History of the band -- 3 -- Marathon for success

As of 1977, it seemed that the band was still developing their own style, as evidenced by its second full-length album (also the first album under "Neoton Familia" name), "Csak a zene" ("Only the Music"), which sounded more like psychedelic rock than pop or disco. Yet the album was anything but a failure, containing many notable songs such as "Célfotó" ("Photo Finish"), "A riporter" ("Reporter"; lead vocals by Éva Pál) and "A disco-királynő" ("Disco Queen"), romantic "Nagyvárosi szerelem" ("City Of Love") and "Bárcsak nálam lehetnél" ("I Wish I Could"), psychedelic "Szeress úgy!" ("Love Him!"), blues "Csak a zene" and funky "Ej ej kisember" and "Köszönjük, Mr. Edison" ("Thank You, Mr. Edison"). Several song lyrics were once again composed in collaboration with László Pásztor's wife, Emese Hatvani. She went to collaborate with the band on a regular basis, co-authoring most of song lyrics since then. Pop-Meccs, top Hungarian music review, called "Csak a zene" best Hungarian album of 1977. In July of the same year the band participated in a national TV song contest Metronóm, ranking third with their song titled "Hívlak" ("Invitation"). On a side note, it was their long-time acquaintance Klári Katona with a song titled "Tíz percet az évekből" who took first prize among solo artists. The album's opening track, "Köszönjük, Mr. Edison", was added following Péter Erdős's suggestion; he wanted to consolidate the band's success with an Eastern Europe tour coincided with the centennial of Edison's invention of the phonograph. One of the founding members Lajos Galácz had to leave the band during the course of this autumn tour to spend more time with his family and was replaced by bass player János Baracs (born 26.01.1953) in early 1978.

In trying to make "Neoton Família" famous in Western Europe, Péter Erdős started with a decision to have all songs on the band's next longplay in English. This next album, "Neoton Disco", included English versions of two "Neoton Familia" songs, "Hear me" ("Hívlak") and "Let's go dancing" ("Ha szene szol"). Other songs were cover versions of worldwide hits especially favoured in US: romantic "Over the Rainbow" (from the "Wizard of Oz" 1939 movie), rhythmic "Down Town" (a take on British singer Petula Clark's 1964 hit song), cowboyish "California dreaming" (a 1965 hit of US rock band "Mamas And Papas"), funky "Keep On Running" (a 1965 hit song of a British rock band "The Spencer Davis Group" ), groovy "Proud Mary" (a 1969 song of US "Creedence Clearwater Revival" band) and a remake of "The Beatles"' 1969 song "Don't Let Me Down". This album was a blend of disco and funk, also being the last record with noticeable rock or psychedelic influences. CBS record company acquired album rights, releasing a small run of LPs across Western Europe countries such as Netherlands that nevertheless failed to generate meaningful attention. However, Péter Erdős was able to catch the interest of Italian Durium label which arranged Italian release of an album and a single "Hear me"/"Let's Go Dancing" (1978), later to be distributed also in Canada and Poland. "Neoton Família" got the rights to release a Hungarian cover version of Italian singer Gloria Piedimonte's hit song "Uno"/"Chi Sei" (1978) in return. The band was busy practicing a performance to be held at the international MIDEM event and this cover's release was put aside for half a year. Incidentally, Durium label was less than thrilled about the band's work and broke up their relationship, an event the band's members came to regret for a while.

In January of 1979 the band set forth to Cannes to participate in a prestigious MIDEM event. This year Hungary went at it in full force, with 56 participants arriving in France; virtually every leading Hungarian band and artist decided to show up for the event — including rock band "Omega", rock singer Zsuzsa Koncz, Judit Szűcs, a disco star in the making, Klári Katona, the country's number one pop singer, bands such as "Fonográf", "LGT" and many others. This event was a turning point in the career of "Neoton Família", since they got a Grand Prix and with it an attention of several foreign record labels: Spanish Movieplay, West German Marifon, Danish RA Records and Japanese RCA Victor. Their "Santa Maria" EP got into charts in Spain, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Japan and the Philippines. In Spain "Santa Maria" trumped even such famous artists as Paul McCartney and "Queen" in the charts (ranking #8 in Top 100 Canciones and #16 in TOP 40 Radio), and in Japan the single made it to the TOP 10 radio chart, so Toshiba-EMI company quickly acquired distribution rights, releasing this single in Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, the Philippines, Fiji and Latin America. In Summer 1979 the band recorded and released an album titled "Napraforgó" ("Sunflower"), which, along with "Santa Maria", contained such famous hits as "Ha szombat este táncol" ("If There's Dancing on Saturday"; lead vocals by Éva Pál), "Szédult napraforgó" ("Drunken Sunflower"; lead vocals by Éva Csepregi) and "Hegyirabló" ("Highwayman") There were two cover songs on the record, "Diszkókece", a disco take on Hungarian "Kis kece lányom" folk song, and "Szia!" ("Hi!"; lead vocals by Éva Pál), a Hungarian cover version of "Uno" originally sung by the aforementioned Gloria Piedimonte. Italian singer's second song, "Chi Sei", was released by the band as a single titled "Ki szól?" ("Who's Speaking?"; lead vocals by Éva Fábián) — the very same electric "Kissall" song playing at every disco in Eastern Europe in the early 1980s. Aside from that, they composed a lovely pop ballad with Hungarian lyrics titled "Érezz!" ("Feel It!") as an entry for the latest "Tessék választani!" talent show. The next year English language version of "Sunflower" record went on sale in Spain, Denmark, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines. There were two labels in Mexico, Orfeos and Gamma, that published English and Spanish language versions of this record. This was an enormous success! In their native land "Neoton Família" got ORI Nívódíj award issued by concert promoter ORI for the band's outstanding concert activities and Pepita Oroszlán (Pepita Golden Lion) award issued by the eponymous record label as 1980's best-selling band.

In Spring of 1980 "Neoton Família" recorded and performed two songs that were contributed to the soundtrack for a Canadian film "Yesterday" ("Gabrielle", 1981), famous "Smile again" (lead vocals by Éva Csepregi) being one of them. This film, based on a dramatic story of a young soldier thought to be killed coming back home to his girlfriend from Vietnam, was screened in Japan, Canada, France, Portugal, Hungary, Denmark and Columbia. In Japan "Smile Again" single got into TOP5 radio chart and ranked #48 in sales chart with 52.000 copies sold. The band's lineup changed once again after that, with Zoltán Ambrus and Éva Fábián leaving and guitar player Ádám Végvári (born 06.07.1951) and drummer Gyula Bardóczi (27.01.1947), formerly members of a band named "Kati és a Kerek Perec" ("Kathy and a Salty Pretzel"), joining "Neoton Familia". The reformed band went to enter their golden age: the three next longplays would become their greatest creative achievements. Tracks included in these longplays could be a match for songs of such great pop music acts as "ABBA" or "Maywood" at their peak with their distinctive rich multilayered vocals, plenty of guitars and powerful, expressive rhythm section. The first of these albums was "Marathon" (1980), with English version of the album being released in Germany, Spain, Denmark, Brazil and Japan, and Spanish version in Venezuela and Equador. Virtually every song on this album was remarkable: "Körben-járás" ("Walking in Circles"), "Hova menjek?" ("Where Do I Go?"; lead vocals by Éva Csepregi), "Nézz rá!" ("We'll See About That"; lead vocals by Éva Csepregi), "A Felügyelõ" ("Supervisor"; lead vocals by Éva Pál), "Te Quiero"... "Marathon", a song dedicated to 1980 Moscow Olympics, frequented radio waves of Eastern Europe for several months. Yet the most successful song was "Don Quijote" (lead vocals by Éva Pál), released as a main single representing this album: it ranked #1 in Hungary, #4 in Spain (Top 100 Canciones), #1 in Japan (radio chart), made it to the TOP5 in Brazil and the Philippines, also gracing radio waves in Germany, Denmark and Eastern European countries. There was a German version of the song released in Germany, and Spanish in Spain and Brazil. In Hungary this single sold over 300.000 copies, being certified as "multi-platinum". In Japan the single was certified as "gold" with 110.000 copies sold (#32 on a sales chart); Japan Disco Society nominated it as the most popular 1980 disco hit. This single's B-side was occupied by other tracks from the album, differing for some countries: "Te Quiero" in Spain, "Marathon" in Germany and Japan, "He’s Gone" in Brazil, "Bars and Chains" in the Philippines and so on. In France the French version of the song, "Don Quichotte", was on the B-side of "Smile Again" single. The band toured Spain (in June 1980), Poland, Denmark and West Germany, also going on their first Japanese tour. The band was particularly acclaimed in Japan, which resulted in every album and single along with several compilations and live albums being released there. In Japan three of the band's albums went gold and five singles went platinum. Since that year "Neoton Família" repeatedly visited USSR as a part of Soviet-Hungarian international friendship program, garnering an enormous following. The same year the band was featured in another movie, Hungarian youth drama titled "Ballagás" ("Last Bell"), with their "Don Quijote" song.  

By Mikhail Badanin and Kirill Babanin
Translated into English by Andrey Sinelnikov