A sign of the (TV) Times?

It is some time now since I’ve posted at ‘Girls Of The Golden East’, so, since today is the 73rd Birthday of the singer who introduced me to the (Female) Pop of the former Eastern Bloc, Hana Zagorová, today would seem to be the ideal opportunity to rectify this state of affairs!

This has partly been inspired by the recent discovery of the ‘The Glamtastic 70’s’ Facebook Page, as referenced in the latest post, as currently stands, over at the ‘sister Blog’ to ‘Girls Of The Golden East’, ‘Bananas For Breakfast’. It also carries on the theme of the preceding ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ post of the difficulties that female Pop Stars in the UK seemed to experience in terms of recording/hit action during the Early and Mid 1970s relative to the situation of female Pop Stars in other European countries in general and those in the former Eastern Bloc in particular.

A recent posting at the ‘The Glamtastic 70’s’ Facebook Page has been some facsimiles from the ‘TV Times’ listings magazine for ITV programmes for the week from 26th August to 1st September 1972, which would have been the ‘TV Times’ from the week of the recording of Valérie Čižmárová’s ‘Oči nelžou’ (‘Eyes Don’t Lie’) and ‘Říkáš pořád, jak ti na mně záleží’ (‘You Keep Saying How You Care About Me’) on 28th August 1972 – as my school career was to take its first serious step up on Hana Zagorová’s 26th Birthday of 6th September 1972…starting at Herbert Strutt School, where I was to spend two academic years coinciding with a particularly prolific period in the recording career of Valérie Čižmárová, as referred to at the ‘Valérie Čižmárová: A Life In Sound’ page of ‘Bananas For Breakfast’.

The front cover of that edition of the ‘TV Times’ just happened to feature one of Britain’s great recording stars of the 1960s, Sandie Shaw, in a very racy pose for a family magazine like the ‘TV Times’ – possibly more appropriate for the ‘top shelf’? It certainly wouldn’t be countenanced today!

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In the article inside on Sandie Shaw it refers to her as being 25 years old at the time. This would make her the almost exact contemporary of, say, Helena Vondráčková, born in 1947.

It is rather startling that, as Sandie Shaw was clearly a prominent enough personality to feature on the front cover of a major magazine, looking at my copy of ‘The Guiness Book Of Hits Of The 70’s’ for any singles from that decade from her that made the UK Top 75, I find not one single single!

I would well imagine that, had the aforementioned Helena Vondráčková had a suitable British equivalent at that time, we’d have seen a whole swathe of singles making the Top 75 in that book.

Even accounting for the sentiments of the text accompanying this risqué photo (‘marriage, children and space to breathe’) surely there should have been at least one parcel of space and time during which Sandie could have recorded a single that hit the Top 75 in that period!

Again, there was something wrong with ‘Our Girls’!

 

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A pride of Czech and Slovak lionesses (plus a couple of Greeks!)…while the British lionesses were beginning to sleep?

I have previously referred to the tricky times women in Pop were entering in the UK, as the 1960s ended and the new decade began, in this ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ post – a situation that was not fully recovered until the 1970s reached its later phases, in my opinion.

At the ‘Valérie ČIŽMÁROVÁ’ Facebook Group the ‘Melodie’ magazine article (from 1970) in which the music journalist, Jiří Černý famously remarked on Věra Špinarová ‘envying’ Valérie Čižmárová’s voice has recently been shared.

Here it is.

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The headline and following strap reads as follows:

“I hear you, ladies, I love you so much”

“(Notes or a step into the lionesses’ pit of our young songstresses)”

The general idea of the article is to present four young solo female artists as the future of Pop in Czechoslovakia, while also highlighting one pair of sisters.

Here are the artists featured.

Miluše (known more to me as ‘Miluška’) Voborníková

Martha & Tena Elefteriadu

Věrka (known more to me as ‘Věra’) Špinarová

Valérie Čižmárová

Jitka Zelenková

Let us consider the birth dates of these solo artists.

Miluše Voborníková – 25th December 1949

Věrka Špinarová – 22nd December 1951

Valérie Čižmárová – 29th January 1952

Jitka Zelenková – 5th June 1950

In view of the information in the text I estimate that this magazine probably came out sometime in the latter half of 1970. With birth dates like that the first would probably have been twenty, the second eighteen, the third eighteen and the fourth twenty.

These are, therefore, four still-very-young musical lionesses set to roar through the 1970s.

Thinking of the headline I do wonder if there was anywhere near the same ‘love’ for young, female singers here in the UK at that very time.

She isn’t mentioned in the article but, with the title of the original by The Tokens, ‘Wimoweh’/’The Lion Sleeps Tonight’, perhaps Vlaďka Prachařová, with her ‘Kniha džunglí’ (‘The Jungle Book’) – arranged by Vladimír Popelka, Czech-language lyrics by Zdeněk Rytíř, instrumental accompaniment from Taneční orchestr Čs. rozhlasu (The Czechoslovak Radio Dance Orchestra) under Josek Vobruba and backing vocals from Sbor Lubomíra Pánka (The Lubomír Pánek Singers) – comes up with a very fitting ‘theme tune’ to this ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ post.

Back in 1970 perhaps somebody should have cried out, in this respect, “Wake up, the British Lion(-ess)!”

Hush! The ‘Quiet Ones’ have broken the (too-long!) ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ silence!

Having spotted that the group behind Valérie Čižmárová‘s ‘Dávno nejsem hloupá’ (‘I Haven’t Been Crazy For A Long Time’), Lancelot Link and The Evolution Revolution – with their ‘Sha-La Love You’ – was mentioned in a book by Mark Voger, ‘Groovy: When Flower Power Bloomed In Pop Culture’ I ordered that book and having done so, since The Monkees – well, I have just mentioned a group of ‘chimpanzees’! – are heavily featured in that book, that brought it back to me that one of the songs by one of my favourite Girls Of The Golden East, Alena Tichá – whose surname means ‘quiet’ – ‘Stříbrný měsíc’ (‘Silver Moon’) was to a tune composed by the one whom could be referred to as the group’s ‘Quiet One’, Michael Nesmith, under the same title in English.

Michael Nesmith is one of Pop’s pioneers, credited, by many, with the invention of the MTV video with his ‘Rio’, so it is in this quite creative video, with a charming opening sequence with Alenka and the (mostly) comic actor Jiří Hrzán, that, fittingly, she performs ‘Stříbrný měsíc’, with Czech-language lyrics by Jan Fiala, instrumental accompaniment from Taneční orchestr Čs. rozhlasu (Czechoslovak Radio Dance Orchestra) under Josef Vobruba, backing vocals from Jezinky and production by Miloš Skalka. That effect of water cascading down a pane of glass and then being broken is extremely nifty.

As an aside, here, in an exchange of emails with the book’s author, it has been especially gratifying to hear of the video of Valérie Čižmárová’s ‘signature tune’, ‘Léta letí’ (‘Time Flies’) being described as a sort of MTV video long before its time and to have a comparison being made with such a legendary piece of Pop history, The Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds’, referring to one passage of the song as being something that could have been produced by Brian Wilson!

Noting also that there is a selection of particularly notable singles from the Billboard Hot 100 from the years 1965 through to 1972 in that book, I see that Deep Purple’s ‘Hush’ – from a time when Deep Purple were a much bigger name in the States than they were here, reaching No. 4 in 1968 – is mentioned, which inevitably brings Marcela Laiferová’s cover of ‘Hush’, ‘Mlč’ (‘Hush’), from her 1969-recorded, 1970-released album, ‘Marcela'(get the psychedelic cover art!), to mind – music by Joe South, Slovak-language lyrics by Zoro Laurinc and other performance credits as follows:

Arranged By – Jaroslav Laifer
Chorus – Zbor Lubomíra Pánka (The Lubomír Pánek Singers)
Chorus Master – Lubomír Pánek
Concept By [Dramaturgia] – Ľudovít Štassel
Conductor – Karel Vlach
Engineer [Zvuková Réžia] – Jiří Brabec
Orchestra – Karel Vlach So Svojím Orchestrom (Karel Vlach And His Orchestra)
Producer – Jaroslav Laifer, Miloslav Ducháč
Recording Supervisor [Hudobná Réžia] – Miloslav Ducháč
Technician [Technická Spolupráca] – Václav Heblík

That old, Wartime-vintage conductor, Karel Vlach – born at a time when there was still an Austro-Hungarian Empire! – brings quite some vim and vigour to the table!

As a parting shot, ‘Groovy: When Flower Power Bloomed In Pop Culture’ is quite a revelation regarding acts in the U.S. from the later 1960s that didn’t make any sort of impression here, such as Paul Revere and The Raiders, for example.

It begins to make me wonder if, in respect of Pop, the Atlantic Ocean could be every bit as impermeable a boundary as the former Iron Curtain, making it just slightly less surprising that I grew up with zero knowledge of Pop from the former Eastern Bloc, if an (almost!) common language and (almost!) common ideology can’t help!

Famous/Favourite Czech Composer? (Mark II)

After having put out a ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ post on this theme previously – specifically about the hit musical composition team of Vítězslav Hádl and Ladislav Pikart – as a result of a chance discovery on YouTube within this last hour, as I commence writing, I think this would be an ideal juncture at which to celebrate another one of the tunes from the pen of Jindřich Brabec released in 1972 on top of Helena Blehárová’s Soul/Rhythm & Blues stormer, for which I have a lot of time, ‘Nauč mě čarovat’ (‘Teach Me To Do Magic’). It is also another opportunity to showcase the beautifully rich voice of Alena Tichá, whose home city of Zlín – known as Gottwaldov at the time of this release – I was privileged to have visited during my week in the Czech Republic/Slovakia back in October.

The Jindřich Brabec composition from 1972 in question here is ‘Vrať se mi, lásko’ (‘Come Back To Me Baby’), with lyrics by Jiří Aplt and instrumental accompaniment from Taneční Orchestr Čs. Rozhlasu (The Czechoslovak Radio Dance Band) under Vladimír Popelka and some wonderfully cool backing vocals that are – as far as I can make out – unfortunately uncredited, but who are, in all probability, Sbor Lubomíra Pánka (The Lubomír Pánek Singers)…or they might be Jezinky!

In view of the title of that Helena Blehárová song referred to it is clear that Jindřich Brabec’s pen is working that magic again in the case of ‘Vrať se mi, lásko’!

Zlá doba…

…which is Czech for ‘a bad time’…for women in Pop in the UK in the early 1970s, that is to say.

One of the great theories behind the foundation of the ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ Blog was that it was an opportunity to point out the glaring contrast in fortunes for women in Pop – concentrating especially on the Czechoslovakia of that time – between the United Kingdom and the former Eastern Bloc…after what had been quite a good time for women in the 1960s in the UK.

After having had the great good fortune of just happening to spot a copy of the biography of Hana Zagorová, by Miroslav Graclík and Václav Nekvapil, ‘Zagorka’, in the ‘Foreign Language Books’ section at Derby’s new Central Library (actually called the ‘Riverside Library’) at the Council House this has given me the ideal opportunity to put the aforementioned theory to a sort of ‘acid test’, since there are on-the-month ‘Top Twentys’ of hits on the Supraphon label for the months March and May 1972.

(There was also the Panton label in the Czech-speaking part of Czechoslovakia…and Opus had just been set up in the Slovak-speaking part of Czechoslovakia, so these are not going to be ‘Top Twentys’ in a ‘universal’ sense, but it still gives a good idea of where women in Pop were at in Czechoslovakia at that time.)

I have had, since sometime during the 1990s, something of a ‘Pop Music Bible’ by the name of ‘The Warner Guide To UK & US Hit Singles’, by Dave McAleer, which has on-the-month ‘Top Twentys’, ‘from 1954 to the present day’, so we can perform, here, a very ‘symmetrical’ comparison of the situation of women in Pop between both the UK and the U.S. and Czechoslovakia – again, with the proviso that Panton and Opus artists are not included here.

Here are those Supraphon ‘Top Twentys’ from March and May 1972.

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Here are the UK and U.S. ‘Top Twentys’ for March 1972

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Here are the UK and U.S. ‘Top Twentys’ for May 1972

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I am going to consider, here, solo female artists, female artists performing as part of a duo, female groups and groups with female members (overwhelmingly, singers, of course).

The count is as follows:

Supraphon – March 1972: Six

UK Top Twenty – March 1972: Two

U.S. Top Twenty – March 1972: Four (some artists are unfamiliar to me, so that might not be the whole story!)

Supraphon – May 1972: Seven

UK Top Twenty – May 1972: Two

U.S. Top Twenty – May 1972: Three

In other words, my theory holds well firm!

It gets worse for the UK – if that were at all possible! – in March 1972, since there are no solo females at all – thank goodness for the ‘small mercy’ of Lyn Paul and Eve Graham in the UK’s Eurovision Song Contest 1972 entry by The New Seekers! – and one of the two featured is not a UK act – strange how Valérie Čižmárová‘s ‘Koko’ and The Supremes’ ‘Floy Joy’ both occupy the eighteenth berth in the March charts! It gets even more dire in the UK, in a way, in May 1972, since there is a solo female artist…but that is Greece’s Vicky Leandros, based in West Germany at the time, representing Luxembourg at the Eurovision Song Contest of that year!…and once again, the female group represented is not even a contemporary one, that being the re-release of The Chiffons’ ‘Sweet Talkin’ Guy’…or a UK act, for that matter!

So, if one were a female artist in Pop and one were to travel back in time to the early 1970s, I think setting co-ordinates for Czechoslovakia might – just might! – be the recommended course of action!

Anywhere but the United Kingdom!…and the situation in the U.S. was hardly setting the World on fire, either!

Jana Kocianová – 08.06.1946 – 24.09.2018

I’ve just seen some incredibly shocking news this morning regarding Jana Kocianová, so I have had to update her entry in my ‘Englishman In Slovakia’ article.

Englishman_In_Slovakia_Article

When I’d sorted out a house move in which I am currently embroiled I had pencilled in another possible visit to Slovakia, maybe to see Janka in action on stage. Unfortunately, it will now probably to visit her burial place, maybe in Šaštín-Stráže itself. 😦

Although, in the ‘Top Six’ referred to in my ‘Englishman In Slovakia’ article, Janka’s entry is ‘Ráno na šiestom peróne’ (‘Early Morning On The Sixth Platform’), it seems most appropriate, on this sad occasion, to lift us all up with the song with the title that represents what my relation with Slovakia is – Janka’s ‘Nekonečná láska’ (‘Never-ending Love’), with music by Delaney Bramlett and Slovak-language lyrics by Zoro Laurinc, instrumental accompaniment from Tanečný Orchestr Čs. Rozhlasu v Bratislave (The Czechoslovak Radio Dance Orchestra in Bratislava) under the direction of Vieroslav Matušík and backing vocals from RT-VOX. It is a privilege indeed to have followed in this great lady’s footsteps in the Sad Janka Kráľa, by the River Danube in Bratislava.

Like my ‘Slovak No. 1’, Valérie Čižmárová, Janka was a huge admirer of ‘Aretha Franklinová’ – I’ll forever think of Aretha Franklin in those terms after seeing a reference to that name in the reply to the ‘favourite singers’ question in Valinka’s ‘Sedmička Pionýrů’ 1973 magazine interview! – as a Gospel Queen should be, so that is quite some trio up in ‘Musical Heaven’ now!

Všechno nejlepší k narozeninám, ‘Pan Tydlitýt a pan Tydlitát’!

As last year was this is a double celebration – now just yesterday, as I write, late at night! – of the recording anniversaries – this time around, the forty-seventh – of ‘Pan Tydlitýt a pan Tydlitát’ (‘Mr. Tydlitýt And Mr. Tydlitát’), by Hana Zagorová and, over on ‘Bananas For Breakfast’, the former being a cover of Middle Of The Road’s ‘Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum’ and tne latter being a cover of The Sweet’s ‘Co-Co’…both being recorded at the Dejvice studio, in Prague, with personnel as illustrated at the ‘Valérie Čižmárová: A Life In Sound’ page of ‘Bananas For Breakfast’.

It is very interesting that – in this post at an associated Blog, ‘Denim Disco’ – the idea of it being a ‘Highland Pop Corrido’, featuring a pair of characters was (sort of) extended to Hanička’s cover. Although, in the case of ‘Pan Tydlitýt a pan Tydlitát’, unlike in that of ‘Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum’, in the words of Zdeněk Rytíř’s Czech-language lyrics, the two parties are in co-operation with each other rather than in conflict, with Mr. Tydlitýt playing the guitar and Mr. Tylitát being his conductor. This is, in turn, a rather different handling of that tune by Mario and Giosy Capuano in the famous French version, (the French ‘Sound Of 1971’), ‘Les Rois Mages’ (‘The Three Kings’), by Sheila – later to attain fame in the UK as Sheila B. Devotion – where Sheila addresses a lover with the words that she would follow him as faithfully as the Three Kings in Galilee.

I have seen it written that, although ‘Pan Tydlitýt a pan Tydlitát’ sticks closer to the overall feel of the original – in terms of lyrics talking of two parties – than ‘Les Rois Mages’ the latter is more satisfactory. I am unsure about that, thinking that both have their respective merits.

Either way, Hanička’s version certainly served the purpose of initially opening my eyes to female Pop east of the former Iron Curtain during the 1970s, so that’s good enough to be eternally grateful to her for doing so!