WHO IS YOUR ROCK’N ROLL HERO ? TAKE TWO !

And now Folks, we are going to continue covering one of the most pressing questions in Rock’n’Roll. It’s a question I also invited you to answer last month.

I continued spending time asking the top rockin’ performers in Russia who their all-time Rock’n’Roll Hero was. The answers were again varied, but you can probably work out now which name still comes up the most. So this month is the second episode of sharing their responses with you.

So here again are more big names from Russian Rock’n’Roll, sharing their own number one rockin’ heroes with you !

Taras Savchenko, leader of the Russian neo-rockabilly / psychobilly group “The Magnetix”:
“I have been listening to rock ‘n’ roll since I was 18, that is, for more than 20 years now. And my taste hasn’t changed since. In the mid-1990s in Russia, it was hard to get the music you wanted, especially if it was more unique and not massively popular. We copied tapes from each other many times. So then one day, I got a hold of Gene Vincent recordings on tape. Of course, I was already familiar with such performers as Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry and was interested in the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, etc. However, my fascination with rockabilly started with that tape. Vincent turned around my perception and my understanding of this music. Before him, I couldn’t fully feel the idea, the thought, if you will. And suddenly it came to me! Like an orgasm! I couldn’t believe I was listening to this. I went crazy! I was almost 18. And that’s when I understood that I won’t ever be able to listen in the same way to any other kind of music. Since then, I’ve been searching and absorbing everything related to rockabilly and psychobilly and playing that style of music myself.”

Juli Chu, Leader of the Moscow rock’n’roll group “The Marshmallows”:

Here is my rock’n’roll hero!

I don’t want to sound cliché, but for me the number one rockin’ hero was, is and will always be Elvis Presley. Not just because I admire his music, even though I do. No. Here’s the reason: He became the idol of millions when he was still alive and now, if asked about the 1950s and rock’n’roll, even a person who isn’t interested in music and this particular style would name him and most likely him only, as The First One. And this is the main indicator of his talent and his backing band’s talent. It’s necessary to acknowledge that those who believed in him and worked for him played a significant role in his popularity. Elvis is a star who has withstood the test of time !

My own group’s repertoire includes his popular songs, as well as some which have been undeservedly forgotten. His repertoire is so huge that even if you know a lot about it, you can sometimes make a delightful discovery.

Andy Loug (guitar and vocalist of the Russian neo-rockabilly / psychobilly group “The Beat Devils”):
Although my musical personality was brought up with the help of such heroes as Cochran, Vincent, Burnette, Perkins, etc., in fact the real impact was given to me by the non-standard style and crazy musical manner of Hasil Adkins. I came across his legacy while already a member of a band and that psychological “meeting” with Adkins formed a lot of my vision of psychobilly music and understanding of its real roots.

Hasil Adkins was the true symbol to the highest degree of that Rockabilly Wilderness, with his under-estimated lyrics and mad music. He didn’t realise at the beginning of his career that he had conceived the style of music that would be named later “psychobilly” and that since the beginning of 1980s has given to the world hundreds of bands world-wide !

He was “true” in what he was doing, being not one of those “glossy rock stars”. He followed his three main passions – girls, guitars and cars – till the end of his life. That is very admirable and respectable to me, ‘cause the modern community of “weekend rebels” lack those qualities by quite a bit ! Many people think nowadays more of their “fashionable” looks, than about the wild spirit in their souls, while Hasil laughs with his branded voice at them.

His raw and honest guitar sounds and often unpredictable riffs are a true rock’n’roll power, without pop compromises. Besides the famous “She Said”, “Chicken Walk” and “No More Hotdogs”, my Adkins’ favourite tracks are “I Need A Date” (aka “We Got A Date” and which is real psychosis !), “Get Out Of My Car” (a crazy mix of rockabilly, country and garage), “Connie Lou” (a pre-history of the psychobilly guitar style of playin’) and many more.

According to the rumors, he was mentally ill in different life aspects of his life and was said to suffer from manic depression. But I always asked myself, what if he was the one and only really normal one and his talent was a reason for that “illness” ? I hope the personality of the one they called “The Haze” will be given some day the acknowledgement he truly deserves, in the pantheon of rock’n’roll heroes.
Andrey Artyomov, leader and bassist of the Russian band “Avocado”:

I became fascinated with rock’n’roll at an early age, in the mid-1980’s, when I saw a video clip of one of the local bands on TV. I was amazed by the vigour and tempo of the piece they were performing and tried finding similar music and people who were interested in it. It was impossible to buy records with this kind of music in the USSR. However, there were recording studios where you could record the desired music on a compact tape. The recordings were pretty pricey for that time – 9 rubles for 90 minutes. There was a studio like this at the entrance to Gorky Park in Moscow. That’s where I was able to find the first recordings of rock’n’roll.

Later on, that same Gorky Park was the place of my first encounter with a member of the local hipsters crowd, by the nickname of Kirpich (“Brick” in Russian). He told me about a big group gathering on Wednesdays in the Prospekt Resonance Café at the Prospekt Mira metro station in Moscow. There was a big disco club for dancing there and a band named Briolinovaya Mechta (“Grease Dream” in Russian) was performing live. Their programme started with selections of early Elvis songs. The café was a place for general socialising and exchanging information and records. At approximately the same time, the Glinka Museum of Musical Culture in Moscow offered a series of lectures on rock music given by Nadezhda Sevnitskaya, a big admirer of Elvis and of the musical trends of the 1950s. This also played a role in my interest in Elvis. Then an Elvis fan club was established in the museum and I actually joined it. This fan club was a branch of an Elvis fan club in London. Nowadays, I listen to a wide variety of music, mainly 1950s jazz and country and rockabilly, but in my spare time, I still find time to listen to some early Elvis.

Mikhail Deryabin, keyboard player and songwriter for the Russian band “The Coral Reefs”:

My love for rock’n’roll is to the merit of my father. Like my father, I became a big fan of the music of the 50s, which has a clockwork rhythm and drive. As a composer / melodist, I prefer in the song and the instrumental composition a harmonious blend of melodies and the arrangement. And this is all rock’n’roll for me. The most significant performer for me is the creativity of Bill Haley with his Comets. I admire his musical taste. Also I can’t fail to mention the great Louis Jordan. Rock’n’roll almost can’t be met in his repertoire. He sang with his orchestra boogie-woogie and jazz rhythms and harmonies, which were absorbed into rock’n’roll. Elvis Presley is certainly the acknowledged king of rock’n’roll, but as for me, I like best his ballads. These for me are the three greatest men – my ideological teachers of this great music. And for 47 years I have never doubted them !

And as for this Russia’n’Roll columnist, yours truly, well over the years I’ve had a few heroes in my rock’n’roll life. I remember in the 1970s Gene Vincent became very special to many of us rockers following his death in the early 1970s, after which he became a sort of “martyr” figure. Elvis has always gotta be up there, as of course he is the King. But the Elvis image for me became very slightly tarnished watching him perform in his later years, especially in the 1970s before his death, when his physical deterioration and waning talent was not something to celebrate. But Elvis, for your contribution to our Great Culture, we love you and we always will. Elvis in the 1950s was on a different level to everyone else – Awesome !

But over the years I guess overall my biggest r’n’r hero has been Little Richard. I love my rock’n’roll on the wild side and no one was as wild and crazy in the golden era of rock’n’roll than Richard. I saw him live at the London Rock’n’Roll Show in the early 1970s and I thought he was fabulous; crazy as ever and bringing the audience to their feet. So my vote goes to Little Richard; with lots and lots of other rockin’ legends as runners up!

And now again my question to you, Dear Readers–who is YOUR Rock’n’Roll Hero–and Why?

Bill Haley & His Comets rehearse at the Dominion Theatre in London, where they will open their British tour. The Comets include accordion player Johnnie Grande, bassist Al Rex, and saxophonist Ruddy Pompilli.

Richard Hume
Moscow