Boldog születésnapot!

After having celebrated the birthdays of ‘Spousta příběhů’ and ‘Zrzek’ on the 27th I am sure that many GOTGE readers may have thought that that was it for the year, but there is one glorious birthday to come…and what a birth date it is, too!

On 31st December 1969 – yes, the very last day of the 1960s – Valérie Čižmárová, two days under a month before her eighteenth birthday, recorded her second single – and the first specially written for her, ‘Když mě chceš’ (‘When You Want Me’) and its flip, ‘Proč se ti zdá’ (‘Why Does It Seem To You’). In both cases the music was by Milan Klipec and in the case of the former, the lyrics were by Milan Klipec and Pavel Náhoda and in the case of the latter, the lyrics were by Milan Klipec alone. The musical accompaniment came from Studiový Orchestr (the Panton Studio Orchestra) under the direction of Ivo Moravus, with backing vocals from Sbor Lubomíra Pánka. The Producer was Ivan Štědrý.

The sleeve for the release – below – was designed by André Černoušek and the magnificently atmospheric photo was by (one may say here, “who else???”) Vilém Sochůrek.

valerie_second_single

Here is ‘Když mě chceš’ in all its (and I know I used this adjective in the previous post!) aching, the-best-of-Soul-meets-the-best-of-Jazz glory. This would have been considered a remarkable performance by many a more experienced hand. That this is a SEVENTEEN-year-old is mind-boggling….and kudos, too to Ivo Moravus’ Orchestra, for that break before the brass solo at around the two-and-a-half-minute mark. That is one of those moments in the history of recorded music that will live long in the memory.

Unfortunately, ‘Proč se ti zdá’ cannot be not individually embedded, so here it is on Spotify in the Singles’ Collection of 1969-1973. After the heart-aching of ‘Když mě chceš’, it is a rather jauntier offering…and why not? “I’m seventeen. I’m in a recording studio. It’s the last day of the 1960s. I’m having the time of my life!”, Valinka was probably thinking while singing that. I’m not sure what the age limits were in the Czechoslovakia of that era. Would it have been a case of “beers all round and a Coke for Valinka” as they went out after the recording session for the wrap party to end all wrap parties to see in the 1970s?

Given my recent thoughts on the spectacular collapse in the fortunes of Female Pop in the UK as the 1960s turned into the 1970s, relative to what went on in most other countries on the Continental Mainland – especially in the former Eastern Bloc and Czechoslovakia in particular – I think it is almost symbolic that the greatest rising young female star of that time – maybe in the whole of Europe – should be recording her first custom-made single on the last day of the 1960s….as if to say that, at that time, the past may have belonged to the UK, but the future lay with Czechoslovakia.

As if to rub further salt into the wounds, I have now only just been unearthing the oeuvre of yet another female star from the Czechoslovakia of the late-1960s and the 1970s (she’s probably been lurking around on account of her name not ending in ‘-ová’!), Alena Tichá. Eva Kostolányiová performed The Archies’ ‘Jingle Jangle’. Valinka performed The Archies’ ‘Who’s Your Baby’ as ‘Důkaz mi dej’ (‘Prove It To Me’) (the original official title, with the ‘mi’ and the ‘dej’ transposed in more recent compilations). Alena Tichá performed ‘Sugar Sugar’ as ‘Med a cukr’ (‘Honey and sugar’), in 1969. I clearly recall getting ‘Sugar Sugar’ as a Christmas present in 1969, my older brother getting Rolf Harris’ ‘Two Little Boys’ on the same occasion. I had no idea at that time, as an eight-year-old, that somebody in Czechoslovakia would be performing their own version at that time.

From the following year, here is Alenka (as I think the familiar form of Alena would be) performing the traditional Eastern Slovakian Folk Song, ‘A ja taka dzivočka’, as Valinka also performed in 1993 on ‘Jedeme do Evropy’ (‘We’re Going To Europe’), presented by Miloslav Šimek and Jiří Krampol, in her guise as the Blues- and Soul-singing cook from Slovakia and ‘typical Slovak woman’, Maria Drevokocúriková.

It has occurred to me on many occasions in the course of getting together GOTGE that, for the composers and songwriters of mostly Eastern European Jewish ancestry who provided the soundtrack to Girl Group and Bubblegum, the UK wasn’t ‘The Old Country’. Places like Czechoslovakia were, so the Folk Songs of Eastern Europe in a way belong with Bubblegum Pop and that this is where the true spirit of the Pop that we still enjoy today belongs. As if to demonstrate that further, here is the Czech Republic’s answer to Little Mix, Basix, with their mash-up of Rap and Hip-Hop and that song, ‘A ja taka dzivočka’.

It perfectly illustrates what GOTGE is all about. The Sun sets in the West and rises in the East…and I’ve experienced the spectacularly early and invigorating dawn of the far East of Slovakia, in Michalovce.

This was at that time – and still is – Pop’s new frontier….where the bang-up-to-date meets centuries-old tradition.

Oh…and I do love this video of Alenka performing (in 1972) the song ‘Náhody’ (very fittingly it means ‘Coincidences’, which just about sums up GOTGE!), with a pair of dancers, on a rooftop with what may be her home town of Zlín (I’m trying to check that one out) in the background. This looks like another location on the GOTGE tour!…and the tune? That would be the work of the ‘Hodina “H”‘ man, Max Wittmann, which, as always, can’t be bad!

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