Garage beat, folk rock, progressive rock, psychedelic beat from Hungary

Would you believe that the tiny country of Hungary is a real container of 60s garage beat nuts and never-heard psychedelic beat acts? We are happy to introduce Moiras Records label to you now, which was founded to dig out hidden values of Hungarian beat, folk, rock, jazz actions.

First of all, some thoughts on the Hungarian scene in general

Imagine you are living in a Communist country that had not only fought on the "wrong" side of both World Wars, but also lost two third of its territory and some ten million people dropping out of its new boundaries (after the first World War), had one million dead and had its capital eventually destroyed (during the second WW). Even more, it has just recently lost its own national revolution against Soviet Communist rule in 1956.

And imagine you are son of a nation that has a unique passion for playing music. Not just the unique Gypsy Music is coming from there, but also the high classic heritage of Liszt and Bartók

Well, you are in 60s-70s Hungary, in some sense sitting in the very middle of Europe, in other sense just Behind the Iron Curtain. You want to do rock music. What will be the result?

Start of Rockin' and Rolling'

Rockin' and rollin' started in Budapest back in 1957, when Békák (Frogs) were formed, but bands stayed very few and isolated until the mid 60s. The first beat festival was held in 1963, mixing jazz, dance music and instrumental beat bands, the latter playing yet pre-Beatles styled tunes. The very first beat record was an Illes EP in 1964. Beat singles came out regularly from 1966 - however the output was kept at a low profile. These recordings are now mostly filed under garage beat, rhythm and blues and even some psychedelic sounds and are standing out for their excellent compositions, arrangement and talented engineering. All thanks to the exceptionally strict quality control of the Radio and Record Company (both State Monopolists). On the other side the Record Company took Hungarian beat as a (non-convertible) Hungarian Forint cashing business, which money well financed all local classical recordings, that were easily marketable for Any Hard Currencies (like a representative Complete Work of Bartok which series were much appreciated in the Western World). Quite a trivial capitalist manner - but very unusual in 60s Hungary - and luckily in the favour of beat audience!

Hungarian garage beat sounds

In the mid 60s most artists played international covers like Pretty Things, Them, Rolling Stones, Beatles hits, but the guys gradually tried themselves in songwriting, too. Interestingly, Hungarian language conquered the local beat scene almost completely in 1966-68, when playing own compositions became a solid standard. There is another important influence: Hungarian folk music and its Eastern passions infiltrated into some of the bands' repertoires, which was most remarkable at the case of Illes ad Hungaria. I am sure none of the musicians were suspicious at that time of making world class psychedelic tracks!

Until 1967-68 Hungarian garage beat bands had two main formats of appearing live: playing for their dance clubs and going for countryside pack tours with non-beat artists: jazz bands, comedians, operette-singers and so on. Even the most famous bands had contracts with dancing clubs for 4-6 hours of live music once a week. During the pack tours beat bands had mere 20-30 minutes blocks. Besides local clubbing bands, this was the live channel of beat music in the countryside. From 1968 on the most popular bands started playing 60-90 minute gigs of their own material in the shape we are used to now. By 1968 three bands made it to the top, sometimes referred as a triumvirat of Hungarian beat: Illes, Metro and Omega. These were the very lucky bands who appeared to the public through all channels available: gigs, records, radio and TV shows.

Any landmark Progressive rock groups for the 70s?

Many bands were transformed or split up in 1970-71. The beat era had never grown to an excessive Psychedelic or Progressive rock mania in Hungary. Anyway, all trendy sounds of the time were represented by some artists. By just that time - for political reasons - the Party put a grip on youth culture. Even the previously favoured band Illes was banned out from Budapest. What more, even LP releases were cut in general (in 1971 there was a half year without ANY releases!). Well, Communist restrictions proved only to be temporary, but from 1972 another music period come.

Two important groups marked the new era, both formed as supergroups. Locomotiv GT was formed in early 1971 (with ex-Metro, Ex-Omega and ex-Hungaria members) and through its long story became a landmark rock group in Hungary.

The other band was the first real hard rock group in Hungary. Taurus appeared in May 1972, formed by guys from Metro, Neoton and Tuzkerek. Their hard rock repertoire was counted as classic immediately by the fans, but the band split after one year... Well, they composed about 25 hard rock tunes in that short period!

Folk and Jazz scenes

We must mention that Hungarian folk and jazz scenes had their heydays in the late 60s - early 70s period. One may only miss the record output of the era. The reason is that the State monopolist label had serious pressing capacity problems and decided to release less titles, focusing ont he most popular rock and pop artists... Jazz and folk fell victims of this so the absence of these recordings shall be yet cured. We already started it with one fine jazz crossover recording, that features the late guitarist Gabor Szabo, who visited his homeland in 1974 and made a radio recording with fellow Hungarian artists.

Legendary obscure beat and psychedelic rock

In the shade of fine record output and careers there is another side of this rock scene. In those early - and not so early - years performer- and composer-talents were in fact secondary. If you did not have proper party contacts, your band could almost never make a professional studio recording, due to the mentioned oligopoly of Hungarian Radio, TV and the state run Record Company. Of course, all had further monopoly in its activity scale.

Hungarian beat and rock story is full of never-blossoming geniuses and sadly fallen live performance legends. So see all successful bands as talented guys who had the choice to fight with and within the structure. They had to fight anyway, in fact most preferred artists have their stories of having conflicts with censorship. But how could this scene shine if all excellent bands had their proper recordings out.

Just to name a few artists:

  • Wittek Mária (female singer with extraordinary strong voice, suitable for 60s punk beat),
  • Liversing (rhythm and blues band that developed to a psychedelic action),
  • Scampolo (the first rock and roll stars who turned into early progressive rock),
  • Dogs (a short lived garage beat band),
  • Kex (a unique stage action with garage and psychedelic sounds),
  • Sakk-Matt (early progressive and hard rock band with Cream and Hendrix interpretatins),
  • Mini (a keyboard and flute driven progressive band with classic arrangements),
  • Radics Béla (a real guitar hero with big heart and feeling and many fans) and his various bands...

Real classics WITHOUT or with just a handful of decent sound recordings as small bottle-posts on the tides of fading memories.

Difficulties of making rock music

On the other side, forming and managing a band was extremely expensive, comparing to the low Eastern Block salary's. For example the price of a single Vox AC 30 amplifier equalled seven months (!!) of average salary in late 60s Hungary. This was absolutely NOT reflected in the price of entrance tickets and records, not to mention the regularly unjust sharing of incomes between clubs and musicians.

In the extremely capital-focused country all important beat bands originated from Budapest - so it is no wonder. This lasted even until the late 70s, when a few countryside rock bands made a breakthrough - but that is another story.

Obscure Hungarian hard rock and folk from Transylvania

Yet there is an even more hidden side of Hungarian beat jazz, rock culture. After WW I millions of Hungarian found themselves outside of the new, smaller territory of the country, which situation still stands for now. The Hungarian minority of Transylvania (now part of Romania) had a flourishing cultural life, including the presence of beat, hard rock, progressive rock and folk bands, studio recordings, TV-shows and even some local State record output! So far the true story of the Transylvanian pop scene is only partly lighted. We at Moiras Records are doing our best to find and to present the finest actions from there.

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