charts, who went multi-platinum — and good overviews of the developments in most spheres of popular music. This is not to say that The Rock yearbook is an exhaustive and academic cultural treatise - far from it - but it’s entertaining, and actually worth buying, for a change. There are one or two gems in the ‘Quotes’ section, such as Paul (Frankie Goes To Hollywood) Rutherford’s assertion that ‘These two girls in Scotland sent us down some plastic bags and asked us to jack off in them and then send them back.’ A pretty telling description of the sort of fans that buy these annuals, I suppose, but you don’t get that kind of quote in the Smash Hits Yearbook. Well, you didn’t when I was a lad, you probably do now. Unfortunately, our copy misses pages 137—144, ‘The Best and Worst LP Covers’ , an opportunity for some real creative commentary, so check your copy carefully.
0 Back In the USSR: The True Story at Rock In Russia Artemy Troitsky (Omnibus). Artemy Troitsky, being the ﬁrst real Soviet rock journalist, is the only one who could have told the story up to this point, and a fascinating one it is, though what he has to say is not necessarily what you
not persecuted by mobs of outraged pickaxe-wielding patriots, nor cowering in terror of the KGB’s loud knock. Not often, anyway. The persecution was faced by the
Rock musicians pre-glasnosr were -
previous generation , the stilyagi , who were likely to have their hair and trousers mauled by scissors up a dark alley. The zoot suits of the stilyagi split, in the late 505, into shtatniki (bebop fans with ﬂat-tops) and beatniki, who danced to rock ’n’ roll.
Home-grown Russian rock, archivists take note, started in Latvia in 1961, and the group which most profoundly affected the Russian youth was The Beatles, still a great inﬂuence even today. The Beatles’ beautiful melodies and lush (for rock) harmonies pleased the Russian ear in a way in which The Rolling Stones and The Who never did. This is where Russian rock went its own distinct way.
Rock fans didn’t face the haircutting of the srilyagi, notes Troitsky, and the authorities, seeing the chasm opening up between the youth and their elders, responded by ignoring the situation completely. ‘Total control was a thing of the past,’ he says, ‘replaced by total indifference.’ Professional rock groups (ie, those belonging to one of the ZOO-odd official concert organisations in the country) can earn a good living, if they tour a lot and abide by the terms of their financial plan. The amateurs aren’t (ofﬁcially) allowed to earn money and get no help from the ‘philharmonia’ to arrange tours, but, contrary to what many Westerners may believe, ‘you can play what you want.’ Presumably Troitsky means
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The cultural isolation, but hunger for music, threw up some quite ingenious solutions, such as ‘ribs’, recordings stamped on to the plastic of X-ray plates. They were of dire quality, of course, and some had frightening messages on them, where the voice of some stern official
would berate the listener through the speaker for listening to such a morally destructive item. Somehow, picture discs will never seem quite the same again.
There’s more, but you’ll have to buy the book to read about it. Do it soon. Relaxing of cultural barriers and greater interchange with the West could mean that the fragile bloom of indigenous Russian rock music could be trampled underfoot. 0 Say It One Time For the Brokenhearted Barney Hoskyns (Fontana £4.95). Subtitled ‘The Country Side of Southern Soul’, noted British music journalist Barney Hoskyns’ book zeros in on a seemingly unlikely area of musical cross-fertilization. The casual listener might be forgiven for thinking that the primarily black, funky bass-driven, horn-encrusted stylings of classic soul music might prove fundamentally incompatible with the white stell guitars and lonesome lyrics of honky-tonk desperation, but this is proof that it was not always so. Here we find the story of a number of black artists of varying degrees of obscurity, who, in the Deep South of the US in the late Sixties and early Seventies, worked with usually white producers to set aside racial tensions and create what the author regards as some of the
0 From Fringe to Flylng Clrcus (Methuen £7.95). One of the music papers used to carry a regular illustrated double-page feature called the ‘Rock Family Tree’ which traced the to-ings and fro-ings of various musicians as they moved from band to band, split up, reformed, overdosed, staged a comeback and so on. It’d be interesting to draw a similar evolutionary picture of the comedians who cross-bred and mutated into the Python generation. It could make for a great after-dinner game where well-fed guests challenged each other to get from Peter Cook to Bill Oddie without passing Michael Palin, in less than four moves. The most successful contestant would inevitably be those
I who listed Roger Wilmut’s Frorn Fringe To Flying Circus as cherished bedtime reading. And who could blame them? For this lovingly
ut-together volume is a meticulous lend of history and surrealist ﬁction
that traces the rise over two decades of the ‘Oxbridge Mafia’ from
, Footlights to Fawlty Towers with
i copious samples of wit and false
most powerful music laid down on vinyl.
Blending country’s tangled tales of emotional mayhem with the belting delivery of an awsome voice , overlooked artists like James Carr, Joe Tex and Joe Simon created a musical hybrid that combined rhythmic drive with a clout to the heart in its treatment of real life miseries. Hoskyns spent some time travelling around Tennessee and Alabama to talk to the personalities involved at the time, and the result of his dedication is a lucid picture of what was once a thriving regional music scene, but one which never really crossed over to the same level of success as Motown’s sophisticated pop and was ﬁnally killed by the mid-Seventies disco boom.
The writing throughout makes you want to rush out and acquire some of these tear-drenched grooves, and a mail order contact list is provided to help you track down the occasionally rare imports. Familiar names abound too, of course, like Bobby Womack, whose record company were none too chuffed at his proposed album title Move Over Charley Pride And Give Another Nigger A Chance, and James Brown , who has both appeared at the Nashville Grand Ole Opry and cut an unreleased country long-player. Such treasurable information makes the book much more than a critic’s obsessive rummaging in never- heard-of-’em land, for instead the book is a genuinely fascinating read, highly recommended to those for whom soul begins and ends with Terence Trent D’Arby, or country equals the glitzy puke of a Vegas Dolly Parton. (Trevor Johnston)
wisdom to boot. (Mark Fisher)
0 ll. . . Only Agaln (Methuen £3.50). In the midst of a wealth of mediocre satire it has been invigorating to follow the inkly black cartoon world of Steve Bell every day in the Guardian. ll. . . Only Again, a collection of Guardian strips from 1983 to 1984, reminds us that Steve Bell has his vision sufficiently intact to be genuinely appalled at the horrors of modern political life. His satire is funny - and alarming - because it is informed by the sort of moral outrage that much TV comedy lacks.
Inspired and to the point, we see Mrs Thatcher mutate into Winston Churchill, President Reagan into Rambo, Nigel Lawson into a pig and Michael Hesseltine into a bare-buttocked Tarzan. Bell exploits the strip cartoon format to give full rein to his indignant imagination. And who else since those chocolate biscuit people has got such good mileage from penguins? (Mark Fisher)
0 PM oi Punch ed Alan Coren (Grafton £9.95). A few years ago I started to ﬁnd Punch unfunny- like
50 The List 27 Nov - 10 Dec 1987