Soviet Pop Music?

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This is inspired by this thread:
C90: Night Flight to Beiruth aka. the International Terrorist Mix!

Anyway, was there pop music in the Soviet Union, and if so what was it like? I know they had public radio in the USSR, what did they play on it? Was it strictly Ukranian folk music, or did the government allow politically acceptable contempory music to exist?

Disco Nihilist (mjt), Tuesday, 14 October 2003 00:31 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Gorky Park: terrible heavy metal band that straddled the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Were invited to play some gigantic shindig in Moscow that was mostly a metalfest for American hair bands -- a style Gorky Park emulated.

The band was brought to the United States and paraded around in second tier venues in some hope that it would catch on. Shopped a
video to MTV that garnered a few airings. Played guitars, shaped
like balalaikas, which -- paradoxically were made by Kramer, an
American company that became big in the Eighties by dint of
association with Eddie Van Halen and the pointy guitar with locking
tremolo fad.

Kramer went bankrupt at about the same time Gorky Park flopped in
the United States.

I saw Gorky Park up close while doing the entertainment gig at a
daily newspaper. They were only so good as to be competitve with
average local bands and were sometimes much worse. They had only
the vaguest idea of what constituted a good hard act. Mostly, like
many others, they were focused on the look (see horrid LA club
liggers Metal Shop except without the chopsy guitarist).

I believe they always encored with the Who's "The Kids Are Alright,"
whether the kids actually wanted it or not. As far as I could tell,
the house was almost deserted when this was performed.

For fans of late Krokus, although even that's a bit generous because
it implies they could occasionally be winning with a glam rock
cover or straight AC/DC rip.

George Smith, Tuesday, 14 October 2003 01:11 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

There were a few bands, and a few folk artists who were really popular. Everything that was officially released came out on this label called Melodia, but a lot of music was distributed on bootleg tapes that college students exchanged.

As far as rock goes, Nautilus Pompilius were (are, to a certain extent) really big. I don't know who to compare them to really, but I guess they were a pretty straight forward rock band. Really good songwriting a lot of the time.

The other one I know is Aquarium, who used to be sort of experimental if I remember correctly, but got pretty bad as they got older. I'm not sure if these bands are on AMG, but I'm too lazy to check.

There were a few great singer songwriters, most notably the Nikitin couple. They started out as bio students who wrote tunes for famous poetry (they covered Brodsky, for example, I'm pretty sure), and their tapes got circulated around among their friends and gradually all of Moscow fell in love with them. They still tour now, even in America. Their fans are in their fifties now. They're pretty amazing.

I don't know much of the specifics, really, this is all my parents have told me.

Leon Neyfakh, Tuesday, 14 October 2003 03:50 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I've got a rather cracking compilation LP of four Soviet New Wave bands. It's quite decent, but I can't remember who's on it (I think Aquarium might be)...

Sasha (sgh), Tuesday, 14 October 2003 03:57 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Artemy Troitsky has written a few books on rock in the former USSR - I think one is called Back In The USSR, not sure. Brian Eno actually went on to produce Zvuki Mu, one of the bands in the book.

Damian (Damian), Tuesday, 14 October 2003 08:05 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

leningrad (thats the name of a band)are the ones to watch here. they kinda started the ska obsession that russia has had for the last 20 yrs. nautilus pompilius sound bloody awful from what i remember (and the brat' soundtrack confirms this). aqvarium i havent heard much of. the pop music that started up was all in the very late stages of the soviet era. that is, the pop music that wasnt totally underground.
there is this really famous dude in the 70's who was like, a dissadent songwriter, sort of russian dylan, but i cant remeber his name. there is a whole wall of graffitti dedicated to him on the arbat in moscow. hes like, a total legend. but that was all samizdat tape stuff. not mainstream. as per melodiya's involvement, i guess they must have been putting out some of the rock stuff by the end. i reckon aria, a sort of heavy rock/.metal band, have been going for some time too. they are shit too.
the most interesting thing regarding pop under communism is the shit i found in a shop somewhere. some time in the mid 80's, instead of totally denying the existence of western pop, the soviet powers started allowing scraps through ,and it got to the stage where melodiya (the state rtecord company) licenced western pop albums for russia, and released them with covers/liner note, song titles all translated in to russian! this shit is the best! i found peter gabriel, madonna (like a virgin!!!!), genesis, all in russian.

i have a really cool melodiya t shirt too. they have a fucking cool logo!

ambrose (ambrose), Tuesday, 14 October 2003 12:47 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Gorky Park were not really Russian though - at least, they weren't popular there. They were mostly manufactured for Western consumption during the Gorby era.

Aquarium are quite good but can be a bit too hippie for my tastes. KINO is the best of the new wave bands from the eighties. They sort of sound like the Cure-ish...

Jacobo, Tuesday, 14 October 2003 14:25 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Ambrose: Regarding the famous folky whose name is in all the graffiti... I think maybe you're conflating Victor Tsoi and Vladimir Vitsosky? The former was the lead singer of Kino, not exactly a folk band, but famous in the CIS in a sort of Cobain kind of way. Vaguely dissident in the way that was mildly tolerated post-Kruschov. Died under mysterious circumstances (car crash, I believe) The latter was the folk singer with the gravelly, Tom Waitsy voice, also vaguely dissident, but not the kind of music that would inspire the teenagers of today to wear black t-shirts and write "Vitsosky lives!" on the side of a building...

But yeah, Kino is the best that I've heard of Soviet era pop/rock music.

flightsatdusk (flightsatdusk), Tuesday, 14 October 2003 15:30 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

yeah i'm getting confused between tsoi and visotski. its tsoi who has a whole wall dedicated to him, but visotski's, like, the daddy of it all, right?

"gravelly, Tom Waitsy voice"...unfortunately, this describes every Russian male vocal, ever. even in trance tunes! this is my main problem with it.

i forgot to mention that, to hear what this late soviet stuff did for the next wave of music in russia, buy trikonts 'russendisko' compilation. that looks pretty good.

ambrose (ambrose), Tuesday, 14 October 2003 18:47 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I remember seeing a bunch of stuff on this Boris Grebeshnikov (I'm prob. mispelling his name btw) guy on MTV news in the late 80s....AMG said he was the leader of Aquarium, but the stuff I remember didn't sound very experimental....the "Bruce Springsteen of Russia" was what he used to get tagged as.

Matt Helgeson (Matt Helgeson), Tuesday, 14 October 2003 22:58 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

also per AMG, did a solo album w.Dave Stewart from Eurythmics that was released in the west....

Also, I believe that the Scorpions were super-popular in Russia due to bootleg tapes and lps that came from Germany....this was even pre-Wind of Change iron curtain pandering.

Matt Helgeson (Matt Helgeson), Tuesday, 14 October 2003 23:00 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Boris Grebenshekov?

t\'\'t (t\'\'t), Tuesday, 14 October 2003 23:10 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Telecom -- it's high time you posted a proper monsta-big pic of Red Elvises,
"the Siberian surf-rockers from LA"!

t\'\'t (t\'\'t), Tuesday, 14 October 2003 23:27 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

thanks lots, mr. elvis, sir!

t\'\'t (t\'\'t), Wednesday, 15 October 2003 20:11 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

seven years pass...

And then there was how the Soviets saw pop music elsewhere:

Ned Raggett, Thursday, 18 November 2010 16:12 (eight years ago) Permalink

Wow, I wish more Western pop was like that.

A brownish area with points (chap), Thursday, 18 November 2010 16:18 (eight years ago) Permalink

Is it good? I have this, from 1982:

It is quite listenable and mature romantic pop, a lot of accomplished women singers
and so forth. It isn't "cool", it's like a lot of mainstream adult international pop of its time.

I enjoyed it.

YouTube has some videos, I will sift through later and maybe post a few.

like you really know who trisomie 21 is (u s steel), Friday, 19 November 2010 10:35 (eight years ago) Permalink

Kevin Debroux from Pink Reason played a bunch of really neat 80s stuff on WFMU a while back. i guess his parents upped and moved from the States to Siberia when he was a kid. tough break!

very much worth listening to:

(+) (+ +), Friday, 19 November 2010 12:20 (eight years ago) Permalink

Reposted from Wikipedia, but this is an amusing Zvuki Mu story:

Zvuki Mu (Russian: Зву́ки Му), a Russian alternative rock/indie/post-punk band, was founded in Moscow in the early 1980s. Lead singer and songwriter Pyotr Mamonov is one of the most creative, revered and eccentric figures of the Russian art scene, whose absurdist lyrics are as playful and disturbing as his vocal style and explosive on-stage presence. The band's sound combined starkly simple yet textured melodies with synthesizer sounds, quite unlike anything else heard in Russian rock at the time. One of Zvuki Mu's albums was produced by the famous British musician and producer Brian Eno. He invited the band to London, to record their first studio album. During this visit they did a gig at the ICA. They had little money, and slept on the floor of poet and writer, Anth Ginn. They spent all their money in the Brixton Exchange Mart, on second hand musical instruments. According to legend, Brian Eno met them at his flat to plan the recording session. He had to go out for a couple of hours and told them to make themselves at home. When he got back they were unconscious on his kitchen floor, surrounded by several hundred pounds worth of empties from his expensive booze collection. Apparently he was not happy.

Sméagol-Eye Cherry (NickB), Friday, 19 November 2010 13:18 (eight years ago) Permalink

eight years pass...

attn chicago

Traces in the Snow is a feature length
documentary on Siberia’s punk scene
in the 1980’s. Directed by Russian
author and film director Vladimir
Kozlov, this first-of-its-kind
documentary uses rare footage of
Siberian punk legends including the
punk poet and songwriter Yanka
Dyagileva and the controversial godfather
of Russian punk Yegor Letov,
along with contemporary inter views,
to recount the story of Siberia’s
improbable punk scene.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019
5:00 PM

budo jeru, Tuesday, 9 April 2019 21:28 (two months ago) Permalink

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