Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Out of touch as I am with events over in Blighty I’ve just realised that in yesterday's post on Czech underground rock I spectacularly managed to overlook the fact that Tom Stoppard’s play Rock n Roll, which covers the period of normalisation and involves the Plastic People of the Universe, has apparently been taking London by storm for the last few months. And I’d hoped to be the bearer of fascinating new insights. I can only say that I’m glad I chose the more unsung (and in my personal view more musically interesting) Dg. 307 as my main subject matter. In addition I feel I should probably qualify some of my comments regarding their political role and impact. The now sadly departed Milan Hlavsa (1951-2001), a key member of both bands, once argued in a debate with Václav Havel that the Plastic People (and thus presumably also Dg. 307) were not a political or protest band. Havel countered that within such a political climate any kind of authentic expression becomes political regardless of its intent, and since this certainly saves me rather a lot of back-pedalling I’m inclined to agree. Their lyrics are probably less explicitly political than those of the Sex Pistols, who also claimed to be essentially apolitical, at least in conventional left-right terms, but screamed that the Queen “ain’t no human being”. However, it’s not difficult to see that the fragile, morally baseless regime of normalisation, which was so dependent on hypocrisy and the perpetuation of meaninglessness for its survival, had a great deal to fear even from far less specific expressions of nihilistic frustration. Did anyone in 1970s Czechoslovakia, a country that wouldn’t dare allow its citizens to cross the Iron Curtain, truly believe they were living in a perfect society? God forbid that anyone hear, let alone interpret for themselves, such sentiments as:

Attack on history (hysteria) (1973)

demolish history which invokes prostitution
demolish the theory of life
demolish the institution of the past
destroy it all, right down to its bones

bludgeon memories out of your heads
better to leave an empty space inside
tear out your tongue
with all its idiotic talk
destroy all good morals
rid yourself of early cramps
tear up books
throw poetry to the pigs
and return purified to living dreams

Cower in fear, Commie scum!


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