[sixties-l] Milan Hlavsa obituary

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: 01/13/01

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    Milan Hlavsa
    Los Angeles Times
    Monday, January 8, 2001
    If ever a case could be made that a rock band was at the center of a 
    political revolution, that case could be made for Plastic People of the 
    The seminal Czech group, formed by bass player, singer and composer Milan 
    Hlavsa in the late 1960s, became a rallying symbol for leading dissidents 
    nearly a decade later. Those dissidents, led by the playwright Vaclav 
    Havel, formed Charter 77, which became one of the East Bloc's most 
    influential human rights monitoring groups.
    Mr. Hlavsa died Friday in Prague. He was 49, and the cause of death was 
    lung cancer.
    Plastic People of the Universe came into being during a period of 
    liberalization after the Prague Spring reforms of 1968.
    The band found its inspiration in the darker corners of Western rock as 
    embodied by groups such as the Doors, the Fugs and especially the Velvet 
    Underground and Frank Zappa, taking their name from the Zappa song "Plastic 
    "The group's early sound featured equal parts of the Velvet's brooding 
    mystique and Zappa's neo-Dada disjointedness and cultural satire," said 
    Steve Hochman, who writes frequently about pop music for the Los Angeles 
    During the '60s and '70s, the band's concert performances were reminiscent 
    of San Francisco-style happenings of the psychedelic era.  They featured 
    set pieces, outlandish makeup and costumes, and light shows. And despite 
    the fact that the band did not play out of its homeland until the late 
    1990s, it attained legendary status throughout Eastern Europe. Bootleg 
    copies of the band's albums did brisk business in the old East Bloc and 
    eventually found their way to the United States.
    But the band's official sanction was withdrawn soon after the Soviet-backed 
    authorities crushed the reform movement in Czechoslovakia and began a 
    "normalization" process to re-establish hard-line social and behavioral norms.
    By 1970, the Plastics' nonconformity led to the government revoking their 
    professional license to perform. This meant they lost the use of their 
    state-owned musical instruments and access to rehearsal space.
    But instead of giving up, the Plastics went underground. They made their 
    own instruments and found rehearsal space at the homes of friends, one of 
    whom was Havel, who would advise them on song lyrics. The band recorded one 
    of its early albums at the writer's country home.
    "The ironic thing about the Plastic People is that our music had absolutely 
    no political message," Mr.  Hlavsa later said of those early years.

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