Friday, January 15, 2010

Hungarian Classic Rock

After the 1956 revolution in Hungary was crushed by Soviet tanks, the communist government under Janos Kadar did its best to implement "goulash communism", in which consumer amenities and some cultural freedom sweetened the bitterness of freedom lost.Limited private enterprise was allowed for small businesses with only a few employees.

The rock scene was very advanced. Lokomotiv GT, Kati Kovac, Omega, Bikini and Illes were among a multitude of rock groups that were allowed wide latitude in stylistic matters. as long as one did not go too far with the lyrics, state micromanagement of music was seen as counterproductive

By contrast, Czechoslovakia was far more restrictive. When I was there in November of 1973, I asked for East German and Hungarian rock music in a record store. They told me that such fare was only occasionally available during the Christmas season. Although they did allow some American music, ( I remember catching the Supremes on a radio program near Bratislava) they kept a pretty tight lid on things. Poland, East Germany and Hungary were the best places for rock music that was as good as anything in the US.

The Soviets had an interesting way of satisfying the appetite for American pop music. Dean Reed was an American pop singer who got into the top 40 with a few singles in the late 50's. After traveling to Latin America and achieving some success and evolving politically towards a leftist ideology. In 1973, he moved to East Germany, and became a pop icon in the former Soviet Union, combining American music with a political message that was compatible with the communist regimes of the East Bloc.

Dean Reed was more interesting psychologically than he was musically. A movie was made of his life called "Red Elvis".

My personal fondness for music in the East Bloc is for music performed by local bands in local languages. Years after the fall of communism, this music is getting belated appreciation, much as American classic rock is recognised by a new generation.

I hope my readers will check out Omega and Illes, samples of which I have provided with this posting. Even without an understanding of the lyrics, it remains top notch music.

Illes, Hungarian band

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