Sixties Bookmark and Share

Polish popular music in the 60's was relatively tame compared to its Western contemporaries, mostly because the Communist government was rather skeptical about rock'n'roll and tried to limit its cultural influence on the young generation. In fact, to avoid trouble from association, a new term was coined - "big beat" and its Polish language equivalent, "mocne uderzenie". The big beat performers were mostly imitating British stars of the time, sometimes adding elements of Polish folk music. The first popularizator of rock'n'roll, or big beat, in Poland was Franciszek Walicki, who was the creative force behind the first Polish rock'n'roll bands: Rhythm And Blues and later Czerwono-Czarni, which started in 1960 and quickly became immensely popular across the country.

Among the more notable big beat acts were Niebiesko-Czarni (who later created the first Polish rock opera, "Naga"), the more folk-tinged Skaldowie and No To Co, the Animals-inspired Polanie, and last but not least, Czerwone Gitary (Red Guitars). This band, clearly borrowing its sound and image from early Beatles, surpassed all the others in popularity; its leaders, Seweryn Krajewski and Krzysztof Klenczon, would later have successful careers of their own.

The decade marked the beginning of the career of singer, guitarist and songwriter Tadeusz Nalepa, the father of Polish blues rock. Already in his first important band, Blackout (formed in 1965), he wrote songs with help of lyricist and poet Bogdan Loebl, marking sort of a beginning of Polish singer-songwriter tradition. Their cooperation was continued in Nalepa's next and most famous band, Breakout, whose first album "Na drugim brzegu tęczy" (released 1969) sent shock waves through the country - the first truly modern Polish rock album, in the vein of Cream and Jimi Hendrix, but with added folk flavour. Breakout would release seminal blues rock records in the 70's.

The 60's also brought Poland one of its most original artists, Czesław Niemen. He started out performing Latin and big beat songs, but soon transformed into a superstar when his protest song 'Dziwny jest ten świat' (Strange Is This World) was applauded to no end at 1967 Opole festival. The key to his success was not only an extraordinary voice and image, but also very expressive, soul-influenced repertoire and poetic lyrics. He was not satisfied with that, though; he would move on to much greater things in the 70's. Following in Niemen's footsteps was Stan Borys, formerly lead vocalist of Blackout, with a taste for expressive, sometimes dramatic soul music.

One of the most critically acclaimed artists, although totally removed from mainstream entertainment, was Ewa Demarczyk. She sang mostly lyrics written by classical poets, with rather non-commercial arrangements, in a manner closer to drama than pop. Nevertheless, her interpretations continue to be recognized as masterpieces, also in the rock-related circles.

At the end of the decade, big beat finally gave way to more evolved rock genres, which would dominate the Polish scene in the following years.

Some significant albums of this decade (excluding compilations):

Breakout - Na drugim brzegu tęczy (1969)
Czerwono-Czarni - Czerwono-Czarni (1966)
Czerwone Gitary - To właśnie my (1966), Czerwone Gitary 3 (1968)
Czesław Niemen - Dziwny jest ten świat (1967)
Ewa Demarczyk - Ewa Demarczyk śpiewa piosenki Zygmunta Koniecznego (1967)
Niebiesko-Czarni - Mamy dla was kwiaty (1968)
Polanie - Polanie (1968)
Skaldowie - Cała jesteś w skowronkach (1969)
Stan Borys i Bizony - To ziemia (1969)

(thanks to Alex Prządka for extending this chapter and adding the album list)


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