Pink Floyd announces last album as politicians sink in a slough of Euro froth

News that the 1970s British psychedelic rock group is releasing its last album, The Endless River, spread across the Russian media like a cosmonaut seeking the dark side of the moon. Source: Reuters

News that the 1970s British psychedelic rock group is releasing its last album, The Endless River, spread across the Russian media like a cosmonaut seeking the dark side of the moon. Source: Reuters

Russian readers could be forgiven for thinking the key current news story is about the EU crisis relegated to the sidelines, says Nick Holdsworth.

Judging by the usual reports in the Russian press about Britain these days, you'd be forgiven for thinking that Cold War and Soviet attitudes were thoroughly back in vogue.

But just when many reports are about the discomfort of dear old Blighty as it struggles with bloated Brussels bureaucracy in its current game of brinkmanship with the EU, come a slew of heart-warming stories that reminds us of just how much the British and Russians really have in common.

OK. I exaggerate. One story in multiple different forms and outlets summed up in two words: Pink Floyd.

News that the 1970s British psychedelic rock group is releasing its last album, The Endless River, spread across the Russian media like a cosmonaut seeking the dark side of the moon.

Endless instrumentals

The album, which includes 18 instrumental tracks that keyboard player Richard Wright contributed to before his death six years ago and lyrics for the song Louder Than Words penned by guitarist Dave Gilmour's wife, Polly Sampson, made the TV news at Russia's most watched station Channel One and many others, including dedicated military station Zvezda (Star TV), which noted the band was breaking "20 years of silence" with the release of its last album. 

"I'm ashamed to admit this will be our last album," Zvezda quoted Gilmour as saying.

An idle search of the Russian internet threw up dozens of other references, from online Bel Radio, a station transmitting from the south-western Russian town of Belgorod, which carried a story simply entitled 'Farwell Pink Floyd' to Moscow-based Russian language Euromag's prosaic 'Pink Floyd releases its last album'.

There's a reason for such wide coverage and it is not only based on the global popularity of a band that sold 23 million copies of its 1979 album The Wall and probably more than that (the sales records are notoriously unreliable and have massive gaps) for its 1973 sound odyssey Dark Side of the Moon, an album estimated to be owned by one in every 18 Americans.

Bootleg tapes

Years before Russian rock appeared (Soviet rockers Kino, fronted by Viktor Tsoi, first played in Leningrad's Rock Club in 1982) Pink Floyd was listened to throughout the Soviet Union on bootleg tapes and LPs copied or passed from hand to hand.

Ask any Russian friend who remembers the 1970s and they will tell you that Pink Floyd was already ubiquitous when they were still at school.

If school kids in the mid-1970s Brezhnev-era Russia were listening to Pink Floyd that helps explain why stations like Zvezda, with its even older military veteran audience, were keen to get in on the act, though it does make one wonder how many old Soviet soldiers know that the group's tenth album, Animals, released in January 1977, is a musical celebration of George Orwell's Animal Farm, a critical allegory of the Bolshevik Revolution. That said, the album's 17-minute track, Dogs, is just as relevant to parts of Russian (or British) society today, with its take on the path pursued by a ruthless social climber: "You have to be trusted by the people that you lie to / So that when they turn their backs on you / You'll get the chance to put the knife in"

Talking of which, the other big British stories of the week, the country's continuing obsession with putting the knife, or boot, into the EU, pale into insignificance.

Political shenanigans

Still, RIA Novosti dutifully covered Prime Minister David Cameron's latest verbal somersaults in the European jousting contest in a story about a speech he gave to British business leaders headlined "Britain will stay in the EU, but not at any cost." 

Noting that Cameron is head of a "party losing popularity among voters before May parliamentary elections", the news agency quoted the British prime minister saying that he had a "strategy to ensure a better future for the UK", but not "at any price."

The same news outlet also covered in a separate story the lengths, some might say shenanigans, Tory party leaders went to manipulate a vote on the adoption of a controversial EU-wide Euro Arrest Warrant about which critics, fearing further loss of British sovereignty, wanted a full parliamentary debate. 

Home secretary Theresa May might have acknowledged parliamentary and legal concerns over the European Arrest Warrant that, according to experts, RIA Novosti observed, "gives foreign prosecutors too serious an opportunity to influence the work of British courts" but that did not stop her slipping a slyly worded motion into a parliamentary debate, prompting a back-bench rebellion that narrowly failed to defeat the government.

Challenges to sovereignty are not unknown in Russia either, as news site found a couple of months ago when it published an interview with a well-known Russian libertarian who supports the notion of establishing an independent Siberian Republic within the Russian Federation.

No sooner was the story up than Russian prosecutors ordered it taken down, US-based advocacy site Young Voices said.

The opinion of the writer may not necessarily reflect the position of RBTH.

Read more: UK-Russia crossviews

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