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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.

Shotgun

2008-04-30

The Matadors – Shotgun
from album “The Matadors”, 1968, Supraphon 0130493/1130493 (mono/stereo), Supraphon/Artia SUA13992/SUAST53992 (mono/stereo), reissued 1995 on CD Bonton 710244-2
produced by Jaromír Tůma

matadors 1 matadors 2
original LP sleeve, export reissue sleeve

Between 1966 and 1968 the Matadors belonged to the best beat groups in Czechoslovakia. At that time their enormous popularity might have been threatened only by the equally experienced “veterans” Olympic. (By comparing the former with the latter, think e.g. the never ending “Stones vs. Beatles” dispute…) So it was no coincidence that the Matadors were the second rock band after Olympic to have a full long player recorded and released by Supraphon in 1968. And it’s no coincidence either that their only album still belongs to the most sought-after items from former Czechoslovakia among vinyl collectors worldwide, being an undisputed classic of the so called freak-beat or psych-beat genre.

The band was mainly influenced by british R&B acts like Them, Pretty Things, Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Heartbreakers Bluesbreakers or even the Kinks and the Who. But like many other Czech groups around 1967 and 1968, also the Matadors couldn’t resist the infectious grooves from the omnipresent soul craze all over the world. Moreover since they were frequently playing abroad, particularly doing a Switzerland night club tour through the winter 1967/1968, where they were often asked to play popular dance tracks from the charts.

In this context it’s not surprising that the album song Shotgun nicely fits into this blog’s scope. Unlike Junior Walker’s proto-funk original however, the Matadors’ version speeds up the tempo quite a bit and adds a trace of a Hendrix-like rock feeling due to heavy use of wah-wah guitar; lead guitarist Radim Hladík (1946) was the Czechoslovak pioneer in using the wah-wah pedal to such an extent, that he supposedly even invented the now commonly used Czech word for that device: kvákadlo. And also lead singer Viktor Sodoma (1945) must have been in a good shape on this recording date. His English phrasing is precise and he doesn’t shout as “over-the-top” as on some other Matadors tracks.

The overall production quality of the whole album is rather bad though. The “old school” Supraphon recording engineers of the 1960s didn’t have a clue how to put this kind of music to tape, not to speak of the poor vinyl mastering. Especially Otto Bezloja’s (1945–2001) bass guitar and Tony Black’s (1946) drums suffer from the thin sound. And if there ever was Jan “Farmer” Obermeyer’s (1944) Matador organ on this very track, it’s nowhere to be heard now. (To illustrate these issues, one of the popular anecdotes is, that on an earlier recoding date an engineer supposedly thought that Hladík’s amplifier was broken after he switched on his overdrive pedal for the first time…)

The full Matadors story has been excellently documented in Aleš Opekar’s authorized biography book The Matadors – Beatová aristokracie z Prahy (Oftis 2007, ISBN 978-80-86845-91-3). While the book is written in Czech language only, it contains not only lots of photos and commonly understandable biographical data, but also a bonus CD with previously unreleased live recordings from 1966! (Hey, remember my interlude from last October…?) So if you are a serious collector of Czechoslovak oldies, this book belongs to your collection even if you don’t understand a word Czech. But as I’ve already noted last year, don’t expect any hi-fi quality – it is a historical document.

Speaking of the Matadors story: last year in June I’ve coincidentally discovered that the English Wikipedia already has an article about The Matadors. Originally it was so full of errors then that I’ve decided to clean it up as well as to add some less known facts about the band. At that time I’ve already read Aleš’s nearly completed manuscript, so my informations were first hand. Hence I won’t repeat what I’ve already put together in a more or less serious form elsewhere (although the Wikipedia article isn’t complete yet). But for regular readers of Funky Czech-In it will be of interest when I point out the connections between other Czech groups and artists previously posted here, like Flamengo, Vladimír Mišík or Komety.

The Matadors album has been reissued in 1995 on CD, which also contains all tracks but one released on seven inches and Supraphon samplers between 1966 and 1968. It’s out of print but it still pops up for sale here and there on the web. There’s also a Korean CD reissue available, but as I’ve been told by Jan Obermayer recently, it’s quite likely a bootleg, as are most of the other releases on various low budget samplers in the past 10–15 years all over the world. Still, some Matadors tracks appeared every now and then on some of the protagonists’ official Best Of compilations, like Sodoma’s or Mišík’s.

The export version of the vinyl LP was pressed by Supraphon/Artia way into the late 1970s, so it should be still around in quite sufficient quantity. In other words: don’t believe a record dealer who wants to sell you an overpriced Matadors copy in the black export sleeve, praising it as the “original pressing”. They are not! That applies also to the old Czech reissues in a half-generic Supraphon sleeve with overprinted text. The true rarity is solely the original Czech issue with the colored logotype – particularly the stereo edition – provided it’s in top condition. Because being likely a popular record to be played at way too many wild parties then, most are probably not in the best shape these days anymore. Anyway, don’t get fooled. ;)

There are chances that an official reissue of the complete Matadors recordings will be [is now] available within the next few years (to express it rather pessimistically) relatively soon. In any case you will find out about it here first. Simply stay tuned to the RSS feed.

Misik, Obermajer, Hladik, Machata

Ex-Matadors Vladimír Mišík, Jan F. Obermayer and Radim Hladík with Lou Kash at the backstage of the Lucerna Music Bar, March 31, 2008, right after one of their annual reunion gigs. (photo: Aleš Opekar)

Interlude: Jasná páka 2008

2008-03-28

Jasná páka, later known as Hudba Praha, was not exactly a funk or soul group. In fact, not at all except for a few traces of reggae at times. But in the eighties they were one of my favorite Czech new wave groups nonetheless, thus I was actually quite pleased when I’ve heard they still occasionally perform these days. One of these occasions was the public vernissage of the exhibition Nová vlna se starým obsahem (“The New Wave with an old content”) which took place last Wednesday at the Popmuseum Prague. Coincidentally I just arrived in Prague the very same day, so I’ve only dropped my luggage at our flat and headed over to the Břevnov quarter to attend the gig (as well as to meet fellow researchers from Popmuseum, of course).

Pal vocuď hajzle (Fuck Off You Bugger) was one of their biggest (underground) hits from the early 1980s and likely one of the causes for their later ban. Michal Ambrož, the guy with the “blue” head and a Telecaster guitar, and the drummer David Koller are the original members. I’m not sure about the lead guitar player, I’ve forgot to ask about him. The original bass player Ivan Wünsch passed away in 1999 though. A special note deserves the special guest of the group, former member of the cult band Z kopce from Brno, Petr Váša. He’s the guy with the red T-shirt and long curly hair (no, it’s not a fancy wig…)


Jasná páka live at the Popmuseum on March 26, 2008 (photo/movie © loukash.com)

Technical note: For the first time on Funky Czech-In I’m presenting video content here. No low-res YouTube “flish-flash” though, but more the real thing, albeit recorded only with my tiny photo camera. If you can’t see it, get the latest QuickTime.

Regarding the topic “Czech New Wave in the eighties” in general, you might also want to check out my Pražský výběr article from January 2008 for some more background info.

Brom: If all deuces got married

2008-03-01

Gustav Brom Orchestra – I kdyby se všichni čerti ženili
from a 7 inch, 1961, Supraphon 013421

Supraphon_SquaresRingsBlackWhiteOnRed_SPa_128 BromGustav_IKdybySeVsichniCertiZenili_SPl2_128
an original Supraphon generic 7″ sleeve, label

Of course, it’s been looong overdue to introduce you to bandleader Gustav Brom (1921–1995) and his orchestra, but I’ve been holding off of posting until my Brom record collection becomes a bit wider. Now that I have gathered nearly twenty Brom Orchestra albums from 1960 until 1982, lots of tracks on singles, EPs and compilations as well as numerous songs with Brom backing popular singers, there’s plenty of representative material to choose from. Because unlike most of my previous articles on Funky Czech-In, in this very case I’d like to proceed more chronologically and encyclopedically. My goal is to cover Brom’s most attractive period (according to the definition of this blog, that is) spanning from the mid 1960s until the early 1980s in several articles over this year.

Gustav Brom wasn’t very conservative when it came to musical genres and styles. Ever since he founded his own band in 1940 until his death in 1995, the repertoire spanned from big band swing, dixieland, bebop, third stream, latin jazz or exotica over easy listening pop, schlager and brass music to soul-jazz, jazz-rock, jazz funk, disco etc. Generally, on the plus side it means that the orchestra has been as versatile as it only could be. But in particular, for a nowadays record collector the drawback of this concept surely is, that not all of the Gustav Brom releases are worth grabbing, of course. I for one am not a particular lover of genres like brass music or dixieland, and the orchestra’s pure swing albums from the 1970s and later are not necessarily on my radar either.

In order to tune into the series, let’s begin with one of the scarce recordings where you can actually hear Mr. Brom singing personally. I kdyby se všichni čerti ženili (Even If All Deuces Got Married) is a lovely little novelty calypso composed by Saša Grossman with lyrics by Zdeněk Borovec. The Czech title as well as the lyrics is a word play with an old Czech expression which you can freely translate as “even if it would rain and storm like hell”. The musicians on this recordings probably were František Navrátil, Zdeněk Novák, Bronislav Horák, Josef Audes, Lubomír Řezanina, Jaromír Hnilička, Alfa Šmíd, Stanislav Veselý, Oldřich Blaha, Milan Řežábek and Václav Skála.

Recent posts

2017-02-12: In The Game Preserve
2016-02-17: Interlude: Vampi Czech-In, parts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7
2009-09-19: Interlude: Vampi Czech-In, part 1
2008-08-31: Mercy Mercy Mercy
2008-06-04: The best disco in town

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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.