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The historic Sopot festival appearance by Christie, the first Western band that Iron Curtain fans saw, was recorded by the late Russian photographer Alexei Zaikin, who was also the first person to respond to this website when it was set up many years ago! In this documentary on Sopot, Alexander reminisces about the experience in 1970, when he was a young teenager. Read the transcript below.


A colorised version of a snapshot of the TV coverage of the Sopot festival.



Alexei I. Zaikin, with Andrey Krasivitchev

"IT happened at the end of August 1970, the first time in the history of the Soviet Union on national television in a live broadcast from the stage of the Song Festival in the Polish city of Sopot, that we saw a demonstrated performance of a western rock band - CHRISTIE, which, in spite of such a late broadcast time, was watched by the whole country!
    At that time I was in high school, but my parents, knowing my craving for modern music, allowed me as an exception to watch this festival. And, as always happens in such cases, I was in full combat readiness with my sound recording another - our tape recorder "Astra-2" and a video recorder, with which I record all that then sounded on radio and television in a foreign language, and began to look forward to in the hope that this time I have more luck and finally record something decent. And I was lucky ...!
    Curiously, Christie were not competitors in the Festival, but as a guest, in the so-called "non-competitive program".
    The first thing I noted was the look of the musicians who took the stage in some jeans and T-shirts. I remember Jeff Christie was dressed in a T-shirt with a star, and my parents said they "did not understand what it meant". It was such a stark contrast to the suit and tie members of the vocal and instrumental ensembles and soloists from the People's democracy. I did not hesitate, and immediately turned on my tape recorder to record.
    Commenting on the Sopot Festival from the leading television program "The Music Box" was Eleanor Belyaev. She probably also did not expect to see such a spectacle on the stage of socialist Poland, and said some nonsense, like: "What is it? Who needs it? How is that possible?"


Poor exasperated Eleanor Belyaev.

    I remember well (as it is recorded on the tape), her comments before Christie appeared: "... Now, we move away from the speakers, now this sound is very loud!" When the band began their performance, Belyaeva was literally hysterical - she stammered something like, "What a shame, what a roar! ..." and that "this music is not popular with the audience". They showed the first rows of the hall, where officials were invited along with honoured guests of the festival ... but then the camera suddenly showed the audience a glimpse of "the gallery", which showed the crowd literally crazy with delight.
    Belyaeva, still not appeased, continued to scream about the "unbearably loud noise". I still remember it was her state of powerlessness and anger. Christie performed their three songs: Yellow River, New York City and San Bernardino, and then "encore" again with Yellow River. After the musical performance, the group was presented a huge bouquet of roses, and Madame Belyaeva began again, resenting that and saying "how can such a horrible band be given roses".
    All in all, it was something unforgettable, and I received an adrenaline rush, and could not sleep for a long time after that!

    The next day at school, the only talk was of this sensational performance by Christie. Many of my friends also watched it. We discussed everything - their music, clothing, hair and demeanour on stage. Of course, that opened interest in Western rock music, while Yellow River was played literally from every open window, and since then, every time I hear it the first chords, I always think of Sopot that night, lean Jeff Christie and shrill Eleanor Belyaeva!
    Shortly after that historic event in Poland, the firm Pronit released Christie’s album - one of the first such discs, leaked to our country, and the love for this team became truly popular. At this time, there was also a well-known Russian-language cover version of Yellow River, for some reason called Fat Carlson.
    And in 1972, when me and my school friends organised our own rock band, we were always a great success at our parties singing Yellow River.

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