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Author Topic: Mike Comments on Czechoslovakia at the Lucerna Great Hall in Prague  (Read 2542 times)
Stephen W. Desper
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« on: June 19, 2019, 07:01:55 AM »

COMMENT:

Mike recalls the original concert and reflects on the last 50 years.

https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?id=125419450870238&story_fbid=2395477593864401

I was there too.  That was the concert where the console power supply was damaged and the Russian Army supplied four tank batteries to keep the concert going. I've related the story in previous posts here.

I'll underscore every point that Mike made in that this concert back in 1969 was very special for all of us that were there.


~swd
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« Reply #1 on: June 19, 2019, 08:27:40 AM »

Thank you very much for that link! That show is a fascinating chapter in the band’s history. Funnily enough, I just read about the visit to Prague in Mike’s biography. ”We also needed a Hammond organ. Only two were available in the entire country, and the one we got had sticky keys, a missing amplifier tube, and some rogue notes.”  Grin

The audio in that clip of ”Break Away” is surpringsingly good. Did the film crew capture that from the board or did Mr. Desper and the band a professional recording of the entire show?
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Stephen W. Desper
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« Reply #2 on: June 19, 2019, 09:18:09 AM »

Thank you very much for that link! That show is a fascinating chapter in the band’s history. Funnily enough, I just read about the visit to Prague in Mike’s biography. ”We also needed a Hammond organ. Only two were available in the entire country, and the one we got had sticky keys, a missing amplifier tube, and some rogue notes.”  Grin

The audio in that clip of ”Break Away” is surpringsingly good. Did the film crew capture that from the board or did Mr. Desper and the band a professional recording of the entire show?
 

COMMENT to Humanoldboogie:

We were fortunate just to get the Audio System to work. The only clip I have ever seen can be viewed from the facebook link I posted.  That clip is a collection of some shots from that concert and some shots from other locations. It is put together to show parts of the concert as best as could be done. These shots are from private sources, 8mm camera footage, and a few personal pictures. If you look closely you'll see that some of the hairstyles change from one shot to the next, but still, the story of that concert comes across. The audio is from speaker pickup. If you think the sound is good, thank you. It goes to show how good the sound was in those days.

Besides The Beach Boys, themselves, the other big star to that show was the sound system itself. In a country where two mics on a concert stage was considered high-tech, the experience of seeing a 20 input, black-lighted, console surrounded by six illuminated McIntosh power amplifiers, with their blue-luminous front panels probably looked like a jet-plane cockpit to these concertgoers. I must have had two or three hundred fans come down to the mixer and just look and look. A few spoke English, with hundreds of questions about the sound system.

I have had extensive communication with some Beach Boy fans in Czechoslovakia who were there. This concert influenced the freedom and politics of Czechoslovakia for years after it happened. The concert had an anti-government flavor and featured a guest appetence by one of the leaders of the separation movement. But it was 1969. This was a poor and enslaved country. In cooperation with the US State Department, this visit to a USSR occupied satellite country was the first time any Rock Band had been allowed behind the “iron curtain.” As Mike said, the (one of two) Hammond organs that were in Czechoslovakia found their way on stage. I worked on trying to get the damn thing working, but it was inconsistent and you can’t have keyboard problems if you’re trying to provide a good concert. We finally found another keyboard instrument from somewhere that was working and used that for the concert.
  ~swd
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« Reply #3 on: June 19, 2019, 10:52:45 AM »

Thanks for sharing your recollections with us, Stephen. I love these “behind the screens” type of stories. Weird to read that despite the political situation it was apparently approved that they could perform here. And that the Russiona army even supplied tank batteries to make it happen.

I also recall that their allowance isn’t exactly what they had expected. Iirc they / you had to spend the revenue before leaving the country, as it wasn’t allowed to take the local currecny across the border. Right?
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« Reply #4 on: June 19, 2019, 11:15:31 AM »

This is indeed a very interesting topic. I always wondered how that trip came about, since the Beach Boys were so unpopular and not relevant in the USA at that time.
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« Reply #5 on: June 19, 2019, 01:37:02 PM »

Thanks for sharing your recollections with us, Stephen. I love these “behind the screens” type of stories. Weird to read that despite the political situation it was apparently approved that they could perform here. And that the Russiona army even supplied tank batteries to make it happen.

I also recall that their allowance isn’t exactly what they had expected. Iirc they / you had to spend the revenue before leaving the country, as it wasn’t allowed to take the local currecny across the border. Right?


COMMENT to SMiLE-Holland:

The political situation the Boys were involved with was purely "of the people."  The official State Department position with the USSR Government was that the concert would only be entertainment. The performance was part of an Eastern Music Festival put on with the blessings of local Government. But when we arrived, the masses of people attending were very motivated to break from the USSR. A local (to that end) folk hero was in attendance and Mike found this out. Being a capitalist, he did not wish to stand in the way of fans seeking freedom, and in fact, made references to this popular cause and introduced the fellow. That shifted the show from pure entertainment to a de jure  statement (of sort). Mike was into the local political flavor, so was working the audience to favor this popular feeling.

I'm not going to repeat the "battery story" again, as I've posted it several times. However, just to be clear, the Russians did not supply the batteries, but were acting at the request of our Liaison, an official who coordinates situations and solves problems between official representitives of visiting governments. I told our Liaison that in order to provide sound I needed 24 volts to run the console because the console power supply had been damaged in transport. I suggested a couple of car batteries. However I failed to realize that this wasn't southern California. In a country with a dozen cars on the street, you don't find service stations or autoparts outlets on every corner. It was late, so the Liaison ordered a nearby Russian Tank crew to remove two batteries from their vehicles. As Mike pointed out in his facebook statement, the military was evident wherever you looked. This Tank crew happened to be part of a crowd control contingency hanging out on a street near the concert hall. I doubt the Russians had any idea what was going on, only that someone with the authority ordered the batteries removed from the tank and carried into the concert hall. So, in came eight Russian privates, carrying two huge batteries, four men per battery – that’s how big they were. Batteries generate voltage by way of a chemical reaction, so size only affects the cranking power (current), not voltage. These batteries could have run the sound system for a year, and certainly for one show-time.

We were (crew and entertainers) official representatives of The State Department and as such certain restrictions had to be followed. Our pay for all events behind the USSR border had to stay in the country and, by way of some treaty, could not be spent in any country outside the USSR. When we got paid it was in cash. Lot’s of cash -- and we had a few hours (only) to spend it all. Many just gave it away, others bought junk stuff. I myself bought my mom a nice set of Czechoslovakia glasses, famous for their leaded crystal. That was a few bucks. But I still had over a thousand dollars left.

Bruce Johnston and I have always compared notes on anything financial, and we had been thinking about this situation ever since we left the USA. How to get money out of the country without violating government regulations and possible arrest Don’t want that! To his credit, Bruce came up with the idea of buying pre-paid airline tickets to destinations offered by the airline we used. So when we went to the airport of departure, Bruce and I took all our pay in cash to the airline counter (he had quite a lot) and bought many tickets for this place and that place at a future date. Remember this airline flew Internationally. Then when we returned home several weeks later, it was only a matter of taking all the tickets to LAX (airport in Los Angeles) and cancel our planned trips. We got cash for our tickets – and that’s how Bruce and I beat the system!  

(P.S. don’t tell . . . )


~swd
« Last Edit: June 22, 2019, 08:50:40 AM by Stephen W. Desper » Logged
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« Reply #6 on: June 19, 2019, 02:00:09 PM »


(P.S. don’t tell . . . )


I know notting...  Grin

So (1) Mike made a remark on Václav Havel sitting in the audience... and got away with it > Capitalists vs Communists 1-0
And (2) marvellous payback action with the tix > Ca vs Co 2-0.

Just kidding here. Seriously, great story! Thanks for sharing!

Note: not taking any political side or trying to derail this topic (although I don’t mind living in a capitalistic world...)
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Rule of thumb, think BEFORE you post. And THINK how it may affect someone else's feelings.

Check out the Beach Boys Starline website, the place for pictures of many countries Beach Boys releases on 45.

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« Reply #7 on: June 19, 2019, 02:07:57 PM »

I feel like an entire book could be written on this one event.  Grin
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« Reply #8 on: June 19, 2019, 02:39:16 PM »

Thank you Stephen for that fascinating info! What a great way to avoid the money regulations...ingenious!

Not to be political, but this chapter of the band's history and the people who came to see them play should stand as a prime example of what communism really was...whenever someone starts extolling the joys and benefits of communist living. Talk to those who lived under communism and behind the iron curtain and you'll hear how it really was. Kudos to the Boys for playing this historic and important show.
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« Reply #9 on: June 19, 2019, 02:48:39 PM »

This is indeed a very interesting topic. I always wondered how that trip came about, since the Beach Boys were so unpopular and not relevant in the USA at that time.

COMMENT to Rocker:
I don't know how old you are or if you were into music at this time, but the slump in popularity had no effect on their past achievements, which by then were well established. The Beach Boy icon of representing "good clean American values" as an American singing group preceded the State Department's reason for asking the Boys to represent the USA at this Eastern Europe musical event -- a large event covering several countries in the USSR block. The popular choices at this time were metal bands, bands that performed shirtless and used swear words in their lyrics, many popular bands were advocating drugs too. So for the State Department to find a band that could represent the United States in 1969 – a more innocent and simpler time – The Beach Boys had it all. They were certainly relevant in American culture. Everyone knew their songs (even behind the Iron Curtain), they presented a “clean” and non-confrontational image, and they could entertain, I mean really entertain with a great show every time. The State Department came to The Beach Boys with this request. Actually, American Productions (The Beach Boys touring company) worked for about a year planning this whole tour so that the Boys could work this Chek event into a European tour that was in planning stages. The Chek event was really in the middle of a four-week European tour, which eventually evolved from the original State Department invitation. That tour eventually went to every major and many smaller cities and towns in Western and Eastern Europe and England, introduced a new look (the white suits), new songs, and a new sound system.

Permit me to comment on The White Suits. I’ve seen a couple of posts at this website poo-pooing the white suit look, which I think are short-sighted.

After much discussion, it was decided to go to Nudies (a famous clothing store that made clothes for Hollywood stars and celebrities) and have matching suits made for each Beach Boy. It took them several days to agree on white crushed velvet as the material to use. The pants were to have bell-bottoms as this was the fashion of the day. The jackets were designed with the holding of a guitar in mind. Three sets of suits were made for each group member at $1,500 for each suit. 3 x 5 x 1500 = 22,500 dollars. While many groups appeared in torn jeans and a T-shirt, the Beach Boys did it this way. From today’s perspective, it may look stupid, but back then it was well received. Why velvet?  This tour was going to take in some cold weather. They wanted to be warm. Ever been on a stage in a European country? They don’t heat the stage. Three sets of suits allowed for dry-cleaning time between performances, although with two performances a day and with little delay between hotel stays, the suits did tend to get a little dicey sometimes. But even with smelly suits, the show must go on !!
 ~swd
« Last Edit: June 19, 2019, 06:16:45 PM by Stephen W. Desper » Logged
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« Reply #10 on: June 19, 2019, 03:11:31 PM »


(P.S. don’t tell . . . )


I know notting...  Grin

So (1) Mike made a remark on Václav Havel sitting in the audience... and got away with it > Capitalists vs Communists 1-0
And (2) marvellous payback action with the tix > Ca vs Co 2-0.

Just kidding here. Seriously, great story! Thanks for sharing!

Note: not taking any political side or trying to derail this topic (although I don’t mind living in a capitalistic world...)


COMMENT to SMiLE-Holland:

Not only did he get away with that, but he took his shirt off -- that was not supposed to have happened, but it must have been 95 degrees F in that room. I don't blame him. The room was a concert hall built underground. A very large room, like a large auditorium, was completely underground. Great insulation. The walls kept all the heat and perspiration in the room.  As Mike explained in his facebook post, the walls were covered with moisture from people's sweat. Sometimes it would drip down on you from the ceiling. The room was jammed with kids. Like a Tokyo subway. And they would not stop screaming, and screaming, and screaming. I mean, eventually you would think they would stop and listen -- but no -- it was consistent screaming and shouting. The Boys did their performance and the entire show was against the din of screaming kids. I had to get a mix using headphones because even at 15,000 Watts into efficient JBL speakers, I could not hear singing over the speakers. Mike was getting frustrated. He had planned on what he would say and no one could hear him. No one could hear them.

And so, another thing Mike got away with . . .

Mike became so frustrated with the audience, that, over the headphones, I could hear him shouting at the screaming kids, "Shut up you funking commies. What the hell did we come here for? No wonder you funking commies don't have Hammond organs!" and silly things like that.
  ~swd
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Stephen W. Desper
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« Reply #11 on: June 19, 2019, 03:17:40 PM »

I feel like an entire book could be written on this one event.  Grin

COMMENT to Jay:  Actually it has. One was published on the entire event in Czechoslovakia years ago. I know because I helped the author with his research. ~swd
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« Reply #12 on: June 19, 2019, 04:15:59 PM »

Thank you Stephen for that fascinating info! What a great way to avoid the money regulations...ingenious!

Not to be political, but this chapter of the band's history and the people who came to see them play should stand as a prime example of what communism really was...whenever someone starts extolling the joys and benefits of communist living. Talk to those who lived under communism and behind the iron curtain and you'll hear how it really was. Kudos to the Boys for playing this historic and important show.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/dunayevskaya/works/1941/ussr-capitalist.htm
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« Reply #13 on: June 19, 2019, 05:04:20 PM »

Lucerna Great Hall in Prague

~swd

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« Reply #14 on: June 19, 2019, 05:26:56 PM »


(P.S. don’t tell . . . )


I know notting...  Grin

So (1) Mike made a remark on Václav Havel sitting in the audience... and got away with it > Capitalists vs Communists 1-0
And (2) marvellous payback action with the tix > Ca vs Co 2-0.

Just kidding here. Seriously, great story! Thanks for sharing!

Note: not taking any political side or trying to derail this topic (although I don’t mind living in a capitalistic world...)

The

Maybe I'm wrong, but
Wasn't the gentleman in the audience Alexander Dubcek?  I know I thought of him as a hero during the Prague Spring and I wept when the tanks rolled in. Of course maybe Havel was there as well.
Joining the chorus of thanking Mr Desper for his wonderful memories and insights.
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« Reply #15 on: June 19, 2019, 06:06:50 PM »

COMMENT:

Here is some Historical Perspective on Czechoslovakia in 1968, for those interested. If I recall correctly it was Alexander Dubcek who Mike called out and acknowledged . . . and the place went ballistic!

http://www.europopmusic.eu/Newsletters/Features/Protest_68/1968_in_Czechoslovakia.html

In this overview, see the third section  "the impact in music" for the role of The Beach Boys in this segment of history.


~swd
« Last Edit: June 19, 2019, 06:12:29 PM by Stephen W. Desper » Logged
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« Reply #16 on: June 20, 2019, 02:34:54 AM »

This is indeed a very interesting topic. I always wondered how that trip came about, since the Beach Boys were so unpopular and not relevant in the USA at that time.

COMMENT to Rocker:
I don't know how old you are or if you were into music at this time, but the slump in popularity had no effect on their past achievements, which by then were well established. The Beach Boy icon of representing "good clean American values" as an American singing group preceded the State Department's reason for asking the Boys to represent the USA at this Eastern Europe musical event -- a large event covering several countries in the USSR block. The popular choices at this time were metal bands, bands that performed shirtless and used swear words in their lyrics, many popular bands were advocating drugs too. So for the State Department to find a band that could represent the United States in 1969 – a more innocent and simpler time – The Beach Boys had it all. They were certainly relevant in American culture. Everyone knew their songs (even behind the Iron Curtain), they presented a “clean” and non-confrontational image, and they could entertain, I mean really entertain with a great show every time. The State Department came to The Beach Boys with this request. Actually, American Productions (The Beach Boys touring company) worked for about a year planning this whole tour so that the Boys could work this Chek event into a European tour that was in planning stages. The Chek event was really in the middle of a four-week European tour, which eventually evolved from the original State Department invitation. That tour eventually went to every major and many smaller cities and towns in Western and Eastern Europe and England, introduced a new look (the white suits), new songs, and a new sound system.




Thanks for the infos!
I was born in '84, so I didn't live through that time, although of course I've read about it. But I just realized that I also totally misunderstood the surroundings of the Boys being booked there. Thanks for clearing that up!

BTW the Boys wwre asked and talked about this show on the Mike Douglas TV show in '69 (Bruce and Al mention the problem with spending the money):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sobVMqnElOI
« Last Edit: June 20, 2019, 02:36:57 AM by Rocker » Logged

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« Reply #17 on: June 20, 2019, 08:56:46 AM »

You can always tell the Germans because they incorrectly pluralise "informations".  Wink
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« Reply #18 on: June 20, 2019, 10:09:20 AM »

Thank you Stephen for that fascinating info! What a great way to avoid the money regulations...ingenious!

Not to be political, but this chapter of the band's history and the people who came to see them play should stand as a prime example of what communism really was...whenever someone starts extolling the joys and benefits of communist living. Talk to those who lived under communism and behind the iron curtain and you'll hear how it really was. Kudos to the Boys for playing this historic and important show.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/dunayevskaya/works/1941/ussr-capitalist.htm

No thanks - no sale.  Grin  Not gonna get into it here.
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« Reply #19 on: June 20, 2019, 12:59:32 PM »


(P.S. don’t tell . . . )


I know notting...  Grin

So (1) Mike made a remark on Václav Havel sitting in the audience... and got away with it > Capitalists vs Communists 1-0
And (2) marvellous payback action with the tix > Ca vs Co 2-0.

Just kidding here. Seriously, great story! Thanks for sharing!

Note: not taking any political side or trying to derail this topic (although I don’t mind living in a capitalistic world...)

The

Maybe I'm wrong, but
Wasn't the gentleman in the audience Alexander Dubcek?  I know I thought of him as a hero during the Prague Spring and I wept when the tanks rolled in. Of course maybe Havel was there as well.
Joining the chorus of thanking Mr Desper for his wonderful memories and insights.

Yep, my bad. It was Dubcek.

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Rule of thumb, think BEFORE you post. And THINK how it may affect someone else's feelings.

Check out the Beach Boys Starline website, the place for pictures of many countries Beach Boys releases on 45.

Listening to you I get the music; Gazing at you I get the heat; Following you I climb the mountain; I get excitement at your feet
Right behind you I see the millions; On you I see the glory; From you I get opinions; From you I get the story
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« Reply #20 on: June 20, 2019, 01:05:30 PM »

And so, another thing Mike got away with . . .

Mike became so frustrated with the audience, that, over the headphones, I could hear him shouting at the screaming kids, "Shut up you funking commies. What the hell did we come here for? No wonder you funking commies don't have Hammond organs!" and silly things like that.[/size]  ~swd


... and I assume you didn’t record that little bit, right?  Grin



I feel like an entire book could be written on this one event.  Grin

COMMENT to Jay:  Actually it has. One was published on the entire event in Czechoslovakia years ago. I know because I helped the author with his research. ~swd

That’s a book I’d like to read one day.
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Rule of thumb, think BEFORE you post. And THINK how it may affect someone else's feelings.

Check out the Beach Boys Starline website, the place for pictures of many countries Beach Boys releases on 45.

Listening to you I get the music; Gazing at you I get the heat; Following you I climb the mountain; I get excitement at your feet
Right behind you I see the millions; On you I see the glory; From you I get opinions; From you I get the story
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« Reply #21 on: June 20, 2019, 04:32:38 PM »

Thank you Stephen for that fascinating info! What a great way to avoid the money regulations...ingenious!

Not to be political, but this chapter of the band's history and the people who came to see them play should stand as a prime example of what communism really was...whenever someone starts extolling the joys and benefits of communist living. Talk to those who lived under communism and behind the iron curtain and you'll hear how it really was. Kudos to the Boys for playing this historic and important show.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/dunayevskaya/works/1941/ussr-capitalist.htm

No thanks - no sale.  Grin  Not gonna get into it here.

Ha! Hey, I wouldn't be me if I didn't do that. Nevertheless I can't resist linking to this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Svstp1CWuF0

 Cheesy
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« Reply #22 on: June 20, 2019, 05:44:29 PM »


And so, another thing Mike got away with . . .

... and I assume you didn’t record that little bit, right?  Grin


COMMENT to SMiLE-Holland:  Your assumption is correct.  Please consider that I'm in a communist country with only one official between me and the Russian authority, my equipment is damaged in a way that could cancel the show unless I get it working, the surroundings are hostile and very uncomfortable, I've got kids hanging off the speakers and amplifier cases --- recording is not a priority.  ~swd
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« Reply #23 on: June 21, 2019, 12:13:45 AM »


And so, another thing Mike got away with . . .

... and I assume you didn’t record that little bit, right?  Grin


COMMENT to SMiLE-Holland:  Your assumption is correct.  Please consider that I'm in a communist country with only one official between me and the Russian authority, my equipment is damaged in a way that could cancel the show unless I get it working, the surroundings are hostile and very uncomfortable, I've got kids hanging off the speakers and amplifier cases --- recording is not a priority.  ~swd

O, I'd definitely consider that as well if I were in your shoes. I was actually surprised others did take some chances (with this great story you told us as a result).

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Right behind you I see the millions; On you I see the glory; From you I get opinions; From you I get the story
BBs Footage Saga
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FOOTAGE!!!


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« Reply #24 on: June 21, 2019, 03:37:20 AM »

The only clip I have ever seen can be viewed from the facebook link I posted.  That clip is a collection of some shots from that concert and some shots from other locations. It is put together to show parts of the concert as best as could be done. These shots are from private sources, 8mm camera footage, and a few personal pictures. If you look closely you'll see that some of the hairstyles change from one shot to the next, but still, the story of that concert comes across. The audio is from speaker pickup. If you think the sound is good, thank you. It goes to show how good the sound was in those days.




Wow, Interesting, I always thought that the footage was shot by Vic Kettle for his 1969 Documentary  as the Brighton one.

I didn't noticed that there was more of one concert, I analyzed this footage for knowing each song they were performing in each clip (I had analyzed the London 1966 and some other, i'm good at it), comparing it with the Olympia one, who was sharing microphone with who, what songs Bruce played the organ, etc... I think that most of the video is Wouldn't it be nice, in other clip they are performing Cotton Fields but I'm seeing there's not actually footage of them performing Break Away in the clip.
« Last Edit: June 21, 2019, 03:57:13 AM by BBs Footage Saga » Logged
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