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In the green memory

Hammel, Varga & Hladík – V zelenej pamäti
from album “Na II. programe sna”, 1977, Opus 91160493
HammelPavol_Na2ProgrameSna_a_128 HammelPavol_Na2ProgrameSna_b_128
original LP sleeve (front/back)
Despite its name, this blog is not only about Czech music. When I started with the writing last year I simply didn’t find any elegant way to include the Slovaks directly into the title – although a blog called e.g. Funky Slow Vac would have surely promised some quite funny content… :) So I hope my Slovak readers or fans of Slovak music are not offended when I’m not bringing more of their favorite stuff. I began to dive more deeply into the matter only a few years ago and there has existed probably more Slovak funkiness than I’ll ever know.
One of my favorite Slovak artists of the 1970s is Pavol Hammel (1948), also known as the leader of Prúdy (The Jets), whom he founded as early as in 1963. In the late 60s and early 70s they were one of the top beat groups and Hammel became one of the busiest songwriters in the country. In fact, he was probably the most important figure on the rock side of pop music in Slovakia of the 1970s when “rock” was considered an evil word. Hammel recorded a couple of well received albums. Among them were the hippiesque Prúdy debut Zvonky zvonte (Ring Bells Ring) which holds the unofficial title “Slovak Sgt. Pepper”, the conceptual fairy-tale Šlehačková princezna (The Cream Princess), the successful pop album Hráč (The Player), or the more progressive Zelená pošta (The Green Mail) and Na II. programe sna (On The 2nd Channel Of A Dream).
The latter two LPs were recorded in collaboration with organist Marián Varga, yet another legend of Slovak rock, who used to be one of the early Prúdy members and who also played on their debut. In the seventies he gained international fame with his classical-rock combo Collegium Musicum. Another special guest was the Blue Effect leader Radim Hladík on guitar, thus both records were actually released as a Hammel/Varga/Hladík “supergroup”. And while Zelená pošta from 1972 sounded more like a Varga concept album, Na II. programe sna consists of 13 short and compact songs in a more typical Hammel manner. Nonetheless, both records can be stylistically positioned somewhere between Gentle Giant, ELP and – of course – Collegium Musicum.
V zelenej pamäti (In The Green Memory) seems to be quite a unique track in Hammel’s discography however – and for that matter also in Varga’s or Hladík’s one. I’m not aware of any other Hammel song with such strong latin rock influences. (And in fact, as far as I know, the only other Czechoslovak rock band who recorded a couple of latin rock songs in the 1970s were the František Ringo Čech Group featuring Jiří Schelinger with two pretty straight Santana cover versions. Soon to appear on Funky Czech-In, by the way!) So, this tune was cross-over world music before there even was world music: the East meets the West and the South; Slavic folk inspired melodies with a contemporary Chicano groove.
Besides Hammel, Varga and Hladík, among the featured musicians on the record were the Collegium Musicum drummer Dušan Hájek, the Prúdy bassist Ivan Belák or guitarist Tomáš Rédey. The special guest on this track only was Fedor Letňan on the Fender Rhodes piano who’s adding a lot to the song’s overall latinesque touch. The album lyrics have been written exclusively by one of the most popular Slovak lyricists, Kamil Peteraj.
Like many other Hammel or Varga albums, Na II. programe sna remains quite popular until these days and therefore it’s available on CD (a double CD with Zelená pošta). As for vinyl, you already know the usual sources

Posted in Funky Czech-In

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6 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    Thanks for your article, I really love Collegium Musicum and Pavol Hammel’s music!

    Would you please tell me what are the lyrics on “Na II. Programe Sna” about?
    Is it a concept album?

  2. Lou Kash

    Hello “Anonymous”, thanks for asking. Well, I’ll have to listen to it more carefully some time to tell you what it’s all about. But there seems to be a concept. The “2nd channel” refers to Czechoslovak television broadcast, where both the Czech and the Slovak TV consisted of the “1st” and “2nd Channel” each. They were officially simply called “I. program” and “II. program”, thus the reference was at that time obvious.

    Regarding this particular song, I’m not very good at interpreting and explaining poetry – which is what this text seems to be. The guy talks to a lady, he seems to be scared and wants her to be “the other way round”. Or something like that… I’m not sure what “green memory” is referencing to. It might have a connection to military service. For example, the older album title “Zelená pošta” (The Green Mail) hints at postal mail being sent to guys serving in the army as that expression was commonly used in that context.

  3. Anonymous

    Many thanks for your answer.

    I actually wrote an article about Collegium Musicum (in Italian sorry) and I hope I didn’t make big mistakes since I do not speak Czech nor Slovak :-) However I hope it will be useful to introduce their music to Italian people.
    Now I’m trying to write another article about Modry Efekt: you have very interesting music there :-)

    Here you can find the link to the article
    http://www.arlequins.it/pagine/articoli/corporetro.asp?chi=50

    Thanks again
    Jessica

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