Just as BHS has closed its doors for the last time and there has been the one-off return of ‘Are You Being Served?’ a very appropriately retailing-related story has cropped up in GOTGE-land as a result of the sheer happenstance of looking into a composer/songwriter over this Bank Holiday weekend and spotting, by chance, that, in amongst the images considered relevant to my search, there was one from a Czech newspaper site’s article referring to the demolition of a Prior department store. I recognised the typeface straight away as the self-same Prior that had been advertised back in the 1970s on Czechoslovak TV, accompanied by a short burst of Valérie Čižmárová’s ‘Důkaz mi dej’, so I started looking into this and was alarmed that another former Prior department store had been demolished, also to be replaced by a retailing attraction that wasn’t called ‘Prior’, indicating that it was quite possible that the company could be on the way out, like BHS. My relief that, on further investigation, Prior was still alive and well and living in both the Czech Republic and Slovakia, can be well imagined. It’s also very good to get a handle on what exactly Valérie was helping advertise. Furthermore, there is a branch in one of the places where Valérie launched her career – Jihlava…and quite a few branches in settlements along the Bratislava – Košice line – (Piešťany, Trenčín, Považská Bystrica and Liptovský Mikuláš), so that’s probably some more V.Č-related travelling for future reference…actually shopping in the place she helped advertise!
So, there you have it – a song originally by The Archies advertising a department store. ‘Where is the Communism in that?’ I can hear you all cry. It’s strange that a relic of the Eastern Bloc like Prior is still alive and well while BHS, formerly under the control of a Knight of the Realm for ‘Services to Retailing’, is no more. Were/are the Czechs and Slovaks better at Capitalism too? – As well as actually producing high-quality danceable Soul in the 1970s, as opposed to just consuming it on the dance floor…I’m thinking, in this instance, of my latest ‘disc-overy’, one of the composers of which (Michael Proštejovský) I was looking into when I encountered all that material on Prior. This is Valérie’s great friend in the music biz, Jitka Zelenková’s ‘Jachtou bílou’, from 1972. What a sensational dance-along riff this is and Jitka is one heck of a Souful Lady herself.
Returning to Valérie, it might have been the product of a fevered and coincidence-fuelled imagination, but I’m beginning to get glimpses of Wendy (‘Miss Brahms’) Richard out of ‘Are You Being Served?’ (one of our own über-70s-‘birds’) in Valérie, which would make her a ‘Northern Irish Essex Girl’, then! (Even though, so it transpires, Wendy Richard was born, improbably, in Middlesbrough).