Monday, August 20, 2007

Prúdy - Zvoňte zvonky (1969)

Here is the first CD of music from Czechoslovakia, as current Slovakia and Czech republic used to be called back in 60-80s. It is one of the first and best pop/art/prog rock albums released in the late 60s (recorded in 1968). Zvonky Zvonte (Ring Bells, Ring) by Prudy (Currents) was a milestone in Slovak rock music. Personnel: Pavol Hammel - guitar, lead vocals; Marian Varga - piano, organ; Fedor Freso - bass, vocals; Peter Seller - guitar; Vlado Mally - drums.This is what "Scented Gardens of the Mind" has to say abount the album:"Prudy's album was a Slovakian response to Sgt. Pepper, an album full of charming pop songs with harmony vocals, lush orchestration and a hint of psychedelia. The best songs were written by Marian Varga who soon went on to form Colloseum Musicum. His characteristic keyboard ornaments are already recognisable at this early stage. A historic Czechoslovakian album full of period charm. Hammel later recorded many albums with new version of Prudy. This is rather forgetable pop. More interesting are the various Varga and Hammel collaborations".Not much to add to this review - this really is a charming, mellow, even poetic album. The atmosphere may be soft overall but there are some welcome fuzz guitar breaks and you have to love Varga's harpsichord. And the music and the lyrics are great.I disagree about the latter statements as Hammel's first few solo albums are actually pretty good; admittably with some more commercial fluff thrown in.


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Friday, August 17, 2007


One of the first Swedish bands to fuse jazz and rock (and occasionally African and Latin-American music as well) was Egba (photo: Pawel Lucki), led by trumpeter Ulf Adåker (b. 1945) and saxophonist Ulf Andersson (b. 1940), two musicians with roots in the jazz of the 1960s. Several other musicians of that era also expanded their vocabulary to include the electronic sounds of the day, collaborating with younger musicians whose background was mainly in rock. One of the latter is pianist and keyboard-player Harald Svensson (b. 1954), who has also been involved in other groups, most notably Entra. Tenor saxophonist Ove Johansson (b. 1936) and keyboard-player Susanna Lindeborg (b. 1952) in the group Mwendo Dawa have combined acoustic instruments with electronic sounds since the 1970s, and there are several other groups which work with fusion types of jazz. Taken from Visarkiv

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Thursday, August 16, 2007


One could say that Munju was one of the most outstanding German Bands ever!
Munju can be described as a post "CAN' and "KRAFTWERK" generation band and played originals only.The core of the band -- Dieter Kaudel/guitars, oud and vibraphone, Wolfgang Salomon/bass and keyboards und Thomas Römer/drums and trumpet-- played and toured together for 10 years and led Munju through their journey of different musical inspirations and styles.
The journey began as an instrumental fusion rock band in 1976 and slowly crossed over towards highly advanced rock with some German vocals. In their later years a touch of avantgarde was added into their repertoire (i.e. on their last album "Le Perfectionniste") .
Let's start from the very beginning:
The first Munju team consisted of Jürgen Benz on saxophone/flute, Wolfgang on bass, Dieter on guitars and Thomas on drums.Jürgen had just quit his job with Missus Beasty and returned to his hometown Würzburg. He was looking to form a new band. Wolfgang and Thomas used to play together in the local rock band "Pozzokko" with guitarist Bernhard Potschka (later Nina Hagen Band and Spliff). Dieter played with "Neffe Bruno", an experimental band with Thomas' younger brother, percussionist Rainer Römer, who later persued a career in classical music and co-founded the renowned "Ensemble Modern". The newly formed Munju created an energy and sound the audience instantly loved. They became part of the independent musicians owned record label & distribution "Schneeball" together with Embryo, Missus Beastly, Ton Steine Scherben and many more. Munju was first and foremost a touring live band. They played way over 1000 gigs in the 10 + years of their existence. Most of the gigs took place all over Germany and the highlights were tours through Italy, Sicily, Sweden, Austria, France, Spain and Switzerland.
Munju recorded two albums with their original line-up, but shortly after the second album, "Moon You," (1978) Jürgen left the band. Alto Pappert (Kraan) on saxophone joint the group as a guest for one concert tour. After that, Munju developed their special sound and skills as a trio.In 1979, Saxophonist Fred Lamberson from San Francisco became the fourth man. The next project was Munju's 3rd and most successful album, "Brot + Spiele". With this line-up, Munju toured Italy and Sicily, gave lots of radio and television interviews and also teamed up with "ZAMLA," an independent band from Upsala, Sweden for two big concert tours all the way through
Germany and Sweden. Radio Malmoe broadcasted a Munju live concert. In 1982 Fred left the band and returned to San Francisco. Again, Munju performed as a trio until they met Peter Haas, a keyboarder from Berlin. Peter joined the band for about 9 months.
Within this time (1982-1984), Munju recorderd several videos in studioproduction and live. After Peter left, Eddie Rüdel, a young guitarist from Würzburg, became the 4th member. With this line-up, Munju recorded their 4th album, "Le Perfectionniste" in 1984.
In January 1986, Dieter left the band to focus on his new business K&K Sound.Later that year, Munju wrote and performed the music for the Faust ballet production at the Stadttheater Würzburg. For this project, Munju was joined by Burkard Schmidl on keyboard.For another tour through Germany and France, Wolfgang, Thomas and Eddie were joined by Klaus Englert on trumpet. Munju homepage

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Munju - Highspeed Kindergarten (1977)

Munju - Moon You (1979)

Munju - Brot & Spiele (1980)

Música Urbana

It was long ago that a usually reliable written source made me aware of the past existence of a "left-of-center" Spanish rock group called Musica Urbana: a quartet, active in the second half of the 70s, whose musical language could maybe be defined as being contiguous to jazz-rock and whose best album was said to be the one bearing the same name, recorded and released in 1976. But I got there too late for vinyl, and I never heard about a CD re-release.
I'll immediately say that Musica Urbana is a very nice album for which it's extremely doubtful that a tag like "in the jazz-rock idiom" could be appropriate (besides its being counterproductive). I'd say there are more than a few similarities to Frank Zappa's "jazz-rock", when he was in his "funky" period (say, on albums like Roxy & Elsewhere or The Helsinki Concert: it's the line-up featuring George Duke and Ruth Underwood) - just listen to the jumpy theme of the first track here, Agost, where keyboards are doubled by castanets (!) whose timbre immediately brings to mind Zappa's use of marimba. But there are also traces of Hatfield And The North - in their jazz mode, and in their more intricate moments penned by Dave Stewart (here refer to tracks Font and Caramels De Mel). Funny to notice how a group so obviously influenced by Hatfield And The North appears in some moments to predate National Health.
(If I emphasize those similarities it's not in order to diminish Musica Urbana's achievements, but to avoid those exaggerated expectations originated by announcements such as "Here for you is the (re)discovery of a revolutionary idiom that had sadly been forgotten!", those kinds of expectations leading inevitably to a let-down. This is a very good record that doesn't need any hard sell.)
Complex music, yes, but never "difficult". Intricate development and orchestrations = we welcome the limpid recording. Most compositions are by Joan Albert Amargós, who's also at center stage instrumentally: many keyboards (Steinway acoustic piano, Fender electric piano, Hohner Clavinet, Mini-Moog) and wind instruments (soprano sax, clarinet, flute, trombone). (What's a "xoulet i violins Logan"? Maybe the "violin keyboard" once made by Logan?) We also have inventive and precise drummer and percussionist Salvador Font making a nice team with bass player Carles Benavent. Not too easy to notice at first, guitarist Lluís Cabanach's work is very good. We also have those castanets by Aurora Amargós and various keyboards by Lucky Guri.
Complex music, yes, the compositions being the fruit of a long work; intricate but extremely logical developments, many themes. All qualities that match very well with a kind of "simplicity" that sounds folk-related.
I really hope that, besides being a welcome addition to the record collections of those already aware, this album is a first step to the (re)discovery of a big slice of European Rock Music that's today totally forgotten (say, from ZNR's Barricade 3 to Face Aux Elements Dechaines by Etron Fou Leloublan). Beppe Colli Cloudsandclocks

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Música Urbana - Música Urbana (1976)

Música Urbana - Iberia (1978)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Carson - Blown (1972)

Carson's career was relatively short - almost exactly three years - but in that time the "Kings of Boogie" built a reputation as a powerful live act, and they were one of the most popular Australian blues bands of the early 70s. Together with Bulldog, Chain, The Aztecs, Company Caine and Pirana, Carson was part of the stable of acts handled by Consolidated Rock, the Melbourne agency founded by young entrepreneur Michael Gudinski. Carson was also an important stepping stone for several of its members, including singer Broderick Smith, and the group's original keyboard player John Capek.The original 4-piece lineup formed in in January 1970. Guitarist "Sleepy" Greg Lawrie (ex-The Creatures, Chocolate) was already considered one of the best slide players in the country; John Capek was ex-Leo De Castro and Friends; Ian "Fingers" Ferguson's career had started way back in 1961 with Shepparton rockers Tony & The Shantels, and completing the lineup was drummer Tony Lunt. The group was originally called The Carson County Band, but they had dropped the "...County Band" part of the name by the end of 1970 because they were being mistakenly tagged as country rock group, and only their first single came out under that name. They were strongly influenced by Chicago blues, and by the emerging "boogie" style being popularised by bands like Canned Heat and, later, ZZ Top.(According to Who's Who of Australian Rock, Paul Lever and Tony Enery were also members during this year, but details of their role in the band are not known at this stage.)
Their first single was On The Highway / Resting Place, issued on the Rebel label around May 1970; at about the same time Lawrie and Capek got together with Matt Taylor, Tim Piper and Yuk Harrison from Genesis, plus Trevor Courtney (ex-Chants R&B, Cam-Pact) in a one-off recording project called The Meating. The single they recorded together, Bad Luck Feeling / Back Home was released on Rebel in August 1970.
John Capek left Carson in late 1970 or early 1971, moving on to King Harvest, Flite and Hannagan. To replace him, Carson recruited singer and harp player Broderick Smith, formerly of Adderly Smith Blues Band and Sundown, and second guitarist Ian "Willy" Winter (ex-Brothers Grimm, Five Just Men, Pigface).
The new lineup recorded a single for the Havoc label, Travelling South / Moonshine, which was issued in August 1971. Meanwhile, Ian Ferguson left in July to join Island, and he was replaced by ex-Chain bassist Barry "Big Goose" Sullivan. Sullivan left after about three months to join Flite so he was replaced by Garry Clarke (ex-King Harvest). In November they added a new keyboard player, Mal Logan (ex-Healing Force), and they also augmented the band even further for concerts, adding a three-piece horn section.
Ian Winter left in March 1972 when he was invited to join Daddy Cool as second guitarist, but after Daddy Cool split in August he returned to Carson. Brod Smith also branched out during the year -- Carson's manager, Rhett Walker (who was also the program manager for Melbourne radio station 3AK) decided that Smith could be promoted as a solo artist (along similar lines to Rod Stewart's parallel solo career with his work with The Faces). Broderick cut two singles for the Image label, and all four sides of which were written and produced by Brian Cadd.
Sometime during this period, Broderick was also called in to sing on the soundtrack to Albie Falzon's surfing movie Morning Of The Earth. Oddly enough, the track he appeared on, First Things First, was actually by Tamam Shud. Singer Lindsay Bjerre was having voice problems when they cut the song, so the original vocal was done by lead guitarist Tim Gaze. However, producer G. Wayne Thomas was evidently not satisfied with the result so he erased Tim's vocal, and he brought in Broderick Smith to lay down a new track. Although this has previously been reported as having been done without the Shud's knowledge or permission, recent information from Brod himself contradicts this.
This is at odds with Lindsay Bjerre's claim that Tamam Shud didn't find out about the substitution until the night of the film's premiere, later in the year, and they were understandably furious about it. (Bjerre acknowledged, however, that Brod's vocal was a good effort in its own right, despite the circumstances.)
By September 1972 Carson had signed with EMI's Harvest imprint. Their first single for the label, Boogie, Parts I & II gave them their first taste of chart success in September, going to #30 nationally, and it is now widely regarded as one of the classics Australian rock singles of that period.
They followed up in November with their very successful debut album, Blown, produced by Rod Coe (former bass player with Freshwater and Country Radio). Its memorable cover was another fine design by Melbourne artist Ian McCausland. Blown fared even better than the single, reaching #14 nationally in December. (Meanwhile, Havoc cashed in on Carson's new prominence by reissuing Travelling Home the same month.)
Late in the year Carson expanded yet again, when sax player Mal Capewell (ex-Dr Kandy's Third Eye, Company Caine, Dada, Graham Bond's Holy Magick) joined the touring lineup. In January they appeared at the second Sunbury Festival over the Australia Day long weekend; their set was recorded and the song Friday Night Groove was included on Mushroom's inaugural release, the ambitious triple-album The Great Australian Rock Festival (April 1973). Unfortunately, Sunbury was to be Carson's last major performance: Winter and Logan left just afterwards and in February it was announced that Carson had split up. Their final record was On The Air, the full recording of their Sunbury set, which was released in April 1973.
Various band members moved on to successful careers in other bands. Brod Smith of course became the lead singer of The Dingoes, and went on to a successful solo career; he still performs regularly in an acoustic duo. Greg Lawrie played on Chain's Two Of A Kind LP, as well as Matt Taylor's solo LPs Straight As A Die and Magic, and featured prominently on Matt's 1973 hit single I Remember When I Was Young. Mal Logan formed Altamira before rejoining Smith in The Dingoes, and he featured on their famous debut LP. In later years he worked with Renee Geyer.John Capek was perhaps the most successful of all. He moved to the US around 1973 and established himself as a songwriter. Since that time he has had songs recorded by some of the world's biggest names, including Rod Stewart, Chicago, Toto, Manhattan Transfer, Don Johnson, Olivia Newton- John, Dan Hill, Marc Jordan, LRB, John Farnham, Patty Austin and Diana Ross. He has also provided music for the Hollywood films Cocktail and Youngblood, as well as the Australian features Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Heaven Tonight and What The Moon Saw. Milesago

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Baroque Jazz Trio - Baroque Jazz Trio (1970)

From all points of view, the BJT is surprising: instrumentation, philosophy, sound, music, cohesion. It is well and truly a unique phenomenon in French jazz. It wasn’t until the 90s, with its hoards of DJs, samplers, collectors and other vinyl enthusiasts that, after frantic searching for forgotten musical experiments, the Baroque Jazz Trio resurfaced. BJT is the archetypal dream-record for that type of collector. It completely fulfils the musical demands of this anachronistic tribe, guided by an obsession for the discovery of forgotten or lost sounds, vestiges of a time where music, we are told, was free from all commercial constraints.
So it is that this recording has existed for over thirty years, but it does not really have a ‘name’ in the jazz world. It is still an authentic and unique experience in the mind of its authors: Jean-Charles Capon, Georges Rabol and Philippe Combelle. It will also be one for its audience.

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R.I.P. Dirk Sietse

Sad news arrived... Dirk Cities On Flame With Rock and Roll left us...

Love & Peace, Brother! We miss you...

Stigma Rest Room

Dear Friends!

I'd like to recommend you Stigma Rest Room blog - take a journey in to the archives of unusual sound!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Azahar - Azahar (1979)

Second album

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Azahar - Elixir (1977)

1977 debut album from this Spanish progressive rock band most notable for having no drums or percussion at all! The result is a rewarding blend of guitars, bass, keyboards with some vocals and tons of psychedelic effects. Freak Emporium

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Pierre Bensusan - Pierre Bensusan 2 (1977)

French folk

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Plastic People Of The Universe

The Plastic People of the Universe was the name of perhaps the greatest obscure rock band of all time and their incredible story ranks as one of the truest examples of artistic perseverance and art imitating life in the entire history of Rock and Roll. Formed in 1968 following the Soviet invasion of their beloved Czechoslovakia, the Plastic People of the Universe suffered immeasurably for their simple desire to make their own music.
The story begins, of course, with the Beatles and 1964. It is imperative to understand that Beatlemania was not an isolated event limited to America and the United Kingdom. Young people throughout Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union had their lives changed by John Lennon and the Beatles. Since the beginning of the Cold War, kids from the eastern side of the Iron Curtain had hungered for all things American as an escape from their cultural isolation. American jazz had served this purpose in the late 1940's through the fifties. The gates were then kicked open by Elvis and Bill Haley, but it was the Beatles who brought down the wall.
The early to mid-sixties were undoubtedly an exciting time in Czechoslovakia. Jazz, both American and Czechoslovak, was enjoying a comeback after years underground. The Nazi party had abolished jazz upon its occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1938. Since 1945, however, the new Communist party had been more tolerant of jazz, specifically the classic Czechoslovak jazz. And now, boring, predictable socialist life under Communist rule was suddenly injected with a jolt of democracy in its purest form: rock and roll! Thousands of "garage" bands were born in Czechoslovakia in the mid-sixties; hundreds in Prague alone. The kids went nuts in response to the Beatles, and the Big Beat, or "bigbit" as the Czechs called it, era began.
It was the height of the Big Beat era when American hipster poet Allen Ginsberg made his celebrated visit to Czechoslovakia. After accepting an invitation by students at Prague's Charles University, Ginsberg arrived in Prague in March of 1965 and gave several poetry readings in small theaters in Prague and Bratislava. The young people embraced the long-haired revolutionary and crowned him King of their May Day Festival. Antonin Novotny's hard-line Communist government, who Ginsberg had publicly denounced and insulted, appreciated Ginsberg less. After arresting him for alleged drug abuse and public drunkenness, the Secret Police broke into his hotel room and confiscated his writings, which they found to be lewd and morally dangerous. The government used these writings as an excuse to expel Ginsberg from the country on May 7, 1965.
The influence of Ginsberg's visit on Czech culture should not be underestimated. Suddenly, the streets of Prague were filled with long-haired hippies wearing blue jeans and staging "happenings". The Communist way of life began to seem more and more foreign to a new generation of Czechoslovaks. An underground club scene formed and grew with each passing year, spawning hundreds of new bands. Among the best of the early Czech rock bands were Olympic, Czechoslovakia's premier Beatles band and the Primitives, Prague's first psychedelic band. The proliferation of rock and roll music into the culture increased as Czech radio stations switched to western pop programming, rock magazines sprung up, and Czech schools began teaching western rock and roll in the classrooms.
Novotny reacted to this influx of Western culture with a vengeance. He rid his cabinet of any party member with the slightest ideas of reform, and increased censorship laws. Prague officials felt Novotny had overreacted and replaced him with an experienced party leader who they believed would lead Czechoslovakia through necessary reforms without upsetting the Kremlin. On January 5, 1968, Alexander Dubcek replaced Novotny as the leader of the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia. It was the beginning of the Prague Spring.
Dubcek soon initiated a string of reforms that brought Czechoslovakia closer to Western style ideals than at any time before. By April 1968, Dubcek had purged government positions of all hard-line Communists and announced a program of "socialist democracy" for the country. He also lifted all censorship in the radio, press and television and cleared all prisons of artists and other political prisoners of the former regime. Prague Spring resembled nothing less than San Francisco 1967. Hippies and drugs were everywhere, and rock music flourished in the clubs and the streets. It was a special time while it lasted, but the Kremlin felt Dubcek had gone too far.
Early in the morning of August 21, 1968, Soviet tanks and 175,000 Warsaw Pact troops began a massive invasion of Czechoslovakia in order to crush the Prague Spring. Passive resistance, for the most part, was practiced by the Czech defenders but some blood was shed. Many street signs were mixed up by the hippies to confound the oncoming tanks. Three days later, it was all over. The tanks and the troops remained and the citizens resumed their lives. Protests did continue; the most sensational being the suicide of Jan Palach, a philosophy student in Prague, who doused himself in kerosene and set himself on fire in the center of Wencelas Square.
The Plastic People of the Universe were formed by bassist Milan Hlavsa less than a month after the invasion. Initially inspired by the Velvet Underground, the group also covered songs from other American groups such as the Fugs, the Doors, Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention. The name of the band was taken from Zappa's song entitled "Plastic People". Their artistic director/manager was a brilliant art historian and cultural theoretician named Ivan Jirous. Jirous was previously the artistic director of the Primitives, and when he joined the Plastics in 1969, he brought with him the lead guitarist of the Primitives, Josef Janicek. The addition of viola player Jiri Kabes further likened their sound to the Velvet Underground. Their concert performances were more like "happenings" featuring set pieces, outlandish makeup and costumes, and psychedelic light shows.
Following the 1968 invasion, the Kremlin initiated a "normalization" program to reestablish moral and social behavior befitting a Communist country. The government began closing down many of Prague's leading rock clubs and censoring the news and film industries, yet still the rock scene continued to flourish amidst the political turmoil. The Beach Boys played an historic concert at Lucerna Hall in Prague in May of 1969 and dedicated their song "Breaking Away" to recently replaced Prague Spring reformer Dubcek who sat in the audience.
As the "normalization" continued, some bands, like Olympic, changed their sound and look and survived the transition. The Plastic People, however, refused to change. The Plastics remained Prague's leading psychedelic band until January 1970 when their nonconformity led to the government revoking their professional license. In addition to no longer being allowed to receive money for their performances, the demotion to amateur status also meant the loss of state-owned instruments and access to rehearsal space.
The Plastics continued to perform as an amateur band but vowed to seek reinstatement of professional status. The band scrounged up used instruments and Janicek, an auto mechanic by trade, constructed crude amplifiers from old transistor radios. It was at this time that Paul Wilson, a Canadian grad student from Oxford who had come to Prague in 1967 for a semester in order to study practical Communism but had stayed on as an English teacher, met Ivan Jirous. Wilson was recruited by Jirous to teach the band English lyrics to songs by the Velvets, Fugs, Zappa and other western rock artists, and eventually befriended the entire band and joined the Plastics as lead singer. As an art critic, Jirous was a member of the Union of Artists, and could therefore obtain permits for convention halls. He would lecture on Andy Warhol for a few minutes, show a few slides, and then the Plastic People would "demonstrate" the songs of the Velvet Underground for a couple of hours. Eventually, the government caught on and these shows were cancelled.
In June of 1972, a concert in downtown Prague featuring the Plastic People was cancelled after drunken militia began scuffling with fans. The Plastics were banned from playing in Prague and retreated into the countryside. Paul Wilson left the band after singing with them during 1970 through 1972, during which time he estimates they played about 15 times in public.
Free jazz saxophonist Vratislav Brabenec, a generation older than most of the Plastics, was then introduced to the group by Jirous and immediately accepted as a Plastic Person. Brabenec, the most accomplished musician of them all, joined on the condition that they only play their own original material and sing in Czech from then on. The band agreed. At this time, the group reapplied for professional status. They were granted a temporary license but it was revoked two weeks later. Authorities claimed their music was "morbid" and would have a "negative social impact", and they were totally banned from playing for the public. The Plastics refused to change to suit the establishment and retired into the underground.
At this time, their music, written primarily by Milan Hlavsa, became wildly original, darker and more atmospheric, especially featuring the brilliant sax playing by Brabenec. An entire underground movement grew around the Plastic People, including other bands, singers, poets and artists. This underground culture thrived in small Bohemian villages outside of the government's control.
Through the rest of the decade, the band found it increasingly difficult to perform their music without retribution. Whenever their friends had marriages, a wedding party provided an occasion to rent a hall and put on a private concert. Usually, however, putting together a concert was more akin to a cloak and dagger movie. A remote site in the woods near an isolated Bohemian village was picked, word of the location was then passed among friends, whispered from ear to ear. The exact location of the site was never revealed more than one day in advance and sometimes not revealed until that night. Fans would get off at the nearest rail station, then walk miles through the forest and across farms, sometimes for hours in rain or snow, searching for a remote farmhouse or barn. Often, the police would show up all the same and stop the show.
One of the most infamous of these encounters became known as the "Ceske Budovice Massacre". In March 1974, over a thousand fans showed up in the small town of Budovice to hear the Plastics perform, only to find the police waiting. Hundreds of fans were led through a dark tunnel to the rail station while being beaten with clubs, then herded onto a waiting train and sent back to Prague. Names were taken; six students were arrested and dozens were expelled from school. The Plastics never performed.
In response to the Budovice massacre, Ivan Jirous organized the First Music Festival of the Second Culture. Jirous was nicknamed "Magor", as in phantasmagoria, which roughly translates as "crazy", because of his ideas of creating a "Second Culture" totally separate from the totalitarian First Culture. This festival, dubbed "Hannibal's Wedding", took place in the village of Postupice near Benesov on September 1, 1974. Hundreds of fans gathered to hear the Plastics and other underground bands perform. By this time, Magor had convinced the band that rock and roll was the salvation for the Second Culture and that what they were doing was historically significant and extremely important.
The Plastics held a Second Music Festival of the Second Culture, also known as "Magor's Wedding", in the small town of Bojanovice on February 21, 1976. In response to this festival, on March 17, 1976, the Secret Police arrested 27 musicians and their friends including all the Plastic People. In addition, over 100 fans were interrogated. The band's homemade equipment was seized, their homes were searched and tapes, films and notebooks were confiscated. Paul Wilson was expelled from the country soon after and returned to Canada.
Six months later, the trial of the Plastic People and the other arrested artists began. The majority of the Plastic People were released due to international protests. However, four musicians including Vratislav Brabenec and Ivan Jirous from the Plastics, as well as Pavel Zajicek from the Plastics' sister band DG 307, and singer Svatopluk Karasek, were held for disturbing the peace.
On that day, September 21, 1976, as the four defendants sat handcuffed in the dock, rock and roll went on trial. It was the hippies versus the Communist state. The prosecutors cited vulgar lyrics in some songs and described their music as an "anti-social phenomenon" that was corrupting the Czech youth. The defendants responded with dignity, defending their right to write and sing the songs they wanted. Two days later, all four were found guilty of "organized disturbance of the peace". Jirous was sentenced to 18 months, Zajicek to 12 months, and both Karasek and Brabenec to 8 months in Prague's Ruzne Prison.
A diverse group of supporters, including playwrights, writers, professors and other Czech intellectuals, had attended the trial and gathered outside in the hallway. Among the supporters was avant-garde playwright Vaclav Havel who had met Jirous a week earlier and had been impressed with the man and his philosophy. Havel left the trial feeling disgusted with the world and resolved to make a difference.
In the months that followed, these sympathizers gathered in solidarity with the hippies and rallied around the Plastic People. They dared to establish a human rights organization and released a statement of principles on January 1, 1977, naming their organization after the charter, Charter 77. Havel said that the Plastics were defending "life's intrinsic desire to express itself freely, in its own authentic and sovereign way", which is as close to a perfect definition of both democracy and rock and roll as has ever been stated. Charter 77 evolved into a world-famous human rights petition that eventually landed Havel in jail, and was a precursor to the national revolution that occurred 12 years later.
Since the late 1970's, the Plastics had begun recording their music on tapes and circulating them among friends and fans. A number of these tapes, smuggled out of the country, were eventually released as records in the west. Their first and best album was "Egon Bondy's Happy Hearts Club Banned", recorded in a Bohemian castle in 1973-74, and smuggled to the west and released as an album in 1978 without the band's knowledge. It is one of the most original albums of all time with its fusion of psychedelic jazz rock, classical European melodic structures and the comedic lyrics of Czech poet Egon Bondy.
The band continued recording and releasing music clandestinely throughout the '70s into the '80s with the help of Paul Wilson in Toronto and others. Following Brabenec's release, Havel allowed the Plastic People the use of his country home in Hradecek for the Third Music Festival of the Second Culture on October 1, 1977. The police did not break up the concert but circled the property and remained an imposing presence as the Plastics performed in the barn. A tape of this concert was released in the west in 1979 as "Hundred Points". The band recorded their next album "Passion Play", about the crucifixion of Christ, also at Havel's farm in 1980 while the police again staked out the surrounding woods.
In April 1981, the Plastics performed their next album "Leading Horses" at a friend's house near Ceska Lipa. A few weeks later, the house was mysteriously burned to the ground. When Vratislav Brabenec was later picked up for interrogation by the secret police, the police all but admitted to torching the house. Shortly thereafter in 1981, the Plastics recorded "Leading Horses'' again at Vaclav Havel's farm, which had become their only safe haven. By 1982, Brabenec was finally forced into exile after being picked up regularly by the secret police and interrogated or beaten for hours at a time. He relocated to the suburb of Scarborough in Toronto, Canada, which has a Czech community of over 10,000. He is a landscape gardener.
In 1983, "Leading Horses" was released by Bozi Myln records, the address of which happens to be Paul Wilson's house in Toronto Canada. Another album, entitled "Slaughterhouse", was recorded in 1984 but remains unreleased at this time. The Plastics recorded their last album entitled "Midnight Mouse" in 1986. It was a more pop-sounding record, yet still retained the Plastics spirit.
The '80's had brought a new sound to Czechoslovakia: punk rock. The appearance of this new music on the scene almost made the Communists wish the kids were listening to the Beatles again. Leather-clad teenagers with spiky, tri-colored hair and bad attitudes gave the Communist officials new problems to worry about and mainstream rock began to seem like the lesser of two Devils. Punks were especially subject to unprovoked beatings by the police at this time.
In June 1986, Czechoslovakia hosted its first national rock festival, Rockfest 86. Many previously banned groups were allowed to perform and it appeared that the rock scene was beginning to show signs of liberalization. Late in 1987, hints were being dropped by Czech officials that if the group changed their name from the Plastic People, they would be granted a license. In April 1988, the Plastic People of the Universe broke up over disagreements on the issue of changing the name. Jan Brabec, the drummer, maintained that he would play as the Plastic People or not at all, and quit.
Hlavsa then formed a new band, Pulnoc, meaning "midnight". Hlavsa chose Pulnoc as the name for the band because it reflected not an end but a transformation of the Plastic People. "Midnight is a very special time", Hlavsa explained. "It is when one day dies and another is born. And yet there is continuity. That is how it is with this band." Along with the core of the Plastic People (Hlavsa, Kabes, Janicek), the new band featured a younger generation of musicians, including Hlavsa's sister-in-law, Michaela Nemcova, an operatically-trained singer and music teacher, Karel Jancak, a 23-year-old guitarist who had played in a Prague punk band, cellist Tomas Schilla, and drummer Petr Kuzamandas. Pulnoc was allowed to play abroad only because they travelled as 'tourists.' Pulnoc made its first official appearance at the Junior Klub in Prague in the spring of 1988.
Around this time, Magor was sentenced to 16 months in prison for reading protest poems in public. To call his attention to his friend's situation, Vratislav Brabenec made a rare appearance and performed in New York City in January 1989 with Allen Ginsberg and Ed Sanders of the Fugs in a benefit for Magor, who had at this time now spent 8 of his last 15 years in prison. Old films of the Plastic People performing in Czechoslovakia were shown.
In April of 1989, with lead singer Nemcova pregnant with twins, Pulnoc began a 7 city national tour of the United States. The band dedicated each performance on this tour to Magor. They performed new songs as well as Plastic People songs, marking the first time in nearly 20 years that they were able to perform Plastic People music in public without fear of arrest. Their historic shows at Performance Space 122 in Manhattan brought out the press, including an MTV film crew, and practically the entire Czech community in New York City. The audience gave the band a thundering ovation before they even began to play. Pavel Zajicek, now a sculptor living in NYC, reunited with his friends to sing lead vocals on a song based on a William Blake poem. The music they made during these shows glowed with the spirit of freedom and mirrored the soon-to-be death of communism on a global basis.
Back in Eastern Europe, things were happening fast. Communism was falling all around as revolutions and massive protests overwhelmed the Stalinist governments. In November 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. On Nov. 17, 1989, Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution began as more and more students showed up every day in Wencelas Square to protest police brutality. They were soon joined by playwrights, actors, musicians including the entire Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, and other Czech citizens, until they were 300,000 strong. The revolution ended successfully 24 days later.
Magor was released from prison on December 2, 1989 and immediately got involved with the new young punk scene. On December 14, 1989, the Czech Philharmonic gave a concert at Smetana Hall in Prague, which became the most famous concert in the history of that country. Everyone there was delirious with happiness, knowing the overthrow of communism was almost completed. Vaclav Havel was not yet President but as the leader of the pro-democracy Civic Forum, everyone knew he ought to be. Conductor Vaclav Neumann wore a large Civic Forum pin on his lapel. When Havel came on stage, the entire concert hall erupted into applause.
Three days before the end of the decade, on December 29, 1989, Vaclav Havel became President of Czechoslovakia and began replacing the Communist officials in his office with his friends including other Czech dissidents and rock musicians. In January of 1990, just as the new democracy had begun, Frank Zappa flew to Prague at the invitation of Havel, one of his greatest fans. 5000 rock fans were waiting at the airport to witness the historic arrival of the famous American. A Prague film crew captured Zappa's arrival at the airport just as Shirley Temple Black, the former "good ship lollipop" girl, then the acting ambassador to Czech , was leaving. Mrs. Black was asked about her views on the distinguished Frank Zappa's visit. Czech citizens did not understand her horrified reaction to this question. Zappa met Havel at Prague Castle and presented the new president with several ideas on how to help Czechoslovakia move into the democratic age, such as cellular phones and tourism. Zappa was emotionally overcome upon meeting older fans of his who had endured beatings by the Secret Police for the sake of his music.
Another historic meeting was that between Havel and Velvet Underground founder Lou Reed, who had traveled to Prague in 1990 to interview Havel. In Prague Castle, Reed presented Havel with a copy of his latest album as Havel unfolded the incredible story of the Plastic People to an awed Lou Reed, explaining how influential the Velvet Underground and rock music had been in the Velvet Revolution. Later that night, Reed was taken to a club where a band was playing. As Reed recalled, "I suddenly realized the music sounded familiar. They were playing Velvet Underground songs „ beautiful, heartfelt, impeccable versions of my songs. To say I was moved would be an understatement." The band was Pulnoc. Reed joined them on stage as they performed for Havel and 300 of his friends. After the concert, an ecstatic Havel introduced Reed to his friends, most of them former dissidents, as they recalled reciting Reed's lyrics in prison for comfort and inspiration.
Pulnoc recorded and released their self-titled debut album in Czechoslovakia in 1990. On June 15, 1990, when the original Velvet Underground reunited for the first time in 20 years in Paris for the opening of an Andy Warhol exhibition by the Cartier Foundation, Pulnoc opened for them. The band recorded and released a second album, "City of Hysteria" (featuring liner notes by Vaclav Havel and a new song by Egon Bondy), in the United States in 1991. A year later, Milan Hlavsa published a book in Czechoslovakia telling the story of the Plastics entitled "Bez Ohnu Je Underground", which coincided with the release of a multi-album box set of the complete recordings of the Plastic People.
The story of the Plastic People of the Universe came full circle on June 12, 1993, when they performed at Prague's Junior Klub to celebrate the impending arrival of the recently reunited Velvet Underground in Czechoslovakia. The Plastics appeared under the name of Meyla's Velvet Revival Band and played nothing but the classic songs of their original idols. The next day, the Velvet Underground performed to a sell-out crowd at the Palace of Culture in Prague, a feat which would have been unthinkable if not for the Plastic People of the Universe.
The amazing history of the Plastic People is so crucially intertwined with the history of Czechoslovakia that one can not fully understand the history of that country without knowing the history of the band, and vice versa. No other rock band has had to put up with the abuse and the obstacles that the Plastics did during their lifetime. Yet they did not plan to risk their lives for their music. As Hlavsa said, they were "dissidents against their will." Eventually, however, they came to the realization that what they were doing was historically important and their very existence through the hard times their country was experiencing was a powerful symbol of freedom to the younger generation of Czechs.
The Plastic People were ultimately a major catalyst to the overthrow of communism in Eastern Europe. History would most surely have been very different without them. Apart from the aforementioned Beatles and the Velvet Underground, there's not a lot of rock and roll bands you can say that about.
Also, knowing that the true cultural heritage of Czechoslovakia includes not just Jan Hus and Franz Kafka but also Lou Reed and Frank Zappa makes it easier to understand why Vaclav Havel's record collection includes not just Antonin Dvorak but also "White Light White Heat" and "Bongo Fury." Let's face it. There's not a lot of national presidents you can say that about.
1998/1999 update
Pulnoc disbanded after the singer and the drummer left for personal reasons- this was a shame since this happened just after the release of their first CD in the West (City of Hysteria), which received good reviews, record company support and good notices for their live shows. Milan formed a new group, Friction, to record old Plastics material after that.
Havel then asked the ex-band members to play at a show marking the anniversary of Charter 77 (the Czech Declaration of Independence). This paved way for the recent reunion of the Plastic People of the Universe at the beginning of 1997, including a group of triumphant shows in the Czech Republic and a brief tour of the West.
In addition, Globus International is coming out with reissues of all their old albums, which is a relief since these were all rarities. Not everything's out yet though. The CD's themselves have extensive liner notes but they're all in Czech. by Joseph Yanosik (March 1996)

Muz bez usi (Man With No Ears, concerts from 1969-1972)
Vozralej jak sliva (Drunk As A Plum, concerts from 1973-1975)
Egon Bondy's Happy Hearts Club Banned (1974-75) this was more or less their debut it was smuggled out of the country and released, without the band's knowledge, in France in '78
Ach to statu hanobeni (Oh the State's Defamation, concerts 1976-1977)
Pasijove hry velikonocni (Passion Play, 1978)
Jak bude po smrti (What It's Like After Death, 1979)
Co znamena vesti kone (Leading Horses, 1981)
Kolejnice duni (Rails Rumble, 1977-82)
Hovezi prazka (Beef Slaughter, 1983-84)
Pulnocni mys (Midnight Mouse, 1985-86) their last record before breaking up The Plastic People of the Universe 1997 their recent reunion shows in their homeland

Plastic People Of The Universe - Muz bez usi (Man With No Ears, concerts from 1969-1972)

Plastic People Of The Universe - Egon Bondy's Happy Hearts Club Banned (1974-75)

Plastic People Of The Universe - Hovezi prazka (Beef Slaughter, 1983-84)

Plastic People of the Universe - Ach to státu hanobení (2000)

Plastic People of the Universe - Líně s tebou spím (Lazy Love) (2001)

If you want to track these down, you can contact Globus at Jaromirova 61, 128 00 Praha 2, Czech Republic or try e-mailing them at (warning, they're not quick to respond). At the moment, Forced Exposure is carrying many of their CD's.
For more information on the Plastics and other great Czech music, see the Tamizdat site.

Sadistic Mika Band

Sadistic Mika Band was formed in 1972 by guitarist/vocalist Kazuhiko Kato - previously a member of the popular Folk Crusaders, who had scored several number one hits. Fronted by Kato's wife, media personality Mika, Sadistic Mika Band released the single "Cycling Boogie", followed up by the full length Sadistic Mika Band in 1973. The music was hard rock with a distinctive Japanese nuance, and a far cry from the folk music Kato had been playing in the popular but formulaic Folk Crusaders. The first album made a minor splash in Japan, but listeners were at first not sure how to deal with the band's progressive sound, which theretofore had only been heard from from foreign bands. Perhaps because of this style, the record was released in the UK on the Harvest Records label, and caught the attention of some music critics and fans, including Ian MacDonald of New Musical Express, who declared that the band made Iggy and the Stooges sound like the Amadeus String Quartet. The band decided to record their second album in London with producer Chris Thomas, who had produced Pink Floyd, Roxy Music, Procul Harum, and others, and was already a fan of the band. The result was Kurobune (Black Ship) - a quantum stylistic and musical leap forward from its predecessor that charted highly in Japan, and was again released by Harvest Records in the UK. Although not a commercial success in England, the record was hailed by critics as a seminal work, receiving numerous accolades at home as well, including nods for number one band and album of 1974 from the Japanese edition of Rolling Stone.
In the summer of 1975 the band recorded its third album, again with Thomas manning the board. Released the same year, Hot! Menu boasted some English lyrics for the first time, and saw the band in a more playful mood, while still showing off their impressive chops and compositional depth. The band joined Roxy Music in the summer of 1975 on a tour of Britain, and it appeared they might crack the elusive foreign market, but Kato suddenly left the following summer after it was discovered that Mika had been conducting an affair with Thomas. The band slogged forward for two more releases - Sadistics (1977) and We Are Just Taking Off (1978) - before breaking up. They reformed for a tour in 1985 as Sadistic Yuming Band, fronted by vocalist Yumi Matsutoya, and released an album of new material in 1989 called Appare with Karen Kirishima on vocals, performing several shows in support of it before calling it quits for good. By this time, several of the members were already megastars in Japan - in particular Yukihiro Takahashi, who along with Haruo Hosono and Ryuichi Sakamoto formed the legendary Yellow Magic Orchestra. Takahashi continues to perform with Hosono in their duo, Sketch Show. Kato has only periodically recorded since the band broke up for good, mostly staying out of the limelight. by Bill Haw from nippop

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Sadistic Mika Band - Sadistic Mika Band (1973)/Black Ship (1975)

Sadistic Mika Band - Hot! Menu (1976)

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Kevin Ayers - Odd Ditties (1976)

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Thursday, August 02, 2007