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100 Магнитоальбомов Советского Рока 100 Tape Albums of Soviet Rock

Our humble attempt at English translation of Alexander Kushnir’s book 100 Магнитоальбомов Советского Рока (100 Tape Albums of Soviet Rock) (subtitled “1977-1991: 15 Years of Underground Sound Recording / 1977-1991 – 15 лет подпольной звукозаписи”). Thanks to everyone supportive of this venture.

This is a final part of Chapter 1: 60s-70s: The Beginning. Archives/previous chapters can be found here.

First of all, what the hell is the магнитоальбом mentioned in the original title of the book? To put it simply – it’s a magnetic tape. In the Soviet Union rock music was a) largely forbidden for its (presumably) rebellious nature and hence had no way to be recorded officially and distributed on vinyl (Аквариум [Aquarium]’s Равноденствие being one of the most important exclusions) b) not known by the majority of population.

It was recorded mainly on four-tracks “studios” by musicians themselves or with a helping hand of sound-engineers of that time (such as Andrey Tropillo – 2002’s English interview with him is available). – Vladimir Toss / mirddin


Not one of Gorbunov club favorites left a full-length behind – Mashina Vremeni aside. Shame that the deeply underground Vtoroe Dyhanie (Second Wind), Krasnyie Dyavoliata (Red Devils) and Russko-Turetskaya Voina (Russian-Turkish War) didn’t get to record. And only the energetic leader of Skomorohi Alexander Gradsky would sometime sneak into the Union Radio studio, but those scattered sessions never turned into a complete song cycle.

Same situation persisted in other cities as well. “In the 70s we didn’t even think of recording an album – recalls Vladimir Rekshan of Sankt-Peterburg (Saint Petersburg). This was happening because rock musicians didn’t had an ability to record. Between 70 and 74 Sankt-Peterburg had at least three concert programs, all of which went unrecorded.

Hard rockers Rossiyane (Russians) led by Zhora Ordanovsky were unable to leave any traces of activity on tape as well. Among the “losers” were Lesnye Bratya (Forest Brothers), 2001, Argonavty (Argonauts), Zerkalo (The Mirror) and the mysterious Valery Cherkasov who was trying to catch psychedelic overtones in Soviet anthem. “We lost the ability to contribute to the rock movement from such bands as Flamingo, Galaktika (Galaxy), Nu, Pogodi and many, many others – legendary sound engineer Andrey Tropillo said in an interview to Roxy magazine. The entire movements perished and some of the most interesting people vanished with no trace.”

Incompetence of numerous would-be rock heroes of the 70s could’ve been partly justified by brutal scarcity of the recording tape. For a long time retail network only allowed you to purchase a reel in tow with magnetophon. All hell would break loose while the owner of magnetophon recorded this sole reel at the 9th speed. “We knew the phone number of Mosgortorspravka (Moscow City Trade Advice), where you could and get an information on when a certain type of product (such as recording tape) would be available – Ageev recalls. It was nearly impossible to reach them.”

70s were an era of unstructured rock mythology. Musicians had no way to record (and nothing to record on). However, first punks led by the infamous Swine (with Tsoi on bass) were solving those problems with ease. When it came to loud apartment jams recorded to Mayak magnetophon, they were inventing memorable titles such as “Fools and Tours” (or “Onwards to Moscow!!!”) and afterwards they would be  genuinely curious as to what black hole their masterpieces (in the edition of 1 or 2 items) disappeared into.  Within the method of “selected madness”, on the other hand, such approach to art seemed quite organic.

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