Up to the middle of the 60s, Beat Music, that is to say, Rock & Roll, had captured the hearts of socialist youth. Was it better to suppress this western influenced music or encourage an alternative home grown youth culture? János Kádár, General Secretary of the Hungarian Socialist Workers Party announced the Three T Plan: ‚támogatás‘ (to support), ‚tõres‘ (to tolerate), tiltás (to forbid).
While the mid 60s Hungary and GDR were all about toleration and support, by the time of the invasion of Prague in 1968, the attitude had changed to prohibition and suppression.
Hungary and GDR
Regulation of Rock Music: In most socialist countries, institutions were set up to implement procedures for the regulation of Rock Music. It was ordained in Hungary as well as in the GDR, that bands who wanted permission for a public performance 1 had to submit themselves to classification. A band’s repertoire and performance suitability for socialist youth had to be examined and approved. VIDEO A
Deutschlandtreffen (German Youth Congress) May 1964: This was the GDR’s attempt to position themselves as “the better Germany” for young people of both East and West. They founded a young people’s radio station, DT64 (named for Deutschlandtreffen 1964) and sponsored live concerts by various “Beat” bands 2. This included the dissident singer-songwriter Wolf Biermann, as recorded in the documentary film, Drei Tage im Mai (Three Days in May) VIDEO B.
The Butlers: The attitude of tolerance for Beat Music gave way to its demonization, when a riot broke out during a Rolling Stones concert at the Waldbühne in West Berlin. The popular Leipzig beat band, The Butlers, (which included Klaus Renft, later the bassist in the band Renft) 3 was the first victim of this reversal of political climate. In the end of October 1965, the band found themselves, well...banned 4. This released a spiral of protests (Beat Demonstration, Leipzig 5) resulting in a crackdown of repression by the State.
The 11th Plenary Session of the Central Committee - December 1965: 6 in this political meeting, musicians, filmmakers, writers, and other artists were criticized for nihilism, scepticism, and pornography. Officials in the culture establishment also wound up on the receiving end of a devastating judgement which resulted in the banning of various books, plays, and films. Among them was Der Frühling braucht Zeit (Spring Needs Time), which featured an appearance by beat combo, The Franke Echo Quintett VIDEO C.
Kex: The popular “happenings band” Kex was allowed to release only one 45 single by the State record company, MHV (Hungaroton); though they did appear in films VIDEO D. Front man János Baksa Sóos was barely able to get his song lyrics past the ‚sanszon bizottság‘ (Music Committee) and found himself increasingly a target of police action, as well as surveillance by the III/III Bureau of the Interior Ministry (the secret police) 7. He fled Hungary in the 70s, and has been living in (West) Berlin for the last 30 years. VIDEO E
Sakk-Matt: Despite their popularity with Hungarian youth, the group, Sakk-Matt, released only one 45 single (on Hungaroton) and was virtually ignored by the State Radio and Televison. Official recognition came from III/III, who placed their guitarist and front man, Béla Radics, under surveillance.(8, 9)