Welcome Back, Everybody ! And Congratulations to Blue Suede News, for returning to enrich our Rock’n’Roll lives once again.
Here in Moscow, things are really moving towards getting back to normal post-Covid. From the beginning of this year, rock’n’roll events, with live bands and jive dancing, recommenced in earnest. In other words, we are fortunately well ahead of the West in terms of getting through Covid. Why ? Russia was the first country to create an anti-Covid vaccine and this was followed by early mass vaccinations of the population. This includes yours truly, who can personally testify to the safety and effectiveness of the Russian vaccine. Plus the fight against Covid here in Russia was organised in an efficient and sensible way. Hats off to the Russian Federation. And one result of all this is the early return of Rock’n’Roll to our lives over here.
And for my own Return Column this month for Blue Suede News, I’d like to take you on a trip down memory lane. Early last year (before the Covid really hit us), I reported in this column on an anniversary of a tremendous rock’n’roll concert in Moscow. It was the visit to Moscow of the brilliant Furious from Liverpool, one of the best Teddy Boy bands in the World. Well, in April this year we again celebrated a Moscow anniversary. It was the great Jets concert in Moscow 14 years ago. The iconic UK group put on a show that was memorable. Using my notes from that time, let me tell you about it; but first, a quick resume of the concert we held in April of this year, to commemorate that Jets Concert. We booked the Great Pretenders, one of the groups who performed on the same bill as the Jets 14 years ago, to play for us in April 2021. They put on an excellent show, indicating they had not lost their rock’n’roll quality after 14 years. Some of the photos you can see were taken at the show in April 2021.
And now to the Jets’ visit to Moscow in 2007. April 2007 was the 53rd Birthday of Rock’n’Roll. So here in Moscow we celebrated with a rockin’ Party; April 1954 being the birth of Bill Haley’s “Rock around the Clock”. Celebrating this Birthday is an annual Moscow tradition. How about doing something similar in the UK all you guys and gals back in the UK ? Moscow’s best rockabilly bands performed at the B-2 Club; And to make the Event very very special, flying in from the U.K. and topping the Bill ……….. the Jets!
The whole event was largely organised by Sergey Kuteynikov, lead singer of the Great Pretenders. So let me hand over briefly to my friend Sergey, to provide some of his recollections.
“Richard, I am gladly sharing this story. The show took place on 12th April 2007 at the B2 Club near the Mayakovskaya metro station. There were 4 organisers; me, Sasha Ivanchik, Misha Palitskiy and Alexander Golubev. There were two of us meeting the Jets at the airport, wearing our “Sharks” colours [Richard’s note – the Sharks were a famous rockabilly gang in Moscow in the 1990s, of which Sergey was the founder]. I joked to the Jets that it was the first meet up between the Sharks and the Jets since the “rumble” in the “West Side Story” film way back in the early 1960s. As personalities the Jets were easy going and great guys. They didn’t drink much alcohol, which was something new, after some other rock’n’roll performers that had performed before in Moscow drank alcohol round the clock.”
Thankyou Sergey, also for the photos you can see which were all taken during the band’s stay in Moscow. Let’s continue with the concert itself. The Jets were preceded on stage by four of some of the best Rockabilly Bands in Moscow: The Prayers, Diamond Hand, the Alligators and the Great Pretenders. They were all quality groups and did the business on the night. My favourites were the Great Pretenders, who I’ve written about more than once in this column. They play hard drivin’ authentic rockabilly and have an impressive stage presence. They played the fourth set on the night. Sergey Kuteynikov, the group’s vocalist and rhythm guitarist, included physical movements into his performance and it worked – real authentic Elvis-style gyrations ! The Pretenders’ style is authentic rockabilly but they include traditional rock’n’roll hits in their repertoire (including my favourite “Teddy Boy Boogie”, of course!). They’ve been playing since 1996.
To put these four acts into context, here is a very brief history of Russian rockabilly. It grew largely out of the change in the scene over the past generation. In the 1990s rock’n’roll bands attracted huge crowds especially in Moscow and St Petersburg. Unfortunately the quality of the Russian bands then was not particularly good (with some fine exceptions). But then something strange happened. By the turn of the millennium the rock’n’roll crowds had got smaller but the quality of the bands had drastically improved ! The huge crowds had partly been a reflection of Perestroika and Glasnost, these being the huge social changes that took place in Russia from the 1980s onwards and the “opening up” culturally of the country after decades of Communism. After a while many simply gravitated to other things, as more and more choices became available. And the crowd that stayed with the music tended to gravitate towards rockabilly rather than standard rock’n’roll. Later there grew up a strong support also for psychobilly here in Russia, but that’s another story. For more info about Russian rock’n’roll you can go to my web-site at www.coopjive.co.uk and head for the “Blog” page.
After the four Moscow bands had all given value for money, it was the turn of the Jets. They completed the evening’s line-up and the old cliché “they brought the house down” pretty much approximates to the truth. They began their set with their traditional opener “Turn up the Guitar” followed by their classic “Rockabilly Baby”. After all these years their rendition of the latter is still a highlight for me; a great number performed superbly with a hard edge. That was enough to get the large audience going and the place rocked ! Standards like “Josephine”, “Somethin’ Else” and “Runaround Sue” kept the momentum going.
The Jets still had that ability to vary the content of their performance. For example they threw in the odd Doo Wop number, plus one or two distinctly non r’n’r songs like “Hobo”. But it worked; they never strayed too far away from the next hard drivin’ rock’n’roll song, so the variations were not a negative distraction for the audience.
Speaking to my friends during and after the gig, it was clear the Jets willingness to travel all the way to Moscow for a one-off performance was much appreciated (UK Bands out there please note!). Following the Restless gig in Moscow the previous year falling through (the details of which are messy and do not reflect at all well on the members of the UK group Restless) the Jets presence was especially savoured by the Rockers here.
Although I’d seen them quite a few times when I lived in the UK I hadn’t known them personally, so it was nice to have a chance to chat with the Band during the evening. They came across as nice, quiet and genuine blokes off-stage. After all their years together, it was clear they still got along well with each other (being brothers maybe helps, although for some of us sometimes it doesn’t!). They told me they didn’t miss the big fame they’d had, following their hit records all that time ago. They were still happy and glad to be playing the kind of music they loved and being able to do it for a living. In other words they lived the opposite of the stereo-type wild, crazy, destructive rock’n’roll life! (erm, speaking personally, my only regret is that I no longer have the time or energy to live the wild, crazy, destructive rock’n’roll life). I also asked them their views on Russian rock’n’roll from what they were hearing that evening: They were very impressed.
Some of the photos you can see were taken during the band’s stay in Moscow. So from all of us here in the big city in the East, a big Thankyou to the Jets. Welcome back any time.
And once again, Welcome Back Blue Suede News !