It was fifty years ago today…..

…..that the United Kingdom promo and release of Middle Of The Road’s ‘Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep’ happened, according to this page on a (very extensive!) site devoted to the releases of the group, including as the preceding edition of Los Caracas.

This was substantially the song that set Middle Of The Road on the ‘Road’ to international prominence and – given their later release of ‘Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum’ having been covered as ‘Pan Tydlitýt a pan Tydlitát’ (‘Mr. Tydlitýt and Mr. Tydlitát’) by Hana Zagorová and also having been the song that started it all for me in respect of ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ – is therefore a song of tremendous significance to this Blog, so the date 15th January 1971 is one very worthy of note.

Almost needless to say, ‘Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep’ was itself covered in three notable versions east of the former Iron Curtain – once in Bulgaria by Светла Стоева (Svetla Stoeva) as ‘Една малка шега’ – ‘Edna malka shega’ (‘A Little Joke’) and twice in the Czech portion of Czechoslovakia by Vlaďka Prachařová as ‘Nejdu, nejdu ven’ (‘I’m Not Going, I’m Not Going Out’) and by Věra Špinarová as ‘Táta Jan’ (‘Daddy John’), so, to celebrate this auspicious occasion, here they are for the listening pleasure of ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ Blog readers.

I can see that 2021 is going to be a busy time for me as we set out on the ‘Road’ of the year!

Zahoď Železnú Oponu!

…which is ‘Throw away the Iron Curtain’ in Slovak.

It is very fortunate that I have recently discovered a YouTube video taken from the West German channel, ZDF’s television show ‘Silvester-Tanzparty 1973’ which I featured in the last ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ post, since, kicking off those New Year’s festivities, The Les Humphries Singers appeared performing their great hit of 1973, ‘Mama Loo’.

When I say ‘great hit’ that would be in West Germany and many other places in Europe, probably including parts of the former Eastern Bloc, certainly not here in the United Kingdom and also, despite it being performed in English, the United States, making the observation I made in that last ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ post that the former Iron Curtain was infinitely more an ideological rather than a cultural barrier quite abundantly clear. Indeed I very often think that, at that time in the Pop Music world, variously the English Channel and the Atlantic Ocean could be greater cultural barriers than the former Iron Curtain.

Although The Les Humphries Singers were founded by a Briton and featured a Briton, John Lawton, on Lead Vocals they were much better-known outside the English-speaking world and, as I said above, maybe even better-known in the nations of the former Warsaw Pact, including Czechoslovakia. I say this because I already well know Jana Kocianová’s Slovak-language cover of The Les Humphries Singers’ ‘We Are Goin’ Down Jordan’, ‘Zahoď starosti’ (‘Throw Away Your Troubles’).

Here is that YouTube video where one of the presenters mentions the group that started all my discoveries, Middle Of The Road – another act much better-known on the Continental Mainland of Europe, including east of the former Iron Curtain, than maybe here in the United Kingdom and certainly in the United States at that time – and the guest presenter from Swiss TV gives us a bit of Italian, that I absolutely love in the context of Middle Of The Road, Italy being the nation where the group were substantially made.

Sung in English for the Non-English-speaking World!

Here is Jana Kocianová, in 1974, on an unidentified show on TV in the Slovak part of the former Czechoslovakia, bringing this show to its close, performing her other cover of a song out of The Les Humphries Singers’ œuvre, the aforementioned ‘Mama Loo’, ‘Mama to vie’ (‘Mama Knows That’), the musical credits being as follows:

Music: Les Humphries

Slovak-language lyrics: Zoro Laurinc

Instrumental accompaniment: Tanečný orchester Československého rozhlasu v Bratislave (Czechoslovak Radio Dance Orchestra in Bratislava)

Backing vocals: RT-VOX

She could take on a whole band!

It’s quite a tune to be largely unheard-of anywhere in the Anglophone world, considering it was originally performed in English and Janka gives it that customary pzazz of hers, so thanks, once again, to Czechoslovakia for bringing a tune to my attention because, as it took Janka’s ‘Zahoď starosti’ to make The Les Humphries Singers’ ‘We Are Goin’ Down Jordan’ known to me, without ‘Mama to vie’ ‘Mama Loo’ wouldn’t have meant anything to me!

This sort of thing appears to happen so often in the case of Czechoslovak covers of originals from outside of the former Eastern Bloc it’s untrue!

Hier besteht es kein eiserner Vorhang!…

…or “here there is no Iron Curtain”, in English.

As we are now entering the Golden Anniversary of the year in which the song that started my journey of discovery east of the former Iron Curtain, Hana Zagorová’s cover of Middle Of The Road’s ‘Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum’, ‘Pan Tydlitýt a pan Tydlitát’ (‘Mr Tydlitýt And Mr Tydlitát’), was recorded it is perhaps very seasonal that I just happen today to have come by the following excerpt from a West German New Year’s Eve special, from 1973, on the Mainz-based channel, ZDF, featuring two artists who were noteworthy for making the great leap over the aforementioned ideological barrier to the other side – Czechoslovakia’s late Great, Karel Gott and an artist from Sweden that I have got to know very well, Nina Lizell, who in what I think of as the ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ Era was equally well-known in West and East Germany.

This snippet of 1970s entertainment, I think, captures perfectly the paradox where it appears that there was a warmer international relationship going on in the showbiz world then, at the height of the Cold War, than seems to be the case nowadays, in these ‘troubled times’.

I hope ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ readers enjoy this in the ‘GOTGE spirit’ – that the ideological barrier was ideological alone, not in any way cultural.

She’s big in both Germanys

…as were Middle Of The Road!

Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Neujahr!

Christoph bei ‘Mädchen des goldenen Ostens’!

Železničná trať Trnava (02.11.1942) – Bratislava (03.10.1975)

(Slovak for ‘Rail stretch Trnava (02.11.1942) – Bratislava (03.10.1975)’).

I have, for some time now, been building up to embedding some notable rail journeys in ‘Girls Of The Golden East’-Land in the Blog since it is my broad intention to take people on journeys through the stunning scenery of points Eastern and Central Europe, bringing the experience to life with the wonderful music produced there in ‘a certain era’.

Since it is, today, exactly four-and-a-half decades down the line from the day in October 1975 when the gorgeous and talented Eva Kostolányiová met her untimely demise at the age of just thirty-two after circa a year-and-a-half of suffering a breast cancer which she had contracted in the spring of 1974 while abroad on tour in Sweden this would be an ideal opportunity for ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ readers to experience the rail journey from the viewpoint of the train driver from Evička’s birthplace of Trnava to the place where she ultimately passed away, the Slovak capital, Bratislava…on what was clearly a beautiful summer’s evening with the sun setting over the Malé Karpaty (The Lesser Carpathians)!

Given the fact that Evička’s lifespan was as described above it is almost symbolic that this particular journey is of practically that duration in minutes, making approximately one minute equate to one year.

If one wished to know more about the locomotive type pulling this train it is a Class 362, which can be seen in the following video.

Finally, if one wanted some music to accompany part of this trip well, it’d have to be my personal favourite by Evička, ‘Ruka s kvetom’ (‘The Hand With The Flower’). The music for this gently driving slice of what I sort of think of as ‘Eastern Soul’, appearing as a track on her one and only eponymous album from 1973, was written by Igor Bázlik with lyrics by Peter Brhlovič. Instrumental accompaniment came from the great Gustav Brom and his Orchestra and backing vocals from RT-VOX.

I look forward to greeting my first customers in Slovakia when these strange times are over!

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

For once, when it comes to remembering happier times, I’m not going to go back one year. I’m going to go back two, since this time last year I was just getting over a very unfortunate incident at Sheffield Railway Station on the way back from following ‘my’ Norwich City away at Turf Moor, Burnley. September Twenty-Eighteen was a very different matter!

'Girls Of The Golden East' - (Mostly) Seventies Songstresses of the Soviet Satellites

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…

View original post 197 more words

Doufám, že 70. narozenínám byl krásna, Jituš!

It’s past 5th June Czech time as I write, but at least it’s still that date here in the UK!

It’s been one of those days that hit me every so often when I’ve been going around with all sorts of themes spinning around in my head, as, in the background, I was mulling over what to do at ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ about the fact that such a close associate of Valérie Čižmárová – whom I celebrate over on the ‘sister’ Blog to ‘Girls Of The Golden East’, ‘Bananas For Breakfast’ – was celebrating her 70th Birthday today…or rather, yesterday, Czech time!

So, since my thoughts have been on events that occurred half-a-century ago over at the aforementioned ‘Bananas For Breakfast’ just lately, here are a few memories of Jituš at that time.

vc_and_jz_cropped

Jituš with Valinka on the steps of the Karlův most, taken in 1970.

JZ_at_BL

Jituš at the Bratislavská Lýra of that year, in some thrilling-looking action on stage.

Since the word ‘doufám’ gets a mention in the title of this ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ post – which reads, in English, ‘I hope that the 70th Birthday was lovely’ – Jituš’s ‘A já doufám, že teď přijde déšť’ (‘And I Hope That The Rain Will Come Now’) (1970), with music by Randy Newman and Czech-language lyrics by Milan Klipec.

I think that, with the way the weather forecast has been both here in the UK and in the Czech Republic, those wishes expressed in that song – in Milan’s case, by writing and in Jituš’s case, by singing – could well have come true today/yesterday!

28.05.2015 – 28.05.2020: Okruh Orchestru Karla Vágnera…

…which is ‘28.05.2015 – 28.05.2020: The Karel Vágner Group’s Circle’ in Czech!

Yes, today is exactly half-a-decade into the journey of discovery into the world of Female Pop of the former Eastern Bloc that started here, with an excited email that I sent to my brother on that day, that I have re-visited earlier today and re-jigged with a few snippets of new information.

The one thing that strikes me straight away is the Orchestr Karla Vágnera (The Karel Vágner Group) connection inasmuch as the last ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ post featured its keyboards player, Vítězslav Hádl and his mastery of ‘tunesmithery’ – along with his partner-in-composition, Ladislav Pikart – and it occurs to me that my very first encounter with a tune that was an original product of the Pop industry of the former Czechoslovakia, as opposed to a cover of a song originally composed outside of the former Eastern Bloc, ‘Duhová víla’ (‘Rainbow Fairy’), was a product of another member of that excellent combination of musicians, the leader of the group himself, the bass player, Karel Vágner, so, it’s almost as if things have gone full-circle, as they so often do in the world of ‘Girls Of The Golden East’!

Here are a couple of line-ups of that group.

OKV_01

Radek Pobořil – trumpet, Karel Vágner – bass guitar, Hana Zagorová, Ivan Košťál – guitar, Vítězslav Hádl – keyboards, Jaroslav Růžička – drums, Stanislav Kalous – saxophone

OKV_02

The Orchestr Karla Vágnera – in a somewhat unusual pose outside a coalmine! – with one of my personal favourite ‘Girls Of The Golden East’, Vlaďka Prachařová and the recently-deceased great, Eva Pilarová, the others in the line-up being, from left to right, ‘Víťa’ Hádl, Jirka Lahoda, Václav Širl, Karel Vágner and the technician Honza Zvěřina

Incidentally, the book featured at that celebrity story linked, ‘Zagorka’, was featured previously at this ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ post.

The aforementioned ‘circle’ is a circle that’s even more epic than Karel’s near-namesake, Richard Wagner’s ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’, in my own humble opinion, of course!

Všechno nejlepší k 75. narozeninám, Vítězslav! (a Jiří!)

On this momentous day in the history of ‘Czecho-Slovakia’ three quarters of a century ago – almost to the hour, as I write – as the ‘Bitva o rozhlas’ (‘The Battle For The Radio’) raged in Prague to liberate Czechoslovak Radio from German control, the World welcomed the composer of the music of some of my very favourite tunes by the ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ and specifically my favourite, Valérie Čižmárová, Vítězslav Hádl, born across town in that very city – composing in conjunction with his partner-in-composition, Ladislav Pikart and often also in conjunction with the lyricist, Petr Markov.

To get a feel for how momentous an occasion this was in the history of Prague and ‘Czecho-Slovakia’ a documentary, re-enacting the events of that day, was made by Czech Television to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the ‘Bitva o rozhlas’ – sadly, from my personal point of view, just a few months after Valérie Čižmárová’s untimely passing at the age of just fifty-three in the March of 2005.

It is, admittedly, a circa hour-long watch in a foreign language, but even those who have no grasp at all of the Czech language will not fail to be breath-taken at the thought that this was the Prague where Vítězslav Hádl was born.

Here is a photograph of the Český rozhlas building that I took during my stay in Prague in January 2017, showing that I have been there.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Coincidentally – although Supraphon may have had an inkling that this was going to be a suitable occasion on which to make such a release – just four days ago, in the ‘Nejvýznamnější skladatelé české populární hudby’ (‘Most Famous Composers Of Czech Popular Music’) series, an on-line, downloadable album celebrating the work of Vítězslav Hádl was released and the tracks can be purchased at this page of the Supraphonline site.

I think that the personal highlights have to be all those on the album by Valérie Čižmárová – ‘Tak měj mě rád’ (‘So Just Love Me’), ‘V poschodí pátém’ (‘On The Fifth Floor’) – kicking off the second set in spectacular fashion! – and the one-and-only ‘Koňskou dráhou’ (‘On The Horse Tram’). In addition to that I cannot overlook the beautiful, gently swinging – potentially ‘Northern Soul-danceable’, at the slower end of the beats-per-minute? – ‘Není všechno zlato co se třpytí’ (‘Not Everything That Glitters Is Gold’), by Elena Lukášová, ‘ ‘Svět se koulí’ (‘The World Is Nuts’), by Valérie Čižmárová’s then performing partner at the Divadlo Rokoko, Jitka Zelenková, as a fan of the voice of Alena Tichá, it’s very welcome that it’s her version of ‘Blázen, kdo se lásky zříká’ (‘A Fool It Is Who Renounces Love’) that is on this album and finally, there’s the almost ‘autobiographically’-titled ‘Nohatá holka’ (‘Leggy Girl’), by Vlaďka Prachařová.

On the subject of that surname – the male variant, without the feminising ‘-ová’ on the end – an actor by the name of Ilja Prachař was part of the cast of a three-part film entitled ‘Motiv pro vraždu’ (‘Motive For Murder’) made in 1974 and in part directed by Jiří Svoboda, who was also born three quarters of a century ago to this day (not in Prague, but in Kladno). Some of the part ‘Kapsář’ (‘Pickpocket’), was shot in the part of Prague (Dejvice) where Valérie Čižmárová would have recorded the aforementioned ‘Koňskou dráhou’, along with the rest of her eponymous album, in that very year.

There was also a scene in ‘Kapsář’ shot at the Hotel Olympik in the part of Prague (Karlín) where Valérie Čižmárová had recorded her ‘Signature Tune’, ‘Léta letí’ (‘Time Flies’) along with ‘Dávno nejsem hloupá’ (‘I Haven’t Been Crazy For A Long Time’), where – bizarrely, from a personal point of view – there is a public address announcement (in English) making reference to a ‘Mr. Bentley’. Furthermore, much of the rest of ‘Kapsář’ would have been shot along the route I walked, during my holiday in the Czech Republic and Slovakia back in June last year, from Vysočany, via Dejvice, along Na Petřinách, to where Valérie Čižmárová first lived (Hotelový dům, Petřiny) on moving to Prague from Michalovce, the strange thing about that being that the Hotelový dům had, shortly before she lived there, been used as an emergency broadcasting house during the similarly turbulent times of the Warsaw Pact Invasion!

There are some extracts from ‘Motiv pro vraždu’ in the following video, including that ‘Mr. Bentley’ scene at the Hotel Olympik!

It’s a very great pity that I lost my camera later that day, so there is no actual photographic ‘evidence’ that I was there, like in the case of the above photo of Český rozhlas!

Maybe ‘Mr. Bentley’ will have to get back to Karlín on the ‘Golden Anniversary’ of the recordings of ‘Léta letí’ and ‘Dávno nejsem hloupá’ (5th December 2020), if the coronavirus crisis is no longer causing travel disruption!

I’m fairly confident that that five-hour-long walk may be cooler work than it was in June and I’ll be less frazzled and prone to losing the camera I got to replace that lost one!

Bon anniversaire, l’enregistrement de ‘Samedi soir’!

Or “Happy Birthday, the recording of ‘Samedi soir'”, in English.

Today is the 38th ‘Birthday’ of the recording, on 5th April 1972, of the edition of ‘Samedi soir’ (‘Saturday Evening’) on French television, where Sheila performed her cover of Middle Of The Road’s ‘Samson And Delilah’, ‘Samson et Dalila’, as mentioned at this recent ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ post, Middle Of The Road having played such a decisive role in the formation of both ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ and, after that, ‘Bananas For Breakfast’.

Below, readers will find a couple of stills from that performance, in a very fetching red and black Ted Lapidus-designed outfit – a sort of combination of a dress and a pair of hot pants – in celebration.

Incidentally, the woman sat down on the left with the blonde hair is the great Italian Pop singer, Rita Pavone, which calls to mind the Italian connections of Middle Of The Road via the composers, Giosafatto (‘Giosy’) and Mario Capuano and the record producer, Giacomo Tosti. Also, the cover art for Sheila’s other cover of a Middle Of The Road release – ‘Les Rois Mages’ (‘The Three Kings’), a cover of ‘Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum’ – had been a painting (not a photograph) by the Italian artist, Luigi Castiglioni: the Italians apparently having a special gift at producing limpidly atmospheric art, as very often observed in the romantic cartoon strips of the 1960s and 1970s.

For more information on Sheila and Luigi Castiglioni please visit this page at her fan site.

French and Italian style in one ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ Blog post!

‘Black (or Celtic?) like Vlach’

There was a time in my email correspondence with my brother when we had a message thread entitled as follows: ‘Black like Vlach’, partly inspired by this ‘Bananas For Breakfast’ Blog post.

Given my feelings, ever since I discovered Valérie Čižmárová in the Summer of 2015, that there felt something not a little ‘Celtic’ about her and given that I follow (when coronavirus allows!) the local Soul band, Godfrey’s Grit ‘n’ Soul Band, which, in look, feel and repertoire, very much calls to mind Ireland’s the Commitments and ‘Commitment-ettes’, famous for quoting that James Brown saying, “Say it out loud, I’m Black and I’m proud!”, I’ve had that idea of ‘Celticness’ and ‘Blackness’ in my mind when thinking about both Valérie Čižmárová and Karel Vlach.

Thinking that maybe I was being somewhat patronising of Karel Vlach in the aforementioned post, especially in view of his long and distinguished career in the music business, I now think that he would have been of the first generation that brought the sounds of ‘Blackness’ to a Central European audience.

In the current conditions of lock-down I have been following the virtual football tournament ‘QuaranTeam’, being disappointed that two of my possible choices to follow – my team, Norwich City and my ‘second home’, being the place where I went on a working holiday on an archaeological dig as a teenager back at the turn of the 1970s to the 1980s, as mentioned at this ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ Blog post, Cheltenham Town, although gratified that there is still a club in the tournament with Valérie Čižmárová links inasmuch as there is a Basilika von Valeria in the settlement – FC Sion, which carries on the ‘Val…’ theme by being the chief town of the canton of Valais, known as Wallis in German and Vallese in Italian.

Looking at maps of the Czech Republic, my attention is often drawn to the settlements in the Zlín region that come under the ‘Valašsk-‘ umbrella, variously, Valašské Meziříčí, Valašské Klobouky, Valašská Bystřice and Valašská Polanka. In German, these are known under the umbrella ‘Wallachisch’, or Wallachian.

When I was re-taking my German A-Level at Derby College of Further Education at Wilmorton there was a fellow class member who was virtually obsessed with the idea of various place/country/region-names in Europe that took in the initial letters ‘Wal…’ and ‘Gal…’ (and ‘Val..’ here), thinking, in this case, of that canton, plus the following:

Wales, Pays de Galles, Galicia (Spain and Poland), Gallic and Gaelic (Irish and Scots)

It is remarkable that other languages’ interpretations of peoples that inhabit such regions include the term ‘Vlachen’, leading me to the conclusion that Karel Vlach’s name might mean something like ‘Wallis’ or ‘Walsh’ etc. This is backed up by there being a place called Vlachovice near Valašské Klobouky.

The composers of the music for Valérie Čižmárová’s ‘Dávno nejsem hloupá’ (‘I Haven’t Been Crazy For A Long Time’), Harvey Price and Daniel Walsh, the song originally having been by Lancelot Link and The Evolution Revolution as ‘Sha-La Love You’, I surmise, may have been, like many of the Bubblegum composers, of Jewish, Central/Eastern European extraction and it is a possibility that those two surnames may originally have been something like ‘Preiss’ and ‘Wallisch’, so there are possible, almost ‘subterranean’ links in surnames between the two apparently unconnected worlds of the very heart of Europe and its ‘Celtic Fringe’, possibly reflecting those of place-names.

I could have equally well posted this at ‘Bananas For Breakfast’, but Karel Vlach doesn’t only belong to Valérie Čižmárová. He belongs to the long history of swinging Popular Music in, variously, the Wartime Reich Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia and Post-War Czechoslovakia…and maybe, via his surname. tells us a lot about the history of the peoples of Europe.