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Funky Czech-In

An introduction to Czech and Slovak pop music from the sixties, seventies and eighties with a touch of funk, soul, disco and jazz.

The girl on the broomstick

2006-12-22

Petra Černocká & the Karel Vlach Orchestra – Saxana
from 7 inch SP “Dívka na koštěti”, 1972, Supraphon 0431326, also on the compilation album “12 pro Mladý svět”, 1972, Supraphon 1131294
conducted by Karel Vlach, produced by Jiří Baur

CernockaPetra_Saxana_aSP_128 VA_12proMladySvet_a_128
original SP sleeve & the compilation LP sleeve

Dívka na koštěti (The Girl On The Broomstick) is one of my favorite Czech fairy-tale movies from the 1970s. Actually, it’s sort of a crossover genre because the director Václav Vorlíček was using elements from fairy-tales, fantasy and contemporary slapstick comedy, creating a fresh mix which still looks charming some 35 years later. I loved it then and I still love it now – in particular the lady who played the title role…

Petra Černocká (1949) is not an actor who sings but a singer who also used to act occasionally. She studied opera singing and piano on the Prague Conservatory. In 1967 she started to sing (and act) in the legendary Semafor Theatre. Her first record was her own song Ovečky (Little Sheep), recorded with a beat group of fellow conservatory students called Pastýři (The Shepherds). They recorded a couple of other 45s with folk-rock and pop tunes. In the early 1970s she joined the rock group Cardinals, but with the arrival of the “bubblegum-softie” Zdeněk Merta (from F.R. Čech’s Shut Up Orchestra) the band soon transformed to Kardinálové and started to play and record dull pop and C&W music – thus slipping out of my funky focus anyway. As for acting, apart from small roles in various TV and movie productions, the young witch pupil character Saxana a.k.a. “the girl on the broomstick” was her first major role. She’s nowhere to be seen singing in the movie though. According to a statement on her web site, originally she wasn’t even considered to sing the title song either.

That tune from the movie, Saxana, remains Černocká’s biggest hit and her signature song. It was composed by Angelo Michajlov with lyrics from Pavel Kopta. Michajlov was a Bulgarian who lived and studied music in Prague. Like Černocká, he also used to perform in the Semafor Theatre for some time. He wrote songs for Czech major pop artists like Marta Kubišová, Helena Vondráčková, Eva Pilarová or Václav Neckář. In the late sixties he began to work as a movie and TV score composer. Among his better known works were the scores for the popular 1980s children movie pictures Chobotnice z 2. patra (Octopuses From The 2nd Floor) or Lucie.

I have already briefly mentioned the Karel Vlach Orchestra as one of the best Czechoslovak big bands of the last century. That certainly applies if you dig swing, and the band history goes as far back as to the 1930s! Generally however, the orchestra’s ouput wasn’t necessarily funky in our sense; most of their recordings from the sixties on were anything else than progressive. Yet the boys in the band are still providing quite groovy backing on this particular track, although the overall production puts it rather closer to the “cheesy listening” genre. The 1970s orchestra line-up is unknown to me for most parts, but it’s not unlikely that Michajlov himself was sitting at the piano.

The 7 inch record is the movie “soundtrack”, although the b-side track, Georgie, has nothing to do with it (and it’s even much closer to cheese anyway). The song Saxana is available on various Czech CD compilations as it was one of the most popular songs of the 70s in Czechoslovakia. The movie itself is available on DVD with English subtitles and if you already like Czech children movies, you’re going to love this one too. (A sequel directed by Vorlíček again is currently being produced but I’m not holding my breath; the computer animated characters as they can be seen on this web site don’t promise anything good.) The aforementioned Various Artists vinyl compilation 12 pro Mladý svět (12 for the Young World magazine) will be tougher to find though; I’ve seen it only once so far – and that was the copy I have now. While the record doesn’t contain much “progressive” material either, there’s a couple of other, well, obscurities of historical character like few songs played and sung by the official and highly unpopular young communist “rock” group Plameny (The Flames) or a rare (and rather silly) post-Framus-Five bubble-gum outing by Michal Prokop. And drum break junkies might perhaps appreciate a less known pop tune by Olympic…

P.S. Dívka na koštěti läuft lief in der deutschen Fassung als Das Mädchen auf dem Besenstiel am 31.12.2006 um 6:00 Uhr im RBB.

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Disclaimer

The audio samples are presented as a “specimen” to encourage readers to buy the artists’ albums. Many of the tracks presented herein are available for purchase in MP3 or FLAC format at supraphonline.cz.

Copyright

All written content is © 2006– by Lukáš Machata (Lou Kash). Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited. If you’d like to use portions of my articles, please contact me first.