Všechno nejlepší k narozeninám, Alenka!

I might not be making completely new ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ posts on particular birthdays, but I may as well re-blog this one just t keep matters ticking over.

'Girls Of The Golden East'

The day immediately following the day on which Valérie Čižmárová ‘dotted the Is and crossed the Ts’ of her eponymous LP, Alena Tichá celebrated her Thirtieth Birthday, so it’s a Happy Seventy-Third Birthday to Alenka today!

In many ways there is a lot to associate Alenka with the singer born just nineteen days previously and circa forty miles away, Vlaďka Prachařová – the one being born in Zlín (becoming known as Gottwaldov during the Communist era, before reverting to its old name) and the other in Brno – since they both have that gorgeous tone to the voice and, although Alenka is not quite such an obvious ‘sex bomb’ as Vlaďka, there is a ‘quiet sexiness’ there, which is entirely fitting, since the surname, ‘Tichá’ literally does mean ‘quiet’ (a somewhat inappropriate name for a singer, then!) Another thing that is entirely fitting is that her cover of The Archies’…

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Das Mädchen “Made in Magdeburg”

As an introduction to this latest ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ post let me take the reader back to my very first experience of the former Eastern Bloc on a blisteringly hot day (8th July 1995) on one of those ultra-cheap ‘Schönes Wochenende’ (‘Beautiful Weekend’) Deutsche Bahn tickets, giving one unlimited travel on the rail network, provided that one used only regional and local stopping services. I was on the EU’s COMETT programme, learning archaeological surveying, drawing and documentation techniques on an archaeological dig with the Kulturgeschichtliches Museum Osnabrück and very often I would take off during the weekend on a ‘Schönes Wochenende’ ticket to explore the country. At the students’ residence where I was lodging each ‘Flur’ (corridor) shared a communal living area/kitchen and I happened to be living on the same ‘Flur’ as a young lady from Sachsen-Anhalt (Kakerbeck, near Salzwedel), one of the new Bundesländer in the former German Democratic Republic. She was quite a quiet person away from the two friends on the ‘Flur’ – one of Turkish descent from Hamburg and the other from Warendorf, near Osnabrück – with whom she made up a sort of ‘Big Three’ of the ‘Flur’, but I did manage to crack into that reticence on one Sunday afternoon, in the course of which conversation she alluded to the strange ideas that people from what had been West Germany evidently had had about former East Germans when she once got to meet them and talk to them after the Berlin Wall came crashing. My remarkable ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ discoveries have probably been a case-in-point suppporting what she said. How wrong Westerners indeed were about the former Eastern Bloc!

Knowing that Magdeburg was her Landeshauptstadt I long wanted to impress her by actually visiting the city, so on the aforementioned day, as – back home in the UK – Germany’s Steffi Graf was beating Spain’s Arantxa Sánchez Vicario in the Ladies’ Final, I shared a packed-to-the-gunnels train with revellers bound for a ‘Love Parade’ in Berlin – my portable battery fan being very welcome! – on the way from Hannover to Magdeburg for my first taste of the East.

All I really felt like doing on that stifling day was just mooching aimlessly along the banks of the River Elbe – or, given my Czech discoveries of late, maybe I should call it the ‘Labe’! – and into the city centre, stopping for a much-needed glass of refreshing lemon tea at a café. Given the slowness of the train journeys I only managed a couple of hours or so in the city but I had had my first encounter with the ‘panelové’ buildings (as the Czechs would call them) and (talking of things Czech) Tatra trams of the former Eastern Bloc. This seemed a very different world from my native Belper!

Here are the photos I took of Magdeburg on that never-to-be-forgotten occasion.

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It just so happens that one of my latest ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ discoveries, Gabriele Kluge, is a native of Magdeburg – born there in 1949, on a date which I unfortunately cannot specify – and I have to say that her ‘Barfuß im weißen Sand’ (‘Barefoot In The White Sand’), from the year in which she would have turned twenty, is yet another one of those cases of the former Eastern Bloc coming up with a superb very Northern Soul-like offering. Well, I’ve been ‘back-dropping’ to it at any rate! As well as my not being able to specify her birth date, I cannot seem to be able to pin down the recording credits either, which is a greay pity.

So, get your dancing shoes on to this!

To see Gabriele in action on film here is her ‘Der Sommerwind’ (‘The Summer Wind’)…accompanied by – after my East German friend’s remarks about stereotypes – perhaps one of those ‘typical Eastern Bloc staples’…combine harvesters!

Since Magdeburg was my original entry point east of the former Iron Curtain maybe Gabriele could, symbolically, become my ‘First Love’ on the East German scene!

Všechno nejlepší k narozeninám/Všetko najlepšie k narodeninám ‘Silvestr na přání aneb Čí jsou hory Kavčí?’!

I have celebrated the fortieth anniversary of this memorable New Year’s Eve TV entertainment show, produced by Ján Roháč and presented by Vladimír Menšík in this post at ‘Bananas For Breakfast’, so, to back up what I wrote there, here is a selection, that ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ readers may recognise, of some of my favourite Czech and Slovak women in action – being Pop Stars as one may never have seen them before!

As can be seen, it was quite a show!

Ó Veľký Deň…

…which is Slovak for ‘Oh Great Day’, which is very appropriate for the Christmas Day just beginning – or, as I know it, being Miluška Voborníková’s birthday, ‘Miluška-mas’ 😉

This 1970 song, by Eva Kostolányiová’s sometime singing partner, Eva Máziková, was a cover of The Edwin Hawkins Singers’ Gospel classic, ‘Oh Happy Day’. The music was composed by E. R. Hawkins, with Slovak-language lyrics by V. Hlaváček. Instrumental accompaniment came from Tanečný Orchestr Čs. Rozhlasu v Bratislave (The Czechoslovak Radio Dance Orchestra in Bratislava) under Ivan Horváth and backing vocals from RT-VOX and produced by I. Wasserberger.

This discovery – just this very morning, so it happens – makes it quite regrettable that I omitted Eva Máziková from the ‘Chart Run-Down’ in my article for the ‘Englishman In Slovakia’ Blog: ‘Go East: The Sensual Sounds (and Sights!) of Female-led Czech and Slovak Pop From the ’60’s to the ’80’s’, since this video demonstrates that she is yet another one of those both visually and aurally stunning women in Pop from the Czechoslovakia of the early 1970s and that, if anything, I was maybe under-selling the Slovak part of the former Czechoslovakia as a destination for those interested in Pop Music-related tourism. What this smaller partner in a small country in the ‘wrong’ half of Europe achieved will never cease to astound me…bringing the beautiful Slovak language to the World of Pop and – talking of Christmas and therefore gifts – their very best, Valérie Čižmárová, was the Slovak part’s gift to the Czech part of Czechoslovakia, in a manner of speaking.

With the seasonal message being the ‘Good News’, this is additionally fitting on this day, since – unlike tragic Eva Kostolányiová, who departed this Earth at the paltry age of just thirty-two, this ‘Eva’ is still very much with us and still singing, thus making her that ‘Good News’.

There may well be yet more on this lady to come at GOTGE.

Oh Great/Happy Day, indeed! 🙂

Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep – Middle of the Road – 1971

It’s good to see a bit of good publicity out there elsewhere on another WordPress Blog – simply entitled, in it-does-exactly-what-it-says-on-the-tin fashion, ‘Seventies Music’, unlike the witty title of my other Blog, ‘Bananas For Breakfast’ 😉 – for Middle Of The Road – the band who, in many ways, made both ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ and ‘Bananas For Breakfast’ possible.

It backs up what I say about Middle Of The Road – that success at home was utterly dwarfed by that abroad, including – although that isn’t mentioned here – in the former Eastern Bloc.

I think seeing this (evidently still quite recent) post could be one of those things that will make my Christmas!

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Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep Middle of the Road 1971Before ABBA, the sound of Europop was Middle of the Road with million disc selling songs like Sacramento, Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum, Soley Soley, and their biggest hit, 1971’s, Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep – which all just goes to prove; the 70s produced some rather bizarre hit records!

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  • From Glasgow, Scotland, Middle of the Road were popular throughout Europe and Latin America in the early 1970s. Before ABBA appeared on the charts, Middle of the Road were considered the leading sound of Europop scene.
  • The band had an interesting history – lead singer Sally Carr, drummer Ken Andrew, guitarist Ian McCredie and his bassist brother Eric McCredie, originally played as Part Four, before adopting a Latin American flavour and winning the UK TV talent show Opportunity Knocks under the name, Los Caracas.
  • Within a year of forming, and having found little success, the band moved to…

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Klub přátel skupiny československé hudby…

…which is ‘The Club of Friends of Groups of Czechoslovak Music’.

This is the (apparently new) YouTube group that seems to be beginning to populate YouTube with a whole cornucopia of music that originates from exactly the time and place that gets the ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ juices flowing, including the ‘Příběhy slavných – Léta letí’ documentary on Valérie Čižmárová’s life and work, no less. Any group responsible for uploading material like that certainly gets my seal of approval!

It’s been quite a new journey of discovery around some productions that I have hitherto not seen on the medium, so thank you very much for that, K.p.s.čs.h. 🙂

To make up for the fact that I marked neither her birthday nor her date of death – I have in any case made the decision that, on reflection, that is something of a treadmill that GOTGE was on, which will simply end up forcing me to think of new ways of marking these occasions each time they come around, so I have, until now, quietly abandoned that practice, but now is the opportunity to announce this loud and clear to all GOTGE Blog readers. Recording anniversaries, on the other hand, are a different matter – one of the most exciting discoveries – maybe the most exciting discovery, outside of ‘Příběhy slavných – Léta letí’ – has been the following performance of ‘Leto’ (‘Summer’) by Eva Kostolányiová from 1973. So this is the (admittedly belated, from, variously, 2nd November and 3rd October) tribute to the memory of this stunningly beautiful, stylish and talented woman, as many of the GOTGE Generation were. It also comes as no surprise that the song was beautiful, too…and entirely natively composed, with both music and lyrics by Ľudovít Štassel.

This captures Evička in her last full illness-free calendar year, before she contracted breast cancer in the Spring of the following year – eventually succumbing to it in the October of 1975. It is almost unreal to think that this lively, healthy and apparently physically fit young lady is only just about two-and-a-bit years away from death.

The tennis player, Daniela Hantuchová, was known as ‘The Legs from Slovakia’. I think Evička was also fully qualified to be known as such, going by this video 😉

Všechno nejlepší k narozeninám, ‘Dám vám lék’ a ‘Náhody’!

On this day exactly four-and-a-half decades ago two of my very favourite ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ tracks were recorded at Čs. Rozhlas Brno (Czechoslovak Radio, Brno) – Alena Tichá’s ‘Dám vám lék’ (‘I Give You The Cure’) – originally Laura Nyro’s self-composed ‘Hands Off The Man (Flim Flam Man)’ – and ‘Náhody’ (‘Coincidences’), so it’s a ‘Happy Birthday!’ to those two tracks.

The former had Czech-language lyrics composed by Jiří Kameš and the music for the latter was composed by the great tunesmith, Max Wittmann, with lyrics coming from Pavel Cmíral and both were to the instrumental accompaniment of Orchestr Studio Brno, under Erik Knirsch.

I have remarked at ‘Bananas For Breakfast’ about the fact that – according to ‘The Guinness Book Of Hits Of The 70s’, based on the UK Top 75 – many of the original versions of Valérie Čižmárová’s covers of material originating from west of the former Iron Curtain simply did not feature in the UK Top 75. According to the following excerpt, Laura Nyro managed not one single entry into that chart, so presumably they would know more about both ‘Hands Off The Man (Flim Flam Man)’ and Laura Nyro in the Czech Republic and Slovakia than most British people would do, which is a great pity, since it is an absolutely superb (slow-ish) Northern Soul-type melody and Alena Tichá delivers her version with her customary gorgeous, sumptuous voice.


Here is an utterly charming video of ‘Dám vám lék’.

…and here is the cracking coolness of ‘Náhody’.

I often think that Alena Tichá should have a higher profile than she appears to have. As a fan of rich voices she is absolutely up my musical street!