Keeping things French, Swedish, German…and Polish

Since I have recently been mentioning the ‘French reason’ for having initially developed an interest in Female Pop Music from the European Continental Mainland on the GOTGE Blog this got me thinking about the possibility of Eastern Bloc stars appearing in France….to make a direct connection between the worlds of French and Eastern Bloc Female Pop Music beyond the coincidence that Middle Of The Road’s ‘Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum’ was covered in two significant interpretations in France and Czechoslovakia.

I was not actively looking at the time for information on this, but it appears that I may have had an answer to that question all the same.

Carrying on the theme of the exchange of artists between the West and the East, it also appears that I have discovered the full extent of the Eastern Bloc connections of a Swedish artist of whom I first became aware at the beginning of February while in a record shop in London while picking up my fast-track passport for my trip to Slovakia, while, in turn, picking up a copy of Clodagh Rodgers’ excellent eponymous LP from 1969. (My attention was drawn to a ‘various artists’ compilation of Swedish stars of a similar period, but on playing it I wasn’t happy with the condition. However, I did make a note of one or two performers on the disc to look further into).

…and, since MOTR themselves have played a decisive role in developing this interest, I have also uncovered a couple of appearances on the German television show, ‘Disco’ – from a time when the band would have been considered ancient history in their native land – chosen as the band with the honour of playing out the show, in one case performing the song covered by Eva Kostolányiová on her eponymous LP from 1973.

Looking into the matter of a Saturday evening entertainment show, which I will feature in the near-future, I became aware that one artist who occasionally appeared in it seemed to be associated with quite a few titles in French, which was intriguing, so I investigated further and discovered that she had indeed released records in France (under a stage name where her Polish surname was dropped…probably so as not to come over as so ‘foreign’) and also appeared, like MOTR, on the aforementioned (West) German show…also under a different stage name in which her Eastern European origins were not so disguised. (It’s interesting to note, in this context, that, in variants thereof in all Slavonic languages, ‘German’ equates literally speaking to ‘numbskull’, so maybe that was so the poor Germans weren’t so challenged on the pronunciation front!)

The artist in question was Irena Jarocka…or just plain ‘Irena’…or ‘Irena Jarova’.

It also appears that ‘Irena’ performed at a song festival (I seem to be discovering so many new ones in the course of my GOTGE research) in Rennes, which is a significant city for me, football-wise, inasmuch as that city is home to the local rivals of my adopted French football club, the ‘French Canaries’, FC Nantes – the festival taking place in the nearby city of Rennes, the home of Stade Rennais. (The ‘enemy’ colours to the yellow-and-green being, in this case, red and black as opposed to blue and white).

Here is the appearance of ‘Irena Jarova’ on ‘Disco’, singing in German.

…and just by way of a reminder that she was, despite these appearances over in the West, a ‘patriotic heroine of the people’, here is a performance by her at the Military Music Festival in the coastal resort of Kołobrzeg. So strange to see the juxtaposition of military uniforms and Pop Music (well, outside of 1960s Carnaby Street, that is!)

Now for an artist who went the other way (Although Sweden was, during the Cold War, notionally ‘neutral’, to all intents and purposes Sweden was definitely a ‘Western’ country. It is a monarchy, after all!) and seemed to distribute her favours more or less evenly between the two Germanies – Nina Lizell.

Here is a link to a German fan page with a selection of videos from, variously, Swedish, West German and East German TV appearances.

Here is a link to photos of artists with whom Nina performed, including the Czechoslovak great, Karel Gott and our very own Cliff Richard and Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog from the future ABBA. May I say that, despite Agnetha’s reputation amongst teenage boys around the world as the ultimate blonde Swedish fantasy, in these images Nina actually succeeds in making Agnetha look almost ‘plain Jane’.

Nina was evidently such a huge star in the DDR that she even had her own one-off TV show, (“Guten Abend Nina Lizell”) broadcast in June 1972 from the town of Görlitz in the south-east of the country.

Like Valérie Čižmárová, Nina also covered one of Sweet’s early ‘Bubblegum’-oriented songs – in her case, ‘Poppa Joe’, as opposed to ‘Co-Co’….in Swedish and re-titled ‘Pappa Joe’.

Finally, here is MOTR appearing on ‘Disco’, performing, variously, ‘Bottoms Up’, which Eva Kostolányiová covered as ‘Príma Panoptikum’ and one of those records that was a hit in (West) Germany (with a French title, to keep the ‘French Connection’ going) while barely registering a flicker back home in the UK….and to keep the ‘French Connection’ going further, it’s interesting to make a fashion note here – Sally Carr performing in one of those dresses of fringes that helped launch the career of the part of Isabelle Morizet’s life over which I am intending to skate in circa two-and-a-half years’ time – Karen Cheryl’s «Sing To Me Mama» dress, as I know it.


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