"Smokie" - "What Can I Do" (1976): the story of the "Russian folk" hit

“If we had the opportunity, we would deal exclusively with our own material. But the final word was not ours, but our firm's. Yes, we tried to experiment with style, sound, vocals... But all this is not an option. We just wanted independence and individuality. Of course, we don't expect to be compared to Led Zeppelin. But we would be pleased if our creativity was appreciated, and we were respected precisely for our work ... "

The song that became popular only in the USSR

Today about the team Smokey only the most devoted fans remember. It so happened that British group has not won due recognition either at home or in other countries, with the exception of the continental Europe, China and Soviet Union!

The group was especially loved in the USSR, and the reason for this was their hit "What Can I Do": how many covers and curious versions were made on this track ... And all thanks to the fact that many Russian listeners and artists interpreted the line "What Can I Do" in their own way. Sometimes it turned out very funny. The composition won the love of the public and at the turn of the 70s - 80s came from almost every corner. A popular VIA "Merry guys" only renewed the hype around "What Can I Do", presenting his famous "No, I'm not waiting". So, one song brought the group army of fans, even if in one country.


Group "Smokie"
Group "Smokie"

It is curious that, despite worthy compositions in the repertoire, "Smokie" has not gained due recognition. In native UK group didn't take it at all seriously, and in the United States they hardly even knew about its existence.

Alan Silson
Alan Silson

Only in USSR "Smokie" loved and enjoyed their music to the fullest. The reason for this phenomenon could be that the team was created as commercial project by two composers Nikki Chinom and Mike Chapman. That is, the members of "Smokie" for the most part performed their works, and not their own. However, as practice shows, if everything had been different, the group could have achieved great success! Sometimes, in their free time from other people's songs, the musicians had the opportunity to work on their own material. AND "What Can I Do" was the result of such sessions. One day Chris Norman said:

“If we had the opportunity, we would deal exclusively with our own material. But the final word was not ours, but our firm's. Yes, we tried to experiment with style, sound, vocals... But all this is not an option. We just wanted independence and individuality. Of course, we don't expect to be compared to Led Zeppelin. But we would be pleased if our work was appreciated and respected for our work…”

"Midnight Cafe" - this is the name of the third studio album "Smokie". He saw the light on April 9 1976 of the year, and it was on it that the later hit "What Can I Do" was presented. The author of the song is Alan Silson, who remained a member of the team until until mid 90s.

Love in Russia

Group "Smokie"
Group "Smokie"

Despite the fact that in their native UK "What Can I Do"like the album "Midnight Cafe", did not make much of a splash, liked the composition Soviet music lovers. Yes, while the song did not hit any charts in the West, it came from literally every Soviet iron! Russian people liked not only the motive of the track, but also the main phrase, which the listeners immediately turned into "I'll find vodka". But basically, to many, it reminded the name of a traditional and very popular alcoholic drink in Russia. Subsequently VIA "Merry guys" released their own Russian-language version called "No, I'm not waiting"which was also very popular.

Thanks to this interpretation, the Soviet public fell in love with the group rejected by many. Smokey! The situation has not changed even after the departure of Chris Norman: he was replaced by Alan Barton, and the main performer remained Silsonwho just added "What Can I Do" harder sound! Unfortunately, in 1995 year Barton did not.

Alan Barton
Alan Barton

Regarding Norman, then, having caught the popularity of the track, he continued to perform it solo.

Covers and interesting versions

We bring to your attention the most interesting and funny versions "What Can I Do".

Interesting Facts

Group "Smokie"
Group "Smokie"
  • The character Sidle Jinkswhich is mentioned in the lyrics of the song, America serves as a synonym for "Jonah": under it, as a rule, they mean a person who brings misfortune and defeat.
  • Abroad, this composition is did not gain popularity, but in Russia it still love. Members Smokey know what kind of phrase in Russian is consonant "What Can I Do", and therefore every time they try to beat the performance of this song with humor! Yes, in 2013 year the group performed in St. Petersburg, and the bassist Terry Uttley announced the beloved hit as simply "Vodka!". He also told the public that he and his comrades had lost their luggage the day before and it was this alcoholic drink that saved them from the St. Petersburg cold.

  • This song was written without the participation of creative directors. It is also the only track on the record whose author is credited only Alan Silsonwho sang "What Can I Do".

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