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!
Jituš with Valinka on the steps of the Karlův most, taken in 1970.
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!
…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.
Radek Pobořil – trumpet, Karel Vágner – bass guitar, Hana Zagorová, Ivan Košťál – guitar, Vítězslav Hádl – keyboards, Jaroslav Růžička – drums, Stanislav Kalous – saxophone
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
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.
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!
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!
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 Kyselica. In German, these are known under the umbrella ‘Wallachisch’, or Walachian.
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’ of ‘Walsh’ etc.
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 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.
Four years ago to the day, ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ had its first proper Blog post on an Easter Bank Holiday Monday.
I might be currently resident at a psychiatric ward in, furthermore, tricky times, but that won’t stand in the way of this auspicious occasion being celebrated.
Hopefully, those musical angels will look on with favour today!
The laptop that built the ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ and ‘Bananas For Breakfast’ ’empires’ and that has journeyed the length and breadth of both the Czech Republic and Slovakia, starting at the Hotel Dominika in Petržalka, Bratislava, seems to be doing sterling service here, by the way, with one already interested borrower and one soon to arrive, so it would appear!
…or ‘Guardian Angels’, in English, thinking of the television series of the Late 1970s/Early 1980s, ‘Angels’, set in the milieu of a general hospital, with my residing currently in the Tansley Ward of the Hartington Wing of the Chesterfield Royal Hospital, confined for both the reasons of it being a psychiatric ward and also that we are, at the moment, enetering a particularly crtical phase of the battle against the coronavirus.
I say this because today has been the birthday (76th) of Vlaďka Prachařová and one of her recordings of the Early 1970s was entitled ‘Anděl strážný’, which was a cover of Little Eva’s (or rather, Gerry Goffin and Carole King’s) ‘The Loco-Motion’, Czech-language lyrics coming from Miroslav Černý, with accompaniment coming from Orchestr Karla Vágnera (The Karel Vágner Group) and backing vocals from Jezinky.
Yes, I suppose, no matter our beliefs, we all may need guardian angels in abundance in these times of confinement, that make that era of ‘Normalizace’ seem not too restrictive at all…and there are fewer grander guardian angels than those working at a hospital.
Of course, another Vlaďka Prachařová recording of the Early 1970s which comes to mind when thinking about the current situation of extreme restriction is her cover of Middle Of The Road’s ‘Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep’,’Nejdu, nejdu ven’ (‘I’m Not Going, I’m Not Going Out’) with music by Lally Stott, Czech-language lyrics by Eduard Krečmar. Accompaniment came from Taneční orchestr Čs. rozhlasu (The Czechoslovak Radio Dance Orchestra) under Josef Vobruba.
Maybe there is something decidedly angelic and (again, no matter our beliefs) divine about Vlaďka, certainly when one considers that package of hers of looks and talent.
Like there are few grander guardian angels than those working at hospitals there are few grander talents at large in the Czechoslovakia of that era than Vlaďka, in my opinion.
I invariably think that Vlaďka should have had a higher profile than she did, in the event, making one think that the guardian angels of the Pop music business should have kept closer watch over Vlaďka.