Monday, November 12, 2007

Popular music about Russia

Or, at least, about what Westerners think of Russia. The first is a funny little Euro-disco song by an obscure, long-forgotten German singing group - Dschinghis Khan (whose name means 'Genghis Khan'; they were into the whole far east thing) entered into the 1979 Eurovision song contest (unfortunately they entered with a different song; there's no doubt that if they entered "Moskau" into the competition they would've easily come out on top.) The peculiar lyrics speak of Russia in much the same way a lot of folks perceived the nation during the waning days of the USSR - and, indeed, in the same way that a lot of American policymakers viewed the Soviets - but with a relatively interesting perspective (Germany being a lot closer to the action, what with East Germany and all.) Reading between the lines (if you can read German, that is ) reveals a relatively interesting message about Russia (Red as Blood? Heh.) Here's a video of a more modern performance, and my rough translation from German below -

Moscow, strange and mysterious
Towers of reddish-gold
Cold as the ice
But Moscow, those who truly know you
Know that within, a fire burns
Burning so hot inside

Cossacks, hey hey hey, raise your glasses!
Natasha ha, ha, ha you are beauitiful!
Comrades, hey hey hey, (drink) to life!
To your health, brother hey, brother ho!

Moscow, Moscow,
Throw the glasses at the wall!
Russia is a beautiful land,
Ha ha ha ha ha, hey!
Moscow Moscow,
Your soul is so great ("soul; spirit"; in a sense meaning energy or passion; in the same sense as the English phrase 'you've got a lot of soul')
In the evening everything goes wild,
Ha ha ha ha ha, hey!

Moscow, Moscow,
Your love is a delicacy,
and your girls are for kissing, (!)
Ha ha ha ha ha, hey!
Moscow, Moscow,
Come, let's dance on the table,
Until the table breaks apart, (! See? Crazy Russians!)
Ha ha ha ha ha!

Moscow, gate to the past
A mirror into the time of the emperors,
Red as blood
Moscow, whoever knows your soul
Knows that your love is burning
Hot, like coal

(Repeat the chorus, and then the guys come up for the best part of the song, heh)
Moscow, Moscow
Where one drinks their Vodka straight
That way, you'll live until you're a hundred
Ho ho ho ho ho, hey!
Moscow, Moscow,
Old friend, your glass is empty
But there's always more in the cellar
Ho ho ho ho ho!

(Then repeat chorus)

Then there's this other interesting Eurodisco song by one of the most popular groups of the 70s (outside America at least, where no one has any idea who they are) - Boney M - singing about everybody's favorite crazy historic icon, Rasputin. However, like "Moskau", Frank Farian (the songwriter and guy who brought us artists like Milli Vanilli) decided to treat the subject a bit unconventially - as you'll see in the lyrics, he turned Rasputin into a crazy rock-star sex-symbol and decidedly exaggerates the relationship between Rasputin and the Czarist government. Still, it's funny to watch and an interesting pseudo-history lesson. (I especially like the crazy guy in the beard).

There lived a certain man in Russia long ago
He was big and strong, in his eyes a flaming glow
Most people looked at him with terror and with fear
But to Moscow chicks he was such a lovely dear
He could preach the bible like a preacher
Full of ecstacy and fire
But he also was the kind of teacher
Women would desire

Lover of the Russian queen
There was a cat that really was gone
Russia's greatest love machine
It was a shame how he carried on

He ruled the Russian land and never mind the czar
But the kasachok he danced really wunderbar
In all affairs of state he was the man to please
But he was real great when he had a girl to squeeze
For the queen he was no wheeler dealer
Though she'd heard the things he'd done
She believed he was a holy healer
Who would heal her son

Lover of the Russian queen
There was a cat that really was gone
Russia's greatest love machine
It was a shame how he carried on

Spoken :
But when his drinking and lusting and his hunger
for power became known to more and more people,
the demands to do something about this outrageous
man became louder and louder.

"This man's just got to go!" declared his enemies
But the ladies begged "Don't you try to do it, please"
No doubt this Rasputin had lots of hidden charms
Though he was a brute they just fell into his arms
Then one night some men of higher standing
Set a trap, they're not to blame
"Come to visit us" they kept demanding
And he really came

Lover of the Russian queen
They put some poison into his wine
Russia's greatest love machine
He drank it all and he said "I feel fine"

Lover of the Russian queen
They didn't quit, they wanted his head
Russia's greatest love machine
And so they shot him till he was dead

Spoken : Oh, those Russians..

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