MARIBOR – ROCK’N’ROLL CITY
According to some testimonies there were around 250 beat-rock bands active in Maribor at that time.
Maribor used to have a similar status to that of Liverpool in the UK: an industrial, workers’ town on the fringe of the country, away from the center of media attention, with an extremely powerful beat rock’n’roll scene.
When I started doing research on the local Maribor rock’n’roll scene of the 1960s, back in March 2012, I was extremely surprised about not having met all these people earlier, at the end of the 70s and the 80s, when I began to be actively involved in music-making.
Subcultures have a tendency to violently break off cultural patterns. Beginners of rock broke it off with national folk music (the accordion), punks broke it off with the old rockers, ravers did it with all the guitarists, etc. Such breakoffs are the negative impact of subcultures, the positive one being networking for new circles, which later on take over some of the power in society, or some lever of authority. Well, in Maribor things definitely did not turn out that way, despite the fact that it had a powerful rock’n’roll scene back in the 1960s, which – in Yugoslavian terms – could only be compared to the Zagreb scene. Testimonies describe a multitude of garage bands in different parts of the town. In those days, Maribor in the cultural sense was a lot bigger and more metropolitan than today.
Maribor is the second largest town in Slovenia, the northern-most republic of the former socialist Yugoslavia. After the secession from Stalin, the latter functioned under its own type of self-management socialism. Maribor was the location of the greater part of military industry. The entire army fleet was being produced at the local car factory TAM; the textile industry (MTT) dressed the numerous members of the Yugoslav People’s Army. Belgrade manipulated between Ljubljana (the capital) and Maribor. After the Second World War, the German minority emigrated from the town, and post-war massacres and migrations took place.
Comeback concert poster, 2014
The first post-war youth generation discovered themselves in the wild rhythm of rock’n’roll – the Rolling Stones and mostly the Beatles. We should mention that the first wave of the American rock’n’roll was not to be felt greatly in Yugoslavia. Neither did it have a substantial impact in Great Britain, or at least any major concrete musical equivalents. During my research I read Keith Richards’ autobiography, which gives a detailed account of the rock’n’roll and blues scene at the turn of the 1960’s decade in England. Rock’n’roll was dead; it was nurtured and kept alive only inside the blues circles.
The archives of the Slovenian national radio, however, testify also to the fact that rock’n’roll in small quantities was being played on Slovenian radio stations as well – with some delay, but nonetheless. The youth was listening to Radio Luxemburg, which also covered a part of Yugoslavia. It was there where the latest, most popular products of musical pop-culture were being aired.
Continental, 1958, at high scool 2nd Maribor
Teddy Lah provides a thorough account of this radio station: »I have to say right away that Radio Luxemburg was no pirate radio station, as many people are mistaken to believe. Already in the 1930s it was a privately owned corporation, which, like Radio Monte Carlo, broadcasted music commercially, while the national radio from the neighboring countries was not so eager to please its listeners. During daytime, Radio Luxemburg with its million watt power was broadcasting for the German-speaking area (until 7pm), but at night they aired in English, with an emphasis on new, recent music. The program could be heard across the entire Europe, all the way to Egypt. The Soviet Union created disturbances in the broadcasting, until the Berlin wall came down, but even with these interferences it was heard well enough in our area. Once Europe was allowed to establish private radio stations, Radio Luxemburg at 208 meters on the middle wave, ceased to broadcast. Today this same station is operating in the German-speaking area as RTL Radio and TV. Personally I began listening to Radio Luxemburg in 1957, and it had a tremendous influence on my growing-up years. But I have to say that for some time, late at night, I was also able to receive what was a true pirate station, Radio Caroline, which broadcasted from a ship in the North Sea.«
Things started to happen almost simultaneously in London and Maribor. In an almost identical manner. Richards describes how he tuned his first acoustic guitar all by himself. He also disassembled his mom’s radio and took the parts to construct his first guitar amplifier. Even in Maribor, there is not a single story that doesn’t include playing on a radio receiver, in most cases even more instruments on a single device. Gerhard Angleitner (Korali) began to play beat music on a home-made bass guitar. The most popular music venue of that time, the local exhibition and convention center, known as Hall C, was ruled till the mid-sixties by the so-called ‘periodic’ orchestras with Berti Rodošek at the front. His orchestra (The Berti Rodošek orchestra), due to enormous demand, sometimes even played on two locations at the same time, something it could afford to do because of the large number of band members. At the same venue, however, promising young beatniks were only allowed to perform in front of the audience during the breaks. The orchestra didn’t need electricity, but the new, so-called beat ensembles, were of course electrified. Naturally, what happened is that they received more turbulent and energetic expressions of support. Soon there were just them, the electricians, standing on the stage of Hall C, with the orchestra members at first taunting them, as if to say – what if the electricity runs out? Well, the electricity did not run out for a very long time, and Hall C at that time must have looked as a piece of state-of-the-art architecture; Maribor more city-like than any time after. At least until somewhere around 1969/70. As a matter of fact, the revolution was extremely short-lived. Much like anywhere else in the world, concerning any scene, it takes about two years until it comes full circle in public, not counting the preparations, which usually amount to about two or three years. By the mid-sixties, the then-futuristic Hall C was occupied by bands like Korali, Rdeči dečki, Biseri, Generacija, The Chains, and many others. But there were also numerous other venues where rock’n’roll was being played on the dance floor. One of them was the former youth club in Maribor, Orožnova Street 2, today forming a part of the office building of the University of Maribor. I took on the management of this place myself, in the late 80’s, and renamed it to MKC – Mladinski kulturni center (Youth Cultural Center).
At the concert in Youth Club, Klub mladih
There are some other local sights that need to be mentioned concerning the Maribor beat scene of the 1960s, some traits that I thought applied to the entire Yugoslavia, if not wider.
In Maribor the dance was called Vugi Vugi (Woogie-woogie) instead of Bugi Vugi (Boogie-Woogie). The legend says it was named after a photographer whose last name was Vugi, or Vuga. At the end of the 1950s he spent some time in Trieste, Italy, where he saw the American sailor dance the Boogie-Woogie. On his return to Maribor he demonstrated his newly acquired cosmopolitan dance moves on the floor of Hall C. The police beat him senseless and threw him into a cell. As a gesture of silent support, the youth started to call the new dance Vugi Vugi.
“Hora legalis”, which I also believed to be in force across the entire Yugoslavia, was set between 8 pm and 6 pm, only in Maribor and for one reason alone – the emergence of rock’n’roll.
The hair-police, whom I believed to be a civilian, non-formal, micro-dimensional get-together of lumpenproletariat, was really the formal militia (the police). They chased long-hairs and cut their hair off right on the streets. They used hair trimmers and »mowed« a stretch of hair right off the middle of their heads. It was going on so often that you could hear the people passing by commenting: »There goes another Beatle…«
The expression »beatles« was another local invention, which stood for long-hairs. The word also symbolized a delinquent or some sort of scoundrel, one with long hair.
Beat music began to be played very early in Maribor. As early as the end of the 1950s and the beginning of the 1960s, there was an active band – at that time it had no particular name – which gathered together some of the later most prominent actors of the “electric” musical scene, in the following cast: Hari Pernarčič (rhythm guitar), Franc Rojs (lead guitar), Vili Galun, or occasionally Boris Piko (bass guitar). They had no regular drummer. Franc Rojs was transforming radio receivers into guitar amplifiers, and acoustic guitars into electric ones, and was the repairman for many a 1960s Maribor band.
As long as we’re introducing the fundamentals, the motor, the driving forces of the rock’n’roll music scene, we should definitely highlight two casts: Rdeči dečki (The Red Boys) and Generacija (The Generation, who started out as Korali (The Corals)). In the sixties, the two bands played a typical role of two separate stands towards music, and probably life-style as well. Amongst themselves, they made a distinction between The Beatles and The Rolling Stones’ followers. But unquestionably a fact remains that Korali and later on Generacija were the first and leading beatniks in Slovenia.
RDEČI DEČKI (THE RED BOYS) with frontman Ivo Čobec (saxophone), unfortunately already deceased, were an important musical institution from the very beginning. A number of local pop musicians were born out of it, which later became nationally and internationally renowned. To mention only a few: Edvin Fliser and Čarli Arhar, successful seventies’ pop singers, rocker Neca Falk, and Boris Rošker (pop and folk music producer). Mostly by Čobec’s merit the band continued to work and even released two CDs after the year 2000. The last one features quality pop music. Ivo Čobec was also a passionate collector of archive media materials about the Rdeči dečki group and the entire Maribor rock scene of the sixties. His archive includes tape recordings from ordinary cassette players, taken at concerts called Kitarijade (Guitariades). The band itself was awarded 3rd prize by the expert jury of the all-Yugoslavian ‘guitariade’ in Zagreb in 1967, which featured 200 Yugoslavian rock’n’roll bands over a three-day event at the student center. They also appeared at an international rock band competition in 1968 in Graz (Austria), winning 1st place jury award and 2nd place audience award. It is becoming increasingly apparent that in the sixties, Yugoslavia was not yet a very closed-type communist state, it became much more restrictive in the following two decades. The above recordings are an excellent testimony to the atmosphere of the Ljubljana ‘guitariade’ event of 1968 at Tivoli hall, where the band won another 3rd place award of the jury, coming in right after the Mladi levi (Young Lions) and Bele vrane (White Crows). As we can hear from the recording, the bands were required to present four songs each, on the condition that at least one of them was an author piece.
Rdeči dečki (The Red boys) 1968
The recorded music material is a big mystery in any case… all the musicians talk about having recorded rock music on Radio Maribor as early as 1964 (bands like Korali, Biseri, The Out and others). I’m wondering how it happened that these recordings were not kept. To a true paranoid, the story of the recordings can be a real inspiration in terms of conspiracy theories. Even the recordings that belonged to the individual performers or authors, have managed to disappear miraculously through some »friendly« channels. History disappearing or just an inconvenience and a faulty attitude towards one’s own work? Probably, a combination of both. Thanks to editor-in-chief, Stane Kocutar, we had the opportunity to single-handedly search through the archive and the phonoteque of Radio Maribor. We took every reel of the original tape recordings, opened it and checked the data on the corresponding card. We searched through all the tapes dated 1962-1976, but found almost nothing. What we did find was a recording of the band Grif from 1976 and another one belonging to the Alarm from the same year, when the band reunited to make that recording.
Singer Edvin Fliser (The Red Boys) in one of the army electric music crew in Maribor
Perhaps the recordings ended up in the hands of people who don’t even know what they have; they are probably scattered around individual owners and will get lost in time. It just goes to prove the extreme inefficiency of the public institutions in Slovenia. There was only one radio station in the socialist times, and the same goes for the entire national (today they are called public) archive media. But a fact is that the private sector of recording studios in Slovenia did not emerge until the eighties. This means that somebody deliberately or undeliberately »beheaded« entire generations of musicians and paralyzed their mobilization ability.
Out of the band Korali came the most important Maribor author formation of that time, the band GENERACIJA (GENERATION), or, as they were called later, TOP GENERATION. The indisputable leader of this project was Mirko Fistravec, lead guitarist and singer. He started out in Korali with Didi Rauš (bass), Maks Puck (guitar) and Marjan Kosar (drums), together with Milan Petrovič, an active entertainment musician to this day. The band represented the rougher core of the local rock scene, the Rolling Stones’ line, while the majority was still made up of The Beatles’ followers. It was Korali that gradually took over the stage and dance floor at Hall C from the hands of the Berti Rodošek Orchestra.
Generacija, The Genration
In 1964, Korali performed with Tedy Lah, probably the first truly long-haired rock star in Yugoslavia. He would begin his performance with a mouth organ, imitating the popular folk singer Donovan. After a couple of soft country songs, the band stepped up the tempo and Tedy revealed a second element by singing ‘Gloria’ (Them) and ‘Baby please don’t go’. That always blew the roof off at the hall. With a gig at Hall Tivoli in 1964, Tedy Lah was probably the first one to have caused a moral panic attack in Yugoslavia, described in detail in a concert review of the newspaper Delo (attached). Korali performed regularly throughout the country.
Korali, tour line up
The band soon saw that the home turf would not provide for them as well as they would like, and decide to emigrate. Their first move (under the name Generacija) was in 1966 to the neighboring Graz (Austria), where they had a regular appearance at the Star Club. They continued through Germany (as Top Generation) and ended up in Paris in 1968, as a sextet in the cast of Mirko Fistravec, Damjan Katalinič, Didi Rauš, Mario Škrinjarić with wind players Toni Kuzmić and Koki Vujošević. They continued their musical path in Switzerland etc… In general, the people of Maribor at that time were a lot more open-minded than the later generations. It was no obstacle for them having to drive to London to buy the original equipment they needed, regardless of the fact that departures from the country were limited. The Generacija thus went to check out the club in Austria, and by the next time they were leaving the country they had already moved out, with all their instruments, amplifiers, etc. They were now called Top Generation and became the first Yugoslavian musical legend in Europe. The most incredible things happened to them. The Slovenian public believes that Laibach was the first band with hit songs outside the national borders. A mistake of twenty fat years. Top Generation released two extremely quality singles (both author- and production-wise) abroad (Germany, Switzerland, Spain) named Stop Stop and Waiting for a Train. The music and lyrics for both are the work of Mirko Fistravec. The Swiss Star Records Publishing did a great job and released a truly neat LP. Both of the songs carry a rebellious note. Stop Stop is a critique of the inactive individual and the unified western society. Waiting for a Train is an anti-war song played on acoustic guitar, whose lyrics come close to a folk song theme: the ever-present emigration and the reasons behind it. All Fistravec’s songs are marked by an excellent and appealing melody, a carefully selected rhythm and professional arrangement. During the preparations for their next hit, authored by Damjan Katalinič, they came to a stop because of business reasons. At that time, Top Generation was a well-paid live band, who already began to collect the royalties for their copyrights. But unfortunately, they also stumbled upon some bad luck. They had pre-booked gigs in Paris in 1968, but arrived in the middle of the chaotic demonstrations. All gigs cancelled. Their drummer at the time was Mario Škrinjarić (formerly member of Bijele strijele, Zagreb, Croatia) and together they decided to look for a new manager in Germany. With Škrinjarić behind the wheel, they left Paris and hit a truck just 60 km outside the town. Mario Škrinjarić was killed instantly, Fistravec made it with a couple of minor injuries. After that, a new drummer joined the band, Boris Polak. Top Generation continued to perform until 1986. In the coming years, Fistravec founded a studio and a booking agency called MF-Music Nederland. At their best, Top Generation sounded like an excellent soul band with rock’n’roll roots. They leave behind some great footage and quite a few extraordinary author pieces. We can definitely say that they created at least two top author songs, although Fistravec himself would agree that his works need not be counted as part of the Slovenian production. The band Generacija (that is, at a time when they were still called Korali) also got a taste of a revolutionary, rebellious, subversive experience. The youth committee established that the band and their music were creating and encouraging delinquent riots, and were banned from performing in Maribor. As a sign of protest, the band organized an outdoors concert at Liberty Square in Maribor in December 1965. Milan Petrovič recalls it snowed heavily, but the square was filled to the last inch. The band that organized protest concerts in the time of socialism in the 1960s (??!!) had rightly chosen to go into exile, as they would definitely become ex-communicated in the home political-cultural area.
Generacija, The Generation, also Top Generation have a long career
The icing on the cake of the entire scene came in the form of a one-of-a-kind, all-woman (or all-girl) cast called THE CHAINS, with a most energetic and fierce leader, Alenka Pinterič. In their most famous cast, Ditka Haberl, Breda Pinterič, Alenka Cilenšek and Alenka Pinterič were fabulous Beatles’ interpreters. Alenka Pinterič later continued her career as a professional singer; and for some time Ditka Haberl as well. The driving force behind The Chains (the name was inspired by a Beatles’ song) was Alenka Pinterič, who organized the original cast towards the end of 1964. In less than a year, accompanied by Korali, the all-female group The Chains became famous. Pinterič went even further and wanted to set up instrumentalists as well, with the only electric all-female cast performance happening in Hall C at the end of 1966. In that year, Alenka Pinterič was already winning popular music festivals across Yugoslavia.
Never after the 1960s did Maribor have such a perfectly rounded up musical scene in terms of sociology, society, art, music and last, but not least, even business. Girl bands have not appeared since, apart from the shy attempts in 2003. Considering the testimony of the legendary Maribor tailor Igor Furgula, who made fashionable outfits for the local rockers, sold movie tickets under the table and pulled numerous other pranks in the city, it is clear to me that Maribor was a much »bigger« city at that time.
In 1967 THE HOMEMAKERS appear out of somewhere, and begin to perform at the central Maribor venues with five Beatles’ cover songs. The band promoted two of the later key figures, Rasto Ovin on rhythm guitar, and Andrej Veble on solo guitar. It was founded by Ovin and Vladimir Jurc – Lali. The drum set introduced Danilo Karba, who later became a valuable drummer in many local casts, until he finally settled down with Čudežna polja (The Fields of Wonder). Andrej Veble joined the legendary progressive blues band Buldožer on bass guitar in the 1970s. The Homemakers were Beatles’ fans and played their repertoire over and over. They were the good guys of the Maribor rock’n’roll scene, and hard-working students. Rasto Ovin created a successful academic career; Veble studied medicine and became a renowned local physician. They were friends with a much more popular and important group Newcomes, who also happened to save a lot of their gigs by lending them their equipment. Rasto Ovin remembers one such episode: »As The Homemeakers we had virtually no equipment. A lot of help was provided by Rdeči dečki with Edvin Fliser. But this one time, on the day of our gig, it turned out that they couldn’t lend us their equipment. Zoran Zabavnik’s dad tried his best with our only amplifier, whose good years were far behind, but he just could not make it work. At that moment, the doorbell rang (we used to practice at the home of the Zabavnik family) and there at the front door, was an angel. He just showed up all by himself – Korl, the Newcomes’ bass player, and asked if we needed any equipment, offering to use his Selmer – supposedly the best stuff in Maribor at that time. Everything went smoothly from there on, and we managed to pull through the gig. I am hopeful that today’s rock bands are still fostering some of that ethical spirit. We are proud to have been a part (although a very small one) of that scene.« One of the reasons for the success of The Homemakers on the local rock scene was also their excellent polyphonic Beatles’-style singing.
The Homemakers, Photo: Mišo Hochstatter, 1968
With the change in the cast came the change of name. They were now called Inkvizicija (The Inquisition) and became a successful terrace-ensemble in different casts deep into the seventies. At the beginning of the decade they came up with »new« used professional equipment, bought from a Mrs. Medved in Graz (Austria). There is an anecdote about smuggling the equipment across the Yugoslavian border: they knew they were not going to avoid high customs’ fees at the Šentilj border crossing. They calculated that for a value of some 10.000 dinars, they would have to pay at least 1.300 dinars of customs’ fees, so they decided to take it up at a smaller border crossing, Cmurek/Trate. Obviously, the customs officer noticed the full van packed with new equipment right away, and got suspicious about the turn they took on the way to Maribor. »How come you made such a big turn, « he asked them after a long night’s journey from London. They answered him, confident as ever, that the officers in Šentilj wanted to collect 300 dinars for »this junk«. »O, right, I see, well, but rules are rules. « – and the sound of the band was a lot more English from that time on.
THE NEWCOMES is the next powerful and influential cast that appears on the record. The members were Darko Mustajbašič Baša, lead guitarist, 15-year-old Ivan Korbun Haban, drummer, and singer Milan Petrovič. The Newcomes represented the tougher line of rock’n’roll, blues, and even progressive. The skeleton to their repertoire were the Stones’ songs. Apart from Karli Arhar, Haban was the most extreme freak on that scene (just take a look at his image of 1971 in the group photo of Alarm). For Haban, there were no limits to extrovertism or scandal, and he soon stepped from behind the drum set up to the microphone, and sang for a number of great bands. One of the most intriguing figures is definitely Darko Mustajbašič Baša, an excellent guitar player, who went to play as a professional in Paris soon after the expansion of the Maribor beat scene, which reached its peak in 1968. He returned in the eighties, and formed the first private recording studio in Maribor, called Piramida. Occasionally he returned to the scene as a musician, but worked the entire time as a producer, being one of the few people from the sixties’ period who managed to live off music this whole time. The Newcomes’ success is partly due to their patron, financing all their equipment and instrumentation and made them the most modern and technically equipped band for miles around.
Another professional musician is MILAN PETROVIČ, who sang with a number of bands, including Generacija in clubs across Europe, and Kon Tiki and Korali before that… He performed with Korali at the famous first rock’n’roll breakthrough in 1965 in Ljubljana, Hala Tivoli. At the concert, organized by the 20-year-old (?!) Toni Sabol, there were also The Mladis from Zagreb, Delfini (The Dolphins), Ptice (The Birds) and Crveni Koralji (The Red Corals) from Zagreb. The visitors tore the place apart; mostly they thrashed the wooden chairs, which were set up so very out of turn, considering it was a rock concert. The concert made it to every single newspaper in Yugoslavia, in a negative way, of course. As if to say, »does our country really need all this western thrashing«. Milan Petrovič was probably one of the first rockers in Slovenia. Interesting is the fact that he was never invited into the circle of singers from that scene, who all got the chance to make a professional career through local and national festivals like Vesela jesen and Slovenska popevka in the seventies. At these festivals, the Slovenian pop music production, led at the time by the state broadcasting company RTV, together with its publishing house ZKP RTV Ljubljana, was extinguishing the youthful energy of beat group members of the 1960s: Alenka Pinterič, Marjetka Falk – Neca, Karli Arhar, Edvin Fliserj, Ditka Haberl, Ivo Mojzer and others who represented the core of Slovenian pop performers in the seventies. After this blossoming period of Slovenian rock, Ljubljana as the country’s capital, never again allowed for such a thing to happen – which turned out to be the »devilish plan« of the central media against the periphery, for generations to come.
Milan Petrovič, 1968 at Youth Club Maribor
Next in the line of the Maribor rock scene phenomena was Rado Urbančič – Racky, a guitar player, author and frontman in a number of local and international casts. Younger than the Rdeči dečki and Generacija, he formed the band Surprise that began playing in 1968 at Hall C. His older friends from Generacija remember him to be a significant player on the Maribor rock scene, which means they accepted him, even though he was younger, to their environment because of his virtuosity on the electric guitar. At the beginning of the seventies’ decade, Racky formed what became a new legend of the Yugoslavian progressive rock scene, THE ALARM. The band soon made its breakthrough at the Boom Festival in 1972, which was persistently referred to by the media as the pop Festival Ljubljana 1972. It was a Yugoslavian festival that toured through different cities. The seventies kicked in, and the band from Maribor tuned in to a fresh sound and a noisy progressive rock style full of long solos and virtuoso playing. Racky met his equal on the bass guitar, Bojan Goličnik – Golica. Joining them occasionally was Toni Sabol on the keyboards, which we find in almost all of the more exposed and sound-innovative Maribor casts. The band obviously made some money, as they were soon off to do some shopping in London. They got new Orange amplifiers and head-to-toe outfits for the stage. In the meantime they also played (or planned?) another tour in the Netherlands. Racky was one step away from a great success at least three times in his career, but he always lost the energy right before it happened. Or perhaps he lost his business skills, one thing he would not bring with him to the stage or the backstage. The record features a recording taken at Radio Maribor, one of the three remaining copies. As a rule, the producers silenced the guitars of the »thrashing« bands at that time, forcing them into a more mainstream sound, something that brought with it an additional political and social meaning next to the music alone. A set of circumstances caused Racky and manager Toni Sabol to find themselves in London in 1976, as part of a newly-formed cast, TRANS EGO EXPRESS (TEE). By this time they were playing an almost spiritual, acoustic style, influenced greatly by Ivan Vrhunc. The legend says that in London, members of TEE at the studio of the Electric Light Orchestra recorded the album material. They arranged to leave for an USA tour with the Electric Light Orchestra, as their support act – which was quite a big deal at the time. Before that, Sabol arranged for them to play at Hala Tivoli in Ljubljana (5000 seats), as the support group for John McLaughlin. However, right before the gig they had an argument with Sabol, which made him cancel it. The USA tour was cancelled as well, the record was never released, and the Trans Ego never performed again. As punk was beginning to take over the scene, Racky continued to live in his world of acoustic and progressive music. In 1981, he and Bojan Goličnik – Golica got a tourist visa and headed for the west coast of the USA. They cruised the entire coast, performing with an acoustic author set, and even recorded there. Racky recalls that they played surrounded by nothing but noisy punk bands. Can you imagine the masses wandering the west-coast clubs at that time? But Racky and Golica (who was becoming increasingly caught up in substance abuse) ignored the possible connections and acquaintances they could have well made, all the way from Los Angeles to San Francisco, to … Right before signing a publishing deal, they ran back home. They managed to earn enough money to buy plane tickets, which obviously means that others appreciated them more than they did themselves.
Alarm 1972, promo photo
ČUDEŽNA POLJA (THE FIELDS OF WONDER) is a band created at the end of the 1960s. It was formed by Gorazd Elvič and Rudi Jazbec at a local high school, II. gimnazija Maribor. In 1972 it was then shaped into a cast that is still active to this day. The two high school students named the band after a poetry collection of the famous poet Langston Hughes, Fields of Wonder. At the beginning of their career they performed across Yugoslavia, using the English name. They were even mistakenly introduced as an actual English band by managers on one of the Yugoslavian tours alongside the world-famous The Equals, which the audience believed, but the Belgrade members of the press did not, however, thanks to the tour manager Lazarevič, that news never made it to the public. Apart from their own repertoire, Čudežna polja were also excellent Beatles’ imitators. They won the European Beatles’ Revival Festival in Graz and received a series of offers from abroad, but turned down such a professional engagement with their ‘Beatles’ Show’ in Scandinavia, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. Just like Alarmi, Čudežna polja appeared at the first Yugoslavian Boom rock festival in Ljubljana in 1970. They made history as the first band that recorded an official rock single in Slovenian language, called Solze (Tears). The B-sides of their initial singles, published by RTB Beograd and Jugoton reveal another side to them, their progressive artistic streak. The version of Solze appearing on the recording today, was recorded live with a tape recorder at the beginning of the seventies, proving their extraordinary ability as performers. Later on, in the 80s and the 90s, they became one of the leading pop bands in Slovenia, publishing eleven author albums – six gold and five silver editions – and becoming one out of only five performers in Slovenia who sold over 100.000 copies of an individual album, their entire sales’ rate reaching over 500.000 copies.
Čudežna polja 70’s, promo photo
The band GRIF, though younger, appears on the record because of their connection to the 1960’s generation. On a number of occasions they appeared as the supporting band to Karli Arhar. In terms of sound, they are a great match to Alarm, probably thanks to high quality lead guitarists’ performance in both bands, and the fact that they both recorded at the same studio. The band GRIF was formed by Milan Prislan, guitarist and author of most of the music and lyrics, who recorded an album’s amount of music materials in the period between 1976 and 1980. On this occasion we are publishing a song called Na severu nič novega (All Quiet on the Northern Front), which was big on concerts of a younger generation in the middle of the seventies. More about that scene at another time.
Before we close, a few more words about two other bands that played an important role in Maribor, but unfortunately did not make it to become a part of this release, as their recordings have disappeared.
Another vital cast, whose recordings are not kept, i.e. I was not able to find any, although they recorded at the Radio Maribor studio. The Out was the starting point for Karli Arhar. The driving force of the band was Andrej Pukšič, with Hari Pernarčič as his closest colleague. They can be labeled as a »heavy category« beat or blues band, with their inspiration – like that of Generacija – coming mostly from the Rolling Stones, but they also did Canned Heat, as well as their own work. The band was the first opportunity for Karli Arhar to be exposed as a showman. Andrej Pukšič had big hopes about a professional career. They were organized as professionals: a van, their own equipment, a manager, stage outfits from Vienna. Andrej Pukšič ended up running a well-known local car repair and vulcanizer service until 2012. Karli made it and became the best Slovenian chanson singer of all times.
The Out singer Karli Arhar, 60’s
Their spiritual leader was the absolute pioneer of electric music in Maribor, Franc Rojs. Already in the early fifties, they played rock’n’roll on electric guitars during the breaks at II. gimnazija high school. Franc Rojs puts it clearly: »Whatever a folk song like Čuk se je oženil signified to the other youths and kids and their interpretation of the world, we found in the music of Johnny and the Hurricanes and others like that. « Later on, Rojs founded another band, Kontiki, with a number of well-known musicians and quite a lot of engagements. On a short tour in Italy and France, they changed their name to The Creeps and started playing rhythm and blues. They practiced in Zagreb and Maribor and quickly became an influential cast, but with a (too) short life-span.
In the summer of 1968, the core of this band in the cast of Bedenik, Fidelj and Katič were off to a seasonal working and musical excursion in London, to check out all the current bands, buy guitars and amplifiers, and return to Maribor as advanced musicians. The After Eight took the spot of the first progressive rock band in Maribor. All the others, settled in the ways of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, were considered commercial by them. The band was active in the years 1968 and 1969, and fell apart because Katič’s and Fidelj’s joined the army (the YPA). Bedenik went off to college, while Racky and Petrovič are active musicians to this day.
Members of After Eight at the Streets of London 1968
The leader of the band was Drago Goličnik, brother of the later popular musician Bojan Goličnik – Johnny. The name was meant as a provocation for the public, but after the local communist committee met with the intent to shut down that provocation, they instantly changed their name to LSD – Lepi Slovenski Dečki (acronym for ‘Pretty Slovenian Boys’). Drago created the band somewhat idealistically, looking for the best instrumentalists all over town, and then, with the help of friends and acquaintances, organized a meeting at the local restaurant Center in 1969 to gather the finest young rock musicians. LSD was thus formed by means of a »public« invitation, or personal advertisement, which was a rather unconventional way to form a band in Maribor. The idea behind it was to create a quality concert rock band; because they believed that the others were too commercial. Half of their repertoire consisted of their own work, and the other half of adaptations of the Led Zeppelin, The Taste, Eric Clapton, etc. In terms of media, the band never made it to a wider audience circle. After the Ljubljana ‘guitariade’ event in 1970, and a devastating critique by Tomaž Domicelj, they stopped performing. Drago Goličnik returned to study medicine in Graz and continued to play tennis professionally. In the course of the following years, he became coach to a number of future tennis stars: Bobo Živojinović, Iztok Božič and Tina Križan. He was also the coach at the German club Bederjunged from Heidelberg, where he got the chance to play with Boris Becker. LSD‘s biggest success remains the record number of visitors at a concert in the former ‘Dom JLA’ (before and after called ‘Narodni dom’) in Maribor.
LSD at concert in Maribor 1968
In 1967, 15-year-old Borut Činč formed the band Hevreka. It brought together three elementary school students and two so-called »older members«. Occasionally, they were joined also by two more »dangerous members«, one of whom later became caught up in a serious drug affair – Mišo Ivec (bass). The other was Igor Krivec (the three of them all went to the Franc Rozman – Stane elementary school). On the guitar was Marjan Juhart and Dušan Arsenjuk on drums. For some time, the guitars were played by the Adlešič brothers and the manager was Zvonko Babič.
Borut Činč later became a member of an important Yugoslavian art blues rock cast Buldožer, a band that hosted a lot of members from the Maribor area in the 1960s. Činč recalls: »The bands I remember from my Maribor period are the Homemakers (with Veble, and Rasto Ovin on vocals), Inkvizicija (apart from Veble and Danilo Karba the two brothers Škvarč and Rasto Ovin), LSD (as I remember, with Bojan Goličnik’s older brother), Gift (Slavko Kovačič on vocals) and of course the legendary Rdeči dečki and the Čobec brothers, with singers all the way from Čarli Arhar, one of the truly legendary Maribor rockers, to Alenka Pinterič, Ditka Haberl … Even Marko Brecelj started his career in Maribor (Beli črnci – White Blacks), I remember also Ivo Mojzer, who – if I remember correctly, was also the drummer with Kameleoni at a certain time. I even recall Alfi Nipič as a rocker, singing with Klan (or was it Clan? A Zagreb-based band, I believe, I heard them play at one of the Ljubljana Boom Festivals); then there’s Neca Falk, and Milan Petrovič, both rockers… I can think of two of my classmates from elementary school, one Milan Lačen (bass), and the other’s last name was Verboten (drums)… There was a pile of other bands, but I can’t remember their names, much less the names of the people that played in them! But I can definitely say that the Maribor rock scene at that time was extremely varied. There were so many events going on all the time, concerts at Hall C (Indeksi from Sarajevo, in 1968 or 1969, I think, so heavily into progressive at that time, playing twenty-minute versions of their songs; I remember also Korni grupa from Belgrade with Dado Topić on vocals, in 1969). I remember the concerts at the football stadium Ljudski vrt. I’ll never forget the legendary Maribor Boom Festival ’71, the first all-Yugoslavian rock festival that was later moved to Ljubljana, then in ’75 to Zagreb, in ’76 to Belgrade and in ’77 to Novi Sad (between 1973-77, the year of the last Boom festival, I was performing there myself). Another memory is of the band Tremeloes, and the entire stadium singing along to ‘Silence Is Golden’! That must have been around ’71. There was a lot going on also at ‘Dom JLA’ (House of YPA) – there was a great gig by the Delirium Tremens, and I played there myself a couple of years later, as a member of Sedem svetlobnih let (Seven light years). I can recall the legendary Youth Club was a hot spot too, concerts like LSD, Inkvizicija, Gift, I had a solo concert there one time, with keyboards and some far-out themes… Maribor at that time was being called the Slovenian Liverpool. On Partizanska Street you could buy foreign records, something that only happened in Ljubljana years after that. I remember buying most of my Beatles’ collection there: Sgt. Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour, White Album, then Abbey Road and Let It Be – and I mean as soon as they were released outside. When I moved to Ljubljana, I had to go and buy my LPs in Trieste or Klagenfurt, or order them by mail; it was only three or four years later that these originals were available in the central Ljubljana bookstore.«
The band where the legendary Rado Urbančič – Raki started his career (drums). Milan Trojner (guitar), Janez Krajnc (bass). The beginning of the band dates back to 1967. Their first performances were during the breaks of another local band – Rdeči dečki. Later, they performed individually at Hall C and the Youth Club. They appeared at a ‘guitariade’ event in Graz, Austria, in April 1969.
At this point I have decided to stop with the list and description of the bands, having limited myself to the circle of musicians that appear on this compilation record. According to some sources, Maribor saw some 250 electric beat or rock’n’roll bands practicing here in the 1960s. Considering my findings during this research, I can definitely say I believe these numbers to be true. The research was conducted between March and July 2012.
LP cover Yugoslavia rock legends, Slovenia, Maribor, 2014
In those days, even the media were carrying out their mission adequately. It is interesting to see that the Maribor media were quite fond of novelties back then. An important and positive part was played by the newspaper Večer, especially at the time when the scene reached its peak. The cultural chronicler was Srečko Niedorfer. Radio Maribor was the production center where young musicians were able to record their music. Such a support to young creative people in the field of music was never seen again in Maribor.
The Maribor scene was also the making of a number of managers. Among them are the world-famous Toni Sabol and Yugoslavian legends Lazovič and Lazarevič, organizers of the Boom Rock Festival. The individual bands had their own managers, for example there was Jože Gorjan, who took care of The Out. The general impression is that they were all on a higher business level than any of the following rock generations in Slovenia.
Toni Sabol started out towards the end of the sixties as a concert organizer (at Ljubljana’s event center Hala Tivoli) and manager to a number of bands. In the seventies he achieved international success and asserted himself with the all-European Tina Turner tour, at a time when she believed (it was after Ike Turner’s death) to be completely unknown in Europe. In the eighties he brought all the great names of rock’n’roll to Yugoslavia: Rolling Stones, Mark Knopfler, Uriah Heep… and Rory Gallagher to Maribor Tabor hall. In 1967/68, his friend Srečko Niedorfer, reporter with the newspaper Večer and 7D magazine, a regular chronicler of rock music, had an interesting commentary about the organization of public events: »And one other thing about the organizers: we all organized some smaller event from time to time, because it was so easy. All you had to do was book a venue (a hall) and take care of your own promotion, that’s it. No official registration, no questionings before-hand, like they have now, no taxes, nothing. The profit we made from the tickets, we split among ourselves. Or just enjoyed a feast at Zamorc (a restaurant). It’s interesting that following this very simple procedure, we could have concerts even in the courtyard of Dom JLA (House of YPA), because neither the army officers, nor the almighty KOS (The Counterintelligence Service of the YPA) realized how dangerous it was to have yesterday’s Tito’s pioneers turning to rockers, following the steps of some twisted capitalist states. This is why I believe that it was rock (not punk!) that brought down the symbolic and symbolist Berlin wall. «
As far as the equipment is concerned, an important role in the 1960s was played by Mrs. Medved from Graz (Austria), who sold instruments and other equipment to all the Maribor rock bands, on credit.
Another interesting figure was Tedy Lah, who imported big cars from Austria to Maribor. After some successful performances with Korali, he was called in to join the army, but decided instead to join the English Mixed Service Organization in Germany, where he served three years, and then left for the USA. He stayed there for 27 years as the owner of a luxury limousine firm in New York. In the seventies, through a couple of New York music stores, Sam Asha and Manny’s Music, he provided the entire Yugoslavian rock musician corpus with brands like Gibson, Fender, Music Man, and other professional stuff, that stays valuable to this day. He moved back to Maribor in 1993.
To add that perfect touch to the whole scene, there was also the fashion creator and tailor, Igor Irgolič – Furgula, making trousers and other fashionable wardrobe pieces for the rockers and other fashion followers. He probably made a pair of pants for anybody that thought highly of themselves back then. Furgula is the flea market and social and street life legend of Maribor. His competition Gorazd Lipnik worked above the Astoria hotel, and is another proof that the scene was hot indeed.
It is also interesting to see the positive attitude of the 60s’ generation towards business, despite the fact that they lived and grew up in the harsh conditions of communism. A fact is that the entrepreneur spirit of this generation was stronger than any of the following ones. To understand the 1960s, the happening in Maribor at that time, and to grasp how, by whom and why this incredible flow of modernity was stopped, means to understand the unspeakable poverty of Maribor today. My suggestion is to get these very bands performing actively again, like some of them are doing in England and America, and to show to the youngsters how things should be done – in music, in business, and inside the wider cultural field.