History

Rockin' in the Second World

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Richard Weitz discusses Rock and Roll in the Rocket City, a book by the Ball State historian Sergei Zhuk that sounds pretty fascinating. It explores "rock music's role in the Soviet collapse by focusing on the experience of a single city, Dniepropetrovsk, Ukraine, during the late-Soviet era."

Not a Ukrainian band.

Soviet authorities were clearly worried that rock threatened their ability to keep the population submissive. But Zhuk found that such fears were perhaps overblown, at least when it came to the political sphere. Most Soviet youths were very "good, loyal patriots," Zhuk found, who preferred European rather than American rock groups. Some particular favorites in the former Soviet Union during the 1970s and 80s were Deep Purple, Sweet and AC/DC.

Many members of the political elites that now run post-Soviet states trace their roots to the former Soviet Communist Party, or its youth wing, the Komsomol, and were not heavily influenced by rock 'n roll.

The business sphere is another story. Zhuk suggested that many of today's economic titans in former Soviet states learned the ins and outs of business through quasi-legal operations in the late Soviet era, operations that depended on illicit payments and protection rackets….Some of the most entrepreneurial minds in the late-Communist period got their starts by opening speakeasies, underground rock clubs that sought to cater to the musical tastes of the young generation. Since they lacked official sanction, these operations had to pay bribes to officials to stay open, as well as pay protection money to proto-mafia groups. The skills acquired in the 1970s and 80s, helped some of these entrepreneurs survive the tumult of the 1990s and thrive in the 21st century.

Read the whole article here. Hat tip: Bryan Alexander.

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  1. You don’t know how lucky you are, boy – back in the US, back in the US, back int he USSR.

  2. Richard Weitz discusses Rock and Roll in the Rocket City, a book by the Ball State historian Sergei Zhuk that sounds pretty fascinating. It explores “rock music’s role in the Soviet collapse by focusing on the experience of a single city, Dniepropetrovsk, Ukraine, during the late-Soviet era.”

    We built this city!
    We built this city
    on Rock-And-Roll!

    We built this city!
    We built this city
    on Rock-And-Rooooooll!

    Worst. Song. Ever.

    1. That isn’t hyperbole. “We Built This City” really is the worst song ever.

      1. Rebecca Black is not amused

        1. “Friday” is generating is far beyond the initial $2,000 Black’s mother spent on the vanity package with Ark Music Factory.

          Even more fascinating is that as of this writing, “Friday” is No. 33 on the iTunes singles chart. For a song the Internet universally considers terrible, that’s a lot of downloads. Ark gets 70 cents off of each one.

          It’s still unknown how much Black will actually receive in royalties. But even if she receives a fraction of it, she will be doing great for a teenager.

          While most of her peers will be flipping burgers this summer, Black will probably be having fun, fun, fun, fun.

          1. Even more fascinating is that as of this writing, “Friday” is No. 33 on the iTunes singles chart. For a song the Internet universally considers terrible, that’s a lot of downloads.

            The only difference between Rebecca Black and just about any huge selling musical act is that she never got a major label to back the video. Granted, this will go into “one-hit wonder” territory alongside a plethora of other acts over the last 50 years, but the fact of the matter is that for all the hate the video is generating, she’s got the same lyrical stylings as Lady Gaga, Kanye, and Kesha.

            People are buying her song and downloading the video because it’s the same as everything else on their iPod.

            1. “What Rebecca Black and ARK need to understand is that yes we dont approve of the song. BUT more so, we as consumers are fucking sick and tired of the music industry and what it has become…and now we have a voice. whatever you put out is what you get back.. with any scenario in life. you give us shit…WE’RE GONNA GIVE YOU THE NIGHTMARE OF YOUR LIFE.

              THIS IS THE BEGINNING OF A WAR ON? THE MUSIC INDUSTRY

              YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT”
              TexasHoldMe87 2 minutes ago

          2. For a song the Internet universally considers terrible, that’s a lot of downloads.

            No such thing as “bad” publicity.

            1. Rebecca Black is crying all the way to the bank.

      2. Worse than “Hang on Sloopy”? Worse than “S.A.T.U.R.D.A.Y.” by the Bay City Rollers? Worse than “Sugar Sugar”?

      3. Worse than Hang on Sloopy?

        1. “Hang on Sloopy” has that basic, catchy “Louie, Louie”-style chord progression that’s always enjoyable no matter what words are attached to it. “We Built This City” is actively unpleasant to hear.

          1. Re: Jesse Walker,

            We Built This City” is actively unpleasant to hear.

            I second that. Not only are the lyrics cheesy and uninspired, the music itself has no artistry and the instrumentation is clumsy. The song is totally wrong for the type of voice the female vocalist has. It just sounds wrong.

            1. For worst song in folky/mellow mode I nominate “Imagine.”

          2. Hang on Sloopy comparable to Louie Louis? You are dead to me Jessee. That song is the spawn of Satan.

            1. Search YouTube and you’ll find about 70 cajillion bands doing medleys of the two songs together. Sometimes they throw in “Wild Thing” too. I haven’t seen any that add that song where the kid sings about his hook, but it would be pretty awesome if someone did.

        2. Take that back, motherfucker!

        3. Philistine!

  3. [It] explores “rock music’s role in the Soviet collapse”

    And here I am thinking that economic calculation problems brought down the Societ Union. I guess it was loud and obnoxious music that did it…

  4. AC/DC is a European rock group?

    1. Maybe they got Australia mixed up with Austria again… like Lloyd did in Dumb & Dumber, of course he had it the other way around.

      1. Don’t forget, Mr. Obama knows Austrian when he hears it.

    2. It’s not entirely inaccurate to view the band as Scottish, as the Youngs were born there.

    3. I think they were contrasting to American.

      1. I guess I’m not seeing the point of that sentence. What does prefering European to American rock bands have to do with being “good, loyal patriots” in the USSR? In terms of instilling a sense of individuality and rebellion, what’s the difference between listening to Deep Purple and listening to Aerosmith?

  5. Some of the most entrepreneurial minds in the late-Communist period got their starts by opening speakeasies, underground rock clubs that sought to cater to the musical tastes of the young generation. Since they lacked official sanction, these operations had to pay bribes to officials to stay open, as well as pay protection money to proto-mafia groups.

    When businesses are outlawed only outlaws will be businessmen.

    1. Marxists believe that anyway

  6. I have always been of the opinion that, at most, music is the froth on the social wave, not the wave itself. The idea that the actual music “changed the world” strikes me as auto-onanism by musicians and their groupies.

    1. I changed the music business forever this week.

      1. Anyway, art is the barometer of a culture, not the engine.

    2. I’m in this camp. You could just as easily make a case for Levis.

  7. Anyway, art is the barometer tachometer of a culture, not the engine.

    1. My metaphor is better than yours, as a barometer measures pressure, not revolutions.

  8. But no musicians have done more for freedom than Little Fyodor and Babushka!

    1. Or less. Everybody wins!

  9. Anyone ever see the movie “Six-String Samurai”? Love it, and the Red Elvises both provide the soundtrack and appear in the movie itself. I heartily recommend it to anyone who enjoys bad movies.

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