Svehlík

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Svehlík was active on the Czech rock music scene only for a short while (five years during its main period of existence from 1978-1983), but it left an indelible imprint. From the start the group acted…
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Svehlík was active on the Czech rock music scene only for a short while (five years during its main period of existence from 1978-1983), but it left an indelible imprint. From the start the group acted as an antagonist to Extempore, then the kings of the rock underground. Svehlík was heavier, meaner, more experimental and challenging. In the end, Extempore co-leader Mikolás Chadima would even alter his musical approach and integrate some of the group's advances in his mid-'80s project MCH Band.

Svehlík's roots are found in Extempore. In 1974, J.J. Neduha's group performed a song cycle titled Stehlík. Its percussionist Petr Krecan used the title to name his own spin-off group, which included Pavel Richter (guitar), Lesík Hajdovsky (guitar), and Lubos Fidler (bass). By 1977 Stehlík was falling apart (it would finally evolve into Kilhets). Richter and Fidler decided to keep it going under a different name: Svehlík. They were soon joined by Hajdovsky and Richter sat behind the drums until they found a proper drummer. This first line-up wrote Sny Psychopatického Decka (of which a live recording later surfaced as a samizdat cassette) and began to perform live, appearing at the Prague Jazz Days festival in 1978. Freshly kicked out of Extempore, bassist Jirí Tomásek crossed to the dark side and for a while the group played as a two-guitar/two-bass quintet. Ivan Pavlu relieved Richter of his duties and the group's reputation began to grow, garnering a small but devoted following, but the momentum did not last. Fidler quit in early 1979, Tomásek grew unstable (alcohol) and Hajdovsky began to come and go between a number of projects.

The break-up forced the remaining duo to improvise -- literally. Richter began to use pre-recorded tapes on stage and wrote more open-ended pieces based on evolving structures and the gradual meshing of patterns, exploring a form of progressive rock very similar to the King Crimson Robert Fripp was putting together at the same time. With bassist Pavel Svec and keyboardist Petr Dikan, Svehlík was back on the road by the end of 1980. Hajdovsky came back for the recording of Studio 1982, which took place in Richter's basement.

The group had never sounded this focused and cutting-edge, but in late 1982 the panorama of rock music in Czechoslovakia changed considerably. The Communists adopted a much more intransigent attitude towards rock and published a black list of undesirable groups. Svehlík was on it. A change of name to Marno Union provided a short-lived relief during which the group recorded the material later issued as Studio Marno. The final break-up took place in 1983, as Hajdovsky was devoting more time to his new group Manzelé. Richter, Pavlu, and him briefly reformed the group in 1993 with ex-Dvouletá Fáma Martin Vik, releasing a CD.