Lenin Street

Fyodor Chistyakov and Nol (Zero), “Lenin Street.”
Live performance on Petersburg TV, 1991

 

You ask me why sometimes I’m silent,
Why I don’t laugh, why I don’t smile.
Or, vice versa, why I joke grimly,
And grimace just as grimly and madly.

It’s just that I live on Lenin Street
And I freak out from time to time.
It’s just that I live on Lenin Street
And I freak out from time to time.

What do you want from a sick mind?
In childhood kind folk pounded nails into my head.
At school they douched my ears and mouth.
So I got the useful knowledge I needed.

After all, I was born and raised on Lenin Street,
And I freak out from time to time.
After all, I was born and raised on Lenin Street,
And I freak out from time to time.

It’s just that I live on Lenin Street
And I freak out from time to time.
It’s just that I live on Lenin Street
And I freak out from time to time.

How I hate and love my motherland,
And there’s really nothing surprising here, comrades.
She’s so blind, deaf, and ugly,
But I have nothing else to love.

And that’s how I live on Lenin Street,
And I freak out from time to time.
And that’s how I live on Lenin Street,
And I freak out from time to time.

It’s just that I live on Lenin Street
And I freak out from time to time.
It’s just that I live on Lenin Street
And I freak out from time to time.

_________

The Big Zero
By Sergey Chernov
St. Petersburg Press
July 18–24, 1995

The work of a St Petersburg musician who lived a wild life, was thrown into prison and then a mental asylum before joining the Jehovah’s Witnesses is now on general release. “Polundra” (“Stand from under”), the 1992 recording of the now defunct and much missed local rock band Nol, fronted by Fyodor Chistyakov, has finally found its way onto cassette and CD. Nol (Zero) was formed in the fall of 1985, making its debut at the Leningrad Rock Club in December 1986. By that time they had a home-produced tape called “Music of Rough Files,” featuring styles varying from traditional rock and roll to art rock.

The group provided a striking contrast to St Petersburg’s other leading rock bands. Most of them were dominated by 30-year olds, while the two original founding members of Nol were only 16. The trend of the day was to write philosophical and metaphorical lyrics, but Nol’s songs were distinctly street-level. The band’s leader Fyodor Chistyakov turned out to be the original folk poet, writing lyrics about what he saw around him at that time — food shortages, over-populated communal flats and shameless Soviet propaganda. Still he was dealing with these subjects in his own very unique way. The song “A Fairy-tale About Sausage” explored the sexual dimension of this then much sought after foodstuff. “Tools Ahead!” again combined sex with workshop terminology. “School of Life” was a parody on military marches. Later Chistyakov moved on to write more mature and dramatic material. Chistyakov’s singular and somewhat out-of-tune singing and the fact that he played button accordion — an instrument totally ignored by local rock musicians at that time — made the band stand out. The fresh folk-punk spirit of the resulting mixture has invited belated comparison with the Pogues, who originated at roughly the same time.

No other Russian band could really compete with Nol in terms of energy. Legend has it that at one concert Chistyakov played so vigorously that he tore his accordion in two. Performances given by Nol in the late eighties invariably attracted crowds of shouting fans. The band was featured in Western documentaries on Russian rock music and was invited to play in Germany, Ireland, France and Finland. The success of Nol led to the formation of several groups, which followed the same formula. The most interesting and popular is Ukrainian band Vopli Vidoplyasova (VV), which combines punk rock with Ukrainian folk music. And its leader, Oleg Skripka, also plays button accordion. Nol folded in 1992 when the fast living and excesses of his rock lifestyle led Chistyakov first to the infamous Kresty prison and then to a mental asylum. As was recently reported, Fyodor Chistyakov joined Jehovah’s Witnesses, and has subsequently refused to have anything further to do with rock-n-roll.

Polundra CD and cassettes, as well as Nol’s previous release, Pesni o bezotvetnoy lyubvi k rodine, are available from local music shops and music kiosks.

Editor’s Note. Fyodor Chistyakov resumed his musical career in 1997.

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