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.
That’s the translated version from Alexei Yurchak’s new book, Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More. Here’s the original memo:
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.