Behind The Iron Curtain: Music Downloading

Behind The Iron Curtain: Music Downloading

In the olden days of analog recordings and heavy electronics, music downloading required physical strength, dedication, time, know-how and, most importantly, the source. That’s why when my cousin V. received a record of the Saturday Night Fever from our overseas relatives, I knew I had to have a copy.

Saturday Night Fever

To be honest, I didn’t know anything about the movie or the Bee Gees, and my music collection consisted mostly of tapes my Dad recorded off the TV during the popular music concerts which were shown once or twice a year late at night. That’s why every tape we owned had both the songs and the announcer’s voice; tape editing involved scissors and glue and no one bothered to do it. Even though these concerts were rare and shown mostly to prevent the Soviet youth from going out drinking on major holidays, sometimes a rare gem of a Boney M song could slip in between the Polish and Yugoslavian pop stars. So the Saturday Night Fever would become my first legit tape without some schmuck presenting the next song. And in the early 80’s it was only four or five years removed from its original release date – practically new! I was ready to overcome the obstacles.

The obstacles included dragging a 1969 model of the tape recorder Bryansk about a mile to my cousin’s house.

Built by one of many military manufacturing facilities, the recorder was practically indestructible, able to withstand a drop from an airplane and survive in an epicenter of the nuclear blast. It contained enough raw materials to supply an iPod factory for a week. Coming in slightly over 22 lbs it was a worthy adversary. In the other corner, was I – a fat kid with no talent for heavy lifting and exercise.

As a respectable piece of electronics of its time, it had a lid.

I also acquired a tape and a special 5-prong cord for recording.

When I picked up the monster machine, I knew my love for the Bee Gees would be tested before it even began. I started down the stairs.

A long 1.3 kilometers stretched ahead of me.

I looked down the street. At that time the church you see was still represented by a fountain after being blown up years before. Also there were no cars parked on the street, and it seemed twice as wide.

Frequent rest stops allowed me to look around.

A major stop by the Main Post Office; I had to catch my breath and get back a feeling in my arm. By then I was questioning my love for the Western music and my will to live.

New Farmers’ Market ahead of me meant I was getting close.

I don’t recall the potatoes, must be a new addition to the landscape.


After I arrived to my cousin’s house, we were ready to record. At that time the high-speed dubbing wasn’t invented in the USSR so we had to play the entire record. So we did….

I wouldn’t lie, having the tape with freshly recorded Bee Gees didn’t make my walk back home any easier.

When I finally schlepped up to the third floor, I think my right arm was just a little bit longer. Which came pretty handy years later for completely different reasons.

If you took the time to read this story it probably was long enough to download the entire Library of Congress without getting off your toilet. And all the electronics in your house including a TV don’t add up to 22 lbs. And you hate the Bee Gees. But then you don’t have a story to tell….

And that’s how it was in the olden days.
Epilogue: Nowadays, Moscow, Kremlin…

Moscow, Kremlin

Want to appreciate modern conveniences even more? Read my story about the Soviet dentistry.