Three reminders of rock music’s role in defeating the Communist bogey man.


I intend to watch this soon.

​FREE TO ROCK is a documentary film directed by 4-time Emmy winning filmmaker Jim Brown and narrated by Kiefer Sutherland. Rock & Roll spread like an uncontrollable virus across Eastern Europe despite Communist attempts to outlaw it. Thousands of underground bands and millions of young fans who yearned for Western freedoms and embraced this music as the Sound of Freedom, helped fuel the nonviolent implosion of the Soviet regime. Free to Rock features Presidents, diplomats, spies and rock stars from the West and the Soviet Union who reveal how Rock & Roll music was a contributing factor in ending the Cold War.

I intend to read this soon.

BURNING DOWN THE HAUS: Punk Rock, Revolution, and the Fall of the Berlin Wall, by Tim Mohr (Kirkus)

How a forbidden punk-rock underground fomented rebellion against totalitarian East Germany.

A translator and former Playboy staff editor and club DJ in Berlin, Mohr carefully documents a rousing, little-known Cold War story, showing how alternative culture developed in the Eastern Bloc in a similarly grass-roots fashion as elsewhere but for greater stakes. “The ethos of East Berlin punk,” he writes, “infused the city with a radical egalitarianism and a DIY approach to maintaining independence.” But during the 1980s, homegrown punks were seen as both a nuisance and threat, worthy of repression. Based in part on interviews with survivors, Mohr ably documents how regional small-scale punk scenes grew and connected nonetheless. From the start, he notes, “groups of punks started to attract attention from security forces everywhere they went.” East Germany provides a vivid backdrop to the narrative. Conformity to state-supervised existence was enforced by surveillance and informants, so punks’ embrace of abrasive music and fashion was inherently political …

And, I haven’t forgotten the Plastic People.

How a Revolutionary Czech Rock Band Inspired Vaclav Havel, by James Sullivan (Rolling Stone)

Havel met the Plastic People of the Universe in 1976

It took a Czechoslovakian rock band that worshipped Frank Zappa and the Velvet Underground to make Vaclav Havel realize the true power of rebellion. Havel, the Czech playwright, humanitarian and political revolutionary who died yesterday, put his movement on the line with the manifesto known as Charter 77, which was directly inspired by an underground rock band called the Plastic People of the Universe.

Named after a Zappa song, the Plastic People formed in 1968, shortly after the suppression of the uprising known as the Prague Spring. They played a psychedelic brand of garage rock like their American heroes, including the Velvets, Captain Beefheart and the Fugs, says Paul Wilson, a Canadian who was teaching in Prague at the time. Wilson joined the band in 1970 at the request of their manager, Ivan Jirous, a culture critic who acted as a kind of art director for the group, much as Andy Warhol did for the Velvet Underground …