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The Plastic People of the Universe


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The Plastic People of the Universe Egon Bondy's Happy Hearts Club Banned album cover
3.95 | 35 ratings | 4 reviews | 50% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1978

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. 20
2. Zácpa
3. Toxika
4. Magické noci
5. Metro Goldwyn Mayer
6. Okolo okna
7. Elegie
8. Podivuhodný mandarin
9. Jó, to se ti to spí

Track List of 2001 CD re-issue :

1. Dvacet
2. Zácpa
3. Toxika
4. Magické noci
5. M.G.M.
6. Okolo okna
7. Elegie
8. Podivuhodný mandarin
9. Nikdo
10. Jó-to se ti to spí
11. Já a Mike
12. Ranní ptáče
13. Francovka
14. Jednou nohou
15. Spofa blues
16. Apokalyptickej pták
17. Píseň brance

Line-up / Musicians

- Milan Hlavsa / bass [1-17], vocals [1-8, 11-14, 16-17]
- Josef Janíček / keyboard [1, 2, 4, 6, 8-10, 14], guitar [3, 11, 13], vibraphone [15], vocals [11, 16]
- Jiří Kabes / violin [1-17], vocals [9, 10]
- Vratislav Brabenec / alto saxophone [1, 2, 3, 6, 14, 16, 17]
- Jiří Sula / drums [7, 8, 11, 13]
- Jaroslav Vozniak / drums [1-5, 9, 14-17]
- Vasil Snajdr / flute [15]
- Zdeněk Fiser / theremin [3, 4, 16, 17]

Releases information

France Vinyl LP SCOPA 10001
CD Globus 210212 (2001)

Thanks to clemofnazareth for the addition
and to Joolz for the last updates
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THE PLASTIC PEOPLE OF THE UNIVERSE Egon Bondy's Happy Hearts Club Banned ratings distribution

(35 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(50%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(29%)
Good, but non-essential (9%)
Collectors/fans only (9%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

THE PLASTIC PEOPLE OF THE UNIVERSE Egon Bondy's Happy Hearts Club Banned reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by ClemofNazareth
4 stars ‘Egon Bondy’s Happy Hearts Club Banned’ was the first album actually released for public consumption by the Iron Curtain-restrained Plastic People of the Universe. ‘Ach to státu hanobení’ contains earlier recordings, but to the best of my knowledge that record was never actually released until Globus took a shining to the band’s body of work around the turn of the century.

And from what I’ve read the band didn’t even know this was released at the time. These tracks were mostly recorded surreptitiously in 1974 in Czechoslovakia. But the Plastics were not an officially-sanctioned musical group by the Soviet regime at the time, so actually releasing the record was out of the question. Some friends of the band managed to transport the tapes to France in 1978, where something known as Scopa Invisible Productions released it on vinyl.

I first heard most of these tracks on the ‘1997’ live CD that the band recorded during a triumphant return to Prague after the fall of the Soviet Union. The difference between these early, very primitive recordings and the comparatively more polished 1997 versions is quite striking. The sound quality on these recordings is very uneven, and I suppose would be considered poor at times. And the arrangements, such as they are, take on more of an improvisational tenor most of the time. But that was the modus operandi of the band at that time: they practiced parts, usually individually, in friends apartments or secret locations when they could, and typically only put the pieces together when they found their way onto an occasional stage.

The first track “Dvacet” (or “20”) is a good example. On the 1997 recording this is almost note-for-note the same song, but the inflections of the brass and guitars, as well as the scratchy recording tapes on ‘Egon Bondy’ make this sound more like an eerie soundtrack for a zombie movie.

“Toxika” is another track that sounds like an early, primitive version of the hypnotic, pulsating psych dirge that the band would morph it into by 1997. The tempo is much slower, the strings a bit hesitant, and again the recording quality sucks. But if you’ve heard the finished product from twenty years later, this one has a certain emergent charm that is quite engaging. Same goes for “Magické noci”, another heavy-tempo number that not only got more polished by the time the band emerged from hiding years after the Prague Spring, but also became something of an extended live jam bit. On this album it comes off like a tuning session, but again – it’s very fun to listen to side-by- side with later versions.

“Metro Goldwyn Mayer” is probably the slowest and most restrained thing I’ve ever heard the band do, and the slowly wailing brass must have been totally intoxicating played under the stars at secret festivals while the Soviet fascists patrolled the nearby parks and hang-outs of Prague in the mid-seventies.

The hidden gem here is “Elegie”, a five-minute rendition of a song that was little more than a transition piece in the 1997 concert. Here it gets a full treatment of percussion, brass, and a seductively lively bass line. Frank Zappa would have been suitably impressed (and he probably was, as I’m quite sure he had occasion to spin this record a few times back in the day).

And finally there’s “Jó, to se ti to spí”, a kind of folkish, silly ditty that closes this record just as it closed the 1997 concert. It’s amazing to me that these guys were able to process all the sh!t they had to endure to be able to make music behind the Iron Curtain, yet were still able to pull off a silly little light-hearted jaunt like this one to send a satisfied audience back into their dark lives.

There’s a CD reissue of this record that was released in the early 21st-century that has a bunch of other tracks on it, most of which I’ve never heard. Not sure where they come from. But this version is a true classic for anyone who cherishes music with lots of heart, soul, and hope, and is probably my favorite Plastic People of the Universe recording. Highly recommended to music history buffs, Zappa fans, and those who enjoy something really different from time to time. Four stars.


Review by Mellotron Storm
5 stars It's really worth it to check out the history of this band and to read what they went through for the sake of playing the music they loved. They were jailed to be made an example of for playing live and they were never allowed to record their music, although recordings were smuggled out the country.They really are folk heroes in the Czech Republic for standing up to the communist regime. When communism fell the new President Vaclav Havel invited them to play a concert. How the times had changed. They named themselves in part from a Zappa tune called "Plastic People".They were big fans of his style of play including the humour. I would describe the music here as having this relentless and catchy drum / bass beat/rhythm that often reminds me of CAN. The difference is the often dissonant sax, guitar and violin that plays over top. Vocals are rough and almost spoken in their own language, but it fits the style of music perfectly. I love the cover picture that includes Czech poet Egon Bondy who's words are used throughout this album, he himself had his poems and writings banned by the communist government back then too.

"Twenty" features sax and violin with slowly sung lyrics. Crazy sax before 1 1/2 minutes. "Constipation" has this eerie intro as a rhythm comes in followed by vocals. It picks up before 3 minutes then settles again as sax joins in and rips it up. Amazing ! The vocals are back 7 1/2 minutes. "Toxic Chemicals" has a good rhythm with vocals.The guitar is making some noise after 1 1/2 minutes as the rhythm continues with violin. So good ! "Magical Nights" opens with loud percussion as spacey sounds join in. A change after 1 1/2 minutes as it picks up with vocals. Violin comes in screeching before 2 1/2 minutes. Love this stuff. "M.G.M." has these theatrical vocal expressions and some banging sounds. "Around The Window" opens with bass and percussion as sax comes in screaming. Almost spoken vocals before 3 minutes.The sax is back so loud it echoes.Vocals are back late and the violin ends it. "Elegy" features violin which is joined by a heavy beat then vocals.

"The Wondrous Mandarin" has this crazy rhythm as violin plays over top. Vocals join in. "Nobody" has this great sounding rhythm and it kicks in quickly. Vocals before a minute. The violin starts making noise in the background. "Oh Yeah- How Nicely You Sleep" has clapping, piano and vocals early on. Funny stuff. This is hilarious. Snoring ends it. "Me And Mike" is raw sounding and dissonant.Vocals join in, sax late. "Early Bird" sounds so good with the guitar,violin and vocals. "Fancovka" is catchy with vocals, a beat and guitar. Violin later. The sax is killer. "By One Foot" has a beat with violin and sax playing over top. Nice. "Sofa Blues" has a beat with spoken words. It gets fuller. So incredible. "Apocalyptic Bird" opens with spoken words then it kicks in. Vocals follow, and the sax a minute later is dissonant. Amazing stuff. Check out the slicing violin too. "Conscript's Song" ends it in style. Spoken words as percussion then therimin that is possessed joins in. A beat with violin follows then vocals 2 minutes in as he spits out the words.The tempo picks up a minute later. It then settles back as some themes are repeated.

Without a doubt one of the better Rio / Avant albums i've heard. It's so appealing with that beat and rhythm that i'm consantly tapping my foot or some part of my body, and yet it's also very Avant-garde with those insane horns and violins. Essential listening.

Review by Dobermensch
2 stars 'Plastic People of the Universe's' history reveals nightmare upon misery in Communist ruled Czechoslovakia. It's a real shame what these guys went through with their vile repressors hanging over their shoulders at every turn. Such a pity then that this is such a forgettable album. The production values are decrepit and the actual execution and planning is poor. Although in saying this, there's a lot of varied instrumentation at work throughout.

Screeching strings, wailing guitars and alarmed paranoid vocals are at the forefront. Admittedly, there's a real tension felt in this recording, as though they're playing at gunpoint in fear of their lives. Hence the problem within...

'Egon bondy;s Happy Hearts Club' is a lesson in freedom after-all. These guys clearly were ill at ease on this recording. It sounds like a bunch of lads playing in a locked up garage waiting for a bust by the authorities.

There is some nice heavily treated saxophone on "Nikdo' which flutter about like canaries in a cage as bass player 'Milan Hlavsa' looks nervously over his shoulder and whispers some Czech mutterings.

Supposedly this is their best offering. Thankfully it's the only one I bought (Second hand mercifully). Maybe if I understood the language it might have made more sense. Particularly on the humorous 'Jo- to se ti to spi' which has a lot of comedy vocal treatments.

Two stars is probably a bit harsh as it does have certain moments of darkness and originality. The background to the band themselves is far more intriguing than their music.

At the end of the day I can't help but come back to the fact that it sounds awfully tinny and poorly recorded which will always be it's major downfall with me.

Latest members reviews

5 stars They are included in the book ''UNSUNG HEROES ''written by Richie Utterberger,there are so many articles about Tha Plastic people of The Universe and all of them are true,not very many talk about the music,it makes me wondering,why?Perhaps because their story was so much stronger then music?You c ... (read more)

Report this review (#293497) | Posted by zappadaddy | Thursday, August 5, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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