Saturday, January 16, 2021

The Plastic People of the Universe

The Plastic People of the Universe was an underground rock band formed in Prague in 1968 just after the invasion.  The band was inspired by Frank Zappa and the Velvet Underground.  

Following the invasion, the overthrow of Alexander Dubček and the end of the Prague Spring, Czechoslovakia instituted "normalisation" which was a return to hard-line communism.  As such, psychedelic rock music wasn't high on the list of communist values so the government revoked the band's license to perform in 1970.  Since they weren't able to perform openly, they basically established an entire underground cultural movement during the 1970s.  I imagine it was a Czechoslovak version of hippies wanting to change the world just as there were similar movements across the world.

In 1976, the band performed at a festival which resulted in their arrest and conviction for the "organised disturbance of the peace".  The band members, and others, were given prison sentences ranging from 8 to 18 months.  The band had no political association but since they were prosecuted by the communist regime it started a number of protests.  Václav Havel and others wrote Charter 77 in response to the arrests and the trial ended up becoming a milestone for human rights against the government.

The band broke up in 1988 however they reunited in 1997 in honour of the 20th anniversary of Charter 77.  Since then they have continued to perform around the world.

Here's a short video that I found on YouTube that shows part of an interview with one of the band's members.

©Radio Free Europe

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