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Elvis in Russia

The early 90-s, with the "freedom of the word", as it is called in Russia, also brought international music to our country. Of course, there was other country's music before, but not as much as in the 90-s. During the communist period Elvis Presley was not officially prohibited (I know this, because my grandfather had Elvis' records and played them in the parks without being arrested), but he also wasn't officially recognized. Often in the newspapers (when mentioned), Elvis was named an alcoholic and a drug abuser, a good example of "what democracy can do with people". As the years went by, though, Russian people begun being interested in Elvis' life and music.

As a confirmation, in 1981 Nadejda Sevnitskaya became the first person to make an official lection on Elvis in the USSR. Later she became the president of the "EL.P. Fan Club (Russia)" (opened in 1990). In 1989 our (by that time famous) label "Melodiya" released the first "official" Elvis' LP in USSR - That's All Right Mama, in the series "Archive of Popular Music". With the edition of 60 000 copies it sold pretty fast, and now is a hard to find item.

On the other hand the Fan Club of Russia released their own series of LPs, completely devoted to the King, under the name "The Early Years". Beginning with "Black & White Rock'n'roll", than moving to second volume "White Rock'n'roll" (both containing material from the 50-s only), and later - to the third volume "Easy Question" and the fourth "Something Blue" (the last two with materialfrom the early 60-s only). The first 2 volumes had the edition of 15 000 copies, while the last two weren't marked at all, but according to some people it had an even lesser edition.

Elvis was never as popular in our country as in the early 90-s. The Russian singer Max Leonidov was playing Elvis at theatres, and one of our TV stations (the now closed "2x2") was showing the 1979 movie "Elvis" (starring Kurt Russell) every now and then. As for the last couple of years, I must say that Elvis is not often showed on TV, but at least we get something - Elvis is sometimes mentioned in the news clips, Russian MTV sometimes has programs on Elvis, and his films are shown on TV from time to time.

But anyway, returning to the early 90-s, the next step in the "promotion" of Elvis in the biggest country of the world, was bringing his CDs into Russia. Probably, the first of them were brought (officially) in 1992 or 1993. First they were sold through the "Melodiya" stores, but later appeared in the now famous "Soyuz" stores and "Purpurniy Legion". Also until 1998 they could be found in the House of The Books shops on the New Arbat. Of course, now it is much more simple to obtain any CDs - through Soyuz or Purpurniy Legion you can not only buy, but also order a CD, without being afraid that you will loose your money or the postage won't come at all (like it often happens in Russia), but by in the early 90-s it was harder.

The first official Elvis' CD released in Russia was the 30 # 1 Hits compilation in September 2002. The so-called "pirated" CDs can be found at big markets, such as "Gorbunovo" (where you can obtain the pirated version of the now "rare" CDs such as some of the Double Features series CDs for as little as $3).

There's no real problem with the books translated into Russian language, here at least we have a better job. Since 1997 already 5 books have been translated, the first of them being "The Complete Guide to Elvis Presley's Music" by John Robertson, then "Elvis Presley" by Peter O. Whitmer, and just a few months later, a book with the same name, but with other contents, by Tony Gentry. The pre-last book translated into Russian language is "Are You Lonesome Tonight", by Lucy De Barbin and Dary Matera and the last is 1000 pages long Peter Guralnick's Last Train to Memphis & Careless Love published as one book.

Some famous Russian people "promote" (if it can be called promotion) Elvis. According to the book The Ultimate Elvis (which has a lot of mistakes, so it is not surely the truth) the first Russian president Boris Yeltsin likes Elvis and his favorite song is Are You Lonesome Tonight; Russian singer Philip Kirkorov always told reporters that Elvis Presley is his favorite singer and his favorite film is "On Tour". The already mentioned Max Leonidov, imitated Elvis on the New Year's eve (2000-2001), in the program "Old songs about the most important". Famous Russian singer Andrey Makarevich from the group "Mashina Vremeni" ("Time Machine") said lately in an interview that Elvis was and still is his biggest idol, and Alexandr Kutikov from the same group said that "It was fantastic what Elvis could do onstage with only three guitars" (talking about the early days). Even more important is the fact that there is a new generation of fans appearing. It seems as if our country is rediscovering Elvis and this is really great.

So, Elvis is Alive. In Russia.

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