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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.

Interlude: Spanish Czech-in

2007-11-28

Sometimes I wish a day had at least thirty-two hours. So much music, so little time, as they say. Thus it happened that it’s been almost two weeks since Funky Czech-in was “on tour” in Madrid, Spain, and so this post is not exactly hot news anymore.

Anyway: thanks to Iñigo of Vampisoul we were guests on Charlie Faber’s insane radio show Sateli 3 live on Radio 3. The house was smokin’ and the receivers were explodin’ all over Iberia while we were airing hottest Czechoslovak bigbít from the sixties and the seventies! Only the best tracks were played, including some stuff that you already know from here. I hope to get the recording of the show soon to post it here as an MP3 stream. In the meantime tune into Sateli 3 live every evening from monday to friday, 9 to 10 pm CET. And while you’re already surfing, you may want to check out the nicely retro-designed funky site of Charlie’s friends at www.canora.es.

Lou Kash and Charlie Faber

Lou Kash and Charlie Faber in a RNE studio (photo: © Iñigo Munster)

Until the full recording of the show arrives, here’s the first song that I’ve played:
Karel Vlach Orchestra – Tančíme twist
from 7 inch split single Supraphon 013434, around 1963

a generic 7" Supraphon sleeve from the 1960s
a generic seven inch Supraphon sleeve from the 1960s

Can’t buy me love

2007-03-26

Eva Pilarová & Karel Vlach Orchestra – Can’t Buy Me Love
from album “Zpívá Eva Pilarová”, 1966, Supraphon DV10206; reissued for export as “The Fascinating Czech Star” between 1966 and 1974 on Supraphon SUA15719, 55719 or 1130667

PilarovaE_Zpiva_a_128 PilarovaE_FascinatingCzechStarRI1_128 PilarovaE_FascinatingCzechStarRI2_128
original 1966 LP sleeve, 1966 export sleeve, 1972 reissue export sleeve

Now, let’s move back into time even further and also away from any funk or soul for a moment, although we’re staying quite close to jazz. The Czech female superstar of the first half of the sixties was Eva Pilarová. She grew up in Brno but like many other pop singers of that decade, her career kicked off in Jiří Suchý’s original Semafor Theatre in Prague. Yet ironically, it was in fact also her talent that massively helped to establish the relatively experimental Semafor stage in 1960 in the first place.

Pilarová has never been fixated on a particular genre or style: jazz, swing, pop, twist, rock’n’roll, blues, ballads, R&B, beat – anything goes. She had already won various awards and recorded numerous single and EP sides [link to an external MS Word document] before her first 12″ LP has been released in 1966. On that album entitled simply Zpívá Eva Pilarová (Eva Pilarová Sings) the Supraphon editors decided to show off her jazzy side, however, and that was definitely an excellent choice. After all, her public nickname was “Fitz-Pilarka” which she received as a reference to her famous US idol. Recorded in the era of relative political freedom between 1964 and 1966, the album presented two popular Lennon/McCartney songs and ten American standards. Summertime, Night And Day and Moonlight In Vermont were recorded with the Dance Orchestra of the Czechoslovak Radio alias TOČR/JOČR. Anything Goes, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, Misty and others have been done with the Karel Vlach Orchestra. Vlach is also backing both Beatles covers, Can’t Buy Me Love and I Should Have Known Better. The latter however disguises a weakness of many “old school” jazz drummers (here probably the legendary Vladimír Žižka) when it comes to playing a straight and simple binary rock beat: sometimes it fails to groove as such

Can’t Buy Me Love on the other hand captures both the singer and the band in an excellent state. It takes the Beatles’ rhythm’n’blues tune one step further to swinging big band jazz, like if Lennon & McCartney never had anything else in mind. A classic. According to the list mentioned above, it has been originally released with Czech lyrics as Já čekám dál (I Keep On Waiting) on the Supraphon single 013663 – which seems to be a pretty rare item as far as I can say.

The album also used to be very popular abroad and it has been reissued for export a couple of times (see images), so it’s not hard to find it on vinyl at all. As a matter of fact, I’m selling a copy of the Czech edition for 1 Euro only in my WebShop. There’s a snag though: the first track (Moonlight In Vermont) ist damaged albeit still playable – but the rest of the record plays fine, i.e. “Very Good”. Actually this very MP3 has been ripped from it last year, though I may have likely filtered some pops and crackles here and there. (In the meantime I have finally found a slightly better copy in Prague.) And if you search my shop for “pilarova” you will also find lots of her singles for sale; sometimes it happens that I buy a single without realizing that I already own it, other times I’m not sure and then I think “better to have two of them than none” and sometimes I find an album with the same tracks that I already have on singles. Hence, at least when it comes to Czech records, usually the reason for selling them is that I actually have those tracks already. Searching my WebShop for “czech” should list all Czech items, by the way.

More from Eva Pilarová is coming later this year, also some of her really funky stuff. Stay tuned!

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.

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.