Zone Rock in the RTC
Zone rock (locally known as scena zonie or zonos scena, zone scene, in Wenedyk and Reformed Lithuanian respectively) in the Republic of the Two Crowns was developed in the early 1970’s. It was one of the most important genres of local popular music, taking root inside and outside the country.
Rock music arrived in the RTC during late 1950’s and early 1960’s. At first, local bands played covers from foreign hits, sometimes with translated lyrics into Wenedyk or Lithuanian. By the mid-1960’s, with bands such as Rubrie Gitarie (The Red Guitars), Rubrie i Niegrie (The Red and Blacks) or Arzurie Niegrie (The Blue Blacks), the first successful non-covers rock records appeared, and later, mostly among university circles, the first psychedelic bands sang both in foreign and national languages.
The RTC was still under reconstruction, the Second Great War was still a recent memory to many, the geographical proximity to the Snorist Block was seen as a threat, and the Catholic Church was seen as omnipresent and omnipotent by the younger ones who felt rather oppressed by a highly conservative society. In this background, combined with a strong musical tradition (classical, folk, Jass since the Interbellum period, and sung poetry), just one thing was needed to trigger the birth of a local zone rock movement like those in other countries.
The Birth of the Movement
In 1970, The Rockmen (an already well established English zone rock quintet which later would became a quartet called NoMoreEagleZ) performed two shows in Warsina, being opened by the Scottish band Jethro’s Tuil (at the time a rising band). These two concerts were massive successes. As Tadziej Nalepa, from Blackout and Breakout, told in an interview for Venedic Radio channel III in 2010:
I barely knew The Rockmen and never heard about Jethro’s Tuil, but it was so rare for foreign bands to visit the Republic at that time that I decided to go. On the first night, everyone was amazed. Until then, we were used to well behaved rockers on stage, but Morovitch from The Rockmen and Jethro Andersoun from Jethro’s Tuil showed us what would be the future. On the first night, the showroom was full, and on the second night, there were even more people. Many of them even went without a ticket, entering through the windows and even through the roof! It was complete insanity. Others, including me, forged tickets to enter. At the end, in the nearby streets, the ŚSN made an ostensive presence. It smelled to them like too much freedom and subversion.
Soon after, among university circles, the number of rock bands boomed under the influence of the memorable concert in Warsina. Ranging from highly educated conservatory students to local songwriters, this spirit managed to captivate an entire generation within a short time. Young people were restless, with a strong desire for freedom and to rebel against their parents’ generation. Those who were able to go to the zonee festivals abroad returned full of new ideas.
Countless bands started to perform in students’ clubs in major university cities, but none of them were able to release any records at this point. Finally, Dżem, a band heavily influenced by Jethro’s Tuil, was the first to have a recorded registration with their album Womień (The Human Being) in 1971. Despite being neither a nationwide success nor a masterpiece, it paved the way for the following national zone rock acts to succeed. Dżem themselves later became one of the most celebrated national zone rock bands. Soon after the release of Womień, other bands were able to record. The Dzieszekie Wenedkie "Muza" record label (the largest in the RTC) saw the chance to take advantage of this booming trend and started to support new bands, promoting their debut records between late 1971 and 1973.
The release of Womień on September 1971 was a millestone for RTC rock music. It was soon followed that same year by the first zone rock albums by Skaldi and Jekwarel, influenced by Jethro’s Tuil and The Rockmen respectively.
The Golden Years
During 1972, the debut albums of Drakunie (a band later renamed to Ił Wiekły Drakuń) and Argonas (from Lithuania) were released, both acclaimed by critics and public. Drakunie's self-titled debut album became the best selling Wenedyk language rock album that year, becoming the first zone rock gold record in the RTC by selling over 160 000 copies. They also innovated by creating a new sub-genre of zone rock, called erudite rock; it mixed rock with classical music in a zonee context and introduced the trautonium as a leading musical instrument into national popular music, although it also had a strong presence of acoustic instruments. Argonas also adopted classical influences, but relied more on keyboards and electronics. These two bands became the leaders of the local zone rock movement, with Orkiestra Z later joining them. From mid-1970’s onwards, the troika Ił Wiekły Drakuń-Argonas-Orkiestra Z became the architrave that the scena zonie would be based on until the 1980’s, with the rise of punch rock, new wave (locally known as nowa węda), and hair rock. These three bands were all inspired by classical music in one way or another, even if jass influences were also present. During this period, the RTC was the leading country in terms of zone rock in continental Europe.
The booming zone rock trend in the RTC was evidenced by the number of rock music festivals and gatherings that took place throughout the Republic. The first zonee presence was noted in a rock festival in the RTC in 1969 in the wake of the 1968 Isle of Wight Rock Festival. Later, in 1971, the Męć Kaldarzy (*here*'s Jarocin, calque from German Kesselberg/Cauldron Mountain) festival was held with the massive presence of zonees and participation of zone rock artists, demonstrating the power that the phenomenon was accumulating nationwide. As result of the large number of visitors, the festival was repeated annually until 1980, providing opportunities for other bands to get noticed and become famous. Another notable zone rock festival was the Rytmie Jewiętyci (Rythms of Youth), held in seven acts from 1973 to 1979 in the beaches of Warsina with last two acts being headlined by foreign zone rock stars such as Henderson Enfield Lockwood & Pitman and Jethro’s Tuil (whose records were revered in the RTC since they performed in Warsina in 1970).
These festivals were often free of charge and revealed a level of artistic freedom and competition. Fans found bands rising from obscurity to compete on the same stage with national heavy weights of national zone rock scene. This musical competition resulted in an upward spiral, each one intended to outdo the others. So much creactivity helped scena zonie to be at same level as the international zone rock scene even if most of its bands were mostly unnoticed abroad.
In parallel to the festivals a network of fanzines and radio broadcasts, more or less dedicated, were being set up, giving a boost to the zone rock trend. Some bands (usually the less politically controverse or the less weird-sounded) even were able to perform in national mainstream television networks or receiving airplay in national radio stations, mostly after 1974 when zone rock became something more or less mainstream thanks to NoMoreEagleZ’s international hit song Back From the S.N.O.R..
Despite the large number of zone rock acts, most were not able to have consecutive albums releasing regularly. Most were only able to release one or two albums before vanishing. Only a few more than ten bands were able to release a regular discography, and few were ever able to chart. The most commercially successful bands remained the so-called troika Ił Wiekły Drakuń-Argonas-Orkiestra Z. These three attracted the attention from foreign musical industry. All of these bands established relations with well-known foreign zone rock artists who wrote English lyrics for translated versions of several albums, aiming at promoting international sales. Ił Wiekły Drakuń released That Old Dragon in 1976 with lyrics by Peter Seinfeld (from Tyrean Yesman), getting attention from the foreign public and critics of scena zonie, later followed by the other bands from the troika.
After being regular openers for concerts of international zone-rock big-name bands hosted by the RTC, these three main bands were finally able to go on tour abroad as the main acts regularly from mid-1970’s onwards, being in general well accepted. Ił Wiekły Drakuń was also notable for being the first zone rock band to perform in a snorist country (Hungary) in 1976. The effect of their concert in Hungary was comparable to The Rockmen/Jethro’s Tuil concert in Warsina in 1970, triggering the moskal rock scene (the zone rock made in Snorist Block). Both Ił Wiekły Drakuń and Orkiestra Z perfomed at the Canterbury Rock Festival (August 1980), the largest zonee event ever. Other bands besides the big three bands also sold some of their albums in foreign countries and were able to perform abroad, but just not as regularly.
After peaking in terms of popularity and creativity between 1977 and 1981, zone rock bands started their decline worldwide; the RTC was no exception. Until then, record labels supported and gave much creative freedom to zone rock acts, even if there were not good commercial results. While the beginning of popularity of zone rock coincided with prosperity in the industrialized countries right after the Oil Crisis of Hijra 1393, its decline coincided with the beginning of the economic crisis in those countries resulting from the rise of oil prices caused by the Persia-Iraaq War.
Times have led to new shorter trends of rock music, such as punch rock and new wave, with lesser artistic pretensions. Again, music was just a product to consume rapidly. Zone rock bands started then to lose the leading position in terms of creativity, popularity, and critical reception.
Between 1974 and 1980, a huge number of zone rock records were released in the RTC, much more than national market could ever absorb, not being promoted abroad. Just a few bands were really able to keep making music. Most zone rock bands were unable to survive in the national music scene for a long time, as the RTC was still a not too large market for non-commercial musical trends. In time, many artists abandoned zone rock in order to survive in the music business by turning to more commercial forms of music or working as session musicians for other artists. During the late 1980’s, there was not any current music comparable to regressive rock, when some veteran bands (as well as some new ones) tried to return to the non-commercial beginnings of zone rock outside large international record labels. In the RTC, as well as in many other countries, it was an era of ephemeral music where market strategies prevailed over artistic skills and socio-political activism. One by one, all surviving local zone rock bands disbanded between 1983 and 1989, ending the scena zonie.
Ił Wiekły Drakuń
See main article: Ił Wiekły Drakuń
See main article: Orkiestra Z
Argonas (named after argon element) was the most notable Lithuanian zone rock band, debuting in 1972 and being one of the first of the erudite rock sub-genre. It was also the first rock band in the RTC without a guitarist, having a line-up with a drummer (Arūnas Mikuckis), a bassist and vocalist (Artūras Kuznecovas), and a duet of keyboardists (Giedrius Kuprevičius on piano and other accoustic keyboard intruments and Julius Vilnonis on trautonium, clavioline and later also orchestron, both sharing organs). Vilnonas popularized the use of the locally made Vilnius-4 trautonium (as well as its upgraded version 5 later on) which became rather popular among the zone rock bands in the RTC.
Giedrius Kuprevičius, a former carillonist from Kaunas and later a music teacher at the Kaunas Faculty of the Lithuanian Academy of Music, founded Argonas together with three of his pupils. During late 1972, they were able to release their self-titled debut album, which was quite a commercial success, taking advantage from the popularity of Drakunie's debut album released a little before. Like other erudite rock bands during this early period (1972-73), their compositions mimicked classical music. Unlike Drakunie, their approach to erudite rock relied heavily on keyboards and electronics, inspired by zone-rock band Henderson Enfield Lockwood & Pitman. In fact, ever since, they were often considered as a rip-off of the English band.
Their second album, Giliausias šulinys atspindi dangų (The Deepest Well Reflects the Sky) was released next year and followed the classical-like style of the previous one. In 1974, Argonas surprised listeners by releasing a keyboard-driven heavy zone album proving heavy zone rock would not necessarily be guitar-driven like Lead Aeroplane or Venedic Breakout. Žemė Z (Z Earth) was their first gold album award establishing Argonas as one of the leading bands of the scena zonie. It was followed by three well-selling erudite rock concept albums: Utopija (Utopia) in 1975, Žemės žmogus (Man of Earth, based in a homonymous science fiction novel by Algis Budrys) and finally their masterpiece Herkus Mantas both in 1977. This album portrayed the Prussian medieval hero Erks Mānts (Herkus Mantas in Lithuanian) who rebelled against the Teutonic Order but set the action in a modern context, very similar to the Hungarian Rebellion of 1956.
Argonas was able to go on tour abroad regularly from 1975 onwards, first across Europe and then later in North America. Their next albums, the fully instrumental Kakofonija (Cacophony) and Šviesa (Light), released in 1978 and 1979 respectively; they were not as critically successfull as previous ones but were still toured across Europe, making Argonas successful abroad. They were expected at the Canterbury Rock Festival, but Kuprevičius left the band in 1980 to return to teaching, causing a hiatus which lasted until 1984. He was replaced by a guitarist, Linas Pečiūra, and the keyboard part was rather simplified. In fact, Argonas returned in a rather commercial styling, hoping to survive in those times when they no longer played the dominant style of music. After two more-or-less successful and rather commercial albums, Argonas finally disbanded in 1988. In 1997, Argonas’ classic line-up returned for an one-off sold-out concert in Kaunas.
Czesław za Niemię’s bands
Czesław Juli Wydrzyvki, usually credited as Czesław za Niemię (Czesław of the Neman), was a key character of the history of rock music in the RTC. He was born in a Venedic-ethnic family in a Lithuanian village in the shores of Neman River. Together with his family moved to Warsina during early 1950’s.
In 1962 he was one of the founders of the Arzurie Niegrie (The Blue Blacks), which became one of the most prominent beat bands in the RTC. After being their keyboardist he left in 1966, being since then the frontman of several bands which succeded each other, usually as vocalist and playing organ (later also trautonium and orchestron)
His first band was Jekwarel (Watercolour), which was the first local rock act having a not to have maskot-like name (something which later became usual among the zone rock bands). In 1967 Jekwarel debuted with a self-titled successful album (awarded as gold record) which introduced psychedelic rock in the RTC. Next release, two years later, wasn’t so much successful. Late 1971 they converted into a zone rock act releasing Strani je ił Mąd (Strange is this World), with not too complex and long tracks and influences from both The Rockmen and beat music. Political positions expressed in this album (the most political among the only three local zone rock albums released that year) didn’t help it to have much airplay but even so some of its tracks became hymns among the growing national zonee audiences. Soon after, early 1972, Jekwarel disbanded as their third album wasn’t a commercial success as they expected.
Together with Michał Urbaniak (flute and sax player who came from the jass scene), Czesław za Niemię founded Grupa Niemnie (Niemię’s Group) during 1972. They self-released that year a self-titled album (usually known as Album Rubry, the Red Album because it had a red cover) this time much more complex and longer tracks than Jekwarel did, combining influences from blues, jass, ambient and experimental music, among others. It was the first double rock album ever in the RTC so as the only local debut double album. It sold poorly and wasn’t well accepted by the critics.
Their second and last album, Grupa Niemnie 2, was self-released early 1973. Once again influenced by different musical styles was composed by long and complex organ-driven tracks. This one was much better accepted by the critics. Even so Grupa Niemnie was short lived, tensions between the two creative leaders arose and the band broke up that year.
This band was followed by a new one, ŚSN (acronym for Śrewie Sień Nuceń, Slaves Without Notion). Having same old acronym as national intelligence service ODP (which was called Śrewica Siekiertacie Noconalej until 1972) granted them the dislike from authorities. ŚSN debuted in late 1973 with Novy Horyzont (New Horizon) album, introducing zong-opera sub-genre in the local zone rock scene. It presented already the hallmark sound of the band: the Czesław za Niemię’s emotive style of singing and the interplay between his aggressive and pompous organs and the guitars played by Apostoł Anthym, who came from the jass scene.
It was followed by their first self-titled album, in 1974, usually known as ŚSN II and very close to Novy Horyzont. Critical reviews weren’t convinced and considered the band had ran out of ideas. With next albums ŚSN proved they were wrong. File Ślewańkar (Slevanian Girls, in 1975) and Miemorza (Memory, in 1976) had some influences from aether rock and heavy zone respectively. Both had good acception from the critics and sold reasonably well.
1977 was a rather busy year for the band as they released two new albums and toured abroad for the first time receiving some interest from foreign audiences and critics. Also were headliners from some of the most important national zonee festivals that year. In Bohemia they recorded another self-titled album, usually known as Album Bohemki (Bohemian Album) and having an erudite rock style, and in the RTC they released their best album until then, Automatie (Automats). Automatie expressed much critical views about the Catholic Church being the believers considered the automats. Without any surprise ŚSN were banned from the national TV stations.
In 1978 they achieved their creative peak, releasing Jenigmatycy (Enigmatic). It brought a stronger presence from electronics to the band’s sound. This album was acclaimed as a masterpiece, even if some of its tracks were re-recordings from the Album Bohemki now in a more usual zong-opera band’s style. Jenigmatycy became a cult album ever since, being unanimously considered the best ever made in the RTC and among the better worldwide. It was a commercial success, despite rather ignored by the national TV and radio stations still boycotting ŚSN. Such succcess brought the band to several of the most important zonee festivals across Europe in 1978 and 1979.
These albums were followed by two eponymous albums also known as ŚSN VIII (in 1980) and ŚSN IX (in 1982), neither creative nor well accepted by public and critics as previous works, as musical tastes were changing. ŚSN disbanded during 1984. Czesław za Niemię, the driving force of ŚSN, followed a solo career in electronic music and Apostoł Anthym returned to the jass scene.
Dżem (Jam), from Piniat (*here*'s Sosnowiec), was the first zone rock band to be able to release an album in the RTC, in 1971. At first it was a Jethro’s Tuil influenced band combining a guitar blues feel to amazing flute solos. Womień became the starting point of a whole movement. It included a long suite (which gave the name to the album) which was composed by both the band’s leaders, Jędrzej Zaucha (lead vocals and guitars) and Władisław Kwaśnik (flute and saxophone). Each one composed a section without knowing what the other would do resulting a patchwork of styles. While their debut album was mostly blues with a folk presence their following album Cegła (Brick), released in 1973, was mostly a folk one with some blues feel. In live performances they became known for wearing strange outfits and painted faces. With this album they achieved a certain commercial success establishing Dżem as one of the most popular local zone rock bands.
In 1976 they departed from Jethro’s Tuil influence (despite keeping a strong flute presence) by getting closer to jass and klezmer. Pistła o F. (Letter to F., referring to Fernando Marcos) album was the beggining of their creative peak and most experimentalist period. It was followed by their masterpiece Oniał sień Rześpieraceń (Animal without Breath) in 1977. Zaucha and Kwaśnik took their Womień theme composition style to make two side-long suites. Public and critics were confused by the eclectic array of styles (polka, mazurka, jass, blues, heavy zone and aether rock among others). Despite comtemporary bad critical reviews (they considered it a “patchwork of unrelated moods”) and little airplay (too dissonant and experimentalist sounded and too long tracks) it is now considered among the best and the most daring that scena zonie has ever produced.
Following the trend of mixing orchestra with rock music in the late 1970’s they released Dżem ku Krzystof Meyer (Dżem with Krzystof Meyer) in 1978. Meyer was by then known for working with zone rock bands, notably Blackout and later also Orkiestra Z. Szej (Six) followed in 1979 starting the downturn of creativity, with shorter, simpler and less challenging tracks. Result unpleased the members who started a hiatus lasting until 1983. When Dżem returned with a new album, Pazimażeń Witiew (Landscape of Life), they understood music was changing and tried success with simpler tracks as an approach to their first two albums style. But changes were becoming too deep as zone rock was starting to be out of fashion, especially to bands without a large fan base. As a result they disbanded in 1984 and members followed their own solo careers with mixed results.
Skaldi (The Skalds) were named after the poets who composed at the Viking courts. They started in 1965 as a folk band from Kordyn (*here’s* Cracow) debuting with a folk rock album two years later. At the time they converted into a zone rock band they were already well known across the RTC, having released three good selling albums always with a strong folk feel and toured in the neighbouring countries (during 1968) and in the Federated Kingdoms (during 1969). In their return from the FK they brought a trautonium, being the second rock act in the RTC to have one (first one was bought by Czesław za Niemię)
Their fourth album, Ty (You), was the third zone rock album locally released during late 1971. It was a much Jethro’s Tuil influenced work with a strong sound of flute. Folkish feel was kept for their next long-play, En Grota Rzeżu Męći (In the Cave of the Mountain King) in 1973, having a strong musical quotation to Edvard Grieg and tracks increasingly longer and complex. The band toured across the RTC with success during 1974 becoming one of the most popular local zone rock acts.
If critics sympathized with the previous albums in 1975 they acclaimed Skaldi’s third zone rock album, Henryk za Natangycy (Henry of the Natangians), as one of the best local rock albums until then. Homonymous opening track (based in the life of Prussian medieval hero Herkus Monte) was by then the longest local continuous studio recording clocking at 21 minutes, being comparable to the long folky and complex suites by Exodus or Jethro's Tuil. Also they became a constant presence to local zonee festivals (being the headliner of the Rytmie Jewiętyci festival in Warsina that year) and performing in several festivals in the Holy Roman Empire and Bohemia (where they were much popular among local zonee Venedic-ethnic community).
Their fourth zone rock album, long titled Womień Je Sięgłamięc Liwry Kędy Nę Ćmie Owmięc (Man is Only Free When Doesn’t Fear the Future) once again opened with a side long track. It was released in 1977 being the start of their creative peak so as the best local folk zone album ever. But not a good seller. Their style became then rather aggressive and dramatic being considered by many something like Jethro’s Tuil meets Lead Aeroplane meets Exodus. During this year they extensively toured across Europe (being present in all major zonee festivals in the continent) and performed occasional shows in the NAL. It was followed by another masterpiece of folk zone, Bilet par Jewrzan (ticket to Hell), during 1978. As previous album it had an aggressive style but in this one trautonium passages became common. Despite highly positive critical reviews (even abroad) the album failed once again to chart
For 1979 Skaldi recorded Krzejaceń Mędu (The Creation of the World), less aggressively styled. But this album was kept unrealesed as their record label was pressuring them to release something more accessible to a wider audience. So instead Krzejaceń Mędu Skaldi released a much softer folk zone work, Rześpiecziem Miemorzie (Respect the Memories), returning their style closer to Ty album. Such intrusion by the record label nearly made the band to break up. It was their last zone rock album. After this one they moved back to their folk rock roots and releasing two other albums. Skaldi finally disbanded in 1982 but re-united several times since then for live performances. Krzejaceń Mędu was finally released in 1998, long after Skaldi ended. Not a masterpiece being remembered for being the last ever zone rock album released in the RTC.
Republika Dwar Korunar
Republika Dwar Korunar’s name (Republic of the Two Crowns), from Turoń (*Here’s* Toruń), was mostly a political statement. Instead the real life Rzejpybiełka as an elective monarchy they prefered an ordinary republic (republika) without aristocrats and kings.
Existing since 1972 they finally debuted three years later with Dziedzikaty o Dziemięca (Dedicated to Insanity) which was well accepted by the critics who considered it one of the most adventurous albums that year, but sold poorly. Ever since the band’s style was established: a mix of several influences (jass, klezmer, folk, polka and even circus music). In their debut album there are even parts which sound exactly as hair metal, a rock genre which only appeared some years later. Despite not a big seller the band was able to gather a cult round them and their fans often used a fictional flag of the RTC (the country) which instead its cross was a horizontal red-white-red triband.
In 1976 they released a second album, Dziemięca Mechanica (Mechanical Insanity), once again a commercial flop despite good critical reviews. Thanks to its status of cult band they were often invited to several local zone rock events but never were able to be known abroad by then. Third album, the Russian titled ecotopist concept album Земля (Zemlya, Earth), was released in 1978 being followed by their final long-play next year. En Mąd Wietrzyku (In a World of Glass) was a concept album based in Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We dystopian novel. Critics hailed this work as a masterpiece but once again commercial success wasn’t achieved. Later that year RDK disbanded. Today they are considered one of the best ever rock bands in the Republic and they sold more records after disbanding than during their life span.
Blackout and Breakout
Tadziej Nalepa and Stanisław Guzyk founded a rock band called Blackout in 1965, in Czytać Rzechu (*here's Rzeszów*). At that time it had nothing to do with zone rock being just another beat band as others during that same late 1960’s period. In 1968 Blackout was able to release an eponymous debut album, which included some psychedelic tracks. A second album was realeased two years later, this one mostly a compilation of singles from period between 1968 and 1970. Everything changed with the famed The Rockmen/Jethro’s Tuil concert in 1970.
As Blackout was converted into a zone rock band tensions arose between Nalepa and Guzyk. While Nalepa (known for admiring North American culture) favoured a blues and folk approach Guzyk intended a lesser style change, being the continuation of the band’s original psychedelic influences. Blackout was close to break up until the two finally came into a compromise on which both the band’s leaders could develop their ideas without ending the band or breaking it in two. Guzyk became the main composer of Blackout while Nalepa was the same under the other new band’s moniker (Breakout) resulting in two completely soundings under same line-up.
Blackout as a zone rock band debuted in 1972 with the album Nowy Blackout (New Blackout), with its name symbolizing a new start for the band. Its 1960’s beat style evolved into rock protest songs keeping short compositions typical from light zone sub-genre which helped them to have some airplay in the radios. Unlike Breakout, on which Nalepa was the main voice, Blackout had both Nalepa and Guzyk as vocalists often singing in complex vocal harmonies reminiscent from the 1960’s beat music. Keeping same style it was followed next year by Kętąd ku Nosz (Singing With Us) which included the longest ever light zone song, clocking at twenty minutes. Both albums sold reasonably well, helped by Blackout already being a well known name since late 1960’s.
From 1975 onwards Blackout style became increasingly complex and eclectic. That year they released one of the first local concept albums, Don Żowanu (Mister Żowanu), telling the story of a day in the life of a common man. By this time Blackout was one of the best selling zone rock acts in the RTC and received in general good critical reception from musical press. As Blackout gained popularity they went on a long national tour and were several times chosen as supporting act to foreign zone rock bands in their RTC tour dates and occasionally even performed concerts abroad so as appeared in foreign TV musical programmes.
In 1976 they released a second concept album, with dramatic vocals shared by Nalepa and Guzyk having a mix of musical style influences. Cyrk (Circus) was an ironic critic to national political class comparing several contemporary politicians to clowns, trapezists, lion tamers and others. It received extremely positive critical reviews and granted animosity from national politicians. Meanwhile Guzyk converted to Zoroastrianism and adopted a Zoroaster-like-look, painting both long hair and beard in black and wearing white clothes and headdress.
From 1977 onwards Blackout started to change their musical style approaching to classical music influences. If Parszukąd Wyna Ciara (Searching for a Land) double album, released that year, was a transitional styled work with the ecotopist Kędy Wierdzi Wieściewa Ciara (When Green Dressed the Land), released in 1978, they deeply adopted the erudite rock sub-genre. Both albums received good critics and sold well. These were followed by a new album in 1979. Symfonia Elektryca par Blackout (Electric Symphony by Blackout) presented the band together with an orchestra conducted by Krzystof Meyer (who already have worked with Dżem in a symphonic zone recording). This megalomaniac album made Blackout to be widely known worldwide and became the best ever selling zone rock album made by a band from the RTC with 800,000 units sold. Such popularity permitted Blackout to go on their first world tour in their own name, being the only one outside the so-called troika Ił Wiekły Drakuń-Argonas-Orkiestra Z to do so. A second best selling symphonic zone album was released one year later again with Meyer's collaboration. En Koroć Rzeże Frydryku II Jarcista (In the Court of King Frederick II the Artist) was an alternate history concept album setting the plot in the coronation of Frydryk Chopin in 1872 as elected king of the RTC instead Olgierd the Naked bringing the artists into power and replacing the nobles, the clergy and the military. This was followed by their second world tour in a time Blackout was the local best selling rock band. After the world tour the band decided to take a break after consecutive tours and releasing year after year albums under the two monikers. In 1982 Nalepa started his own solo career and left both Blackout and Breakout triggering the end of Breakout. Blackout still existed officially until 1987 although most of the time was dormant. Since then Blackout re-united several times in sold-out concerts. Blackout was the only Venedic beat band of the 1960’s which successfully converted into zone rock.
Breakout debuted with a successful self-titled album in 1973. It was a harsh blues rooted recording, the most aggressive ever made until then in the RTC. In fact since then Breakout usually have been in the heavier spectrum of local zone rock scene and Nalepa was The Venedic guitar hero. It was followed by three other albums: Otamię Iłyżenie (On the Other Side of Illusion), the bluesy Ćpaty (Stoned) and Fok (Fire) introducing more keyboards, in 1974, 1975 and 1976 respectively. Then they changed their sound entering in the folk zone sub-genre with Folk, released in 1977. Due to their sounding contemporary critical reviews often compared them to Lead Aeroplane. Also their twist into folk zone was considered as a rip-off to what Lead Aeroplane did with their The Hermit album, in 1974. As a response to the critics Breakout changed their sound once again.
In 1978 they made an approach to erudite rock in their next recording, the 94 o. (The Year 94) concept album album based in the famed 1994 distopian novel by Seoirse Fferreir, blurring the distinction with contemporary Blackout’s recordings, although Breakout’s approach was far more aggressive. After touring during 1978/79 Breakout moniker became first dormant and then extinct when Nalepa left to start his own successful solo career in 1982.
Tekst (Text) was formed in Warsina in 1971 by former members of a late 1960’s beat band. After playing mostly covers from foreign zone rock acts they debuted with their blues zone album Antonina Nyda (Naked Antonina) in 1972. Such album received good critical reviews in general and sold reasonably well, being one of the best selling zone rock albums in the RTC that year. It also became famous for having its cover censored, a female nudity design made by a famous local comics author. The few surviving with its original cover (instead the non-censored cover with the band portrait) are now highly priced collector items. Such success made possible for them to perform concerts across Veneda so as in its German neighbouring states.
Next album, titled Tekst II and having an artistic image of an aeroplane in the cover (as a parody to contemporary Lead Aeroplane albums) was realesed next year keeping their blues influences, but wasn’t as critically and commercially successful as their debut. Even so the band performed with success in the second edition of the Męć Kaldorzy festival and opened Skaldi’s concerts during their national tour that year. Then the band had a hiatus, as some of its members had military duties.
Kryzys (Crisis) was their third album, released in 1976, and its title reflected the troubles within the band as their guitarist left the band during the recording sessions. Minimal guitar work gave place to an organ-driven work. Critics received Kryzys warmly and considered it as Argonas under blues outfit. During this year the band toured together with Blackout across Western and Central Europe.
A new guitarist joined during 1977 and critical acclaim was finally achieved with their fourth and final album, Ciępu i Ura Malcolmu Z-u (The Time and the Hour of Malcolm Z, in hommage to the recently gunned down zonee American activist), which was also the best local in its sub-genre of zone rock. Also commercially successful, it permitted Tekst to go in a tour abroad (across Central Europe) in their own name. In their return tensions arose among some of the band’s members, because of disagreements about what direction should the band follow after their recent success. Finally they disbanded at the end of 1977.
Grupa Stres (Stress Group) was founded in Siodawa (*Here’s* Poznan) in 1971. Initially they performed covers from the repertoire of foreign zone rock acts. In 1972 the group performed at the 2nd Męć Kaldarzy festival, winning the first prize (band category) in the contest for new bands. Soon after they also won the Gazeta Siodawie newspaper poll for the best rock band from Grąweneda province. Such recognition attracted the interest of the music industry and early 1973 they were able to record and release their first album, Waluta (money), famous for its distinctive round coin shaped sleeve artwork. It already was much representative of the band’s styling: furious interplay between bass, guitar and drums occasionally disrupted by pastoral soundscapes, as described in a contemporary critic review.
During 1973 they were able to perform in most of national rock festivals and gained much popularity among those who preferred the harder edge of zone rock. Together with Blackout they were by then the leading national heavy zone band. A self-titled album with a white minimalistic sleeve art (usually known as Album Alby/white album) was released at the end of the year and received good critical reviews in general. During 1974 two members were drafted into the military service causing the end of the band, later all others would be also drafted. It was quite an ordinary situation those days as many bands ceased to exist when its members had different ages (being some drafted during a year and the others in other year causing much instability).
The band was reactivated with major changes in their line-up late 1975 now with their name in English (Stress), thinking about promotion abroad which never really happened. As Stress they released an English sung self-titled album in 1976 which wasn’t as well received as previous two being considered too derivative to Lead Aeroplane’s style. After this flop Stress became Grupa Stres once again in 1977 and abandoned English lyrics. Also the new members were replaced by the original ones who were now all back from military service. As Grupa Stres they released that year their masterpiece, the ever longest titled En Pacz Puprie Są Przymie Morzer, En Gwiara Są Przymie Szer Mrociewkaty (In peace the poor are the first to die, at war they are the first to be killed). It was a concept album about war and rather influenced in the band’s members experiences during their military service. It was another sales flop causing the end of the band for the second time.
Grupa Stres was reformed one last time in 1979 now with an almost completely new line-up, as some of the original members moved to the then new hair rock scene. That year they released their fifth and last album, which was once again self-titled, generally known as Grupa Stres V. Unlike all their previous albums a strong classical music influence was noted taking Grupa Stres to erudite rock sub-genre, although occasionally heavy zone guitar riffs were present. Despite receiving positive critical reviews in general it was another sales flop triggering the disbanding of the band that year.
Kremliaus laikrodis (Kremlin Clock) was formed in 1972 in Vilnius, Lithuania. It was named after the famous clock at Spasskaya Tower, at the Moscow Kremlin, overlooking the White Square. After performing in Vilnius and nearby area they self-relesed in 1975 their debut album full of spacey soundscapes combined with a touch of blues which became their hallmark style, Rūkas niekad nesibaigs (The Fog Will Never End), which they usually sold during their concerts. That album was at the time perfectly unnoticed by the musical critics.
In 1977 they finally received notoriety when they were discovered by Tadziej Nalepa (from Blackout and Breakout), who recently launched his own independent record label. That year Kremliaus laikrodis released a self-titled album which took everyone by surprise, being acclaimed by the critics as a masterpiece. Such critical success made possible to the band to perform in all national zonee festivals during 1977 and 1978 so as supporting Blackout during their tour nationwide during that period.
Third album, Lauke ir viduj (Outdoors and Inside), was released in 1979 but, despite being well accepted, the band was unable to repeat the critical acclaim of Kremliaus laikrodis. In 1982 Pteranodonas (Pteranodon) was released in a time musical tastes were changing among the audiences. It was both a sales and critical flop, triggering the splitting of the band soon after. Most of its members reformed the band as Naujasis Kremliaus laikrodis, in 1985, releasing Nauja pradžia (New Start) which included some re-recordings from Rūkas niekad nesibaigs released ten years before but with a professional producer and sound engineering team. This second incarnation of Kremliaus laikrodis disbanded next year.
The band was formed in Vilnius, Lithuania, around the eccentric Artūras “Baras” Baryzas, whose nickname became the name of the group. Since their begginings the band delivered highly jass inspired sound and Baryzas’ inventive vocal style was often delivered just like an instrument rather than in the traditional sense.
Their debut album, in 1976, was acclaimed as one of the best that year by local musical critics. Titled in Russian as a provocation to SNOR, Пролетарии всех стран, соединяйтесь! (Proletarii vsekh stran, soyedinyaytes′!,Proletarians of the World, Unite!), using a motto from the failed October Revolution (1917). By bringing electronics to a klezmer background it was one of the most revolutionary folk zone albums ever. A major success, it was one of the few debut gold records in the local zone rock scene. Their success granted them to be present in all major zone rock events in the RTC during that year.
It was followed by Atsargiai! Revoliucija statoma! (Caution! Revolution Under Construction!) next year. This one was much less accessible, abbandoning their previous style and falling deeply in the avant-zone sub-genre. It was too much experimental for a large audience and few critics gave it good reviews. A sales flop, it was followed by Kaboom! during 1978. This one was capable to regain good critics and sales figures by returning to jass zone. Its iconic cover depicted an atomic mushroom over Moscow. During 1978 and 1979 Baras had a very stage busy period, a long national tour (including performances in both zonee and jass festivals) was followed by an European one. Beside performing across West and Central Europe they also made several concerts in the CSDS, helped by their openly communist and anti-snorist political stance. By this time Baras achieved cult status, even abroad, and was well known as hardcore anti-snorists, having quite a radical speech in interviews.
Final abum, Dievas mirė, vyrai dar nėra laisvi (God Died, Men Aren't Free Yet), was released in 1980 and kept the jass zone style so as the polemics. After touring across the RTC Baras disbanded during early 1981 as Baryzas intended to leave music. While some of its members moved from zone scene to jass scene Artūras Baryzas shifted from music to avant-garde cinema where he remains to this day.
Other notable bands
Beside the above mentioned acts many others existed, especially during the 1977-81 period. Many never had the chance of recording, others just launched a single, an EP or, at the best, an album. Even so some of those one shot bands were able to create some of the best local zone rock works. Below a list of some of those bands:
- Joseł (Exile): an erudite rock band from Warsina known for their musicianship. By arriving late into scena zonie they were unfavoured by an overcrowded record market at the moment of their excellent debut with Joseł dzie Rusja (Exile from Russia) in 1980.
It was followed by Bieleśmy Dzej (The Most Beautiful Day) in 1982 considered by many as the best local zone rock album of the 1980’s. Despite its quality sold badly in a time music tastes were changing. Following these unsuccessful but high quality works they finally disbanded in 1984.
- Arzurie Niegrie (The Blue-Blacks): one of the most popular local beat bands existing since 1962. Czesław Niemię was one of them until 1966. In 1977 Arzurie-Niegrie started an incursion into zone rock scene. Their ninth album presented the usually rather commercial band in a zong-opera outfit. Concept album Nydy (Naked) was well received by the critics but not by the public. For zonees Arzurie-Niegrie was a too commercial and mainstream band while for their usual fans Nydy sounded too strange. The band made two other attempts, always with good critical reviews: the polemic Passio secundum Pilatum concept album (the passion of Christ in a Roman point of view) and Vénédaise (in 1978 and 1979 respectively). Both were keyboard driven works in the vein of Henderson Enfield Lockwood & Pitman or Argonas and made possible the band to free all their creativity despite being their worst selling albums during the 1970's. By 1980 they returned to their usual commercial style and never played again anything from their 1977-79 period, despite their 1980 album still had some tracks clearly zone rock. The band ended during mid-1980's, unable to survive to new musical rock styles.
- Grupa Z (Z Group): folk zone band from Warsina especially known for having the best local female voice, the Venedic ethnic but Bohemian born Rzenata Ławięda, who was also considered as a sex symbol by many. Grupa Z successfully debuted in 1974 with Lecieca en Dzieman (Joy in the Morning) which wasn’t gold record just for few hundred sales. After touring nationwide they released their second and last album, Dom okost Łak (House Next to the Lake), one year later. They weren’t able to repeat their initial success (both critical and commercial) and disbanded soon after. Rzenata Ławięda remained in the zone rock scene but never released any other record on her own name or as a member of a band. Instead she participated in several albums by notable local bands (notably Blackout and Będa Piotru Jeku) until she left the zone rock scene in 1980.
- Cząk Fili (Five Boys): band from Prussian town of Prat (*here's* Ełk: created name from Polish word "łęg", meaning meadow, or prat in Wenedyk, which possibly gave origin to former town's names: German Lyck, Old Prussian Luks and former Polish Łek). Their sole album, the 1984's Fiń Absoluty Mędu (The Absolute End of the World), was a dark apocalyptic erudite rock concept album known for its overbusy and aggressive keyboards workout inspired and reflecting two contemporary mass destruction conflicts: the Bornei Filipinas War and the Persia-Iraaq War. It was considered one of the best local zone rock works of the 1980's and earned a cult ever since. Little promotion from their record label and poor sales made the band to split soon after.
- Piotr Jek started his musical career during late 1960’s as a keyboardist. In 1973 he released a solo album, called Piotr, on which he was vocalist and played organ extensively. Because of that critics considered him as a lesser Czesław za Niemię. A number of session musicians supported him giving the record a wide variety of influences (blues, jass and others). Some of them would become the core of Będa Piotru Jeku (Piotr Jek’s Band) later and they released an erudite rock album in 1976, Muzyka (music). It was a keyboard (mostly organ) driven album and once again critics weren’t fully convinced. A new album followed in 1978, mostly sung by Rzenata Łewięda (ex-Grupa Z) as a guest, and finally the band was well accepted by the critics. Since then Piotr Jek played a wider variety of keyboard instruments. Final (and critically acclaimed) album was released in 1980. It was another erudite rock styled concept album inspired by Stanisław Lem’s science fiction novel Return from the Stars. 127 On Pokód: Rzetry dzie Fomalhaut (127 years after: return from Fomalhaut). As musical testes changed Będa Piotru Jeku disbanded in 1982.