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Popular Music in Communist and Post-Communist Europe

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Edited By Jan Blüml, Yvetta Kajanová and Rüdiger Ritter

Through selected topics, the book presents an up-to-date and comprehensive view of the popular music of communist and post-communist Europe. The studies introduce new sources, discuss transformations of the institutional background of popular music of the given geopolitical sphere, its social, cultural-political, or artistic conditions. Thanks to the time span of nearly thirty years since the fall of the Iron Curtain, the authors have in many ways revised or supplemented traditional post-communist perceptions of the issues in question. This is being done with respect to the genres such as jazz, rock, pop, singer-songwriters, hip-hop, or White Power Music, as well as across the whole region from the former Yugoslavia through Central European states to the countries of the former Soviet Union.

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Rock Around the Bloc Revisited: Researching Pop Culture in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union Then and Now

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For me, the history of Soviet bloc rock ended in a Prague café in August 1989. I was conducting an interview with Michal Kocáb, the leader of Pražský výběr, or Prague Selection, a popular new wave band that had fallen afoul of the government and was prevented from touring or recording. Kocáb was silenced but not unbent. He recounted the erratic and wavering fortunes of his band at the hands of communist authorities—ignored, encouraged, embraced, banned, rehabilitated.

Kocáb’s account seemed to reflect the increasingly chaotic scene I had witnessed during the four years I had been researching the Soviet bloc rock scene. In March 1986, the Soviet recording label released its first complete Beatles album, A Hard Days Night. The following year, Bulgaria, after banning all Western rock music from its discotheques, hosted its first rock festival, Rockfest ‘87. In July 1988, Bruce Springsteen performed in East Berlin, home to one of the most irredentist communist regimes. The following month, John Lydon, formerly Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols, drew 220,000 fans to a concert in the Soviet Union’s Baltic coast city of Tallinn. That same year, Panton released an album Pražský výběr recorded six years earlier. Kocáb railed against the petty bureaucrats and communist ideologues. He spoke of open revolt. I remember him pointing up at the Prague Castle. ‘The people behind those walls are trembling,’ Kocáb told me. ‘They know...

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