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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.

In memoriam Dr. Gui, the funky drummer

2017-07-08

The Plookers – Back To The Egg (The Conclusion)

from CD “Das erste Mal”, 1997, Consou M’Teem Pelh Produkt CMTP9701

Plookers – Das erste Mal

left to right: Dr. Gui, Martina ThC, Felice, Anita Polverosa & yours truly

Sad news from the Funky Czech-In headquarters: on Friday, 30 June 2017, the Swiss drummer Guido Rath – also known as Dr. Gui – has died was found dead, aged 53. He was a member of three of my bands: “Felix” in 1994, then he was drumming with The Plookers from 1995 to 1997 as well as with their follow-up MØPP (Martina & Øgl Punk Project) in 1997 and 1998. Thanks to his solid backing, especially the Plookers were going pretty funky at times, even defining a new musical category called Schmuddelfunk. But not only that: Dr. Gui also happened to be the best man at my wedding! All these achievements are making Dr. Gui fully eligible for the induction ceremony into the newly created Memorial Czech-In category.

Dr. Gui of The Plooker, March 1996

Dr. Gui(do Rath) of The Plookers, March 1996

Guido Rath was born on 31 December 1964 in canton Lucerne where he lived until the 1980s. He studied pharmacology in Lausanne (yep, his doctor title was no joke!) but by the 1990s he eventually relocated to Berne where he performed with bands like The Frozen Popes. The latter also featured his fellow dr. pharm. Felix “Felice” Hasler on bass guitar who eventually was to provide his first name to the aforementioned “Felix” group (although actually led by Patrick Lerjen, d’oh) and to become another future funky Plooker. Fast forward into the 2000s when Dr. Gui continued to lend his drumming skills to several lokal groups from Berne, among others performing with the Madukas, and most recently in trio with Gold.

Back To The Egg (The Conclusion) was the closing track from the sole Plookers CD release “Das erste Mal” from 1997. The basic track was recorded in September 1996, actually at first being just a soundcheck jam-session while warming up for the upcoming CD recording session on the Wasserwerk stage in Berne. Felice improvised his bass line, with Dr. Gui spontaneously joining in on drums and Anita Polverosa hitting the cowbell while yours truly was busy attempting to capture the incoming sounds on a borrowed analog 16-track tape recorder. But this very take was then deemed too schmuddelfunky to be just ignored and ditched as an ordinary soundcheck. And thus during several overdub sessions in October and November 1996 at the Firma van Øgl headquarters, more instruments and voices were eventually added to the mix, featuring Martina ThC, Anita Polverosa, Barbara Zbinden and Hannes Meier on vocals and handclaps, yours truly on lead vocals, guitars and Farfisa Syntorchestra (an “antique” instrument owned by Dr. Gui, nota bene), also featuring special guest (and sadly another Memorial Czech-In member) Dänu “Sleepy Dan” Boemle with a couple of preliminary words to the world, and last but not least introducing Anita’s underage son Michi on additional random voice effects.

There are still a couple of CD copies available, so if you like what you hear, feel free to order one:
discogs.com/sell/release/1743303

And have a drink on Dr. Gui. He’s now back in his cozy egg until the end of The Universe As We Know It™. Cheers, doctor!

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.

Recent posts

2017-07-08: In memoriam Dr. Gui, the funky drummer
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

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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.