Thursday, March 03, 2005

When Celebrities Made a Difference

I have to confess. The first time I saw this post about the Oscars, I skipped it, because I don’t care about the Oscars.

Then I read the follow-up and knew I had to come back and finally read the first post. As it usually is with everyone that contributed to it - interesting and thought-provoking, and a good read on top of that. I didn’t even realize things were that bad in our society. Everything Holden Caulfield said about show biz, multiplied by a hundred, seems to be today’s reality.

My family, thankfully, has so far been immune. I barely watch TV. People laugh at me because I never recognize movie actors. I’d walk into the room when my husband is watching a movie, and I’d be, “hey, that guy is cute. Is this his first movie?” – “Duh, it’s Tom Cruise”. I12 is a computer geek. ‘Nuff said. K9 is the only exception. He wants to be a rapper, and every rapper on MTV is his hero. Me, I don’t know if I can ever take it seriously. Those guys, in their 20’s, making millions and singing (or is it rapping?) about living in poverty… they just crack me up. I listen to the music, and actually like some of it, but I just don’t have it in me to take these guys seriously, period.

I am, however, old and foreign enough to remember a time and place when things were different. I’m guessing it was similar to the American sixties, though I’m not sure – you be the judge. Picture this. Early to mid-eighties, the USSR. A super-totalitarian country. Government-endorsed pop music blaring from our TVs and radios. And in the middle of all that, we had underground rock groups. Coolest thing I ever saw in my life. I consider myself fortunate that I was exposed to this phenomenon, as it was limited to major cities and only lasted a few years.

These people sound unreal, compared to today’s celebrities of America. All of them that I know of, except for one man, had good college education, mostly in engineering. By the early 80’s, though, they had to quit their jobs, as music was taking up too much of their time. They worked night shifts as janitors and security guards, because these jobs allowed them to work a "one day on, three days off" schedule. They were dirt poor and their families lived in old apartments same as everybody else’s. They recorded their albums on tape at their home studios, and performed at other people’s apartments for close groups of friends and acquaintances.

On top of it, they were all banned for anti-Soviet content of their music. The names of their bands were on black lists. One man spent ten years in prison, just for writing songs. Another was summoned to the KGB office and told to sign a paper, promising not to write anymore music. He refused.

And they rocked. Seriously. They wrote really good, quality stuff. Mostly classic rock and punk rock, with really awesome lyrics and catchy tunes. At one point in ’84, I got hold of their (again, underground) magazine. The mag was something else, by the way. You know these really old mainframe printers that used to print out these long scrolls of paper? It was printed on that. Anyway, all throughout the mag, the underlying thought was: “If only we had freedom to do what we want! If only we had good recording equipment! If only we had working conditions like the musicians in the West do. If only… if only… if only… We’d produce some really great music then”.

And then it happened. The Communists fell, and the underground rock stars came out. All of a sudden, they were celebrities and on national TV. They got the recording equipment, the conditions, the money, the fast cars.

That’s when their music suddenly began to seriously suck. Go figure. And that was the end of the unique phenomenon known as the underground Russian rock of the 1980’s. I mean, it was the end of it for me. The bands still exist.

Does anybody have any idea why? Why, when these people had no money and were outlawed by the government, they wrote incredible music? Why couldn’t they continue doing the same when they got the money and the permission to write? What if we pass a ban on today’s celebrities and take away the millions and the mansions (relax, guys - I'm just brainstorming here)? Will it make them suck less, or do we have to send them to college first?

And last but not least: how do I get it into K9’s head that Eminem is not a role model?

The Goldie has spoken at 10:54 AM

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