Dropping the Iron Curtain
Nowadays, American bands don’t just influence American bands. American bands also influence British bands, Canadian bands, Australian bands, heck, American bands influence at the very least bands all over the world, if not also in places that aren’t even planets, like Pluto. (sorry Pluto)
The same was the case during the Cold War. Despite the USSR’s official rejection of western culture, all things American were slipping through the Iron Curtain. Music was no stranger to this transmission into Eastern Europe and the USSR. Musicians picked up from acts like Iggy Pop and the Stooges, the Velvet Underground, and of course later punk bands like the Talking Heads. I know this to be true because I read about it in a fanzine called Flagpole Magazine, from Athens, Georgia.
In 1991, a band called BIX came across the Atlantic to perform across the United States. They were from Lithuania, a country that had just declared independence from the Soviet Union. Already veterans of playing throughout Europe, and at a short 1990 US tour including a stop at the New Music Seminar in NYC, BIX was back for their second tour of America.
Bix wasn’t the only band that was making waves in Lithuania at the time. Antis is another. Underground bands springing up in Lithuania help shed a lot of light on what was happening in the USSR in the 1980s, and when the Soviet Bloc crumbled at the turn of the decade.
Here’s a list of what I think is really important:
1) Bands were influenced by American musicians in places that were supposed to be “Anti-American”
2) Bands in the USSR took that influence and did what they wanted with it – creating something new and unique.
3) Music acted as a rallying cry for freedom.
4) This was a subversive act against the political and cultural authorities in the USSR.
5) They then had an impact on America by distributing their music there and touring throughout the country.
My amazing list of importance in turn raises an amazing list of questions, such as:
1) What did musicians in bands like BIX think of American youths? The US government? Was there a difference?
2) Were people in the USSR influenced by other western cultural forms other than music as well?
3) Who was listening to the music BIX was making? Did they hear it as a rallying cry?
4) What did the authorities in the USSR think of BIX’s music? Was it actually subversive? Was there any kind of censorship?
5) What kind of impact did they have in America exactly? Did they influence American musicians just as American musicians had influenced them?
Well, unfortunately no amazing list of answers has revealed itself yet. Hopefully it does so soon.
Thanks to the Factsheet Five Archive in Albany, New York, where I found the article on BIX.
And thanks Flagpole Magazine and to the fanzine writer Dana Cristina that wrote the article on BIX.
Tags: 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, American culture, Antics, BIX, Cold War, DIY, fanzines, Flagpole Magazine, foreign policy, history, Lithuania, music, Protest, Punk, soft power, Soviet Bloc, the Cold War, the iron curtain, the United States, underground music, USSR, western cultureYou can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.