This book has been compiled by The Hope Collective Ireland to raise money for Red Cross Ukraine and their relief efforts in that currently desperate war torn country. I am dedicating this review to Alexander Bespalov and his friends Yuzi and Konstantin who I met on the Kreshtatik in Kiev when I visited the Soviet Union in 1985, back when The Ukraine was suffering under the Soviet regime. Although we lost touch, I hope that they are still all around and surviving the current madness ok. The book is a compilation of nearly 300 answers to the same simple question write something about a record or gig that was significant to them. I will get to that in a bit.
I have been fascinated by what was The Soviet Union and Russian Empire before that for most of my life as my family arrived as immigrants in London in 1898 and 1905 having fled the pogroms that tore through the towns of Vilkomir (Ukmerge) and Livani (Livengof) that they came from, that between them have been in Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Byelorussia (Belarus), Russia and the Soviet Union. Any family members who didn't flea abroad back then are thought to have perished in the concentration camps at Rumbula, Panariai and Babi Yar, the latter of which was the first concentration camp I went to pay my respects at back in 1985.
Growing up we had a copy of Alexander Kuznetsov's chilling description of surviving the 778 days of the Nazi occupation of Kiev, that I read as a teenager and so chilled was I by how awful it must have been to have to crawl out of a pit of dead bodies like Alexander did I decided to go and pay homage, while also having been told by some older relatives that they thought some distant uncles and aunts has died there too.
Back in 1985 Intourist didn't encourage tourists to visit Babi Yar and I had to persuade our tour guide that I really did want to go and visit, before they organized a Taxi to take me from my hotel to visit, It was while shell shocked form the enormity of the site and the way it made me feel to be in such a gruesome location where the Nazi's had killed 200000 people for being Jewish, Russian, Christian, communists or gay or a few other categories that covered everyone else. I asked the cab driver to drop me off on the Kreshtatick, about 10 minutes later I got chatting to Alexander who was looking to practice his English, while possibly being a KGB informer as described by Irina Ratushinskaya in her second memoir In The Beginning, although at the time of my visit she was in an internment camp for being a dissident.
While chatting with Alexander I decided he the perfect person to trade the music I'd brought with me too, of the 6 albums I gave him 3 are covered in Punks Listen, David Bowies The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust that Cynthia Sley writes about, Iggy & The Stooges Raw Power that Al Quint chose and Lou Reed's Transformer that Peter Holidai talks lovingly about along with copies of The Dream Syndicates The Days Of Wine & Roses, The Banana Album by The Velvet underground and U2's Under A Blood Red Sky an album I wanted rid of as I had stopped liking U2 by that point, in return I ended up with a red Army Uniform and Russian Sailors top as well as army belts and various badges and 3 LPs one of Russian marching bands, Yuri Antonov's Believe In The Dream that they described as being the Russian Dylan but not really, amazingly he is still performing, an album by Jeanne Bischevskaya of Russian folk songs, she was sort of the Soviet Joni Mitchell, to say they got the better trade is putting it mildly.
Anyway back to the book that brought up loads of good memories if that trip and while I own almost half the records covered I certainly added a few records to my to find list, the contributors range from the well known like John Robb, Tav Falco, Dick Lucas through to Henry Rollins and Justin Sullivan thorough to more obscure punk people like Franz Valente, Remi Pepin and John Fleming.
The artists whose albums are covered range from Billy Holliday and Bobby "Blue" Bland to The Dead Kennedys and The Clash to PJ Harvey and all the way up to Purple Mountains.
Every author takes their own approach from stories about why they love an album, to how they got into music, as a book it's an engaging read that makes me want to play several of the records again as I have already done and to want to hear a few of the more obscure choices such as Original field Recordings by Hugh Tracey, Tanzania Instruments from 1952, or Some Marvels Of Modern Science by The Diagram Brothers who I've seen live but only own later material by them.
Like all such lists there are bands and albums I would have expected to make the cut that don't but then it's all down to personal taste. This book makes a good musical primer to give to any young punks and music fans as a way of opening them up to different ideas and styles of music while being good for the older reader to confirm some of your own taste and make you think about more music, never a bad thing.
So as we hope and pray that this current war ends very soon and The Ukraine keeps its independence this book is a good way to help raise a few roubles to help those in desperate need of food and medical attention let alone housing and jobs as winter sets in.
Find out more and contribute to the most worthy of causes at www.hopecollectiveireland.com https://hopecollectiveireland.com/product/punks-listen/
Help save The Ukraine from a future where Bullfinches is thought of as being like a Bob Dylan tune as it was in the Soviet era!!
This review will also be posted in a slightly different edit at www.goodreads.com