60s-70s: The Beginning (60е-70е: Начало)
The entirety of chapter 1 of our translation of Alexandr Kushnir’s book 100 Tapes of Soviet Rock (100 Магнитоальбомов Советского Рока). Archives can be found here.
Thanks to everyone supportive of this venture.
Man with a menacing glare and a tie (who went by “Uncle Zhenya”) was an owner of a real studio magnetophon. Today its impossible to recall the last name of uncle Zhenya and same goes for the brand of magnetophon. For ordinary clients he recorded sonic letter-greetings in his studio. For trusted clients on his own and under the table he recorded “rock-n-rolls” of Presley and early Okudzhava, and later – street songs of Vysotsky and the controversial twist “Beauty Queen” performed by Muslim Magomayev.
At the entrance to the building stood thievish looking boys, dressed in striped bell bottom pants and hexagon caps a-la Ringo Star sewed out of faux leather. Its not hard to see that most of them weren’t rushing to read a poem for a mom or old grandma. Hardly any of them knew that 15 years ago young Elvis Presley sang his first sound letter for mom’s birthday.
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.
Occasionally the fights would break out between hippies that didn’t get in and local louts. In that case cops monitoring the railway terminal would try to stop the action and contain the ugliness happening right under their noses. Since this wasn’t done very promptly, drunk concertgoers would leave through the second door upon hearing “Heads Up!” command. One had to flee while jumping across the railroad tracks. Thick hair of flower children were waving in the wind like flags upon towers. The chase didn’t happen that often, however: guardians of peace were still loyal and forgiving – much like in Znatoki TV-series.
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.”
Bandcamp Navigator, May 2020: From Athens, GA Thrash to Soviet Classic Rock (via Bandcamp Daily)
Joanna Stingray – the woman who smuggled punk rock out of the USSR (via Marc Bennets / The Guardian)
Albums / LPs
Yuri Morozov – Strange Angels (Buried Treasure Records)
Fantastic compilation of 1970’s experimental / electronic music recorded in soviet Russia by Yuri Morozov. An eccentric blend of wonderful, colourful psych, prog, electronic and library-style funk madness!
Banned by the KGB for its esoteric content and references to forbidden spiritual texts, Yuri recorded over 46 albums between the 1970s until his death in 2006. All the music was previously available on cassettes passed around in secret within the Russian music underground. – Soul Jazz Records
Further Reading: The Big Takeover
‘Visions in Black and White’ is a collection of rare jazz and improvised themes by one of the greatest Russian film composers Mikael Tariverdiev (1931-1996). Transferred from the original tapes and beautifully remastered, these recordings manage to retain their original ambience and capture a master at work.
Mescherin’s Orchestra – easyUSSR, Part Two: 70-s – 80-s (Legkie / Partija Records / Epic)
Of the various unheralded minor pioneers of electronic music who tried to promote their love to a much wider, often skeptical and resistant audience, one such hero must surely be the Soviet Russian musician and composer Vyacheslav Mescherin (1923 – 1995) who over a period from 1957 to 1990 composed original pieces of, and adapted other works into, electronic music compositions with his group The Orchestra of Electronic Instruments, more usually known as the Vyacheslav Mescherin Ensemble or the Vyacheslav Mescherin Orchestra. Many of these works were performed on acoustic instruments such as accordion, balalaika and violin which Mescherin and his fellow group members adapted by adding microphones and pick-ups; they also snapped up new electronic instruments such as the Soviet-made Ekvodin 1 synthesiser for their repertoire. Drums and theremin rounded off the group’s instrumentation, all of which were deployed in developing a style of music that can best be described as a mix of light space pop, easy-listening lounge music, folk melodies and sentimental kitsch tunes. – The Sound Projector
This and two other “prehistoric” albums were recently (Spring 2001) released as a boxed set. And as individual albums. And as tapes via another, possibly competing, company. Some of the gurus have ostensibly even heard them. As a direct result they’re in an ICU, foaming and drooling, and won’t be contributing real reviews anytime soon.
In absence of such, it should come as no surprise to you that we, the remaining Bodhisattvas, advise you to buy them all, despite what Dzhon cruelly insists must inevitably be their rating. (Don’t buy them before you buy the more essential items, of course. See the other ratings for more information.) Sure, the recording quality is, reportedly, “abyssmal.” Sure, the musical quality is rumored to be “execrable… grotesque… excruciating… sub-sophmoric” But if you buy this CD you get a groovy cover… and, more important, you get this image – The Bodhisattvas of Babylon
I followed the trail of breadcrumbs to this first album from Aquarium and it’s a trip – naxuu
1970s-1980s Instrumental and Vocal Funk, Disco & Soul by the artists from Soviet Union and USSR-aligned countries compiled and mixed by C.J. Plus