The wider context surrounding BFB: Why I am a ‘Valinker’ (Plus Links)

Since January 2016 I have been running a Blog entitled ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ devoted to the subject of Female and Female-led Pop Music coming out of the Former Eastern Bloc in a period running from the latter stages of the 1960s to the beginning of the 1980s, ending up concentrating especially on the early to mid-1970s – with a long introduction made up of partially redacted E-Mails (mostly sent to my older brother) that I wrote in between the end of May 2015…

…when I first started really digging into the world, on YouTube in particular and the Web in general, that was to become ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ that I had initially glimpsed via Hana Zagorová’s cover of Middle Of The Road’s ‘Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum’, ‘Pan Tydlitýt a pan Tydlitát’ (‘Mr. Tydlitýt And Mr. Tydlitát’), of which I had been aware on YouTube for two or three years, but it was only an off-the-cuff remark by a careers advisor at that time that the future of careers using Modern Foreign Languages lay in the languages of Eastern Europe that suddenly brought my thoughts back to Hana Zagorová (that I initially pronounced to myself as ‘Za-guh-ROH-vuh’, before I knew better about how Czech and Slovak female surnames should be stressed!)…

…and the time around my first-ever visit, in early March 2016, to a part of the Former Eastern Bloc (Slovakia) that wasn’t the former German Democratic Republic. This was with the intention to attend a concert in Petržalka, Bratislava, as part of the events marking forty years since the tragically early passing of Eva Kostolányiová (through which I unfortunately slept in my hotel room as a result of underestimating how physically shattered I would be after an overnight sailing and another overnight rail journey!) with the additional bonus of the prospect of visiting the birthplace of Valérie Čižmárová, Michalovce.

Although Hana Zagorová had been my ‘entry point’ into this hitherto completely unknown world, amongst all the to me exotic-sounding names that I encountered in my initial period of discovery running, on and off, through the Summer of 2015 to early 2016, it was Valérie Čižmárová that was ‘the one’ who – towards the end of August 2015 – really leapt out at me via the following: her photo on the Discogs site, the discovery, in very short order, that she originated from such a remote place as Michalovce, in the then-unexplored Slovak part of the former Czechoslovakia, had sadly passed away at just fifty-three and had apparently just released one LP, with some of the most astounding photography of young womankind I had ever encountered on the front and rear covers, taken by the very fortunate Vladivoj Burjanek.


Within a matter of two-and-a-half months I finally took the plunge and ordered a copy of the LP on-line, thus opening my account of tracking down the vinyl that the record industry of the Former Eastern Bloc turned out. I had checked out a few of Valérie Čižmárová’s material out there on YouTube – most notably her covers of Boney M’s ‘Belfast’, under the same title as the original and of The Sweet’s ‘Co-Co’, with the title slightly modified to ‘Koko’, which was also included in the medley of ‘oldies’ on the first track of the LP, that I had also checked out on YouTube, but the rest of the LP arrived with my knowing nothing of how this stunning-looking young lady might sound on vinyl, so one can well imagine my reaction when I heard this for the very first time – the one and only ‘Koňskou dráhou’, which I subsequently discovered meant ‘On The Horse Tram’.

‘Bananas For Breakfast’ readers will need to know here that I am enthusiast – amongst a whole raft of apparently mutually contradictory genres – for what is known as Northern Soul – danceable music based on the music of Tamla Motown and everything that was influenced by that, that has historically had a very strong presence in the clubs of the Northern half of Britain, where I live, hence the name. I thought, “you know what…you could dance Northern Soul-style to that hook line. It’s sensational!”… and the discovery that the composers of the tune were native and that this was no cover of Western material – Vítězslav Hádl and Ladislav Pikart – added to that sense of wonder at what Eastern Bloc Pop Music could produce without any prompting from the West. Regarding the lyrics, by Petr Markov – here translated by IMTranslator, with suitable modifications to make better sense of them – I think it can be detected that the Eastern Bloc was no different from the West at the time of the recording of the track (6th March 1974) in that feeling of nostalgia for the ‘olden days’ that seemed to descend on the World.

Jedu městem tramvají jak v divokých snech
Auta kolem houkají a kdekdo má spěch
Město známé kouzlem svým
Souží rámus, smog a dým

I’m going to the city by tram in wild dreams
Cars honk their horns around me and everybody is rushing
A city known for its magic spell
Pesters with noise, smog and smoke

Kde je něžná poezie prastarých míst
Dnes už o ní jenom v knihách můžeme číst
Město známé kouzlem svým
Souží rámus, smog a dým

Where is the gentle poetry of ancient places
Only read about in books today
A city known for its magic spell
Pesters with noise, smog and smoke

Koňskou dráhou toužím jet
A mít bílý klobouk do očí
Koňskou dráhou zašlých let
Kde můj děda býval průvodčím
Koňskou dráhou šťastných dní
Kdy pan Kašpar hlásil – poletím
Koňskou dráhou parádní
Slavně vítat konec století a snít

I long to go on the horse tram
And wear a white hat over my eyes
On the horse tram, bygone years
When my grandfather used to crew
On the horse tram, happy days
When Mr. Kašpar reported – I will fly
On the horse tram, wonderful
Gloriously welcomed the end of the century and to dream

Po chodnících proudí lidí neklidný proud
V přeplněných tramvajích se není kam hnout
Město známé kouzlem svým
Souží rámus, smog a dým
Kde jsou kola nejistá a slamáčky dam
Čas, kdy pojem turista byl nepříliš znám
Město známé kouzlem svým
Souží rámus, smog a dým

On the pavements a torrent of people flows
In the crowded trams there is nowhere to move
A city known for its magic spell
Pesters with noise, smog and smoke
Where the wheels are uncertain and slamáčky dam (this bit didn’t automatically translate!)
The time when the concept of a tourist was not too well-known
A city known for its magic spell
Pesters with noise, smog and smoke

Koňskou dráhou toužím jet
A mít bílý klobouk do očí…

I long to go on the horse tram
And wear a white hat over my eyes. . .

I had also, via YouTube, been aware, in the Summer of 2015, of Valérie Čižmárová’s brief interview with the Presenter, Eduard Pergner, on the talent show, ‘Talent 68’, but it was only in January 2016, when I caught up on the Czech TV site on the documentary on Valérie Čižmárová’s life and work, ‘Příběhy slavných – Léta letí’ (‘Stories Of Fame – Time Flies’) that it was revealed to me that what she was singing on that show was a version of The Kinks’ ‘Sunny Afternoon’, which utterly flabbergasted me. However, it was only in the Summer of 2016, when I’d attended an event at my local cathedral in Derby celebrating fifty years since England won the World Cup, at which ‘Sunny Afternoon’ had been played as part of the ‘mood music’, that, inspired by that, I took another look at ‘Příběhy slavných – Léta letí’ and accidentally turned on the Czech subtitles that it was further revealed to me that (a) she grew up speaking Hungarian in her early years, not Slovak, as I’d imagined (an education in itself on minorities in the former Czechoslovakia) and that (b) amongst her lyrics for what turned out to be entitled ‘Slunný podnebí’ (‘Sunny Weather’), she replaced Ray Davies’ sentiments of a man losing everything after an acrimonious split with his girlfriend with a teenage girl dreaming – on a cold Winter’s day, frantically trying to warm herself up with hot cups of tea – of ‘breakfasting on a kilo of bananas’ on a ‘hot beach’ – thereby chiming with The Mamas & The Papas’ ‘California Dreamin” – hence the title for this Blog….

…which is intended to be the first UK-based Fan Blog of Valérie Čižmárová, to complement Aleš Korábek’s Valérie Čižmárová Fan Site – the man of whom I first became aware thanks to the aforementioned documentary – and the ‘Valérie ČIŽMÁROVÁ’ Facebook Group.

Given that the title of this Blog includes the name of a fruit closely associated with primates it is perhaps fitting that what emerged as an all-time favourite, as time went by on since my initial Valérie Čižmárová-related discoveries – and it took until well into the Summer of 2016 to do so – was, despite (a) the aforementioned sense of wonder at what the Eastern Bloc could produce all of its own accord and (b) the song in question not having been recorded in what transpired to be her ‘Glory Year’ of 1973, her cover version (‘Dávno nejsem hloupá’ – ‘I Haven’t Been Crazy For A Long Time’ – recorded on 5th December 1970 – the year she’d only turned eighteen) of a song composed by Harvey Price and Daniel Walsh (‘Sha-La Love You’) improbably for the novelty Bubblegum Pop act of ‘chimpanzees’ played by session musicians, Lancelot Link and The Evolution Revolution. If ever there were any proof that the tired, old, lazy assumption that the Eastern Bloc Pop of that era (if it even existed!) must have involved shabby, poor-quality substitutes of Western originals was so wide of the mark it was untrue, ‘Dávno nejsem hloupá’ is it. This utterly charming performance of ‘Dávno nejsem hloupá’ comes from the 1972 TV show, ‘Písničky ke kávě’ (‘Songs For Coffee Break’). The moment, at the beginning of the song, when Valérie Čižmárová turns to face the camera with a slight smile is one that will live long in the memory and one that would melt even the hardest of hearts.

Here is that moment frozen in time.


The one bug is that my Czech is not yet quite up to keeping up with Mirek Černý’s lyrics in real time and there is nowhere on the Web where they are written down, so any ‘Bananas For Breakfast’ readers ‘out there’ who have access to those lyrics?

As an addendum to the aforementioned Personal All-Time No. 1, while, once again, we are not dealing with Valérie Čižmárová’s ‘Glory Year’ of 1973, I think that the sound-making talents of Vladimír Rukavička on composition duties, Pavel Vitoch’s studio orchestra, Sbor Lubomíra Pánka (The Lubomír Pánek Singers) and last, but by no means least, Valérie Čižmárová herself make her 28th August 1972-recorded ‘Říkáš pořád, jak ti na mně záleží’ (‘You Always Say How Much You Care For Me’) as cool as ‘cool’ can be – therefore, my new Personal All-Time No. 1.

Furthermore, along with ‘Oči nelžou’ (‘Eyes Don’t Lie’), ‘Říkáš pořád, jak ti na mně záleží’ was the first of Valérie Čižmárová’s recording sessions at the Jan Kotěra-designed architectural masterpiece that is Mozarteum, where Valérie Čižmárová would go on to record, with Skupina Svatopluka Čecha (The Svatopluk Čech Group), the majority of her classic 1973 singles, making that day in Late August 1972 a particularly noteworthy one in the recording career of Valérie Čižmárová. I made a pilgrimage to Mozarteum when I was visiting the Czech Republic in January 2017. Here is one of the photos I took of the building.


‘Bananas For Breakfast’ will run concurrently with ‘Girls Of The Golden East’, since I have long felt uncomfortable that so much of ‘Girls Of The Golden East’ has been devoted to Valérie Čižmárová….or, to use the more familiar form of her name, as she is affectionately known, Valinka.

So, if you are a ‘Valinker’, as I’d like to coin as the name for a Fan of Valinka, welcome and if you are not, you probably soon will be!

Valinka had a special, ‘chart-topping’ presence at an article I wrote for the ‘Englishman In Slovakia’ Blog. Here is, linked below, the original full text that I compiled for that article.