One of the greatest parts of travel is finding memorable souvenirs that actually say something of the places we visit. And in Russia, I always look out for Soviet rock records. I studied Russian during the Cold War–era, largely because you weren't supposed to. And 25 years ago, I finally got to live and study in St Petersburg and Moscow. I brought back was a handful of Soviet rock records from the 1980s, including one from KINO, probably their best rock band. I recently went back to St Petersburg to find more. And met a former drummer at a vinyl shop who remembers when rock'n'roll was illegal and locals pressed Elvis and Little Richard records on X-RAYS on the sly.
There's value to Soviet rock, I've learned. In the West, we celebrate punk rock for its (sometimes studied) defiance. But what about bands who could get imprisoned -- or, as I learned, worse -- for simply singing things like "I want change."