THIS ARTICLE is an introduction to Bamboogie Injections, a contemporary Russian surf band, with a look at their first album, Wild Dandelion Stomping. It is also a very brief look at the Russian surf music scene of the past—something few of us who grew up in the ’60s were aware existed. We did know that decadent Western rock & roll was absolutely forbidden in the USSR and Soviet-bloc countries, but apparently, some of the music penetrated the Iron Curtain.
There was a hot market for smuggled records and tapes from radio broadcasts. Supposedly, there were bootleg records of Elvis, Beatles, Stones, and others pressed into discarded medical and dental x-ray plates!
Surf music is unpopular in Russia, but Bamboogie Injections plays surf music despite that.
But Western rock music and musicians never officially made it past the Iron Curtain in the ’60s. Things changed with time: the first big concert featuring Western rockers was scheduled for July 3, 1988, and was headlined by the Beach Boys and Paul McCartney!
It was to take place on Palace Square in Leningrad, the site of many military parades and May Day demonstrations. Also on the bill were Joan Baez and Carlos Santana along with several Soviet stars, such as the Pesnyary, the Ariel, and Alla Pugachova. Unfortunately, the Party old guard had a change of mind and canceled the show at the last moment.
Fortunately, the uproar by fans led to a full-scale tour of Russia in May 1979 by Elton John. This paved the way for more artists to enter and perform rock music in Communist countries.
Photos and videos of the Singing Guitars usually show a group of four guitar players with a keyboardist and/or a drummer. This image was apparently taken from a television video (hence the fuzzy quality) and shows the four guitarists with a trumpet player. This photo makes the group look more like a polite version of the American Breed than an early ’60s surf band.
Singing guitars & electrons
What we didn’t hear was that there actually was a Russian rock & roll scene and the kings of that scene were a band called Poyuschie Gitary, or the Singing Guitars. They were the Soviet Union’s first rock band to reach large-scale success and popularity in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and even in a few non-bloc nations.
In 1968 or ’69, they were the first Russian band allowed to release a pop-rock album. The 10-inch record included vocal and instrumental tracks, some of which was surf music! There are also videos of the group performing in 1969.
There are several English spellings attributed to this group: Poyuschie Gitary, Poyushchiye Gitary, and Pojushie Gitary seem to be the most common. Photos on the Internet with one of these names depict a 4 or 6-man guitar group ala the Shadows.
There was another Soviet band in the ’60s called Electron (Электрон) that played instrumental surf music more closely then Poyuschie Gitary. For examples of Electron’s music, click here. The first 4:30 of this YouTube entry is rather lame pop music, but things kick into gear after that and we hear genuine surf music.
But like most of the world, surf music lost favor with a Russian audience and more or less disappeared! Russian bands did not pick up on the surf music revival of the late 1970s and early ’80s. So there is almost no surf scene there today—except . . .
Ahh, now these guys look like a surf band! A polite, ventures-like surf band, granted, but nonetheless an early ’60s ensemble. What’s missing? A big bass drum with the group’s name. (These guys look like they could have served as the role model for Devo, minus the strange apparel.)
Now there are Bamboogie Injections
Surf music—real instrumental surf music led by a heavily vibratoed guitar—is alive and well and back in Russia! An outfit calling themselves Bamboogie Injections plays surf-based rock & roll music. In it, they mix elements of psychedelia and punk but it comes out sounding like waves from the Bering Sea slapping the beaches of Kamchatka.
Last year, they released their first album, WILD DANDELION STOMPING. I like the title and see two interpretations: one gives me a mental image of a wild dandelion stomping something, perhaps a predatory insect. This is the poetic interpretation (unless dandelions in your part of the world have feet and are ambulatory).
The other interpretation provides an image of an event where wild dandelions are stomped by humans as a step in the transformation of this ubiquitous flower into a potable, intoxicating wine. In fact, the music on the album could be played to motivate the stomping of the dandelion petals into a mash.
The fabulous cover art for Bamboogie Injection’s first album is by guitarist Den Kovalev. It does not look like any kind of art that one would associate with beaches and woodies and Dick Dale and the Chantays (although it wouldn’t look too out of place on a late ’60s Beach Boys album).
Some wild dandelion stomping
WILD DANDELION STOMPING was issued in June 2016; it is being advertised as a sort of psychedelic surf music. For readers interested in real ’60s surf music, relax: the psychedelia on this album consists mainly of a few tasteful, technical flourishes. For the most part, the music is ’60s style surf rock!
The album was recorded by a 3-piece band consisting of:
Den Kovalev: guitars, vocals
Kate Bamboogie: bass, keyboards, vocals
Kirill Mr. Deadly Stab: drums
There are eleven tracks on the album: eight originals by Den, and two originals by Den and Kate. Banzai Washout was written by Los Angeles session musician Steve Douglas and first recorded by Dick Dale & His Deltones in 1964. Arrangements by Den and Kate.
Astra Incognita (Kovalev)
Bog Formation (Kovalev)
900SP Test At The Blind Center (Kovalev)
Rainbow Hunter (Kovalev)
Dandelion Wine (Kovalev)
Banzai Washout (Douglas)
Walking With Nighthawk (Kovalev-Kate)
Tube Dance (Kovalev)
Instroduction To (Kovalev)
Most of these titles are fairly innocuous, more in line with surf songs of the early ’60s rather than psych songs of the late ’60s. Except for one: Astra Incognita combines two Latin words that mean stars and unmapped or uncharted. So I read it as Uncharted Stars.
A rare photo of Den and Kate.
Q&A with Kate Bamboogie
There is very little information on the group on the Internet—at least in English! So I had a question & answer exchange via email with Kate Bamboogie. I kept it brief and to the point. My questions are italicized while Kate’s answers are in standard print:
1. How long have you been Bamboogie Injections?
As Bamboogie Injections, we have existed since the beginning of 2016.
2. Did Bamboogie Injections play or record with another name?
We had another name a long time ago, but we wouldn’t like to mention it because it’s not important for us now. (We had no releases under the old name.) During the six or so years before 2016, we performed shows while Den Kovalev was working on original material of surf-rock instrumental stuff. It was the time when surf music completely filled our minds!
3. How old are you three?
We are 25-35 years old.
4. Is there an active club scene in Russia where you play surf-type music regularly?
Surf music is a VERY unpopular style in Russia, so there isn’t really an active surf scene here. But we play surf despite it.
5. Why haven’t you released WILD DANDELION STOMPING as a vinyl LP?
We plan to issue vinyl later. (Of course, we think about it.)
6. Why haven’t you released a single?
We made a decision that the first record had to be an album, because it’s the logical step for a mostly unknown band.
FEATURED IMAGE: Bamboogie Injections appeared at the 12th edition of the Surfer Joe Summer Festival 2017 on June 23, 2017. Billed as the “World’s #1 Surf Music Event,” it is held in Livorno, Italy.