Všetko najlepšie k narodeninám, Helenka!

Well, it seems I ‘only’ forgot Helena Vondráčková’s 70th birthday four days back!

So, I’m certainly not going to forget that other Helena (Blehárová) today.

To celebrate, here’s one I haven’t embedded before – 1968’s ‘Tak dávno’ (‘So Long Ago’) by Bohuslav Ondráček (music) and Zdeněk Rytíř (lyrics), with instrumental accompaniment from Orchestr Karla Krautgartnera under Josef Vobruba and backing vocals from Sbor Lubomíra Pánka…showing what a Soulful Lady she is.

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Všetko najlepšie k narodeninám, Janka!

Just time, like three days ago, to get something in to mark Jana Kocianová’s birthday.

Here is the second side to her 1972 single, ‘Zahoď  starosti’, ‘Keď na tam-tam’, by Ali Brezovský (music) and Boris Droppa (lyrics), with instrumental accompaniment from Tanečný orchestr Čs. rozhlasu v Bratislava, under Vieroslav Matušík.

Very nice video shot in what looks like the streets of Petržalka, which brings back a few memories.

Všechno nejlepší k narozeninám, Jituš!

A bit on the late side now for Central European Time…but just to say a ‘Happy Birthday!’ to Jitka Zelenková.

It is only relatively recently that I have discovered that Jituš’s ‘Caesar a Kleopatra’ (whose title needs little translating!), recorded on 28th June 1971 at the studios at Dejvice, Prague, with music by Petr Janda, lyrics by Michael Prostějovský, instrumental accompaniment from Taneční orchestr Čs. rozhlasu (The Czechoslovak Radio Dance Orchestra) under Josef Vobruba featured none other than Valérie Čižmárová (along with Svatava Černá) on backing vocals. This is even having known about that song for over a year now, which doesn’t sound all that long in global terms, but in the world of GOTGE that is an eternity!

Here it is….and no wonder I liked it!

 

On the other side (of the record and of Europe)

I have mentioned, previously, in GOTGE, the fact that Eva Kostolányiová – on her eponymous LP from 1973 – covered the B-Side to Middle Of The Road’s ‘Soley Soley’, ‘To Remind Me’, (Giosy and Mario Capuano/Sally Carr/Lally Stott) as ‘Kade chodieva láska’, with Slovak-language lyrics – which apparently had to be changed after an intervention by the authorities, showing that songwriters were under some pressure from above – by Viola Muránska, instrumental accompaniment from Gustav Brom and his Orchestra, backing vocals by RT – VOX, musical arrangement by Vladimír Valovič, sound engineering by Peter Hubka, Miloš Šindelař and Ing. Peter Janík, technical co-operation by Marie Hořaková, produced by Ivan Horváth and Vladimír Valovič.

Here are those two versions (uncensored, followed by censored). Unfortunately, I cannot seem to be able to track down any written-down lyrics and my Slovak isn’t quite good enough (yet!) to tell what might be the offending words in the uncensored version.

At any rate, it should be quite clear that there is a vast difference between the Euro Sunshine Bubblegum of ‘Soley Soley’ and a tune like this, revealing hidden depths to MOTR and given the fact that the original was partly written by Sally Carr, it shows that she is rather more than just ‘that blonde bird in the hotpants’ in people’s memories from that period.

This was, actually, part of a wider pattern regarding the B-Sides to MOTR’s big hits, which were comparatively much less upbeat than their higher-profile A-Sides, perhaps reflecting the way in which (The) Sweet’s B-Sides, from their earlier, more Bubblegum-oriented period, were actually quite heavy. I often think that Sally Carr and Brian Connolly could have been separated at birth, given long blonde locks, a Scottish birthplace and being released on the famous orange RCA label, so that similarity is perhaps none too surprising.

I have, in recent weeks – in the case of the former of these, only just during the past couple of days – encountered two other Eastern Bloc interpretations of MOTR B-Sides. In the case of the latter, since I promised a few weeks ago that there’d be some material appearing in GOTGE by this artist, the singer was Jana Robbová.

Also in 1973, Margarita Hranova (one can tell whether or not one is talking of an artist from Czechoslovakia or Bulgaria by the presence or absence of the acute accent over the terminal ‘a’) released a cover of the B-Side to ‘Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep’, ‘Rainin’ ‘N’ Painin” (Stott & Cassia), as ‘Дивни години’ (‘Divny godiny’ – ‘Wild Times’), with Bulgarian-language lyrics by Zhiva Kyuldjieva and Ivan Peev, who also provided the musical direction. As one who was born just a couple of days before Věra Špinarová and a month and nine days before Valérie Čižmárová this is another one of those illustrations of what a powerful trio of voices were arriving on the face of the planet somewhere in Eastern Europe in a very short space of time.

Moving back only a matter of months, Jana Robbová arrived on Planet Earth – another stupendous voice – and here is her cover of the B-Side to MOTR’s ‘Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum’, ‘Give It Time’ (music by Giosy and Mario Capuano and original English-language lyrics by Sally Carr), ‘Kormorán’, with Czech-language lyrics by Vladimír Poštulka and instrumental accompaniment from Orchestr divadla Semafor (The Semafor Theatre Orchestra). I like the shots of the MIG jet fighters in Czechoslovak markings accompanying the video. It isn’t the thing one might normally see in a Pop video!..But then again, I have encountered the aforementioned Eva Kostolányiová performing in a video of her cover of the 1972 Eurovision Song Contest Winner, Vicky Leandros’ ‘Come What May’/’Après toi’, ‘Keď si sám’ (‘When You Are Alone’) on the wing of a MIG jet, so on a personal level maybe it isn’t so surprising after all!

Finally, I think I have tracked down how come MOTR had such a strong presence in the former Eastern Bloc, even having their B-Sides covered. According to what I can make out of the text on the label of this MOTR release on the Czechoslovak label, Opus, they must have appeared at the Bratislavská Lýra festival of 1972 – quite a popular Spring/Summer of ’72 for them, then, if they then went on to perform (so I have heard) at the Olympiastadion in Munich later that year.

How come a great British (Scottish?) export as this has been almost totally forgotten in their native land?

MOTR should, by rights, be national heroes!

‘Girls Of The Golden East’ updated

I have added Google+, my Myspace GOTGE Mix and my (as yet, still embryonic!) YouTube Channel to the row of social media icons in the GOTGE heading, with the ‘health warning’ that, in the course of setting up the GOTGE Mix back in the Summer of last year, I encountered four Valérie Čižmárová songs that somehow became entered under the wrong title. Here are the offending items, followed by, in parenthesis, the songs that they in fact really are.

‘Huascarán’ (‘Tikot všech hodin’)

‘Žár léta’ (‘Čekám’)

‘Náhodou’ (‘Potlesk’)

‘Sunny’ (‘Léta letí’)

I hope the wrong titles don’t spoil your enjoyment of playing the GOTGE Mix! (Which will, no doubt, be added to as time goes by)

GOTGE has been re-branded again!

In the course of setting up the sister Blog to GOTGE, the Valérie Čižmárová Fan Blog, ‘Bananas For Breakfast’,  I noticed that the social media icons set themselves up immediately below the site photo, unlike when I was setting them up in GOTGE, where I was directed towards setting them up in the hidden area behind the site heading (the ‘widgets area’), which was always somewhat annoying. In the course of cross-referencing how one could customise WordPress sites between the two Blogs to get around this it also became evident that, unlike I’d imagined it, it wasn’t set in stone that the Blog was entitled ‘girlsofthegoldeneast’, instead of being spelled out in separate words, which itself was also annoying. So, those two annoyances have now been rectified thanks to my thinking to set up a new site dedicated to Valinka herself.

Since I now do have a site for Valinka I have also used this as an opportunity to change the site photo so that there isn’t so much focus on her, which gives an opportunity to show off various others in action on stage (I looked around for photos I have saved and took screenshots off YouTube videos of GOTGE either at microphone stands or clutching microphones, so it was obvious that the miniature photos were of Pop Singers singing).

My apologies to a famously Hungarian-speaking personality like Valinka that it turned out that I didn’t get any Hungarian artists in there. Maybe I’ll have a chance sometime down the line to shoehorn one in!

Finally, I am glad to use this also as an opportunity to report that, some weeks ago, I spotted that the photo that I’d failed to think to save of Jitka Zelenková in action on stage at the Bratislavská Lýra (of 1969, I think) and thought I’d missed for ever after frantically searching (in vain) around the Web for it, was part of the accompanying photography in a YouTube video, so I grabbed the chance to save that off that video. It is a sensational photo! (Signed, too!)…and that simply had to be one of the photos for the new GOTGE heading image.

JZ_at_BL

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!