“Children’s Records from the USSR”
As a kid, I was often sick and stayed home for weeks. My parents had to work, so in the absence of someone to entertain me, I was spending my time with a monophonic record player and a stack of children’s records that my grandpa bought for me. Days after days, I listened to them on repeat, memorizing not only the song lyrics but also the narration between. With no real kids around me, those records became my onlyBy Yuriy Gurzhy
Decades later, already as a father, figuring out that was a great way for my Berlin-born 3-year-old son to pick up some Russian, I re-discovered most of the stuff I was hooked on in the late 1970s / early 1980s. And listening to those records with different ears I stumbled upon something I didn’t hear before. I realized some of these albums were not just “great”, there were real masterpieces among them, with sensational musical arrangements and very impressive production. And then…. I started thinking about other aspects. To name just a few, why are most of those children’s records produced for the happy kids of the fifteen republics of the so called “Soviet Union” in Russian? What about other languages?… And….what’d happen if the concept of culture appropriation would’ve been applied to the soviet rendition of, say, Azerbaijani or Ukrainian fairy tales?
After putting together 10 compilations of musical material mostly unknown to the listeners from outside the former USSR, I started to wonder whether also in this quite special case I can pass on my fascination to those who neither get the context nor speak Russian. It’s quite a challenge, believe me!
The Complicated Case OfThe Gay Puppy
In my record collection there’s only one album that I had to purchase three times, as the first two copies were so worn out I couldn’t play them anymore. Well, actually it was my granddad who had to get it for me, I was just five or six then. The title of the record is “Goluboy Shenok”, The Blue Puppy. Among many other children’s records produced in the 1970s, this one is quite unique. And controversial. Although it’s creators never approved of that particular interpretation of their work, The Blue Puppy, recorded in 1976, is considered by many the First Soviet Queer Musical (…or maybe the first queer musical in the whole world?…) In Russian GOLUBOY, “blue”, is a slang word for “gay”. The Puppy in the musical lives on an island where everyone hates him because of his color.
“You are blue! Blue, blue, blue!
We don’t wanna play with you!”,
All other dogs sing in a perfect choir. The Black Cat lets the Puppy hide in his place as the Island is invaded by the Mean Pirate, but the Cat’s not as nice as we first thought he was, he immediately betrays the Blue Puppy and lets the Pirate capture him. Then out of nowhere the Good Sailor appears. He defeats the gang of the Pirate, frees the Puppy and declares him his best friend. The dogs of the Island change their attitude and love both the Good Sailor and the Blue Puppy.
In his interviews Yuriy Entin, who wrote all the lyrics for the musical, usually fails to see the obvious parallels and denies everything. Who can blame him? After all he lives in Russia, not exactly the gay-friendliest country in the world….
Musically what we get here is a light mix of funk, psych and prog with some solid guitar riffs, weird keyboards and freaky singing…