Olympic – Everybody
from album “Pták Rosomák”, 1969, Supraphon 1130589 (stereo) or 0130589 (mono), Supraphon 100589-1311 (vinyl reissue 1990)
produced by Jaromír Tůma
original 1969 LP sleeve, 1990 reissue sleeve
Everybody seems to be dying lately… Last Sunday another friend and client of mine (actually he was more a friend of my mom) passed away after spending a couple of weeks in coma. Although he was of Slovak origin, he was a cook and not a musician – and therefore he’s not the actual subject of this post. Nevertheless: Rest in peace, Karol!
Also last week, on Friday, an important personality from the Czechoslovak rock history passed away, too: Jan Antonín Pacák (1941-2007), also known as Jeňýk or Sorry, who was from 1965 until 1971 the drummer of the legendary beat group Olympic. He suffered from leukemia.
The story of Olympic is long so I’ll tell it some other time. In short, they were likely the most important Czech group of the 1960s. Initially they played rock’n’roll and they worked as a backing combo for various pop singers. Two years later, in 1965 they were possibly the first rock band that began to compose, play and record exclusively their own material sung in Czech language instead of the ubiquitous English covers. And of course they were also the first rock group to have a full blown long play album, the legendary Želva (The Tortoise), released by Supraphon in 1968. Well, Želva was okay, but their second album from 1969 was even better: Pták Rosomák (The Wolverine Bird). Fuzz guitars, psychedelic soundscapes, sitars, freakbeats and a couple of timeless songs – an album that still sounds fresh 38 years later. The classic line-up consisted of Pacák on drums, the lyricist Pavel Chrastina on bass, Miroslav Berka on keyboards, the rhythm guitarist Ladislav Klein as well as the band leader, composer and lead singer Petr Janda.
Jan A. Pacák was not only the band’s drummer during their best years, he was also the “comedian” of the group as well as their graphic designer. And being a graphic designer myself, I have to state that he was an excellent one! The first three LP covers were his work, including the great 1971 album Jedeme jedeme (We’re Driving We’re Driving). After leaving Olympic he concentrated on art painting, graphic design and book illustrations, for which he won numerous prizes. He returned to playing music only sporadically with several dixieland combos or in the 1990s for occasional Olympic revivals.
Despite its English title, the song Everybody is sung in Czech. Chrastina’s lyrics tell a funny story of a guy who runs around and shouts “everybody” (hence the title). Not only does the track begin with Pacák’s funky drum break, he’s also the lead singer on it and he shows off some of his “expressive” scatting towards the end. This is definitely one of my favorite Olympic tunes.
Being one of the main Czech rock classics, the Pták Rosomák album is available on CD, of course. The original vinyl is a sought-after collectors item, however. It shows up on eBay regularly, but don’t expect to get it cheap if it’s in excellent condition. Auctions going beyond $50 are becoming the rule nowadays, even for the less attractive mono edition.
But don’t despair, I’ve got the original stereo issue for sale! And it’s not even nearly that expensive. Of course, there’s a caveat: the record is not in a great shape; obviously it must have been played a zillion times in those 36 years before it got into my greeeedy hands (I’ll rather keep the 1990 reissue which I bought mint 17 years ago, as I’m not a fanatic collector of original pressings). In my WebShop I’ve got also a couple of original Olympic 45s from the 1960s for sale, just search there for “olympic”. There’s e.g. the seven-inch-only Strejček Jonatán, yet another tune sung by Pacák. And there’s the ÜBER-rare original pressing of the Želva single, which is a slightly different version than any other subsequent release of the song. (The background story according to the official Olympic web site is actually quite funny: Towards the end of Želva when the group starts to sing the ad lib vocals, someone shouts “oh no”. That version has been initially released on this very seven inch. But shortly thereafter, when the group was compiling their already recorded material for the debut LP, some Supraphon apparatchiks thought that the guys must have been singing the word “hovno” – which means “shit” in Czech. So they forced them to overdub the vocal track with a choir to make the alleged “bad word” disappear – which is what they did. That new version has then appeared on any release ever since while the very original master seems to be lost.)
P.S. I never met Jeňýk Pacák personally but he was a close friend of another friend of mine and my neighbor here in Switzerland, Pepík Voříšek. In the sixties Pepík used to be a roadie for another famous Czech rockers, the Matadors, and he used to hang around with all the guys from the Prague beat scene back then. He knows a lot of insider stories from those days, so his name might pop up on Funky Czech-In every now and then. I couldn’t ask him to help me with this post though, because right now he’s in Prague to partake on Pacák’s funeral which took place yesterday.
Rest in peace, Jeňýk.
Olympic – Everybody