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 continuation 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
Grounds for magnetophon boom were laid almost as soon as the first rock bands started to form in Soviet Union. Inspired by Beatles records, musicians were trying to create something similar, but lacked technical abilities. Records were made with primitive machines, and the only people that could listen to them were ones that knew Morse code and had rich imagination.
Things were a bit better when it came to live performances. Rock concerts were battlefields: amps would burn and homemade guitars would be smashed to the floor. Speakers would fly (out of amps), so would the concertgoers (out the windows) and administration would be thrown out. It was never boring back then.
One of the first rock clubs in the capital was located near Kievsky railway terminal – same place that is nowadays graced by Radisson Slavianskaya hotel. Tiny and nondescript Gorbunov club (not to be confused with Gorbunov Palace of Culture) could hold 200 concertgoers and from the outside resembled a bathroom.
While opening the spit-covered door, fans would instantly find themselves inside of a tiny hall. But to get to the entrance (that had a forlorn looking list with the word “disco” hanging from it) you still had to struggle.
By the mid 70s the entirety of hip Moscow was attending Gorbunov club sessions. Before the rock shows would start, creme de la creme of metropolitan bohemia would gather there: Mommy Fish, Beka the Red, Vasya Long, Sasha Ageev, eternally drunk Edik Mamin and the musicians of leading rock bands. Club’s cash register stood high above the ground and was a tunnel about 70 centimeters deep. Since there was a horrible crowding taking place and the hands weren’t always reaching for the target, 50 kopecks were thrown at the invisible cashier – as if it was a grenade in a pillbox. Every three minutes the squeaky old person’s voice was intoning from a dark slit of a cash register: “Don’t throw money! I beg of you, please don’t throw money!”
At the entrance to the club stood a big guy Vasya and in his tin eyes froze a wordless question “Where’s the ticket?” Moans of semi-crushed fans (“Ticket is at the register, grandma got it”) was the only correct answer and served as a guarantee of access to the hall. As a general rule, Vanya wasn’t confiscating “Dallyar” port (that cost 99 copecks) or much cheaper “Golden Autumn”.