utorok 8. decembra 2009

Hungarian punk/wave articles + music

I mentioned this interesting blog before, but I would like to do it once more time: http://nomorevictim.blogspot.com/
And I took this two articles from this blog, cos it seems interesant to me.

Here are articles from:
The New Musical Express on the Budapest scene (1981)

Chris Bohn: Hungarian Rhapsody and other Magyar Melodies
(17th January, 1981)


This is Beatrice's first concert in the city for three months.

Finally allowed in, we're confronted by the strange sight of a raggedy fourpiece all pushing 30; curly, rattish hair falling to their shoulders, balding heads and gringo moustaches seem defiantly at odds with their status as most popular punk band in Hungary.

But it's their music and not their looks that has won them their reputation. For some, their unlikely alloy of pogo, boogie and homespun folk melodies is akin to voting punk by proxy, but to most of this audience they're loved in their own right. Then, they do work hard at getting a healthy response with a series of clappalongtunes that are closer to Slade's community chants than Sham's earthier terrace rants.

They also know the value of a gimmick and theirs is the red polka dot neckerchiefs tied to their wrists or around their throats, and most everyone in the predominantly pre-20s crowd has at least one. The kids are really enjoying themselves, responding eagerly to Beatrice's all-join-in invitations. In between numbers, some yell for Sex Pistol songs, but the most consistent chant goes, "RA-MONES, RA-MONES!"

The band tease them for a while by ignoring the requests before finally appeasing their appetite for blitzkrieg bopping.


Beatrice would hardly rattle the walls here with their luke-warm brand of "real" socialist realism, but their hard work earned them a large following and it's this that worries the authorities. Indeed their reputation goes beyond Hungary's borders into Poland and East Germany.

But as singer Nagy [Feró] points out, "Hungary is possibly the only conceivable country in Eastern Europe where a band like us could play overground - even if they won't publish our words. We wouldn't have survived anywhere else making social criticisms of certain parts of society."

(That's not strictly true. Reports from Poland are promising. I've heard about countless new wave bands, themselves a development from garage punk bands from Gdansk and Warsaw.)

Their popularity tied with their survival has aroused suspicions of compromise reached with the authorities, but one associate of the group refutes the allegation with the astute observation that they simply sidestepped the need to go underground.

"Some of the bands want to be underground", he says. "But Beatrice just continued to play in public places for kids and now they are maybe too popular to ban, as the authorities don't want any martyrs around. If they had the chance, they wouldn't have let them play to begin with."

The band calmly refute any allegations of compromise.

"We once refused the chance to record an album, even though there's great demand for one", says Nagy. "But they pinpointed six of our songs as unaccaptable, so we took a step backwards and refused to make it."

Though they've been playing for ten years, they only realy took off three years ago, when their music became more punk orientated.


At best Beatrice's music is great fun, but the music gets better the deeper you dig. And the more underground groups you talk to, the more often the name of Spions crops up. Their leader Gergely Molnár fled to Paris just ahead of the authorities in April '78, where I find him on my way home. His post-Hungarian period history is fascinating enough in itself, but for the present we'll confine ourselves to his influence on Budapest's underground of today.

A composed and self-assured individual, he speaks English with an engaging Jacques Cousteau accent as he expresses a reluctance to discuss his past.

"Hungary is over for me", he says, dismissing my discussion of his flight. "It's better that you talk to the people who are still there."

I did. They all bring up your name. Why? Well, simply because before he threw himself into the shortlived venture of Spions, he lectured students on the likes of Bowie and - later - punk. A keen follower of McLarens's situationist comedies, he decided to stage a few himself in Budapest, choosing the swastika as the most potent symbol to upset established moral standards. It was a considerably more reckless step in Hungary than here, bearing in mind their past (fighting on Hitler's side) and present (under Soviet influence) positions. The concerts were challenging experiences, incorporating dance and music, using as themes subjects like Anne Frank's relationship to her killer.

He chose punk as a violent form of address, he says, "Because there was no way out of the closed intellectual circle I was in at the time. I used to lecture on music because I thought people really needed it, but I don't know now - I just look back on that whole period as some kind of madness."

He continues: "I wanted to make my concerts impossibly difficult to follow so I brought together themes like Nazism, Baader-Meinhof and the Russians, making them an emblem to represent them all - it was some kind of espionage."

Amoral, to say the least, his dangerous juggling of fascism and bolshevism might seem ill-advised, but he contends it had nothing to do with political convictions. It was all part of a mind cleansing process to rid himself of a "baseless Russian education."


He continued the cleansing process for a while in Paris, from where he sensibly decided not to return three years ago. However the impact of his daring performances - not his politics - is still felt today.

One night at a party a group called Balaton (named after Europe's second largest lake) turn off the sound system, commandeer the kingsize double bed and begin an impromptu performance. Well, not so impromptu, as they've brought their slide projectionist with them. Normally electric, this night their two guitarists play acoustically, though most of the attention is centred on vocalist Mihály [Vig].

A compulsive performer as capable of commanding attention as Jimmy Pursey, he can similarly exasperate. He talks and talks and... seemingly oblivious to the growing impatience of most people in the room, but he scores some laughs and a few scowls by throwing out half-jibes and 'thank yous' to the predominantly intellectual audience for paying him attention.

Some people credit him with plenty of potential, others say he hides a lack of it with his quick wits. One fan explains they've so far played five concerts under the most adverse of conditions. The first two were awful, the third great and the last two didn't live up to the middle one.

His overlong party piece does have some good moments, where Mihály's doleful voice, his guitarist Károly [Hunyadi]'s vigorous but careful chordings and the slides combine to create chilling moods that hint at what Balaton's capable of under better circumstances. And even during longeurs, Mihály's animated, enaciated face, accentuated by tufts of beard, is spellbounding to look at.

A melancholic, pessimistic person, he's none too happy with his lot. He tells me later about the difficulties of working in Budapest.

"We inherited such a difficult, unsafe situation (from the likes of Spions and other pioneering performance artists) in which many ideas are futile from the beginning, because those who think are not understood by the public or the authorities. But on the other hang we didn't start making music to make a fortune..."

The best moment of the set comes when they're joined by URH guitarist Jenő [Menyhárt], whose one song performance is perhaps the most astonishing thing I've ever seen. Seated, legs crossed, on a low wooden stool, supported by the acapella mouthings of the Balaton pair, his voice barks into a terse rant, which apparently runs along the lines of "Too many police, too few whores" and back to "Too many whores, too few policemen". (The song's words and emotions are far more complex, but not so easy to translate to paper.)

By the end he is bent almost double spitting out the words and most everyone in the room is supporting him, either clapping along or providing the bass parts.

After hearing URH's tapes he turns out an equally compelling guitarist. URH music is the best I heard anywhere during my stay in Central Europe. They make wild, swinging music driven by some wonderfully furious guitar. It's all shaped by the ironically maudlin but masculine noise of the choral singing.

Led by student film director Péter Müller, they come from mixed working class and intellectual backgrounds. Their lively music cuts dead the lumbering rock of officially supported bands in the same way punk cleared the air here a few years ago.

The authorities have already betrayed signs of interest in URH's activities. Just before I arrived they were due to play at Budapest's law school, promoted by the young communist organisation. However their secretary cancelled the gig, apparentlly under pressure from collage professors. They tried to discredit the band by claiming the initials stood for Ultra Radical Bureau or Ultra Reactionary Frequency, although it's commonly known their name means Ultra Rock Agency. It is also the code for the police emergency short wave frequency, someone tells me.

The band's raison d'etre is partly to encounter the reams of misinformation disseminated about rock and roll, hence the name, says Jenő.

" There has never been any precedent for new wave here in Hungary. And we have no proper rock tradition - well, maybe in form but not in content. People here have a very distorted view of it. Thus we try to bring through our lyrics and music and also the kind of life we live the idea of what rock and roll existance really is."


The New Musical Express on the Budapest scene (1982)

Jesse Jones: Budapessimism
(10th July, 1982)

ETA - named for the Basque terrorists, terrorism not being a popular cause in complacent, comfortable, communist Hungary - snarl around the stage, wearing black on white, rockabilly-tinged punk. Sex Pistols throwback, but with a certain style, if not the most original of sounds. The singer rages, fails, leaps, spits and shouts - usually about anarchy, stuff America, stuff Russia and stuff everybody. But tonight they stick to "Jó, Jó, Jó" over and again - "Good good good, OK, OK, OK". Beacause the police are out in force to listen is, and careless talk costs lives - or at least, places to play.

This concert took place thanks to Control Group [Kontroll Csoport - Sz.T.], reincarnation of URH, once given gold star rating in this very paper. Control - more explanatory New Wave than ETA - took to convulsive reincarnation to wangle places to play.

But luck struck: they have since been adopted as "amateur rock orchestra" by the Ikarus Bus Factory of suburban Budapest! This gives them no money, but rehearsal space five days a week and the opportunity to organise concerts like this. How did they swing it? "We were looking for a second saxophonist and the guy we found was in a theatre group that used to practise here," says singer and songwrite Péter Müller. How do they get away with it? "This place is far away - no one knows about it but the guys who follow the music." And about 50 policemen...

They're treated to Agressor - shorts spitting spasms of angry punk, indeed it's Oi! - Mohicans, leather, green hair, and an Oi Oi Oi chant from centre front. Even badges boasting Oi! Sex Pistols! Dead Kennedys! Exploited! The sudden flourishing of very spikey punks is a new addition to a scenethat's tended tobe older, more art-school intellectual.


Then there's Lemon [Citrom - Sz.T.] - flared jeans, synthesiser, pretentious text and toy gun - who get boed off once they start insulting the punks: "We're normal, you're abnormal." Now that is offensive to a crowd that, if not all Mohican, all identify as New Wave.

Balaton follow, with edgy love songs, irony and existencial angst, restless rhythms, playing over past and present, the meaning of memory, paranoia. "Who's that hiding under the big Persian carpet? We don't know, we don't know, it's censorship." Slides show Paris, cameras, trees, tape recorders, Budapest lit to look like New York - how to see the world when you're not allowed a passport. "Hungarian summer, Russian winter, Prague spring, No one remembers." A grey slab of flats is shot into the sun so a neon star bursts from an upper window; the little blonde singer leaps for joy across the screen. Balaton are the most arty and subtle of the bands of show. The Oi! fans listen with respect, if not enthusiasm.


After ETA, all the young punks troop off to take buses back to town, missing out on Neurotic, clowning and drooling, the 19-year-old singer, in green harem trousers, gold cummerbund, cream shirt and a fur stole of which he slinkily strips. Night club melodies mingle with rock.

Neurotic, Balaton and Control are mentioned approvingly in an officially published ROck Book of the Year, out this month. They're surprised, but their heads aren't turned. If it were a state recording contract they might be impressed. Though then they'd have to decide whether to come on in under the state's umbrella. For the moment they stay out in the rain, and the sun.

...and here are the great album of Hungarian punk/wave/rock band BIKINI - try it - catchy, well-played, strange music.



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