The Railway DJ returns to mark the day the music almost died
Alexander Dubcek had a dream – and one day it came true. Sadly, it lasted only four months but he had given Czechoslovakia a small taste of freedom.
The dream ended overnight on 21 August 1968. The Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia killed hundreds of people, many callously run over by Russian tanks.
The country was being “normalised” by the USSR who wanted to kill the dreams of Dubcek’s reformers. The spirit of the nation was broken.
But one young man was determined to keep it alive and willing to risk his life to do it.
Jan Sestak was listening to Western music under his pillow in his bedroom, even though the Czechoslovak Secret Police were prowling the streets near his home.
Jan, who is now in his 70s survived it all, brought much Western music to bands in the oppressed country, became friends with Tony Prince, the “Royal Ruler” of pirate radio and became known as the Railway DJ.
And as people across the world remembered the day the music almost died in Czechoslovakia – now known as Czechia – Jan got back behind the turntable and played a set built on protest and rock songs from that dreadful time…
As he played, the windows at Kabinet Muz – the Cabinet of Muses – in Brno, his home district, were festooned with posters and propaganda leaflets from the ‘Ivan Go Home’ protests made by so many in his youth. A picture of Alexander Dubcek was at its centre.
Jan said afterwards: “The ‘shop window’ of discotheque at Kabinet múz was decorated with posters from August 1968 containing slogans and pictures against the Soviet occupation. We played a retro oldies but goldies disco, a reminder of the time we shouted Go Home Ivan.”
Jan’s life is told in The Royal Ruler & the Railway DJ: The Autobiographies of Tony Prince and Jan Sestak which will be reviewed soon by the consumerwatchfoundation.com