Ambassador of music George Molnár “Elephant”
The solo guitarist of the legendary Omega band
What FALCO is for Austria, JOHNNY Hallyday for France, GOLDEN EARING for the Netherlands, ROLLING STONES for England, SCORPIONS for Germany, that is OMEGA for Hungary, or more for the entire Central and Eastern Europe.
Nowadays there are two famous rock bands in the world that have been continuously touring and giving concerts. One of them is the Rolling Stones and the other is behind the ex Iron Curtain, the most successful rock band in Central Eastern Europe, the OMEGA or OMEGA RED STAR as they were called in England. OMEGA`s first full album was recorded by Decca Records in London with the above title. OMEGA still has the largest fan base in their home country, Hungary today, there’s always a newer young generation attracted by the love of their music.
Among their fans, several generations – including children, parents, and grandparents – can coexist. The now legendary band was formed in 1962. They’ve travelled from London’s famous Marquee Club (Who and Cream started from here as well in 1968) to all over Europe, Turkey and Japan. In 2006, their EurOMEGA concert tour included Slovakia, Romania, Berlin and Basel and finally ended with a concert in Hungary. In 2013, the OMEGA band gave a successful concert in Moscow. The OMEGA band had the majority of their concerts abroad. In Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands – especially in the 60s, 70s and 80s – several of their records became Golden Records. They appeared at a number of festivals in Germany and made a friendship as well with the Scorpions band as a result of this.
Over the past fifty-two years, OMEGA sold 50 million records around the world. Their albums and CDs can be found almost all over the world. In Switzerland, for example, their Time Robber album beat the album sales chart of the Rolling Stones. One of their most successful songs, the 1969 “Gyöngyhajú lány” (officially translated as “Pearls In Her Hair”) became an international hit. In the Tokyo Yamaha Festival, they won the first prize with this song. The same song later, in the mid-90s, was covered by the Scorpions with the title “White Dove” and brought further international successes.
Our interview was made after OMEGA`s Mega concert on 16th June with the front man of the band, George Molnár or Elephant as he is called by his nickname by many people. Their old friends, the Scorpions band were invited to this grand concert. The legendary “Wind of Change” song was played by George Molnár and János Kóbor together with Klaus Meine and Rudi Schenker, and it was a great success.
In the Heroes’ Square, in Budapest even after 52 years the OMEGA band was celebrated by two hundred thousand people. What is it like to feel the undiminished love of the audience for so many years?
The immense love we are surrounded by is more and more touching year after year and I more and more appreciate all this as time goes by. It is a fantastic feeling to see two hundred thousand enthusiastic fans with upraised hands; it actually feels like an electric shock with the difference that it’s not an overwhelming, but rather a recharging force.
OMEGA was the only band who could break through the Iron Curtain. How was it considered by the communist dictatorship at the time?
There used to be T, F and S labels that time:
Tolerated, Forbidden and Supported. We used to belong to T, that is Tolerated. The financial success we brought was favorable for the national economy. We had to play for pennies, however, as there used to be strictly state-imposed fees. A lot of musicians were tried to be crushed at that time. There were ones, however, who did not give it up and became worldwide famous like Leslie Mandoki as well.
Your Time Robber album in Switzerland beat the album of the Rolling Stones. What was the key of this success at the Swiss audience?
To be honest, I don’t know. Perhaps it was our freshness or kindness. We were reachable for our fans. The Rolling Stones was the ‘bad guys’ team at the time. We rather dissuaded our fans from reckless actions, hard drugs, and definitely did not inspire them to do such things.
Your records were recorded in Germany, at Bellaphon Bacillus Records and then at Time Warner publisher. As far as we know, you had a Golden Record in Germany.
Yes, this first Eastern European gold disc became number one in several different countries beating some international stars. The Time Robber had a progressive record; you could feel the new wind.
Perhaps few people know today that your first album was recorded in London’s famous Decca Records. John Martin was the producer and manager of the disc who does not need to be introduced to the public (WHO, EMERSON LAKE AND PALMER, CREAM, JOE COCKER. ARTHUR BRAUN, JIMI HENDRIX, KINGS).
What was it like to meet John Martin in 1968?
We were just gawking; we did not even realize the significance of it. The above mentioned bands came to our concert in London, heartily congratulated us and wished us the best of luck with our future. John Martin used to have a hold on the majority of the international stars at the time.
“If you tell the truth,
don’t have to remember anything.”
Thousands of people from Germany to Switzerland learned Hungarian with your music. You always sang your songs in Hungarian but made your records in English. Is it possible to say that OMEGA completed a mission like the ambassador of a country?
Yes, after all, it was a concept. We did not speak English as native speakers as we were born Hungarian and emphasized our Hungarian nationality with these lyrics. As a result of this, a lot of young people from Germany, Switzerland and Nederland started to learn Hungarian from the lyrics of OMEGA and the work of our famous poets: János Arany and Sándor Petőfi. OMEGA Fan Club had its own magazine made from the work of our famous poet, Arany János, and on the last page there were always Hungarian language lessons.
You’ve always been the lead, the front man of the band which must be a great responsibility towards the audience. You’ve been always called by your nick name, Elephant by your fans. Where does this name come from?
Accidentally, I broke a Shure microphone which was not my fault, and it was very valuable at the time as you could only sneak it into our country from abroad. Therefore, Laux Józsi, the organizer was heavily hit by this and gave me this name in flush, so he became my godfather. I tried to behave in an exemplary way in the past as well. I am often stopped in the streets and I enjoy feeling people’s excessive love.
OMEGA received several high honors in Hungary over the decades: Franz Liszt Prize, Medal of Merit and in 2013 OMEGA received all an artist can receive, the Kossuth Prize. Do these prizes mean a lot to you?
Of course, they do. I felt really honored receiving each of them and thanked to everyone and I am still grateful to everyone who helped me in my life to achieve these successes.
What other important landmarks would you mention in the life of the band?
Hero’s Square is one of the greatest successes in Hungary. Our long-term friendship with the Scorpions, who covered a lot of OMEGA songs, was –and is- an important thing in our lives, and the American Rapper Kenia West, who also included our Gyöngyhajú lány” (“Pearls In Her Hair”) song in his repertoire. If your songs get covered by others in different parts of the world, you somehow become part of the universal culture.
After so many years in the world of music, what do you think about music life today?
This is probably the most difficult question to answer. Just like 50 years ago, there are good and bad things in it. I do not differentiate among genres. There are some very talented musicians. The only missing thing is the age which we used to be surrounded by. I could say that the first realization of life, love, freedom, great ideas, scents and flavors after the war. This is the thing that will never be back. I believe that there will be something else energizing the world and putting values to their right place again, and the right way will be shown by salient examples.
How would you prioritize things in your life today? Would your values be different from the ones you had in the 70s and 80s?
At that time my life was mainly filled with music, culture, inventions, ideas activities and researches about the existence of alien civilizations. Today, the first three places in my life are occupied by family, and then come music and art and the existence of alien civilizations. Humanity has gone through a terrifying demographic explosion, it will be necessary to find a new living space and some helpers so that we can survive.