Forget California, swinging sixties London or the Paris riots for a moment, Estonian filmmaker Terje Toomistu joins us to talk about the hippie movement of the Soviet Union.
It had all the characteristics of Western hippiedom: long hair, groovy music, esoteric spirituality and drugs. The only thing missing perhaps was the radical public politics that would have pushed the repressive Soviet authorities into drastic, brutal action
Terji’s film, with its super groovy soundtrack of rare tunes, provides a fascinating glimpse into a moving, daring subculture that flourished east of the Iron Curtain.
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‘America’s leading scholar of High Strangeness’ Dr.Erik Davis, enters the Bureau.
We hear about Erik’s career charting the highs and lows of counterculture, esoterica and psychedelia in America and meet three of the most influential radical psychedelic characters of 1970s - the writers / thinkers / lunatics Philip K Dick, Terence McKenna and Robert Anton Wilson.
Each had extraordinary mystical experiences in the heady days of early 1970 countercultures which kickstarted an incredible outpouring of radical theories, fiction, speculations, conspiracy theories and consciousness exploration.
We hear about radical politics, drugs, strange new religions, environmentalism, cults and the darkening of the psychedelic dream as the sunny uplands of the 1960s turn into the confused melting pot of the 1970s.
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Mike Jay, the UK’s foremost historian of psychoactive plants, joins us to talk about the deeply strange hallucinogen/drug/medicine/sacrament mescaline - a substance derived from the peyote cactus.
Whilst other psychedelic compounds are more popular - and much more in the news - Mike tells us why mescaline was actually the very first psychedelic.
We hear strange stories of drug use in 19th century London, Native American medicine ceremonies - and Bovril..
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We are joined by oral historian and broadcaster Alan Dein.
We discuss the history, culture and technology of the coin-operated machines that allowed ordinary people to make a record of themselves in the West (and, in adapted bootlegged form, to create records of forbidden music in the Soviet Union) long before the advent of tape or digital recording.
We hear a selection of extraordinary recordings of strange, moving voices from Alan’s collection and learn how the records were used to send messages home from the war, record visits to tourist destinations or to capture the sounds of loved ones in a way that had never been possible before.
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We meet with film director Olivia Litchenstein and BBC Russian Arts presenter Alexander Kan to hear about the extraordinary musician Sergey Kuryokhin, ‘the Soviet Punk Frank Zappa’ who with his underground cohorts in Leningrad tried to soundtrack perestroika as the cold war crumbled around them.
Olivia tells of the strange circumstances of the making of the BBC TV series Comrades during the twilight of the Soviet Empire, with tales of tapes smuggled in diplomatic bags and a bizarre intervention by Ronald Reagan.
Alex tells of his friendship with Kuryokhin, an incredibly talented, charming musical provocateur whose live performances astonished Russian audiences. And we learn of the bizarre prank Kuryokhin played on National TV claiming Lenin was a magic mushroom, just one of many dadaist interventions he made before his tragically early death.
The Comrades program featuring Sergey Kuryokhin: https://youtu.be/ibY2lXdgdnM
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This Episode explore three stories of cold war era radio in the USSR: Soviet Radio Jammers, the Russian ‘Woodpecker’ and the Soviet Radio Hooligans
We meet with Russian broadcaster Vladimir Raevsky to talk about radio jamming in cold war era Soviet Union.
As East and West super powers square up to each with nuclear weapons, a parallel invisible war is being fought in the airwaves.
Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on broadcasting propaganda and music into the Soviet Union - and on attempting to block them from being heard.
Stephen tells the strange story of the ‘Russian Woodpecker’, a dystopian broadcasting station near the Chernobyl nuclear reactor and alleged attempts to brainwash the West using radar.
BBC Russian Arts correspondant Alex Kan, sits in a London cafe and tells of the brave young ‘Radio hooligans' who broadcast their own individual pirate radio shows during his youth in the USSR.
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Was counterculture possible in the oppressive, repressive circumstances of the Soviet Union?
Join us as we meet with broadcaster, author and cultural commentator Artemyi Troistsky - the 'Russian John Peel’ - to find out.
We hear some entertaining, comical, tragic, moving and frankly strange stories including tales of the ‘Stilyagi' Soviet Hipsters, the first disco in Moscow, Che Guevara and Lenin as a mushroom.
And we hear how rock music evolved in secret before breaking into the light as perestroika transformed Soviet society.
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