When Zappa met Havel
The death, announced today, of Vaclav Havel represents to me the end of an era.
As capitalism falls sick through greed, avarice and a disregard for society, it is perhaps important to remember those of Havel’s generation who fought against a similarly avaricious “communist” (state capitalist) regime.
Many in the west felt that the fall of the Eastern Bloc regimes represented a total acceptance of the values of the west, but those early leaders had a different vision. The presidential speech made by Havel in 1990 could well have been made by a 99% speaker, an occupy speaker or during the Arab Spring. Read his speech here
It contains many references to those- the elite-flying above their country but who refuse to look out of the window and see what is happening to their country……
Frank Zappa- amongst others- was a huge influence on the early revolutionaries and rebellers against the state capitalist regimes in Eastern Europe. Frank in particular, no friend of communism but equally vociferous against the stultifying conformity of American society, gave a voice to the young East Europeans and his music was smuggled in and avidly listened to.
Plastic People of the Universe were a Czechoslovakian band formed in 1968 and named after the Zappa and the Mothers of Invention song, “Plastic People” (Absolutely Free.)
It was a protest against the band’s imprisonment that led to Havel and others starting Charter 77
which eventually led to the Velvet Revolution.
So when Havel became President of Czechoslovakia, he invited Frank over and it is quite clear from the photo above that the two hit it off even though Frank notoriously didn’t “get” writing…..
Frank became an unofficial ambassador for Czechoslovakia though an official position appears to have been offered and then scuppered by a disgruntled Republican Senator.
Perhaps there is a parallel universe (one in which cancer- the killer of both men- does not exist) where the ideals of people like Havel, inspired by musicians like Frank, flourish. Or perhaps, in honour of both men, we do something to make it real, here and now.
Toxika Plastic People of the Universe