Patriotic and political. Probably the two words that best sum up this week’s nominations and in so many ways Russia itself. A country that has defined itself through its independence, resilience and sheer tenacity and in doing so has developed a unique mentality that it's hard for outsiders to try to understand. Having fought for its very existence twice within the last century you can't help but respect the obstinate nature of the Russian people and understand why they seem so alien to us.
Western popular culture almost inevitably portrays Russians as villains, working behind the scenes for nefarious ends – a stereotype they sometimes seem to relish and play to. But who can be blamed when for many people, their earliest recollection of Russia was as the enemy? Even today the shadows of the Cold War hang over east-west relations and has seeped into our music.
Russians and Americans and Ronnie Talk to Russia are just two of the western takes on what was arguably the most important and certainly most dangerous relationship in history. One earnest, the other somewhat in tongue in cheek but making a valid point nonetheless. And both failing to buy into the propaganda that it was all the Soviet Union’s fault.
Not that we're immune to making fun of them when the mood strikes. A Complete History of the Soviet Union Through the Eyes of a Humble Worker, Arranged to the Melody of Tetris is anything but a complete and impartial history. But sod it, it's great fun. The parody kalinka-style tune and the simplistic lyrics make for one hell of a catchy song.
Of course Russia wasn't always the enemy. Any history of WW2 that underestimates the importance of the Soviet war effort isn't worth the paper. Let's just listen to Stalin Wasn't Stallin' instead.
Bringing things a bit more up-to-date, we probably ought to talk about Stalin's modern equivalent. A Putin-shape shadow lingers over so many of the big issues in the world. Ukraine, Syria, a certain contentious election – his name seems seldom out of the papers. But imagine being one of those people whom he despises and victimises within his own borders. Better yet, lets hear from some of them as Putin Lights Up the Fires and –
Apologies Comrades, due to sudden onset of subversiveness EnglishOutlaw is unable to complete this write-up. While he is treated in our facility he has asked me to ensure you complete listening to his approved playlist. Please to be ensured that the democratic process of the SongBar has been respected and we in no way attempt to determine outcome. Here is remainder of glorious Russian playlist:
Those Were the Days – Precisely Comrades, let us bask in glorious afterglow.
Dance of Knights – We Russians know two things – fighting and composing.
Trepak from Songs and Dances of Death – We brave Russians will dance even in face of death.
Autumn – Imitation is sincerest form of flattery – Thank you Mr Almond for reminding us of great Kozin.
Umi – Gaze at your shoes, Comrades.
Every Minute is OK – Absolutely, all our minutes are OK – thank you, President Putin!
Kalinka – RIP Comrades.
Playlist is ended.
– Law-abiding Russian
A-list: Список A!
Russians and Americans – Al Stewart
Ronnie Talk to Russia – Prince
A Complete History of the Soviet Union Through the Eyes of a Humble Worker, Arranged to the Melody of Tetris – Pig With the Face of a Boy
Stalin Wasn't Stallin' – Robert Wyatt
Putin Lights Up the Fires – Pussy Riot
Those Were the Days- Leningrad Cowboys f/ Alexandrov Red Army Ensemble
Dance of Knights – Sergei Prokofiev
Trepak – Modest Mussorgsky
Autumn – Marc Almond
Umi – Pinkshinyultrablast
Every Minute is OK – Punk TV
Kalinka – Alexandrov Red Army Ensemble
B-list: список B!
War-Like Lads of Russia – Nic Jones
Mother Russia – Iron Maiden
Leningrad – Billy Joel
Soviet Trumpeter - Katzenjammer
Di Eagle and Di Bear – Linton Kwesi Johnson
Jukebox in Siberia - Skyhooks
Sabre Dance – Aram Khachaturian
Radio Silence – Boris Grebenshikov
Weird Soviet Jazz – Oleg Lundstrem Orchestra
1812 Overture – Tchaikovsky
These playlists were inspired by readers' song nominations from last week's topic: Putin On the Ritz: songs and music from or about Russia. The next topic will launch on Thursday at 1pm UK time.
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Fancy a turn behind the pumps at The Song Bar? Care to choose a playlist from songs nominated and write something about it? Then feel free to contact The Song Bar here, or try the usual email address.