect.


Robert Jan came up with this name by randomly hitting keys on the typewriter. Also huvi is an old Finnish word meaning entertainment or merry and funny thing.

Solo for conductor

The Hjuvi booklet mentions this, you can see it only at a live performance. It is exactly what is says: The conductor steps up to his place, waves the stick, but the orchestra does not play. Jan Strulen gave the pace, pointed at different groups of instruments, who only acted and made no sound. A very funny sight, but useless on a CD.


The Orange track can be heard after Abandoned Mine on the dA dA dA CD. It is actually represented on the back by small drawings, a wave (seashore sounds) and an orange. It appears to be a Beach Boys knockoff. The text goes roughly like this:
Is a wonderful place 
If you want to be an Orange 
Give it all away, away away 

Sketches of Spain

This song was inspired by a visit to Barcelona, reading Homage to Catalonia by George Orwell and the Miles Davis album of the same title. Henk told in an interview that this song was fast and poppy on the first recording, but became slower and differently arranged on the next recording.

[Translations] [Guitar Tabs] [Misc] [Main Index].

Jochen A. Stein, jst at nitsfans dot org
Last modified: 15-05-2004