Deep Purple Funk

Next Monday, 11 February, is promising to be quite an eventful day on the Gazprom front – that’s of course the gigantic Russan natural gas company, the largest extractor of natural gas in the world, of which the Russian government owns a majority stake. On the one hand, it’s the same-old same-old, what we’ve all seen before, for Monday is the day that Russia, speaking for Gazprom, will cut off all natural gas supplies to the Ukraine due to alleged non-payment by the latter of $1.5 billion. Curiously, Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko has been scheduled for some time to arrive in Moscow for a visit on Tuesday. At least he’ll be glad to be away from his native country and someplace instead where it’s actually warm inside the buildings, though one can imagine that the diplomatic talks he will engage in might still be rather frosty.

But that is all par for the course for a European winter; I can remember recently thinking to myself “Hmm, it’s already February – shouldn’t we have had the regularly-scheduled Russian energy cut-off crisis by now?” More interesting is that next Monday is also the evening of the going-away concert in honor of Dimitri Medvedev – Gazprom chairman now, but Vladimir Putin’s “recommended” candidate for president of the Russian Federation at the upcoming March 2 elections, and therefore also a shoo-in as the next Russian president. The concert will be headlined by the legendary English rock-n-roll band Deep Purple, and this was recently commented upon in the New York Time’s weblog “The Lede: Notes on the News,” by Mike Nizza, who notes that Putin himself will surely be present as well. Nizza was responding to an initial report from Reuters (“rock-for-gas deal“), and the story was also run in British newspapers like the Guardian and the Independent. The latter even added considerable detail to the story, such as that Tina Turner will also be performing, and that rich Russians shipping in Western celebrities to Moscow for entertainment is by no means a rare thing: among others, George Michael, Christina Aguilera, and Beyoncé have gotten this treatment – as has Paris Hilton (musical abilities form part of her ever-broad palette of talents as well, remember), whom the Independent reports a Russian “juice magnate” brought into town to entertain his 15-year-old daughter.

If all this happens to strike you as slightly . . . well, wrong, that’s because you are probably hopelessly stuck back in the old paradigm of rock-n-roll artists as youthful rebels, more likely to offer authority a raised middle-finger than take its money – especially for an event in honor of an official who supposedly is but one of several candidates in a presidential election (but everyone knows that the “system” will make sure that he wins), in what is supposedly a modern democracy (but in reality is of course anything but). Such naïve idealism! Here, let the Süddeutsche Zeitung straighten you out, in a piece (Smoke on the Gas) that I think offers the best commentary of all on this affair, even if the cynicism is laid on a bit thick. First of all, the idea of a close link between heads of government and energy concerns should not surprise or offend either the New York Times or anyone else: that has been the case in the United States government as well ever since January, 2001. And as for rock musicians “selling out” to politicians, writer Andrian Kreye provides a helpful chronology: Elvis for Nixon, Chuck Berry for Bill Clinton (I never heard of that one), Oasis for Tony Blair, the Scorpions for Gerhard Schröder (German Bundeskanzler before Angela Merkel) – and even now, apparently the Grateful Dead for Barack Obama. As for rock musicians selling out to commercial companies – please! The Who Sell Out was but a brief artistic conceit of that group’s callow youth; if you’re looking for hard reality, think instead Budweiser Presents The Who.

Joe Lynn Turner Speaks!

For a story like this – exotic foreign locale, rock music – you’d really expect the expat youngsters publishing the local English-language newspaper (here, the Moscow Times) to get the scoop. Disappointingly, though, their coverage is limited to the original Reuters wire-service report. But staff writer Kevin O’Flynn did publish only a little over a week ago a revealing interview with Joe Lynn Turner, apparently an acceptable deputy for normal Deep Purple lead singer Ian Gillan who was invited to Moscow last June along with celebrated guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen to play a sort of warm-up Deep Purple gig for Medvedev and invited guests. In the interview Turner reports that he was paid “very well” for his appearance, and was awarded a Breguet watch (usually worth between €12,000 and €700,000) as well. Then, a few months later it was the turn of President Putin and “scores of former KGB and current Federal Security Service [i.e. the successor to the KGB] officers” to hear the German band the Scorpions perform at a ceremony in honor of the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Cheka, the original Bolshevik secret police. “If the Scorpions don’t want to play the same gig next year, Turner said he’s ready,” O’Flynn reports, quoting him as remarking “I’d have no compunction” [about stepping in to substitute] – of course you wouldn’t, Joe Lynn! – “adding that he knew good KGB agents when he toured the Soviet Union in the 1980s.”

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Comments are closed.