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Which western bands were banned in the USSR?

Which western bands were banned in the USSR?
Article by: Eduard Andryushchenko, KGB Files (YouTube channel)
Edited by: A. N.
Is your favorite band on this list of 50 musical groups deemed “harmful” and outlawed during the USSR?

KISS – neo-fascism, punk, violence
Led Zeppelin – punk, violence
Madonna – sex

What the hell is this?

This is a list of bands and singers banned in the USSR. The communists were convinced that music, fashion, films and, in general, the entire mass culture and counterculture from the West were weapons of the Cold War – no less dangerous than bombs. Therefore, the records of most popular rock bands and pop singers were not released or sold legally in the Soviet Union, those musicians didn’t come to the country with concerts, the newspapers wrote only bad things about them.

There are several known variants of this list (with slight differences), dating from 1983-1985. They were found in the archives by different people (not me) and published. We don’t know who compiled this list, but most likely it was not the KGB. The document was sent to local Komsomol committees and other cultural institutions. The main purpose of this list was to prevent the songs of “harmful” groups from being played at discos and spoiling Soviet youth.

Now I will tell you which bands and singers were banned and how that ban was explained.

This version of the list was signed in 1983 and was intended for the directors of houses of culture, discos, rural clubs in the Tula region of Russia.

“… in order to strengthen the fight against the influence of bourgeois ideology, to raise the ideological and artistic level of amateur music ensembles … we recommend that you prohibit the playing and demonstration of gramophone records, compact cassettes, videos, books, posters and other products reflecting the activities of the following groups, whose repertoire contains ideologically and morally harmful works. We are sending an approximate list of groups. It is indicated in parentheses which alien ideas and trends the team promotes ”.

And the first was Iron Maiden, banned for violence and religious obscurantism.

AC/DC – neo-fascism, violence

What about neo-fascism? Maybe it was the song “Night of the long knives” released by the Australians in 1981.

By the way, the popular myth that the name of the group means “Anti Christ / Death to Christ” or “Anti-Christ / Devil’s Child” was also popular in the USSR.

Black Sabbath – violence again, religious obscurantism
Ban Heilen – anti-communism

In the list it is written exactly like this – “Ban Heilen,” but the author meant “Van Halen.” Blessed memory of Eddie Van Halen, who died this year.

Blondie – punk, violence
The B-52’s – punk, violence
Village People – homosexuality

Everything is obvious: the band was created with the expectation of popularity among the gay audience, and the image of its members was appropriate. One of the Village People‘s biggest hits, YMCA, has become a gay anthem of sorts.

I would like to remind you that homosexuality was considered a criminal offense in the USSR.

Judas Priest

Maybe you thought it was homosexuality again as in the previous case (the band leader Rob Halford is possibly the most famous gay in rock music), but no, it was racism. Why? No idea.

Donna Summer – eroticism
KISS – neo-fascism, punk, violence

Here I want to note that, as in the case of AC / DC, there were rumors about the hidden meaning of the group’s name – including that it stands for Kinder SS. And it is possible that KISS was named as neo-fascists for this reason.

Madness – punk, strong personality cult
Nazareth – religious mysticism, sadism
The Originals – sex
Pink Floyd – a perversion of USSR foreign policy

Another similar list, created in Mykolayiv in 1985, contains a clarification of this charge. First, only Pink Floyd‘s 1983 album The Final Cut was banned. Secondly, we see an explanation of what exactly this perversion consisted of: “Soviet aggression in Afghanistan.” It’s about a short song Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert, which contains the next line: “Brezhnev took Afghanistan.”

Sex pistols – punk, violence

This is, of course, the Scorpions – violence.

Styx – violence, vandalism
Taimashin – anti-Soviet

Probably they meant “Time Machine.” I have never heard of such a group. If you know it, write in the comments of the video.

Tina Turner – sex
10 CC – neo-fascism

As in many other cases, it is impossible to understand what neo-fascism has to do with it. It seems that the listmaker had to stick this label to a dozen groups and did it in random order. Who will be next accused of neo-fascism?

UFO – violence
The Who – vandalism, sadism, violence
Rolling Stones – violence, permissiveness
Talking Heads – the myth of the Soviet threat
Dschinghis Khan – anti-communism, nationalism

Obviously, the matter is in the main hit of this West German group – Moskau. The lyrics are completely harmless and full of cliches about Russia. But Soviet young people who danced to Dschinghis Khan at discos told each other that the chorus was translated from German as: “Moscow-Moscow – We will throw bombs, We will dance on the ruins of the Kremlin!” And they sang along these lines in Russian! There were several other options, including: “Moscow-Moscow, we did not break in 1941, we break in 1980” or “Genghis Khan did not take Moscow, Hitler did not take Moscow, but we will.”

The promise to spoil the Olympics is contained in yet another version of the translation. The fact is that the song was released in 1979, shortly before the Olympics in Moscow, which, as we remember, was boycotted by Western countries.

And although all these rumors were nonsense, the compilers of the list of non-recommended groups apparently took them seriously. The KGB also notes in its documents that “some songs” of the Genghis Khan group have a “pro-fascist, anti-Soviet” character. Moreover, there is unconfirmed information that the song Moskau was bought for showing on the USSR Central Television in 1980, but was not shown precisely because of rumors around its content.

Culture Club – homosexuality, apolitical, anti-culture
Depeche Mode – apolitical
Michael Jackson – homosexuality, horror

When it comes to horror, Michael Jackson’s hit Thriller from the 1982 album of the same name comes to mind. We certainly remember the legendary music video for this song as well, but it was released in late 1983 – later than the list was signed.

Julio Iglesias

For supposed moral licentiousness and… what else do you think? Yes, neo-fascism. This is how the number one Spanish singer, without knowing it, became a follower of Benito Mussolini.

Alice Cooper – necrophilia
Rod Stewart – propaganda of violence, permissiveness
Clash – punk, violence
Krokus – strong personality cult, sadism
Stranglers – punk, violence

Perhaps you have a question: how could the Soviet youth hear Western music when the Iron Curtain existed?

For example, thanks to Western radio stations. Thousands of music lovers listened to the program dedicated to rock music by the radio presenter of the BBC Russian Service Seva Novgorodtsev. There was a vinyl black market in every major city. The records were brought primarily from Eastern European states such as Poland and Yugoslavia – there they were sold legally. African students flew to the USSR through Western Europe. And many of them, making a plane stopover somewhere in Paris, did not forget to buy a new album by Deep Purple or Queen, so that later they would sell several times more expensive behind the “curtain.”

The lucky owner of the vinyl could make copies of it on magnetic tape – and so the “enemy” music conquered the country. The criminal police, the KGB, and the Komsomol tried to fight this, but to no avail. By the way, witnesses often recall that Komsomol members read public lectures about the dangers of Western music, but they themselves secretly listened to these recordings.

We go back to the list.

Perron – eroticism
Madonna – sex
Canned Heat – homosexuality
Ottawan – anti-communism
Prince – pornography, political apathy, propaganda of nuclear war

War is all around us
My mind says prepare to fight
(So if I gotta die
I’m gonna listen to my body tonight)

Everybody’s got a bomb
We could all die any day, Oh

Mommy, why does everybody have a bomb?

These are lines from Prince’s hit “1999,” released in 1982. But this is not propaganda of nuclear war, but on the contrary – a protest against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. But the Soviet specialists apparently did not understand this.

U2 – militarism
Kraftwerk – violence, punk

As you probably already understood, not all the bands marked with the word punk were related to this style in reality.

Manish Machine – eroticism, pornography

Another unknown group.

Nina Hagen – sadism, licentiousness
Stooges – domestic decay, punk, violence
Led Zeppelin – punk, violence

Led Zeppelin certainly had nothing to do with punk rock. Unless their 1978 song “Wearing and Tearing” was performed in a style quite close to punk rock. According to music critics, the band sought to show that it could play with the same energy and aggressiveness as the punks who were at the top of popularity at the time.

Duran Duran – apolitical
Ramones – punk
Santa Esmeralda – eroticism, sex
Boys – violence, punk

At that time, there were two groups with this name – Australian hard rockers and British punks.

Yazoo – punk, violence
Danich Mod – punk, apolitical

This is nothing more than Depeche Mode, mentioned for the second time.

Passengers – vandalism, permissiveness

These lists appeared during the reign of Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko. The last wave of intense struggle with Western culture came in these years. But after that, perestroika began, the state stopped fighting “harmful” music. The records of many of the bands on the list were officially released by the Soviet company Melodiya.

“Violence propagandists” Scorpions and former vocalist of “religious obscurantists” Black Sabbath Ozzy Osbourne visited the USSR in 1989, performing at the Moscow Music Peace Festival. The Scorpions even met Mikhail Gorbachev. “Brezhnev took Afghanistan,” as we remember from the Pink Floyd song, and Gorbachev withdrew the troops from this country in early 1989. And six months after that, Pink Floyd performed in Moscow.

“Sadists” and “religious mysticists” Nazareth arranged two tours in the USSR in 1990 and 1991 – both were sold out. “Neo-fascists” from AC / DC became the headliners of the legendary Monsters of Rock festival in Moscow in September 1991, which gathered, according to various estimates, from half a million to one and a half million listeners. Two months after that, the USSR died, and rock-n-roll continued to live.

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Edited by: A. N.
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