ROCK AROUND THE BLOC: A History of Rock Music in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union by Timothy W. Ryback
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ROCK AROUND THE BLOC: A History of Rock Music in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union

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Following the example of S. Frederick Starr's pioneering study of jazz performance and appreciation in the Soviet Union (Red and Hot, 1983), Harvard lecturer Ryback here expertly maps the course of Eastern bloc recognition of Western rock-and-roll, and details efforts to create indigenous pop cultures in hostile countries. From the moment Bill Haley recorded ""Rock Around the Clock"" in 1954--what Ryback wittily calls ""two minutes and eight seconds that shook the world""--rock-and-roll has found a pop-starved audience behind the Iron Curtain. Stalinist cultural policy of course proscribed the decadent sounds of corrupt capitalism, and various Soviet bloc bureaucrats would attribute all kinds of social ills to rock's influence--from ideological deviancy to drug abuse and sexual promiscuity. And in many ways, they were right, for throughout the Sixties and Seventies, rock music became a rallying point for young people disaffected by their Communist elders. Although most Warsaw Pact nations followed a similar cycle of tolerance and suppression, the most responsive to their young people were Poland and Hungary, while Romania and Bulgaria cracked down the hardest (despite brief pop flowerings in both). Ryback's always intriguing study--which relies as much on Kennan Institute Reports as rock fanzines--attends to the technological aspects of this complex history as well, since both recording and performing were never easy in countries plagued by shortages. Despite the efforts of Eastern bloc governments to eradicate rock culture through state-administered haircuts and bans on miniskirts, there was always Western radio transmission to keep kids abreast of the latest sounds. Anecdotal and fact-filled, Ryback's narrative profiles numerous domestic performers and charts the stream of Western rockers that has poured into the East since the mid-Seventies, culminating in the golden age of rock now in the era of glasnost. With lots of information unlikely to find its way into conventional history books, this necessary study tells us more about events currently unfolding in the East than a dozen political pundits.

Pub Date: Jan. 4th, 1989
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press