Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Detente

During the final decades of the Soviet Union, the failure of Soviet agricultural policy, which was the ultimate cause of its demise, led to it enacting a series of reciprocal trade agreements with Western nations in which much-needed grain and agricultural products were exchanged for Soviet oil, minerals, and even scientists and technical specialists (the real "Brain Drain").

One of the most intriguing deals was the one that the USSR struck with the British government, in which agricultural diesel engines for use in tractors were exchanged for cultural products. Included in the deal was part of the output from The Upper Volga Corngrowers Co-operative Association Choral Dance Troop Ensemble, including their great morality tale concerning Vladimir Andropyornosin, a sub-nucleonic particle physicist who struggles to be a model Soviet citizen despite definite tendencies toward incorrect thinking and incorrect actions.

The Foreign Office, unclear about the best way to distribute this great work, managed, through contacts with their propaganda arm the BBC, to persuade the disgraced, decadent "pop" band The Stranglers to host the Ensemble's work on their b-sides and side projects. Quite what the deal with the band consisted of is still obscure, but we do know that the band gained access to the previously off-limits "Cheggars Plays Pop", and saw their music utilised as ambient music for various cookery programmes.

Vladimir's struggles with illicit substances, sailors, camels and Cuban bar owners are meant to offer an instructive discourse on the perils that await even the most sincere citizen when encountering backwards and corrupt elements both at home and abroad. The seriousness of the work's message cannot be understated, and, despite the demise of the Soviet Union, offers us profound insight even today.









8 comments:

W. Kasper said...

Blimey - Is what gave the Stranglers a bit of an early 80s 'comeback'? As pert of detente negotiations? Did these bad boys have diplomatic immunity all along?

Phil Knight said...

It also explains the absence of The Wurzels throughout the Eighties, as they were "loaned" to the USSR as part of an extended cultural delegation to raise morale amongst peasants and agricultural workers in the area around the Caspian Sea.

It's no coincidence that The Stranglers' last major-label record, and The Wurzels' first comeback tour occurred after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

W. Kasper said...

Pop history repeats itself, first as misogyny, then as farms.

Anonymous said...

What. The. Fuck.

W. Kasper said...

Fuck. The. What?

Greyhoos said...

By far the best WTF I've come across in a long while (here & elsewhere).

I'll admit: I mostly missed out out on The Stranglers, having been -- back when -- in a cultural backwater where exposure was scant and difficult to contextualize at the time (espec as far as "punk" etc went). I was already doubling back to revisit them these past years, but Phil's posts about them have gone leagues toward helping "reverse engineer" the whole process for me. Hardly the one-dimensional act that they sometimes portrayed to be. Far from it.

Greyhoos said...

And seeing how I was always a sucker for any group where the bass carried so much "muscle," surprised I didn't gravitate to them right off...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wsd-vRaVHE

Phil Knight said...

The ultimate secret of The Stranglers is that their finest work is "The Gospel According To The Men In Black" (really).

Here's another WTF moment, though:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GENJuwPnHkU