|Russian rocker Boris Grebenshikov may be pop musics ultimate crossover artist.
Revered in the Soviet Union as this generations poet laureate, Grebenshikov leaped over
oceans, language barriers and Red tape to release his debut U.S. album, "Radio
Tuesday night, as a plane load of U.S. hard rockers head for
the Moscow Peace Festival, Grebenshikov will perform in New York at the Bottom Line, one
of several dates on his club tour.
Glasnost only recently opened the doors to this pop exchange. Still, Grebenshikov,
weaned on Voice of America broadcasts, felt at home composing in English (only two songs
are in Russian) and recording in New York, London and Montreal with producer Dave Stewart
From the title track and first single: "I dont feel like Im a stranger/ I
feel like I belong here/ I feel like Ive been waiting for a long time/ And now I can
tell you some stories."
Grebenshikov relishes telling about the pre-glasnost frustrations of a taboo vocation.
In 1980, he lost his job as a mathematician and sociologist for playing at a rock
festival. Without media attention or sanctioned albums, he and his band Aquarium became
superstars, their music dominating the tape-trading underground.
Grebenshikov cracks, "Then (Mikhail) Gorbachev came into power and it was
discovered by scientists that rock n roll can be good for the state and not a crime.
Because Aquarium had the biggest name, we were elected to be discovered."
With no advance publicity, Aquariums first official release on the state-owned
Melodiya label sold 200,000 copies, exhausting supply, but not demand, in a few hours. Two
more LPs sold more than 3.5 million copies. A fourth (the 13th, including unofficial
releases) is due this fall.
Grebenshikov gets $5,000 in royalties for every 1 million LPs sold. No wonder he
suffered more sticker shock than culture shock in the United States.
"So much rock here is the same as Coca-Cola," he complains. "Rock
n roll should be a spiritual quest, a shamans journey. Here, people treat it as
pure entertainment. I was shocked when Steve Winwood said he wanted to be considered just
"Music is my life, so I wont sell it for any amount. If I give away my life,
what would I do with the money?
"I felt like an old person when I was growing up," he says. "I was
living this incredibly boring existence with falsehood and lies all around. Rock offered a
Though hes counting on future outside recording opportunities, with hopes of
collaborations with George Harrison and Irelands Chieftains, the recently divorced
father of two, headed for his third marriage, has no plans to leave Leningrad.
And while he admires Gorbachev, "the most sympathetic figure in Russian politics
in 70 years," Grebenshikov knows it wasnt just compassion that led to his musical
"They need some figureheads," he says. "They think theyre using me,
but Im using them in a much more pleasant, permanent way."
Aug. 10 - Cleveland, Peabodys
Aug. 11 - Detroit, St. Andrews Hall
Aug. 12 - Chicago, Park West
Aug. 14 - Atlanta, Cotton Club
Aug. 16 - Houston, Rockefeller
Aug. 17 - Dallas, Tommys
Aug. 20 - San Diego, Bacchanal
Aug. 22 - Los Angeles, Roxy
Aug. 23 - San Francisco, Slims