Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep – Middle of the Road – 1971

It’s good to see a bit of good publicity out there elsewhere on another WordPress Blog – simply entitled, in it-does-exactly-what-it-says-on-the-tin fashion, ‘Seventies Music’, unlike the witty title of my other Blog, ‘Bananas For Breakfast’ 😉 – for Middle Of The Road – the band who, in many ways, made both ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ and ‘Bananas For Breakfast’ possible.

It backs up what I say about Middle Of The Road – that success at home was utterly dwarfed by that abroad, including – although that isn’t mentioned here – in the former Eastern Bloc.

I think seeing this (evidently still quite recent) post could be one of those things that will make my Christmas!

seventies music

Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep Middle of the Road 1971Before ABBA, the sound of Europop was Middle of the Road with million disc selling songs like Sacramento, Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum, Soley Soley, and their biggest hit, 1971’s, Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep – which all just goes to prove; the 70s produced some rather bizarre hit records!

middle of the road fax

  • From Glasgow, Scotland, Middle of the Road were popular throughout Europe and Latin America in the early 1970s. Before ABBA appeared on the charts, Middle of the Road were considered the leading sound of Europop scene.
  • The band had an interesting history – lead singer Sally Carr, drummer Ken Andrew, guitarist Ian McCredie and his bassist brother Eric McCredie, originally played as Part Four, before adopting a Latin American flavour and winning the UK TV talent show Opportunity Knocks under the name, Los Caracas.
  • Within a year of forming, and having found little success, the band moved to…

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Klub přátel skupiny československé hudby…

…which is ‘The Club of Friends of Groups of Czechoslovak Music’.

This is the (apparently new) YouTube group that seems to be beginning to populate YouTube with a whole cornucopia of music that originates from exactly the time and place that gets the ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ juices flowing, including the ‘Příběhy slavných – Léta letí’ documentary on Valérie Čižmárová’s life and work, no less. Any group responsible for uploading material like that certainly gets my seal of approval!

It’s been quite a new journey of discovery around some productions that I have hitherto not seen on the medium, so thank you very much for that, K.p.s.čs.h. 🙂

To make up for the fact that I marked neither her birthday nor her date of death – I have in any case made the decision that, on reflection, that is something of a treadmill that GOTGE was on, which will simply end up forcing me to think of new ways of marking these occasions each time they come around, so I have, until now, quietly abandoned that practice, but now is the opportunity to announce this loud and clear to all GOTGE Blog readers. Recording anniversaries, on the other hand, are a different matter – one of the most exciting discoveries – maybe the most exciting discovery, outside of ‘Příběhy slavných – Léta letí’ – has been the following performance of ‘Leto’ (‘Summer’) by Eva Kostolányiová from 1973. So this is the (admittedly belated, from, variously, 2nd November and 3rd October) tribute to the memory of this stunningly beautiful, stylish and talented woman, as many of the GOTGE Generation were. It also comes as no surprise that the song was beautiful, too…and entirely natively composed, with both music and lyrics by Ľudovít Štassel.

This captures Evička in her last full illness-free calendar year, before she contracted breast cancer in the Spring of the following year – eventually succumbing to it in the October of 1975. It is almost unreal to think that this lively, healthy and apparently physically fit young lady is only just about two-and-a-bit years away from death.

The tennis player, Daniela Hantuchová, was known as ‘The Legs from Slovakia’. I think Evička was also fully qualified to be known as such, going by this video 😉

Všechno nejlepší k narozeninám, ‘Dám vám lék’ a ‘Náhody’!

On this day exactly four-and-a-half decades ago two of my very favourite ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ tracks were recorded at Čs. Rozhlas Brno (Czechoslovak Radio, Brno) – Alena Tichá’s ‘Dám vám lék’ (‘I Give You The Cure’) – originally Laura Nyro’s self-composed ‘Hands Off The Man (Flim Flam Man)’ – and ‘Náhody’ (‘Coincidences’), so it’s a ‘Happy Birthday!’ to those two tracks.

The former had Czech-language lyrics composed by Jiří Kameš and the music for the latter was composed by the great tunesmith, Max Wittmann, with lyrics coming from Pavel Cmíral and both were to the instrumental accompaniment of Orchestr Studio Brno, under Erik Knirsch.

I have remarked at ‘Bananas For Breakfast’ about the fact that – according to ‘The Guinness Book Of Hits Of The 70s’, based on the UK Top 75 – many of the original versions of Valérie Čižmárová’s covers of material originating from west of the former Iron Curtain simply did not feature in the UK Top 75. According to the following excerpt, Laura Nyro managed not one single entry into that chart, so presumably they would know more about both ‘Hands Off The Man (Flim Flam Man)’ and Laura Nyro in the Czech Republic and Slovakia than most British people would do, which is a great pity, since it is an absolutely superb (slow-ish) Northern Soul-type melody and Alena Tichá delivers her version with her customary gorgeous, sumptuous voice.


Here is an utterly charming video of ‘Dám vám lék’.

…and here is the cracking coolness of ‘Náhody’.

I often think that Alena Tichá should have a higher profile than she appears to have. As a fan of rich voices she is absolutely up my musical street!

Všechno nejlepší k narozeninám, ‘Pan Tydlitýt a pan Tydlitát’!

Today is a double celebration (also marked over on ‘Bananas For Breakfast’) of the forty-sixth ‘birthday’ of the recording – at the studio in Dejvice, Prague – of two records that were based on the orange RCA label Bubblegum Pop output of, variously, Middle Of The Road and The Sweet.

Hana Zagorová – the one who started my journey into the weird and wonderful world of Eastern Bloc female Pop – took on Middle Of The Road’s ‘Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum’, as ‘Pan Tydlitýt a pan Tydlitát’, while Valérie Čižmárová took on The Sweet’s ‘Co-Co’, as ‘Koko’.

This was going to be a more thoroughly-written affair, but I’ve just fully joined the ‘communications revolution’ and have been busy this evening with seeing how my blog looks on a proper smartphone!

I’ll get this out while it’s still the 22nd!

It is a hugely significant date, though, so I at least wanted to mark it.

There’s a train a-comin’…to Olomouc hlavní nádraží

In this ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ post there is a continuation of the recent theme of:

(a) Helena Blehárová

(b) Trains


(c) Football (or ‘Soccer’, to American readers!)

The most recent of the Helena Blehárová videos I have encountered is her Czech-language version of the Curtis Mayfield song, originally recorded by The Impressions in 1965, ‘People Get Ready’ – the lyrics immediately following the title being “there’s a train a-comin'” – ‘Život jde dál’ (‘Life Goes On’), from 1973, accompanied by Gustav Brom and his Orchestra.

Being an aficionado of Modernist Architecture, I was wondering where this striking complex of buildings might be. ‘Intersigma’, it transpired, is a fairly international term, not really incontrovertibly specifically Czech or Slovak, but thank goodness that one of the signs in the background dropped the ‘Inter-‘ to leave just ‘Sigma’, which gave a massive clue regarding the city where this video would have been shot.

Knowing a thing or two about football clubs in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, I was already familiar with the name Sigma Olomouc, the full name of which is actually SK Sigma Olomouc. If one compares the logos on the shirts of the SK Sigma Olomouc players in this Winter Break fixture away at, it just so happens, Helena Blehárová’s home city club, MŠK Žilina – incidentally, with the same snow in the background as would have lain there four, five and six days after this match, when I was visiting the city back in January this year – with that on the signs in the background in the ‘Život jde dál’ video, that is the ‘clincher’. It more or less 100% is Olomouc, therefore.

This is another one of those cases where my dealings with matters Eastern European go back some way, since when the group Half Man Half Biscuit had ‘All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit’ out in the mid-1980s I had already heard the name Sigma Olomouc by then and was quite taken with the sound of it, so my alternative version of that would have been ‘All I Want For Christmas Is A Sigma Olomouc Away Kit’. I wasn’t quite aware at the time, though, that their home kit is blue and white – just like my club, Norwich City’s dreaded local rivals, Ipswich Town…which might have put me off a little…at that time, but not at the height of the ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ Era, I hasten to add. Please read below to see why.

Curiously, in the heart of the ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ Era in the early 1970s, my ‘adoption’ of Norwich City was still some years into the future and as a Derbyshireman and as one with affectionate feelings vis-à-vis the North-East Derbyshire town of Chesterfield at the time – (a) the days out with Dad and my older brother, Julian at Derbyshire County Cricket Club matches at Chesterfield’s beautiful Queen’s Park ground, with lunchtime boating on the lake were a dream and (b) a new family ‘tradition’ sprang up whereby the treat of a fireworks party on Guy Fawkes’ Night was replaced by a Chinese meal for the family, when that was still considered something quite exotic, at the ‘Superior’ restaurant in Chesterfield – I exercised my right to be a bit different from Derby County-supporting Julian by becoming a Chesterfield fan. They happen to play in blue and white, so I haven’t always been ‘allergic’ to football teams who play in that strip!

Furthermore, when I was picking through a selection of Scottish clubs to ‘adopt’ in the days of the family’s ‘Dormobile’ holidays in Scotland in the late 1960s, another name that cropped up before I eventually settled on Dunfermline Athletic, on the basis that I liked the sound of the name, was the Perth-based club, St. Johnstone…who play in…you guessed it…blue and white!

So, thank you, Helenka, for reminding me of the days when footballing blue and white wasn’t ‘poison’, even though your home city team is yellow and green!

In keeping with early 1970s feelings, then, there might be nothing untoward at all about my becoming an SK Sigma Olomouc fan, after all!

An East Anglian in the Eastern Bloc

Having looked into what was properly titled the Daily Mail International Jazz Festival of 1963, taking place from 6th to 9th June, where a nineteen-year-old Helena Blehárová performed, amongst other songs, ‘Moonlight In Vermont’, my attention has been drawn to another one of the artists appearing at the Festival – Beryl Bryden.

It transpires that Beryl Bryden was born in Norwich, and would appear to have had a Czech-language version of her name (‘Beryl Brydenová’), on account of having been released, on more than one occasion, so it would appear, on the Czech labels, Supraphon and Gramofonový Klub.

If one takes a closer look (‘More images’) at her album from 1968, ‘Beryl Bryden a Pražský Dixieland’, one notes that it was recorded at the studios at Dejvice, Prague, with these three names amongst the recording personnel: Mojmír Balling, František Řebíček and Jiří Brabec, all of whom worked with none other than Valérie Čižmárová on her eponymous album at Dejvice at precisely that time of year, six years afterwards.

Another singer who has worked with Pražský Dixieland is Jitka Vrbová, whose maiden surname was Kočaříková. It would appear that, as Jitka Kočaříková, she was in the group, Fortuna….and who else should have been a member of Fortuna but Petra Černocká, whose ‘Koukej, se mnou si píseň broukej’ was featured as one of the medley of five ‘oldies’ that was the opening track of Valérie Čižmárová’s aforementioned album!

This has to be considered an extraordinary set of musical connections in itself. However, it gets even more so when one considers some personal ones relating to ‘yours truly’.

My mother’s first name was Beryl and she was an amateur operatic singer whose first leading role with Derby’s Laurence Lee Operatic Society was as Mařenka in Bedřich Smetana’s ‘Prodaná nevěsta’ (‘The Bartered Bride’), in both Valérie Čižmárová’s birth year of 1952 and at the age when Valérie Čižmárová’s recording career would have been at its height.

I am – despite being born and brought up in Derbyshire – an adoptive fan of Norwich City, who, like Helena Blehárová’s home city club, MŠK Žilina, play in yellow and green, which, interestingly enough, were – talking of Manchester – Manchester United’s team colours in the club’s formative years as Newton Heath, as re-visited as a change strip in the very early days of the English Premier League and again in the ‘green and gold’ protests against the ownership of the club by the American Glazer family, resulting in Norwich City fans visiting Old Trafford chanting at the green and gold protestors, “We’re Norwich City, we’re here for our scarves!”

So, for one, as myself, being the person in charge of ‘Girls Of The Golden East’, I do not think that there could be a more coincidental constellation than a singer whose first name was Beryl coming from the city of my adoptive football club, being at a festival in a city also associated with yellow and green in respect of football with another singer from a yellow and green footballing city in the Slovak portion of Czechoslovakia, recording in Czechoslovakia in the year when I really first became aware of the place, at the studios where my eventual favourite ‘Girl Of The Golden East’ would go on to record – alongside some of the same recording personnel – a song by someone who worked with an artist who was accompanied by the same group as the aforementioned Beryl.

Could one make that up?

By way of signing off this post in style, the following video, of the First Semi-Final Evening at the Bratislavská Lýra of 30th May to 2nd June 1973, is the reason why Valérie Čižmárová recorded ‘Koukej, se mnou si píseň broukej’ as an ‘oldie’ on her album, since Petra Černocká was due to perform it herself, but was indisposed, so Valérie Čižmárová was called in as an understudy. It is the sixth song in, immediately following on from Helena Blehárová, interestingly enough. Other cracking names to look out for are: Vlaďka Prachařová (with Karel Zich) (fourth song), Eva Kostolányiová (eighth song) and Marie Rottrová (tenth song).

Since this is a video originating from Slovakia (by ‘RETRO SLOVAK’) Valérie Čižmárová is listed under the first name ‘Valéria’. I have contacted Aleš Korábek concerning this apparent ‘error’ in Slovak-based sources. She was indeed named ‘Valéria’ at birth, but on moving to the Czech-speaking part of the country, where the local variant is ‘Valérie’, her official professional name was harmonised with that variant, variously with and without the accent over the middle ‘e’.

The Chattanooga Choo Choo, arriving at Manchester Piccadilly

Just about a year on from my first uncovering the fact that Helena Blehárová was perhaps the only one of my ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ from Czechoslovakia to have actually performed on stage in this country, at the Manchester Jazz Festival of 1964, I just happen, this morning, quite by accident, to have encountered this video (up on YouTube since 3rd July this year, by ‘Pepan’) of her singing, in English – so maybe this would have been one of the songs she would have performed in Manchester – that old Big Band Era number, ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’, being given a more contemporary ‘twist’ by the accompanying dancers, dancing, well, what else but the Twist?

Although this video is way outside the core of the GOTGE Era it perhaps feeds into a musical interest of mine which was very much contemporaneous with those early-1970s days. For a time in that period family members of members of the Glenn Miller-style Syd Lawrence Orchestra (not just core family members, either) had the perk of free tickets to their concerts. My uncle, Frank Dixon, was the Lead Trombonist, so Mum, Dad, Julian and I could all get into the Syd Lawrence Orchestra’s concerts, free-of-charge, at the King’s Hall in Derby, which was also the Queen Street Baths – now Queen’s Leisure Centre, made world-famous as the place where the breaststroking ace, Adam Peaty, started his swimming career – with the pool temporarily covered over, so the audience were sitting over water. Here is Uncle Frank with the Syd Lawrence Orchestra, playing ‘I’m Getting Sentimental Over You’ on the 1970 LP, ‘Big Band Sounds’.

This also ties in with the French star with the same birthday as me who started off the journey of musical discoveries in cyberspace that ended up in Eastern Europe, Carene Cheryl, since here she is (on 28th August 1978, on the show «TV Music Hall») showing off the skills that won her the First Prize at France’s National Conservatoire for Drumming.

I had a hankering for going into drumming in the early 1970s and, chatting to the members of the Syd Lawrence Orchestra after one of their King’s Hall concerts, I mentioned this to the orchestra’s drummer, Fergie Maynard, who promptly presented me with a pair of Premier drumsticks.

I will not pretend that the drumming career of this child of 19th July has ever reached the heights of that of the rather better-known one from France!

According to Robert Rohál’s book – from which I have hitherto taken this information – ‘Legendy Československe populární hudby’ it was 1964 when Helena came to Manchester.

However, according to this source, at the National Jazz Archive’s site, that date should have been taken one year back in time. We also have the bonus of an exact date and venue – to be precise, Friday, 7th June 1963, at Belle Vue.

Until now, it has been my impression that Helena would only have gone to Manchester – given a birth date of 28th June 1943 and the fact that she moved from her home city of Žilina to Brno aged nineteen – after that move. If she was in Manchester still aged just nineteen it is possible that that ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’ referred to in the title of this post could have been arriving directly from Žilina, rather than passing through Brno on the way!

It is very gratifying to see Karel Vlach mentioned in that National Jazz Archive site – as accompanying Valérie Čižmárová in ‘Pojď jen dál’, here on the TV show ‘3.program Orchestru Karla Vlacha’ (‘3rd Programme Of The Karel Vlach Orchestra’), on Helena’s 30th birthday of 28th June 1973.

It seems like I’ll have to take a trip to Belle Vue next 7th June, then, in my ‘Girls Of The Golden East’-related Pop Pilgrimages!