Testing a new(-ish!) purchase

Back in the late Summer, when we had a bit of difficulty with one of our fridges, I was looking around the British Heart Foundation second-hand electrical goods and furniture shop on Babington Lane in Derby on Dad’s behalf and my eye was caught by a lightweight record player on sale for just £20.00, which I snapped up virtually on the spot – especially given the fact that the auxiliary speaker sockets were compatible with a pair that I already own and it plays 78 RPM records, unlike either one of my then-existing ones (which means that I can play a particularly precious record of my mother, who is a fully-trained operatic singer, when she was recorded – at her home, I think – in her singing prime as a young woman…long before my clear memories of her).

I have had it in a wardrobe in my bedroom for some time and yesterday I at long last got around to having a good clear-out around my ‘Home Entertainment Centre’ (anything from a DVD player to an old Pye ‘Stereophonic’ valve radio that I bought from a second-hand shop in Belper…and then took it home in a wheelbarrow…because I haven’t got a car!) and set it up and had a little record-playing session to ‘christen’ it.


One of the records I played was Helena Blehárová’s eponymous LP from 1976.

I am note sure why it has taken me this long to come to this realisation – probably because I have been too busy ‘researching’ actually to get around to playing these records! –  but it would appear that both Helena and Valérie Čižmárová – two of my very favourites from the Slovak part of the former Czechoslovakia – recorded different versions of the same ABBA song,  ‘So Long’ – Helena’s version, on this LP,  being ‘So slnkom choď’ and Valérie’s being ‘Jeho laskominy’. One cannot embed an individual video of ‘Jeho laskominy’, but here it is featured in one of the ‘Check The Czechs’ series: the ABBA songs special.


…and here is Helena’s ‘So slnkom choď’, for comparison.

I also became aware that there was a ‘French Connection’ on that LP…to Carene/Karen Cheryl’s friend-in-the-music-biz, Joëlle, since Il était une fois’ ‘J’ai encore rêvé d’elle’ is covered as ‘Odkiaľ k nám chodí láska’.  I think that’s  one of the closest I’ve got to a connection between the French and Czechoslovak musical worlds that together drew me into the world of GOTGE outside of Sheila’s ‘Les Rois Mages’ and Hana Zagorová’s ‘Pan Tydlitýt a pan Tydlitát’! Also, it seems strange that a group so creative and accomplished as Il était une fois failed to make any impression on this side of the English Channel (especially considering that Joëlle was born in the English-speaking U.S.A.) while it is quite evident that they must have done so over on the other side of the Iron Curtain…but, as the B-Side to  ‘J’ai encore rêvé d’elle’ says, ‘We don’t speak english’ (with a small ‘e’!) They speak Slovak, instead!


If I were to imagine myself as a teenager from that era actually born in Czechoslovakia – when I was, in reality, born – I think, given the fact that Helena recorded versions of two records that I had as a young child that were great early favourites of mine (Dusty Springfield’s ‘I Close My Eyes And Count To Ten’ and Manfred Mann’s ‘My Name Is Jack’) and that she had been a big name in the 1960s itself, for which I have long had a ‘nostalgia’, even accounting for the fact that, substantially, I wasn’t ‘there’, as such, myself, I think I would have been a Helena Blehárová fan (and probably also a Valérie Čižmárová fan, too, naturally!) and I think I would have been very excited – as a fourteen-/fifteen-year-old – at this ‘comeback LP’.

I have wondered, ever since becoming aware of Helena and Valérie and their respective musical directions, if the senior partner (born in 1943) of these two great ladies ever met the junior one (born in 1952). I can certainly well imagine that Helena could have been something of a role model for Valérie.


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