Džo Maračić Maki : Vraćam Se Kući
Close-up of Džo Maračić Maki’s Vraćam Se Kući LP cover, photograph by Dragutin Jajac
It should be rad enough that I present to you here the “Waylon Jennings of Yugoslavia,” but I hope you’ll find what has prompted me to make this lengthy (if not epic) post to be especially interesting.
I might possibly be the only one who’s given this album air-time on American radio, at least in the past couple decades. I’ve included it in several sets on KBGA, and even gave it a spin at a live DJ outing recently. Not long after posting the recording of that set [Z!080318RE2 - No Good Woman], being at the top of limited google results for the album, I was contacted by one James Jajac, whose father photographed the album cover.
Close-up of back cover of Vraćam Se Kući LP, photograph by Dragutin Jajac
My father was living in
Astoria[Jackson Heights] at the time and he used to shoot pictures of his friends band “Time.” He was friends with the guitarists Boris and Ernest. There were a lot of Yugoslavians immigrating to Astoria at the time and so venues began to spring up to meet the need. One such bar, on 44th street and Broadway, called “Turn Hall” was where a lot of Yugoslavian bands would play. Many of these musicians were the older singers of Jugoton records. My father says that Maki was the opening act (and/or host) for many of these established singers, and this is how he got noticed and eventually landed his record deal. He says that there was a lot of buzz about his Jugoton contract; apparently it must have been quite a good one. Jugoton at the time was looking for some new blood, and this was an album that, I suppose, was meant to appeal to both the immigrated Yugoslavians and the people back home. The title of the album translates to “I am coming back home.”
The album cover was trying to convey life in America and, going along with the title, some sort of transport (though to my knowledge the subway doesn’t stop in Croatia). The cowboy costume may have had a tongue-in-cheek aspect to it, or maybe not, but the image of a cowboy is still very much a symbol of America. They shot pictures of Maki as a cowboy, in central park with some horse carriages, and with corvettes, but the shots of him on the subway and on the train tracks created a more unified concept: the NYC skyline with the United Nations in the background, the cowboy, the subway covered in graffiti, and this immigrated singer laid out on the train tracks with a Jugoton contract under his belt. I suppose it is a success story. He came to America to escape oppression, maybe poverty, and now he is coming back home!
Another note: My father accidentally left his camera case in the cover shot! You can spot the small black case behind Maki’s legs. Thankfully it is hardly noticeable. He says he did so because it wasn’t the safest neighborhood at the time and he wanted to keep all of his equipment together, but he forgot to move it out of the way once they began shooting.
My father worked for United Press International (UPI), shooting pictures, but mostly color printing. After working for many photo labs fixing and repairing equipment, he eventually came to co-manage his own photo lab in NYC at (the second coming of) Larson color labs. He was well known for the quality of his prints and was chosen specifically by many photographers to print the images for their gallery shows. He took great pride in the quality of his work and fortunately that did not go unnoticed. Thats my father, Dragutin Jajac. Most people know him as DRAGO.
Džo Maračić Maki : Vraćam Se Kući LP, with sleeve from Jerry’s Records in Pittsburgh.
This record came into my possession about a year ago. I was working at Record Heaven in Missoula when a Mr. Brian McDermot interviewed me for an article about record collecting in Montana. The Vintage Vinyl Revival radio show ended up being featured in that article. Learning of my eclectic taste, Brian promised to score me a couple of oddball records when he was back home in Pittsburgh. He was looking forward to hitting up Jerry’s Records in particular. This Yugoslavian import is one of the records he brought back for me.
Jerry’s hand-scrawled description pokes a little lighthearted fun, likening this foreigner to Waylon Jennings – decked out in his best “American Cowboy” getup, complete with chaps, sheriff’s badge and “pistol.” I called up Jerry at his record store to see if the name “Waylon Jennasovic” rang a bell with him.
Oh I just made that up! Yeah, that was just a joke, like here’s the Waylon Jennings of Yugoslavia. It’s just a joke I made up, and it’s not very funny either. (laughs) I do that sometimes. If there’s a bunch of little Chinese girls, or oriental girls, singing in a choir, and there’s no English at all on the album, I’ll draw an arrow and say, “Yoko Ono’s first album.”
As is often the case, what begins as sheer novelty, ends up growing on me and results in profound admiration. Even though I still get a chuckle out of Džo’s cowboy costume, stylistically I think the album art is right on the money, and on second thought, incredibly nostalgic. The strange imported sounds of the album have really grown on me as well, especially the title track.
Maki might be relatively unknown in these parts, but apparently he has no shortage of fans, as Youtube gives proof to.
Upon learning a bit of the back-story, thanks to James and Drago Jajac, I’m all the more intrigued by Jugoton Records, and this phenomenon of cross-cultural East-European music. I spent a little bit of time in Eastern Europe a few years ago, and remember hearing nothing but mainstream American music, mostly weathered and worn-out tunes from the 60′s and 70′s. It’s interesting to think how American pop-culture has influenced the far corners of the music, not to mention film, industry.
Wikipedia has some interesting things to add about Jugoton Records:
Jugoton was especially popular among the youths behind the Iron Curtain who couldn’t travel to western countries and rarely had access to western music. One of the solutions to obtaining western music was to go shopping in Socialist Yugoslavia which was not an Eastern Bloc country, but a member of the Non-Aligned Movement largely opened to western influences. Thus the Yugoslav records gained a cult status in Eastern Europe and became a sort of symbol of the western popular culture. [...]
With the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991, the name of the company became Croatia Records.
Croatia Records official site:
Džo Maračić Maki : Vraćam Se Kući LP : Jugoton Label
Stereo LSY 61295
1976 Jugoton Records
Poduzeće Za Izradu Gramofonskih Ploća Zagreb-Dubrava
Made in Yugoslavia
Producent: Djordje Novković
Urednik: Vojno Kundić
Photo: Dragutin Jajac
Design: Ivan Ivezić
1. Ja Se Opet Vraćam Kući
2. Ptica Leti Jatu Svom
3. Ide Džo U Meksiko
4. Opet Su Kratka Tvoja Pisma
5. Čekaj Da Se Sjetim
6. Romantična Ulica
1. Srce Ti Je Kamen
2. To Je Bila Priča Oca Mog
3. Moja Obala
4. Nikad Više
5. Ti Si Žena Koju Volim