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The list of Western bands banned on Soviet radio in 1985

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Post 11 Jun 2014, 03:59
"This List Of Bands Banned On Soviet Radio Is A Real Head Scratcher"

Did you ever want to see AC/DC, The B-52′s, Pink Floyd, Donna Summer, The Village People, and Julio Iglesias in the same place? Well then, you can either read my dream journal or check out this list of Western music banned on Soviet radio stations. The list was titled “The approximate list of foreign musical groups and artists whose repertoires contain ideologically harmful compositions” (catchy title) and was distributed to Communist Party officials in January of 1985. We like how they call it an “approximate list”. Everything in the USSR was so slapdash.

The blacklist was written by Komsomol, the Youth Wing of the Communist Party. They believed neo-fascism was being promoted by the music of AC/DC, KISS, and — the most neo-fascist of all — Julio Iglesias. They abhorred all punk music, especially the ultra-punky B-52′s. (They knew what “Rock Lobster” was really about.) Van Halen was anti-Soviet propaganda (of course), the Village People were violent (sure), and Donna Summer was just too erotic (fair enough).

The Scotsman talked to members of some of the acts on the blacklist. Chas Smash of Madness (banned for being “punk”) joked that their hit “Baggy Trousers” was secretly about “a scheme to smuggle out of the USSR as many dissidents as possible hidden in the trousers of sympathetic Cossacks.”

Banning these artists didn’t have the intended effect, of course. It only drew more attention to bootlegs of the banned music. Cunning entrepreneurs would buy used X-Ray films from hospitals, cut them into circles, and record bootleg songs onto the flimsy discs. The bootlegs were nicknamed Ribs and were low quality but incredibly cheap, sometimes only a ruble. We feel sorry for anyone who wasted their ruble on Julio Iglesias. Should have bought AC/DC instead, Aleksey. ... ds-russia/

Post 11 Jun 2014, 04:59
Oh yes...Until Gorby became the leader of USSR all theese reversed and you could see some western music like the song "Life is life" for example in the show "Morning post" of 1986 (check the third or fourth song).The first soviet rock and heavy metal bands appeard with songs that had lyrics wich were against the USSR.Especially Igor Talkov and Viktor Tsoy were very vehement followed by Sverchiuk's DDT band.
Post 11 Jun 2014, 05:16
I'd like too see some more specifics on the reasons behind certain ones.

"Talking Heads - Myth of Soviet military danger" sounds interesting. I'm sure there's some song they've clearly got in mind but I can't think of what it might be.

I like the idea of those "ribs". They sound like real collectables.
Post 11 Jun 2014, 09:46
Comrade Ploof, I'm very glad you brought up and linked to the 'Morning Post' program; it's a pretty good example of the Western cultural influences on the Soviet Union at that time, in terms of music, clothing styles, style of interaction with the audience, etc. In terms of content, I would say that in 1986 what went into that program had little to do with Gorbachev. Western music had been appearing on that show at least since the early 80s, and had permeated Soviet youth culture since at least the late 60s.

Anyway, there's a bit of sneaky manipulation of the so-called list by whoever published it on that site; first off, it was created the Nikolayev Oblast Committee in Soviet Ukraine, not by national directive. Yurchak himself is a bit ambiguous in his discussion of the list, seeming to extrapolate from one concrete document in the Nikolayev Oblast to a national initiative, but nowhere does he say that this is a ‘national list of music banned on radio stations’.

Yurchak makes a couple interesting points about the sporadic attempts to contain and control Western music. First off, he points out that such a strange and incomplete list makes it seem that other artists, or other albums by the same artists, are acceptable. Secondly, and more importantly in my view, he notes that conservative Soviet forces in the Komsomol and elsewhere "did not recognize the fact that Western cultural influences in the Soviet context were enabled by the contradictions of the state's cultural policy, that they were part and parcel of socialist realities, and that "bourgeois" aesthetics could acquire specific meanings in the Soviet content and did not necessarily have to contradict the values and realities of socialism. The critique read the symbols of bourgeois mass culture literally, failing to consider the complex translation and appropriation of that culture by Soviet youth in ways that were substantially different from that literal reading."

Edit: Just for the fun of it: for anyone who would like to see an unauthorized rendition of the theme from Rocky by some guys riding around the streets of Moscow in a bus in 1985: Ignoring international copyright laws on national television; that's how the Soviets rolled back then.
Post 11 Jun 2014, 10:37
Thanks for the explanations soviet78.

I was curious about the Talking Heads song so I tried searching for more information. According to another version of that list:


"Klesh" is The Clash apparently.

This book seems to be a source for the story. In fact this "list" appears to be more of Komsomol guide for music to play at certain events than an official ban on the music.

Of course you have to realize there are plenty of social events in the "free" West where most of such music would be unwelcome to this day but you would be an idiot if you made any connection between this detail and the economic system of the state it occured in.
Post 11 Jun 2014, 15:34
Julio Iglesias: Neofascism

This is excellent.
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