From Russia With Love: English Translations of Soviet Era Songs, by Andrei Marcon

Before Moscow native Andrei Marcon emigrated to California as a young man in the 80’s, he acquired some cassette tapes of Russian underground music, which were passed around person to person against the wishes of the Soviet authorities. He has since taken it upon himself to translate into English some of these songs which he loved as a kid. They were “hits” of a kind, in the Soviet era, in that many people heard and loved these songs, and shared and sang them. But it was all on the down low. Thing is, if you got caught distributing music, you could find yourself in serious trouble. You could be arrested, charged, convicted and even sent off to “the camps” for “unlawful commercial activity and/or private entrepreneurship!” Activities like building amps, hiring a sound engineer for a recording, organizing shows – anything where money changed hands – including duplicating and distributing cassettes, were all verboten.

Andrei Marcon Photo by John Seabury
Andrei Marcon – Photo by John Seabury

But music, being the universal language, has a way of getting around. Andrei related to me that in fact, western popular music was also passed around surreptitiously in this way. 5th generation cassettes of everything you can think of, found their way to the hungry ears of Russian music fans and musicians. I had heard about this back then. But what I didn’t know, is that there were also homegrown music stars in the Soviet Union, somehow recording and releasing their material to the public. Songs that connected with people were shared widely.

In that setting, there were some notable songwriters and bands, none of whom I had heard about until Mr. Marcon generously shared this information with me a few years ago. At that time, he sang and played for me a few translations he was working on, faithfully rendering these lost gems from his native tongue in his 2nd language, English. Since then, he has recorded and posted some of these versions on youtube. The results are brilliant, and in fact, if I didn’t know these were translations, I’d easily assume they were written in English.

Without further ado I’d like to share with you a few of these songs, performed solo by Andrei Marcon, starting with “The Fiddler” by Konstantin Nikolsky. You can also find these vids and more at Andrei’s youtube channel.

This next one, “Who Is To Blame” is originally by Alexei Romanov of Voskreseniye, a famous Russian band which started in the 70’s and remains active today.

And here finally is Voskresenye’s 1979 Russian undeground hit “I Have…”.

Hope you enjoy! Please share if you like, and who knows, maybe these versions will also be covered! Music traveling beyond borders and time, as it has always done.

Author: Eric Din

Eric makes songs, records, and little forts for cats to play in. Founder/lifer in The UPTONES, guitarist, songwriter, music teacher and music curator, Eric blogs at except when he doesn't.

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