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November 20, 2003 by AK

Rock ‘n’ Roll II

Before rock ‘n’ roll, there was jazz. Back in the 1950s and the early 1960s, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker were on the lips and in the ears of many young men and women in the thawing Soviet Union. But young rock ‘n’ roll was knocking on the iron door: already in 1957 or so, my father, a student of a top Moscow college, back at his home town on a holiday, got removed from a dance party by the druzhinniki for trying to do the twist. Stylish young folks in terribly narrow pants, broad-shouldered jackets and color-crazed ties — the famous stilyagi — were treading the streets of Moscow and Leningrad, calling Gorky Street (now Tverskaya) and Nevsky Prospect “Broadway”. About the same time, a bunch of British bands took to contemporary American ditties — all steeped in the blues — and rock as we know it was born. There was something incurably attractive about the low culture of the then America — something that made young faces on the other side turn west.

A new subculture that we call (some derisively) Russian rock ‘n’ roll, was born a decade later. This distant progeny of unmodified r&r deserves a separate entry; one fine day, perhaps. For an introduction, here is an article from Popular Music, a journal published by Cambridge University Press.


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