Old Time Rock’n’Roll – Take Two !

Hello again from Russia ! This month we are gonna continue the exciting story of a legendary Russian rock’n’roll band. Over the last three years, they have established themselves as one of the greatest bands in Russia. We began their story last month and this month Katya Romanova, lead singer and keyboards with the group, will continue to tell us more, along with fellow band members Natalya (lead guitar), Sergey (bass guitar and second lead vocals) and Alexander (drums). You can see some photos of the group in action, at some of the concerts I booked them for.  

The guys continue their story by telling us to what extent they were influenced by other Russian rock’n’roll groups, when they first started playing:

Natalya: The record “The Bremen Town Musicians” was very impressive and had a big impact on me.

Sergey: My influencer is the band Grazhdanskaya Oborona, if you mean Russian music.

Katerina: Oddly enough, I never liked the music of Russian rock’n’roll bands. For some reason, it has never touched me to the heart. If any Russian music really influenced me, it is Russian folklore. It is real, authentic. I studied many such expedition records; I myself went to collect old songs of old villagers. I enjoyed learning these songs and performing them. This music touched my heart, influenced me and I really liked it.

The band members also discussed the most significant events in their personal rock’n’roll histories:

Natalya: My 50th birthday, July 7, 2017. They didn’t bring me a birthday cake in the form of a huge guitar, because the manufacturer couldn’t make it and had eaten all the blooper variants needed for it ! But I was presented with more than 50 bouquets of flowers. And then exactly at 22:00 all the numerous guests and musicians were kicked out of the venue !

Sergey: My most memorable concert was in the Square in the city of Saratov – more than 20 thousand people.

Alexander: I hope I have not played my best concert yet, so it is still to come !

And now Katerina will continue the story of Old Time Rock’n’Roll. Over to you, Katya: 

My most special gig was at the Cavern Club in Liverpool. It was like a little miracle ! After all, this is an incredibly iconic place; this is where The Beatles started and then many world-famous rock musicians performed there. Myself, Akim Vedenin had gone to the UK as tourists, not to perform as a band or anything. We came to see the country, museums, architectural landmarks, London and Liverpool; normal tourists, nothing more. But we met a local Liverpool musician in the city, Tony Coburn and so suddenly we got a concert at the Cavern Club with Tony. He gave us instruments because we hadn’t even a bass and keyboards with us. Tony was already down to play at the Cavern. Suddenly he suggested, don’t we want to assemble a band with him for one evening and play this concert at the Cavern Club together ? It was strange to ask – of course we wanted to ! So, the miracle happened: We were on the stage of that same Cavern Club. The evening was unforgettable; the audience acclaimed us very well.

Old Time Rock’n’Roll often play at Richard Hume’s wonderful dance events; one day, one of these concerts turned out to be a kind of “comedy apocalypse”. That evening our drummer Alexander couldn’t come and was replaced by our friend Nikolay Denisov. At concerts I play the synthesizer while singing – I usually dance a little behind the keys. But this time, something went wrong: When I threw up a dancing leg with a habitual movement, a shoe suddenly jumped off it and flew across the entire hall over the heads of the dancing audience. Moreover, the shoe had a heavy and sharp heel. So, I’m standing on the stage, I can’t catch up with the shoe and helplessly observe its long and picturesque flight. I continued to sing, simultaneously trying to teleport the shoe away from the dancing heads. I think that the shoe obeyed me: it flew amazingly filigree between all the dancers and landed at the opposite wall of the hall. It did not meet with a single head and we did not have to call an ambulance to the party. While I, unexpectedly finding myself in the role of Cinderella who had lost her shoe, remained standing on one high heel. I had to finish the song in the pose of a heron !

However, it was just the beginning of that crazy evening. When we were playing “Twist and Shout” I suddenly found out that no one was singing backing vocals. I started screaming lead vocals even more insistently, trying to wake up the “sleeping backing vocalists”. However, it did not help. Finally, I turned away from the microphone to look behind me. I saw something there that I never expected to see. The cymbals had fallen on drummer Kolya along with heavy iron racks from the drum set. And he, trying to get out from under the rubble, continued to regularly hit the drum barrel and hit from where he could reach it from such a position. At this time, Natalya, as a lifeguard, tried to free Kolya, but the cymbals fell back on him again and again. And while we were all confused, trying to figure out what to do, we forgpt how we were able to play the song to the end !

When the drums were restored, the “crash” concert seemed to go according to plan. We were sure that nothing more unusual would happen. But, as soon as we played the last note of the last song, the final chord of the concert was the epic fall of Sergey’s music stand from the stage into the hall. By that moment, the audience was already ready for something like this and  someone even enthusiastically caught the music stand in the hall. It was the logical crash final of the crash concert!

If I had to name an individual in the history of Russian rock’n’roll that I particularly admire, for their contribution to the rockin’ scene here in Russia, I would probably name the female singer Zemfira. The greatest musical influence on me ? Of course without a doubt the music of the Beatles. And yet, when I was very young, I was very impressed with the early works of Suzi Quatro, probably I even took her as an example to follow in those days. One of my all-time rock’n’roll heroes is Little Richard. My all-time favourite song is “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles.

One of the most significant events in recent Russian music history took place on May 24, 2003: Paul McCartney’s legendary concert took place in Red Square in Moscow. This was Paul’s first visit to Russia and the first concert by a Western musician in Red Square. McCartney was welcomed at the highest level, as heads of state are welcomed. Tickets for the concert were sold out in a moment. The Red Square was as crowded as it can be (it is still not clear exactly how many people squeezed into the Square, estimates vary from 20 to 50 thousand people). Some of those who were not able to get in to watch the concert telephoned friends who were in the Red Square audience. These friends kept their mobiles on for the entire concert, so their absent friends could listen to the show. The event was covered in the media far beyond Russia, and the recording of the concert was watched in a huge number of countries. Some local politicians very strongly opposed the event, considering such audacity on Red Square unacceptable. In general, it was something very special and it was perceived as a great breakthrough culturally in Russia.

But it was also a big breakthrough for me personally – after all, it was the very first big concert that I got to in my life. Moreover, it was not easy to get in: At the age of 14, I had no job or my own money and my parents were not at all eager to buy me an expensive ticket and or let me go in the crowd at a rock concert. There were family quarrels, tears, a feeling of impotence that I would not be able to attend the concert of my dreams. Crazy plans were even born in my 14-year-old head; like secretly sneaking onto the roof of GUM and hiding [Richard’s note – the GUM is a tall building close to Red Square], then watching the concert from there. Finally, my parents agreed to buy me the cheapest tickets, on the condition that I go with my Dad. And so for me the miracle happened ! McCartney, despite his mature age, really let his heart out, rocking for 3 hours. He performed 37 songs, including the Beatles’ incorruptible “Back in USSR” – twice, for an encore. It was obvious he had long been waiting for the moment to perform it in Moscow. The crowd was raging and a general enthusiasm was in the air.

Here’s what’s amazing to realise: I didn’t even suspect then that my future close friends, my future beloved men, future fellow musicians, future friends were standing around me on the square. I didn’t know any of them and they were just strangers in the crowd for me that day. But then, years later, they gradually came into my life and we remembered how each of us was at that concert. In general, for many of them it was something special. And I will never forget that feeling of universal happiness and boundless childish delight that filled every cell of my body !

Outside of rock’n’roll, my other main passions and hobbies are popular science lectures, folklore and rats (i.e. as pets). Well yes, this is my hobby set ! 

Thankyou so much Katya and to your fellow band members. Next month, I’ll have another rock’n’roll story for you from Russia. Don’t touch that dial.