(E-E) Ev.g.e.n.i.j ..K.o.z.l.o.v Berlin
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov: Leningrad 80s >>
Joanna Stingray & Madison Stingray
Стингрей в стране чудес • Stingray in Wonderland • Courtesy © Joanna Stingray & Madison Stingray
Chapter 24 – Grudges
I’m a big believer that holding on to a grudge is like holding on to an anchor and jumping in to the sea. If you don’t let go, you’ll drown almost immediately.
The day after I singed at VAAP, I met with GOS concert to discuss having Aquarium come to the States to play. I harbored no ill will towards Boris for signing against me, and was still gung-ho about sharing his music and band with the rest of the west. Valery Kiselov from GOS was very open to my ideas and asked me to bring him a proposal on my return in December. I had telexed my concert promoter friend to tell him the good news, letting him know the most important issue to the Soviets is the money. I was always amazed that something deemed ‘dangerous’ suddenly was a safe bet if it could bring in the bacon.
It was a week after the infamous Gorbachev/Reagan Peace Summit in Reykjavik. I had made these black and white shirts for all the band guys that said Save the World in English on one side and Russian on the other.
(E-E) Evgenij Kozlov
“Let’s wear these to our concert at the Palace of Youth tomorrow and make it about peace,” Victor said excitedly when I gave them to him. “You should join us and sing one of our songs you recorded in English, Jo.”
I felt a warm thrill at the thought, but forced myself to shake my head. “Remember what happened when I tried to do that with Aquarium at the Rock Club?” more >>
Victor threw a lanky arm around my shoulders. “I don’t care if they stop the concert,” he whispered to me daringly.
It was one of the proudest nights of my life more >>. To see Kino decked in the shirts I designed as I got to join them on a stage flooded with light above a thousand silhouettes made me feel so important. It was affirmation of the gratitude the guys and the fans had for what I’d done, and after twenty-six years of wondering if I was ever making the right decision, it was confirmation of my life up until that point.
“I want to introduce to you our friend from America, Joanna Stingray,” Victor shouted in the middle of the concert. “We wanted to offset the non-agreement that took play in Reykjavik, Iceland, to demonstrate the fact that we do want peace and friendship with the United States!”
The crowd erupted like a volcano that had sat dormant through years of icy silence, and I stood there shocked as all of my sense were overwhelmed. I looked over at Victor and he gave me that sheepish grin. How cool is this? I could hear him saying in my head.
Joanna Stingray playing the drums during a Pop Mekhanika concert. Leningrad, Palace of Youth, 20 October 1986.
This was the first time I ever actually sang on stage with a band. Starting with Studio 54 I had only ever lip-synced my songs. I didn’t realize how terrifying it would be, barely able to hear my own voice over the support and applaud from the audience. I knew that for everyone there I couldn’t mess up. The equipment was poor quality and I’m not even sure if we had a monitor, but the crowd carried me as they sang along and waved their hands way over their heads. Performing live on a stage like that is the most unnatural feeling in the world, something so unlike any other activity in the way it made me feel larger than life and almost untouchable, intangible. All my worries and paranoia about the concert getting stopped evaporated under the heat of the artificial lights. Everything at a concert becomes abstract – infused with symbolism and meaning and significance. When it was over we walked outside to hail a car and I just kept noticing how hard the ground was beneath my feet. It was such a difference sensation to almost flying over the crowd.
“It can really make your roof move!” Victor said with a laugh.
After this, I started joining some of my other friends on stage at Rock Club concerts. Each performance made me more and more confident that the next one would not be stopped either. One night, many of us jumped up to dance and sing at the end of an Aquarium concert, and another night I sang a song in the Pop Mechanics performance. Worlds were colliding, groups were fading in and out of each other like stars behind the clouds. One night Kolya Mikhailov finally acknowledged me, lowering the cold shoulder and saying hello after the performance as if I had been there all along.
Right around this time Melodiya finally agreed to release an Aquarium album exactly as it was given to them with no censorship. This was historic! It was what the guys always wanted, to have their music shared as it was created, with no propaganda or sticky strings attached. When we had made Red Wave to help Americans understand Russians, I’d had no clue the album could actually help change things in the Soviet Union. My friends and I were getting happier and bolder by the day. For the first time in all my trips, I was no longer afraid my visa would be declined. Everything now felt above board and legal, the winds of change arriving as the city trees changed from green to red and brown.
The first surprise came when I was back in Leningrad, driving my rental car through the narrow, shady streets. I could tell I was being followed and couldn’t believe it. As I made my way through an intersection a policeman pulled me over for a violation I did not commit.
“I didn’t do anything and you have no right to pull me over,” I said aggressively. “I’m working with VAAP on some important projects and you have no right to pull me over!”
I could see it written across his hard, sullen face that he did not understand me and did not care. He took me to the police station, where I was questioned. I fought their inquiries, telling them I was doing business in Russia and had deals going with VAAP, Gos Concert, and The Ministry of Culture. Again, all I could see were colorless eyes that did not care. They fined me, satisfied with the hassle, and I stormed out. As I drove away, my eyes glued to the rearview mirror, I realized that just because I had smoothed things out in Moscow it didn’t mean Leningrad knew anything about that yet.
As I was leaving the Leningrad airport I got another surprise when the guards confiscated one of my 8mm video cassettes that had an aquarium concert I had filmed. Ever since our first Russian adventures Judy and I had been extremely cautious with the footage we shot, immediately changing the cassettes after shooting and leaving a clean one in the camera just in case. This was one of the first times I hadn’t changed the cassette.
“Please, you can’t take that, it’s for business!” I pleaded with them. I felt furious, unable to reconcile in my mind the fact that things had seemed to be opening up and yet here I was still getting abused by the Russian government in Leningrad. I had no choice but to get on the plane and leave the cassette and footage behind. As I watched the grey city recede through the dirty window I realized with a jolt that my faith in the Soviet Union was maybe a little idealist. I may have never held a grudge, but there were officials back in Leningrad who seemed to feel very differently.
|Uploaded 5 June 2019|