Usually, when I am celebrating ‘birthdays’ at ‘Bananas For Breakfast’, it is either for recordings at a recording studio or the occasional TV appearance (one of which, it occurs to me, I have recently missed). However, today there is a slight exception, giving an opportunity to highlight Valinka’s theatrical work at the Divadlo Rokoko in her early career in the public eye.
28th September 1970, when Valinka was still just eighteen, marked the first stage performance of the Divadlo Rokoko’s production of ‘Pan Pickwick’, based on the Charles Dickens novel, ‘Mr. Pickwick’. In this, Valinka played the role of Márinka, the flower girl.
One of Márinka’s key songs in the production was ‘Dívám se dívám’ (‘I’m looking to watch’), with music by Zdeněk Petr and libretto by Ivo Fischer with Vladimír Raška’s Orchestra providing the instrumental accompaniment. As one finds oneself remarking when considering work from Valinka’s early career it is a performance of astonishing maturity for a teenage Pop Star about to cover a song originally by a novelty Bubblegum Pop act such as Lancelot Link and The Evolution Revolution (‘Dávno nejsem hloupá’).
If one goes to Page 2 in the following album (third photo in the first row, the fourth and fifth in the second row and the first in the third row) one can see some photos of Valinka in the role of Márinka, taken by Vilém Sochůrek – the photographer who captured Valinka’s atmospheric artistry on the cover of ‘Když mě chceš’/’Proč se ti zdá’, both recorded on the final day of the 1960s and her striking beauty and adorable cuteness in the cover shot – and two others from that shoot – that adorned her singles from early 1974 to 1977. Please, also, do not overlook Valinka’s close friend from the Divadlo Rokoko days, Jitka Zelenková, in the role of Emilka, in the second and third photos in the first row and the first in the second row on Page 1 of the album.
‘Láska na dlani’ (‘Love On The Palm Of Your Hand’) and ‘Náhodou’ (‘By Chance’) were both recorded on 24th September 1973 – the former in a duet with Richard Kybic (music by Pavel Skalický and lyrics by Pavel Žák) and the latter solo (music by Jan Hrábek and lyrics by Miroslav Černý), with instrumental accompaniment, in both cases, from Skupina Svatopluka Čecha, so it is a ‘Happy Birthday!’ to those two tracks today.
In the image immediately below, in the background with Valinka, is the Skupina Svatopluka Čecha, who brought their five-month-long recording stint with Valinka at Mozarteum to a close with these two recordings – perhaps one of the most memorable musical collaborations in the history of the Pop Music of Czechoslovakia….if only for the brevity and intensity of it.
Unfortunately, there is still no YouTube video that can be embedded of ‘Náhodou’, but ‘Bananas For Breakfast’ readers may like to take a look at Valinka performing that song in a TV show from the following year at the ‘Valérie Čižmárová: A Life In Pictures’ page of the Blog, where there is also a reference to the aforementioned collaboration with Skupina Svatopluka Čecha.
Today is a double celebration (also marked over on ‘Girls Of The Golden East’) of the forty-sixth ‘birthday’ of the recording – at the studio in Dejvice, Prague – of two records that were based on the orange RCA label Bubblegum Pop output of, variously, The Sweet and Middle Of The Road.
Valinka took on The Sweet’s ‘Co-Co’, as ‘Koko’ while Hana Zagorová – the one who started my journey into the weird and wonderful world of Eastern Bloc female Pop – took on Middle Of The Road’s ‘Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum’, as ‘Pan Tydlitýt a pan Tydlitát’.
This was going to be a more thoroughly-written affair, but I’ve just fully joined the ‘communications revolution’ and have been busy this evening with seeing how my blog looks on a proper smartphone!
I’ll get this out while it’s still the 22nd!
It is a hugely significant date, though, so I at least wanted to mark it.
‘Pán s loutnou’ (‘The Gentleman With The Lute’) – written by Jindrich Brabec and Michael Prostěovský, accompanied by Taneční Orchestr Čs. Rozhlasu (The Czechoslovak Radio Dance Orchestra), under Josef Vobruba, with backing vocals from Jezinky and produced by Miloš Skalka – was recorded forty-six years ago today at the studio at Dejvice, Prague, so it is a ‘Happy Birthday!’ to that track. Here is a performance of it from the programme, ‘Písničky ke kávě’ (‘Songs For Coffee Break’), from 1972 (on an unfortunately unspecified date) on which ‘Koko’ and ‘Dávno nejsem hloupá’ were also performed.
It is notable that – in the more than four-and-a-half years that have elapsed since its publication on YouTube on 6th March 2013 – this has been viewed a grand total of just 318 times, indicating that this is perhaps a forgotten or overlooked title in Valinka’s oeuvre, which is a pity, since, although it was not one of her most spectacular tracks, it is at least a very agreeable offering.
It is also a pity that, thus far, although I am fairly confident that the year of Valinka’s marriage to Doctor Josef Langer was also 1972, I have never been able to pin down an exact date for that either, because I have only this last day spotted that, in two of the stills from that performance (seen below) Valinka can be seen wearing a wedding ring on the third finger of her left hand. If one knew the date of the marriage one would at least be able to say that this performance must have post-dated that.
Over on the new page of the ‘Bananas For Breakfast’ Blog: ‘Valérie Čižmárová: A Life In Pictures’, there is a series of stills from the ever-so-slightly more popular video of Valinka’s performance of ‘Pojď jen dál’ on the TV show, ‘3. program Orchestru Karla Vlacha’ on 28th June 1973 (29,828 views since its publication on 28th September 2009). Considering that there may have been a matter of only a very few months between these two TV appearances there could not be a greater contrast between the still-relatively-innocent girl (it is almost unreal to think of her as an already-married woman) singing a whimsical song about a gentleman with a lute and the made-up and glammed-up goddess demanding why a hesitant suitor can’t pluck up the courage to ask her out.
This must have been an awful (but, in a way, pleasant?) shock to the viewers of ‘3. program Orchestru Karla Vlacha’!
…Which is “Where are the songs/artists/groups that follow?” in the best Czech that I can write at the moment – being now determined to make at least the titles for ‘Bananas For Breakfast’ and ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ Blog posts in Czech, or some other appropriate language – apart from the usual ‘Happy Birthday!’ Blog post titles, marking Valinka’s recording anniversaries in her native language of Hungarian. I will get to doing other things in Hungarian in all good time!
The title is as it is because it has long been a creeping realisation that many of the excellent tunes that Valinka brought to the record-purchasing public of Czechoslovakia via her cover versions of originals from outside the former Eastern Bloc simply passed the record-purchasing public of the UK by. The following very revealing set of shots from ‘The Guinness Book Of Hits Of The 70’s’ (based on the Top 75) demonstrate that the aforementioned creeping realisation is more than just a fanciful impression. It stares one incontrovertibly in the face in black and white – or rather, black and sky blue! – that it is cold, hard truth.
We start with ABBA’s ‘So Long’, covered by Valinka as ‘Jeho laskominy’. Where is it in this (long!) list of ABBA records that entered the Top 75?
The following would go some way towards explaining why I had to go searching to establish the fact that Valinka’s towering Soul offering, ‘Důkaz mi dej’ – that totally blew me away when I first heard it – had been based on an original by The Archies: ‘Who’s Your Baby’. They were a bit more than just ‘Sugar Sugar’! It’s interesting to note, incidentally, one of the composers of the original in which Valinka’s ‘Oči nelžou’ (see below) had its origins, Miki Anthony entering the UK Top 75 for a one-and-only time in a notable year for Valinka, with his own ‘If It Wasn’t For The Reason That I Love You’; just five days before the recordings of ‘Pojď jen dál’ and ‘Sbohem, školní bráno’ (see below).
It is probably a now well-known fact amongst ‘Bananas For Breakfast’ followers that Valinka’s ‘Dávno nejsem hloupá’ is a huge favourite of mine and that this was a cover of Lancelot Link and The Evolution Revolution’s ‘Sha-La Love You’. This group should be somewhere in between Laurie Lingo and The Dipsticks and Liquid Gold. But they are simply not there.
Melanie’s ‘Stop, I Don’t Wanna Hear It Anymore’ was Valinka’s ‘Sbohem, školní bráno’. Here is yet another instance of a glaring omission.
Over on the other side of the record to my personal favourite was Valinka’s cover of Giorgio Moroder’s ‘Looky, Looky’ – her biggest hit, ‘Léta letí’. We here in the UK did not even get a sniff of the tune behind one of the hits of Czechoslovakia’s 1970s.
Perhaps a favourite of Valinka’s later years in the recording studio is the glorious ‘Tikot všech hodin’. There had been no ‘Looky, Looky’ for Giorgio Moroder in the UK Top 75. His muse, Donna Summer, experienced exactly the same fate with her original on which ‘Tikot všech hodin’ was based – ‘Wasted’: a ‘Wasted’ opportunity here in the UK?
Finally, the original behind my first YouTube upload – Valinka’s ‘Oči nelžou’ – was New Zealander, Craig Scott’s ‘When Jo-Jo Runs’. They know all about that tune – and probably, by extension, a little about Craig Scott himself – in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, but we – fellow British Commonwealth nation that we are – are evidently totally and utterly unfamiliar with both, since Craig Scott should be somewhere in between the Scotland World Cup Squad and Sea Level.
Ah! Those Mod Revivalists, Secret Affair! Time was when ‘Time For Action’ was ‘My World’ back in 1979 as a young nouveau Mod and the UK, 1964 was where that ‘Action’ was.
I think, thanks to Valinka, that World has expanded outwards just a little…and all the ‘Action’ has gone Czechoslovakia, 1973 now 😉
At any rate, Capitalist World versus Communist World was a slightly more significant battle ground than Mod versus Rocker 😉 😉
Hot off the ‘Valérie ČIŽMÁROVÁ’ Facebook Group press is the news that Valinka has a new downloadable album out on the ‘Radiotéka’ site of Český rozhlas (Czech Radio), ‘Dívám se, dívám’, (‘I Am Looking, I Am Looking’) consisting of recordings for radio – some at Československý rozhlas Praha (Czechoslovak Radio Prague).
This is very good timing on account of my happening also to have stumbled across details of the architect of the building on Vinohradská just today as well!…
…who was Bohumil Sláma, the building being formally opened on 10th December 1933….
…thanks to a new Facebook Friend sharing a video of a British Pathé newsreel, a still from which is shown below.
It certainly sounds a building with a very turbulent past, especially in between the dates of 5th and 9th May 1945, as Prague moved towards eventual liberation from Nazi occupation, when a huge battle erupted in the surrounding streets between the local population with the assistance of some Czech soldiers and police officers and the occupying forces. The still gives a flavour of the drama of this event.
The sense of personal immediacy is accentuated here by the fact that – in my brief stay in Prague in January this year – I used to pass by this very building every one of the four days I was in the city on the way between my hostel and the city centre. Here is the photo I took for the purposes of comparison with the still above.
I still find it somewhat difficult to believe that one would have to go back to only just over two years ago to find a point in time at which I had not even heard the name, ‘Valérie Čižmárová’ and here I am in the midst of the ‘club’, getting all the inside ‘goss’ and banging out the latest news on her in my Blog and conversing – as best as I can! – in Czech with other members of the ‘club’. Furthermore, don’t forget that, by that time, I also wouldn’t have considered writing a Blog on Female Pop of the former Eastern Bloc.
It is probably a testament to the awesome power of Valinka – not forgetting her fellow ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ – that all this has been possible.
It has, I know, been quite some time since the last ‘Boldog születésnapot!’ for one of Valinka’s recording anniversaries at ‘Bananas For Breakfast’ and I also know that there are several I have missed in the interim – primarily due to the fact that the recording sessions in question did not result in songs that could individually be embedded in a BFB post – but fortunately today, 28th August, is one of those instances where an embedding of both sides of a 45 is possible; in the case of one of the sides, an added significance being that it was the very first YouTube uploading I ever did myself. Furthermore, it is an anniversary exactly on the half-decade – ‘Oči nelžou’ (‘Eyes Don’t Lie’) and ‘Říkáš pořád, jak ti na mně záleží’ (‘You Keep Saying How You Care For Me’) being recorded on this date in 1972 at Mozarteum, Jungmannova, Prague.
The final piece in the jigsaw that makes these two recording anniversaries impossible to ignore is the way in which – on first finding out that Valinka’s recording dates were referenced on Aleš Korábek’s Valérie Čižmárová Fan Site just less than a year ago – I sorted her recording career from the end of the 1960s to the beginning of the 1980s into four distinct phases, based on the school/college I was attending at the time and it rapidly revealed itself to me that the relatively brief time I attended Herbert Strutt School, from September 1972 to July 1974, happened to coincide with what appeared to be Valinka’s most productive period; recording six singles and their flip sides, plus another song, in 1973 alone and recording the tracks for her one and only LP between 1st February and 10th April 1974.
Recently, I attended an event at what is now Strutts Community Centre and there were some old school records left open for inspection in the former Head Teacher’s office. One of these was a series of booklets detailing pupils who departed the school before their appointed time, with details of their destinations. Since the progression of Valinka’s recording career has thrown this period in my life into such sharp relief I had long wanted to establish the exact date I started at Herbert Strutt School. Thanks to the fact that one of my classmates in the academic year 1972 – 1973 departed for another school in the county in May 1973 and was entered in one of those booklets I can now state that the date I started at Herbert Strutt School was…6th September 1972 (the fact that our academic year marked the transition from Herbert Strutt School as a Grammar School to its role as a Middle School meant that the aforementioned entry was one of the very last ones in the very last booklet of the series) meaning that there were nine days between Valinka walking through the magnificent golden doors at Mozarteum to record ‘Oči nelžou’ and ‘Říkáš pořád, jak ti na mně záleží’ and my first walking through the door of Room 8. In the second photo below some records I purchased at Antikvariát MLHA , at the railway station in Aleš Korábek’s home town of Žďár nad Sázavou – the four on the right, with two by Jana Robbová and one each by Petra Černocká and Věra Špinarová – plus two each by Valinka and Jana Kocianová (on the left), ordered on-line, are posed outside my former Room 8, with ‘Oči nelžou’/’Říkáš pořád, jak ti na mně záleží’ just happening to be the one immediately in front of the centre of the doorway.
Although, strictly speaking, I hadn’t actually started at Herbert Strutt School by this recording date I chose to include ‘Oči nelžou’ and ‘Říkáš pořád, jak ti na mně záleží’ in the Herbert Strutt School period rather than the preceding Long Row School period since there seems to be an appreciable step up in maturity as Valinka was beginning to close in on her twenty-first birthday of 29th January 1973 – certainly in the case of ‘Říkáš pořád, jak ti na mně záleží’ – and it was much closer to the end of my Summer Holidays between Long Row and Herbert Strutt than the beginning.
Valinka had – in my Long Row period – been known for a few re-workings of Western Bubblegum Pop classics, such as ‘Looky Looky’ (‘Léta letí’), ‘Sha-La Love You’ (‘Dávno nejsem hloupá’) and ‘Co-Co’ (‘Koko’). ‘Oči nelžou’ is very much in that big, beaty tune vein, being based on Ben Findon and Miki Anthony’s ‘When Jo-Jo Runs’ for the New Zealand star, Craig Scott, with Czech-language lyrics by Vladimír Poštulka. In that way, ‘Oči nelžou’ is one last look back at the ‘Long Row Days’. However, the entirely natively-composed ‘Říkáš pořád, jak ti na mně záleží’, with music by Vladimír Rukavička and lyrics by Petr Markov, is all grown-up mid-tempo Jazzy Soul sophistication and very much looks forward to the apogee of Valinka’s recording career in the ‘Herbert Strutt Days’. As one very often thinks regarding Valinka’s recordings in the early 1970s she sounds markedly older than her real years.
In both cases instrumental accompaniment came from Pavel Vitoch, leading the studio orchestra, with backing vocals from the Lubomír Pánek Singers.
Here is my copy of ‘Oči nelžou’ on my charity shop-bought record player (£20.00!) with supplementary speakers plugged into the phono sockets for a bit more ‘oomph’ to the sound. Not a bad ‘first effort’, if I say so myself!
…and here is the inestimable Hana Blažeková’s video of ‘Říkáš pořád, jak ti na mně záleží’.
I have wondered, on and off, about uploading my own version of ‘Říkáš pořád, jak ti na mně záleží’, being in possession of the actual record, but improving on the party who first woke me up to how Soulful the ladies of Czechoslovakia could be; Valinka, in particular, with ‘Důkaz mi dej’ – via her ‘Top 20 Soul In Czechoslovak Pop Songs (1968-1973)’ compilation – is a tough job!