Olympic — “Dědečkův Duch”/”Grandpa’s Ghost”: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — May 19, 2023


831) Olympic — “Dědečkův Duch”/”Grandpa’s Ghost”

How do the Czechs mate? They turn up Olympic! Dad, enough with the dad jokes! Sorry. The great and pioneering Czech band (see #635)— going strong after 60 years! — gives us this great beat number about (I think) a guy who is desperate for a strong drink but the ghost of his alcoholic grandfather won’t let him have one! It is off Olympic’s first album, 68’s Želva (The Turtle), which was “the first rock LP record published in Czechoslovakia. . . . strongly influenced by waves of mersey-sound, garage and psychedelic rock”. (Peter Markovski, https://www.psychedelicbabymag.com/2016/09/1960s-1970s-psychedelia-in.html)

Pavla Horáková tells us:

The band got together in 1963 and started as a backing group, playing with pop singers at the Semafor theatre where many famous Czech musicians and singers began their careers. In the days when Beatlemania was in full swing around the world, Olympic realised they could do without outside singers and guitarist Petr Janda became the band’s leader and singer. Soon their first hit was born, called “Dej mi vic sve lasky” or “Give Me More Love” . . . . [Želva’s] songs mostly featured slightly awkward lyrics and charming Beatles-like melodies. The Soviet-led occupation of Czechoslovakia found the band on holiday in France. Immediately a lot of offers came their way chances to record albums and tour in the West. But the guys decided to return home. A year later, another album was out.


Luká Machata adds:

Olympic were given their name in 1963 while they were regularly performing at one of the “hippest” venues in Prague of that time, the music club Olympik. . . . Since the late 1950s they had been playing in legendary rock’n’roll groups . . . . [T]he actual launch of their unprecedented professional career was November 11, 1963 when Olympic debuted as the house band for the first rock’n’roll musical “Ondrá? podotýká” at the renowned Semafor Theatre. This early line-up comprised about seven musicians, including a saxophonist. In the spring of 1964 Olympic entered the Supraphon recording studios for the first time, and they instantly made Czech music history again. The resulting “big beat” series of 7″ singles was released in collaboration with the popular Mladý svet (trans. Young World) magazine, with Olympic backing top Czech vocalists on four records out of five, including Eva Pilarová and Karel Gott. Olympic initially continued to work for Supraphon as a backing band on several singles whenever the fashionable rock backbeat was required. Yet for themselves they had chosen another pioneering path: instead of slavishly performing cover versions of Western hits like the majority of other Czech beat groups, they began to write and sing their own songs with Czech lyrics. In 1967, the group was offered to record the first-ever Czechoslovak profile beat album. The recording sessions took place between January and October 1967, and the LP was released in early 1968. The second Supraphon album, Pták Rosomák (trans. The Bird Wolverine), was recorded in December 1968 and January 1969. Apart from loads of hip psychedelia, it also included earlier hits . . . . and again it was an enormous success on the domestic market. . . . The band revisited France to work on a new record but it was eventually cancelled . . . . After considering emigration at first, Olympic returned to Prague in August 1969, in spite of the cheerless political situation. Since they weren’t a band with many “offending” messages or with an overly rebellious attitude, the communist censors let them carry on. “Kufr” was a hit in late 1969, and even bigger hits followed in 1970 in the form of more pop-oriented songs. Jedeme, jedeme (trans. “Riding On, Riding On”) was their third album for Supraphon, recorded in September 1970. It contained fresh versions of several songs originally written for the previously-cancelled French LP, and it shows a slight shift towards progressive rock.


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