Všechno nejlepší k narozeninám, Alenka!

The day immediately following the day on which Valérie Čižmárová ‘dotted the Is and crossed the Ts’ of her eponymous LP, Alena Tichá celebrated her Thirtieth Birthday, so it’s a Happy Seventy-Third Birthday to Alenka today!

In many ways there is a lot to associate Alenka with the singer born just nineteen days previously and circa forty miles away, Vlaďka Prachařová – the one being born in Zlín (becoming known as Gottwaldov during the Communist era, before reverting to its old name) and the other in Brno – since they both have that gorgeous tone to the voice and, although Alenka is not quite such an obvious ‘sex bomb’ as Vlaďka, there is a ‘quiet sexiness’ there, which is entirely fitting, since the surname, ‘Tichá’ literally does mean ‘quiet’ (a somewhat inappropriate name for a singer, then!) Another thing that is entirely fitting is that her cover of The Archies’ ‘Sugar Sugar’ was entitled ‘Med a cukr’ (‘Honey And Sugar’), since that voice of hers is pure honey, as evidenced by this charming video of her covering of Laura Nyro’s ‘Hands Off The Man/Flim Flam Man’), ‘Dám vám lék’ (‘I Give You The Cure’). The music and original English-language lyrics were composed by Laura Nyro herself, with Czech-language lyrics by Jiří Kameš. Instrumental accompaniment came from Orchestr Studio Brno under Erik Knirsch and it was recorded at Čs. rozhlas Brno (Czechoslovak Radio Brno) on 19th October 1972. Like Valérie Čižmárová’s ‘Oči nelžou’, from slightly earlier that year, which drew my attention to Craig Scott’s ‘When Jo Jo Runs’, this is another one of those cases where an Eastern Bloc covering brings a song from the Western World to a UK-based listener’s awareness…and very grateful I am to Alenka for doing so. It is a cracker of a tune!

Going over to the other side of that 45 R.P.M. release, recorded on the same day, at the same location and with the same personnel comes ‘Náhody’ (‘Coincidences’), illustrating that, while the Czechoslovak record industry covered all the ‘good stuff’ coming from the West, it could come up with some fairly decent material of its own. The music was composed by Max Wittmann, with lyrics coming from Pavel Cmíral. If Max Wittmann could get together a tune like Helena Blehárová’s ‘Hodina ‘H” (‘Hour ‘H”) that is a fairly good indication of his qualities as a tunesmith. This is always a highly entertaining video, with a pair of rooftop dancers, too!

Alenka is one of those maybe exceptional artists from the Czech portion of the former Czechoslovakia to perform and record songs in Slovak. ‘Váhaš’ (‘You Are Hesitating’) is one of those songs, which would explain why this video is from ‘RETRO SLOVAK’. It is a great pity that I cannot seem able to track down any details about this, since I absolutely adore it. It is Pop-Soul of the highest calibre, in every way.

There are not too many contemporary insights into what day-to-day life was like for the GOTGE, but Alenka is an exception here, too. Many GOTGE readers may not be able to keep up with the language (which I take to be Slovak) in this very evocative video, but the images show that Czechoslovakia could provide stunning backdrops to videos from ruined Mediaeval castles to bang-up-to-date Modernist concourses. One will also spot that Alenka took on covers of Petula Clark’s ‘Don’t Sleep In The Subway’, Mary Hopkin’s Eurovision Song Contest entry, ‘Knock Knock, Who’s There?’ and Dana’s entry, ‘All Kinds Of Everything’.

Also of note is the following:

We see shots of Alenka at a blackboard. This is a nod towards her ‘day job’ as a schoolteacher – a career she resumed as her son started school around the end of the 1970s.

Her mother is shown helping out with Alenka’s fan mail.

Alenka does some singing practice with the help of one of those real old-school reel-to-reel tape recorders.

Perhaps Alenka could be thought of as one of the ‘petrolheads’ of the GOTGE Generation (despite us seeing her travelling by public transport!), since amongst her items of pride and joy is a model car collection. This probably chimes with her appearance in the various artists video of Songs from 1973, with her cover of Mouth & MacNeal’s ‘How Do You Do’, as ‘Láska je pes’ (‘Love Is A Dog’), driving a Škoda 110R ‘Rapid’, which I think would be my ‘dream car’.

So, I hope GOTGE readers will themselves appreciate the power of the ‘quiet’ woman.

As the former Leader of the Conservative Party, Iain Duncan Smith said during a speech at the Conservative Party Conference, “Never underestimate the power of a quiet man”. I think Alenka has rather more to recommend herself than ‘I.D.S.’ does, though!

 

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