Sunday, May 31, 2009

Czech and Slovak Rock

When a couple you know gets divorced, there is an uncomfortable period of adjustment. She reassumes her maiden name and each of them start batting their eyes at new "significant others." My pro forma response when hearing of such decouplings is usually to say "What a pity. Sorry it didn't work out." It is truly rare for me to congratulate someone who has informed me of his or her divorce. The spouse of a control freak and wife beater would be a notable exception. There are small clubs and support groups dotting New York City named after certain legendary serial spouses. But I am not speaking of such exceptional individuals. Marriage is serious business. Divorce should be a last resort. I know many children of divorce, including my own mother. It should be a last resort.

One divorce that still troubles me is not of a human couple but of a country. To this day, I do not understand why the Czechs and Slovaks could not have worked out their differences. From 1918 until 1992, they enjoyed a hyphenated common identity, with the exception of World War Two. They have different languages which are so close as to be mutually intelligible. The Czechs had a bit of a condescending attitude to the Slovaks. I used to know Czechs who spoke of the Slovaks as though they were country bumpkins. Some of the best 60's Czech rock came from Slovakia. They have some cities well worth visiting and some great music. So I really don't see any reason to be snooty.

I am a big fan of Czech music. Even the tame, officially sanctioned music of the communist era is good after some slivovitz. As much as I admire Vaclav Havel, the imprisoned dissident who was the first post communist President of Czechoslovakia, I do not share his fondness for the famous Czech band "Plastic People of the Universe". To me they are like very dry wine. Pretending to like them demands more acting skills than I have.

My favourite bands of the divorced Republic of Czechoslovakia are Divokej Bill from the Czech Republic. They are considered punk and new wave with a dash of folk. They derive their name from Willd Bill Hickok of American wild west fame. They are good with slivowitz, Czech Pilsner or just plain.

The Slovaks had a flowering of great bands in the 1960's. One of them, the Beatmen actually sang in English and became a brief European sensation. They sound a lot like early Beatles. I wish there could be American top hits in Slovak or Albanian. Since Slovaks and Albanians listen to plenty of English language music, it seems only fitting to return the courtesy. Unfortunately, such cultural reciprocity is a feature of this web site that does not yet characterise the American cultural mainstream.

I am including with this posting songs by Divokej Bill and also a song by the Beatmen. Google and Youtube will provide additional resources for those who are curious. I hope my readers will check them out. (No pun intended.) Sphere: Related Content

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