Josef Janíček

* 1947  

  • "It was some stupid weather back then. Snow was falling, just a bit. At 5 p.m., they went to my place saying they wanted me to explain some things and that I'd be back before night. This was all quite unpleasant. They took me to Zborovská street in Smíchov. I think more people passed through there. At nine or ten o'clock in the evening, they filled in a pink paper which meant custody. And they even used such jokes: 'I see things pink.' They were instructed alreaddy, and so they asked what were we doing and how things went. Then they did a house search, obviously. But by that time, I was already in Ruzyně."

  • "Petr Placák used to live in my other apartment because it was handy for him and also for me. As he was attending various demonstrations, he did a funny things. In the summer of 1989, he hung out two Czechoslovak flags from the third floor - two pennants - and went to a demonstration. Now, this was trouble. If only there was a Russian flag there alongside the Czechoslovak one - that would've been cool. But this was on 21 August and since he put up two Czechoslovak ones, three fire brigades and four police cars drove in, blocked the whole street, and used ladders to remove the flags from the window in the third floor. And the whole street watched. A French boyfriend of one tennant was there, and he recorded it on a camera. So, such a big event took place there."

  • "We were not too involved in this action. I recall us just preparing amplifiers, then the band Adept played their gig and then the police came over, told us to pack it up and fuck off. For what I know, Milan Knížák was also present there. We got into our cars, and obviously had to pack everything up. The locals living across the street as they saw the pub called "America", they felt endangered. They must have been involved in calling the police. And so we loaded our setup into cars. Knížák drove with Ivo Pospíšil. That evening, only one band performed - and perhaps DG, I don't recall it. Zajíček was banging a microphone in a dustbin. But us as Plastic People hadn't even performed. It was all done. People just drove off. But the whole hassle started with the gathering of fans. The police beat them severly at the train station. Jiří Němec and his wife Věra seemed a bit atypical in there and just acted that they were not part of it. Jirka told one of the policemen: 'Get us out of here,' and since he hadn't known him, he brought him to the train. Many people were hit in their heads by a baton. People were locked up for up to two weeks - but I don't know how many of them."

  • “That was about ten people, in Kerhartice, it was a big house near Česká Lípa, a huge one. They bought the house with that there were some two old grannies living there. And the grannies wanted a flat in Česká Lípa, and [the authorities - trans.] didn’t give the grannies a flat, so they still lived in that house. But after the concert the grannies suddenly got a beautiful flat in Česká Lípa, and a week later the house burnt down because State Security set fire to it. They even admitted to having done it.”

  • “I was always given these instructions on how to behave and not to talk to them at all. So they tried various tricks. For instance, one time they locked me up, that was in seventy-seven, I was being interrogated in Děčín, I think. Because we had performed at the Pinces’ house, and it was just a small village, Rychnov. And there had been a concert there, which was interesting in that, for instance, they switched the electricity off in the middle of the day. So we thought that was that for the concert. But then they switched the power back on in the evning. Then some people found that someone had cut through their tyres. Well, and the concert was kind of a goodbye party for Paul Wilson, who was our friend, a Canadian who didn’t get renewed permission to live here after ten years. Even though he had married here and was friends with the Chartists and Havel and so on. So the concert took place, but the cops arrived after the concert and took about twenty of us to various interrogations. And I was in Děčín. So I didn’t even speak with them, I always refused to respond. So they took me somewhere by car, and there was a village there and a signpost with the name of the village, and they switched off the lights so I wouldn’t see what village it was. So we carried on until we suddenly reached some forests near the borders. ‘They’re acting up again, aren’t they, those lights.’ - ‘Yeah, they’re messing up, we have to have a look at them.’ I could see them switching off the lights by hand. ‘You get out as well!’ So I got out, and they jumped into the car and drove off. So I was about fifteen kilometres away from Děčín, and I walked home in the night.”

  • “The way it worked was that the bands that performed, then pretty from around the year seventy, if they were to perform for people and for the public, they had to pass these so-called auditions. What it was, was that the band played in front of some committee, where there’d be a music teacher, someone from the national committee [the local administration, town council - trans.], and people like that. And the band, it depended on the impression they made - how they were dressed, if their hair wasn’t too long, and when they sang in English, that went against them, too. Of course, they also had to know when Lenin was born and things like that. And if the band failed at the auditions, they couldn’t perform in public for money. And back then in 1970, we as the Plastic People didn’t get past those auditions, and so we didn’t actually have permission to play.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    v kavárně, 20.02.2017

    (audio)
    duration: 01:09:00
    media recorded in project The Stories of Our Neigbours
  • 2

    Praha , 22.09.2017

    (audio)
    duration: 02:13:32
    media recorded in project Stories of the 20th Century TV
Full recordings are available only for logged users.

We were kind of a symbol of freedom to them

Josef Janíček v roce 2017
Josef Janíček v roce 2017
photo: Post Bellum

Josef Janíček was born on 28 December 1947 in Prague. He trained as a car mechanic, but his greatest passion was always music. He formed his first band with his classmates at primary school, in the 1960s he played in The Primitives Group, and during the normalisation he was a part of The Plastic People of The Universe (a famous Czech alternative culture band, which became a focal point for the dissent in the 1970s - trans.). He performed with them at the underground culture festival in Bojanovice, at the house in Kerhartice, which State Security set fire to after the concert, or in Rychnov near Děčín, among other places. He was interrogated several times and was held in custody for six months at the height of the Communist regime’s efforts to quash the Czech underground culture. After the Velvet Revolution he played in Půlnoc (Midnight) and was a member of several other bands.