Joe Dassin “Les Champs-Élysées” (1969)
“Oh, shozalize,” sang a simple Soviet citizen in the 1970s, imagining himself walking along the Champs Elysees, crunching a French bun and admiring the Eiffel Tower. It was the most ideal chanson in its accessibility for the Soviet listener: playful, like a Parisian rain, romantic, like the movie “A Man and a Woman”, sentimental, like any classic French hit for the big stage.
The son of director Julius Dassin, a communist who fled from New York to Paris from McCarthyism with his family, was one of the few “permitted” Western artists in the USSR: his songs were played on the radio, and the 1979 record Joe Dassin Sings was in great demand throughout the Union. In the same 1979, Dassin visited Moscow for the first time, speaking at the opening of the Cosmos Hotel (alas, only for nomenclature workers), and, according to rumors, he was supposed to go on a full-fledged tour of the USSR. Alas, these plans were not destined to come true – in 1980, Joe Dassin died of a heart attack: it would not be superfluous and vulgar to say that the Union shared the pain of loss with France on equal terms.
Boney M. “Daddy Cool” (1979)
One of the ways to get acquainted with at least some Western music in the USSR is to subscribe to the Krugozor magazine, where a flexible record was attached to the printed edition. In 1977, such a flexi-disk recorded two hits by the German-Caribbean disco group Boney M. – “Daddy Cool” and “Sunny”. Unlike other heroes popular abroad, Boney M. looked quite decent from the point of view of Soviet censorship and did not broadcast “sex”, “punk” and “violence” (however, then they got into the famous “list of banned groups”, but already in the early eighties). Quite decent disco-pop sounded there, with beautiful string arrangements, slender female vocals and insinuating male vocals. It seems to be nothing special, but the passions there are remarkable.
In 1978, an event unprecedented for that time happened: Boney M. arrived in the Union – but not with a private concert for party members, but with a full-fledged performance in the capital. True, tickets were still distributed mainly through party organizations: it is believed that only 10% of tickets went on free sale – and it was almost impossible for an ordinary person to get to a concert.
Concert visitors later recalled that the musicians were embarrassed by the fact that everyone was sitting in the hall and were afraid to get up. Subsequently, Boney M. came to the Union and Russia more than once – it is symbolic that the band’s vocalist Bobby Farrell died in St. Petersburg in a hotel after a performance.
Ottawan “Hands Up” (1981)
The French duo of ex-airport worker and dancer, impersonating Boney M. to the point of being indistinguishable, flew into the outgoing disco fashion and made some noise in continental Europe at the turn of the 1970s and 1980s. The main hit is this radiant disco song with a terribly sticky chorus. As in the case of Boney M., Soviet censorship did not find anything forbidden in Ottawan’s songs – and the duet’s album Ottawan 2 was released on the Melodiya disc. Further – people’s love throughout the Union and a lifetime ticket to all kinds of retro FM discos.
F.R. David “Words” (1982)
A Tunisian Jew with a French passport wrote an Italo-disco song about love for an American woman in English and became popular in the USSR – after all, the onslaught of globalization is capable of much. The song about how hard it is to find the right words in a foreign language at the right time became, in fact, the only hit of the artist – which did not prevent him from being in demand in Russian retrosolyanka in the future.