Monday, January 15, 2007

Important Music

The Plastic People of the Universe - Egon Bondy's Happy Hearts Club Banned

Lots of bands like to think that they are doing something important. Few are. This one did.

The Plastic People formed right after Prague Spring, when the USSR troops came in and clamped down on all that messy freedom stuff. These guys paid the price over the years as Czech society became more repressive. Many of them went to jail.

This is the first document of their existence to be smuggled out to the Western world. It is thought to have been recorded around 73 or 74, but it wasn't released until 1978. As a political statement, it really can't be topped. As a purely musical expression, it's really good.

The PPU were clearly influenced by the Mothers and the Fugs and the Velvets, which is a great palate to work from. The Eastern European touches, especially in the modes that they use, give it a real unique flavor. The translated lyrics make it clear that they were pretty crass and pretty funny. I included the translated title names to give readers a feel for this.

The PPU were part of a group of artists, rabblerousers, and intellectuals that included Vaclav Havel. This group of people was responsible for a big part of a larger movement that helped to bring down the Soviet Empire. Let's see Bono top that.

This is another item from that NWW list of rare and weird recordings. I'll try to get another one or two of those up here this week. Burned from vinyl, and the recording source probably wasn't so hot to begin with, so the sound ain't super purdy. But the best stuff rarely is.


Bishop said...

I'm a yank living in Prague and can tell you most of PPU's stuff has been issued on CD and can be had relatively cheap - I'll try to track this one down for you, if you'd like.

I have Trouble Every Day (mostly VU covers, recorded when they were fronted by Brit Paul Wilson, and alas pretty unlistenable), Jak Bude Po Smrti (which I think means How it will be unto death), music for texts by poet Ladislav Klima recorded in '79 (I saw a recreation of this show, with Agon Orchestra, a few years ago), and Passion Play, a recreation (also with Agon Orchestra) of a '78 concert originally performed at Vaclav Havel's house.

They're playing for the first time in England this week - check out the article in the Independent:

Eric said...

Great to hear this - I'd heard a similar quality recording in the 90's but my interest has been renewed since seeing Tom Stoppard's Rock and Roll in London last summer - The deeds of the PPU play quite a central role in the play.

Thanks for this. Wish i was able to get to london to see them.

Tomas said...

all the stuff from PPU was reissued on CD's, recently even by Levne knihy publishers (Cheap books publishers), where you can get 1 cd for 2 euro (but without lyrics and editor notes in booklet). the first album (Eon Bondy's...) is good and important but I more appreciate Hovezi porazka or Pulnocni mys which are later work of PPU and influenced by minimalsm and contemporary classics...

I know quiet a lot about them because I wrote my thesis about Ivan Martin Jirous's poetry who was their art chief and guru of the Czech underground subculture during 70'and 80'.