NO DOUBT about the hot topic in our postbag these last months. Overtaking even the desire for a McCartney tour has been your sheer naked hunger for Chaba B CCCP (literally, Again In The USSR), the oldies album Paul made exclusively for Russia. As we've said in Listen To What The Fans Said, issuing the album worldwide would weaken Paul's original gesture. But when demand is so intense, market forces tend to take over - and not only in the West.
Thus the New York Times of 12th January reported copies brought into the US by individuals being offered at fantastic prices. One visitor to Moscow had found no copies in the state-owned record store (see pic in CS49): "But in a back street near his hotel, he was able to buy as many copies as he could carry for slightly more than the four rouble official price".
"If an American goes to Moscow and buys a record in the shop, there's nothing we can do about that", MPL Manager Richard Ogden told the paper. "And if some of the Russian people are developing entrepreneurial instincts, well, that is what Mr Gorbachov says he is trying to encourage".
Nevertheless, there was still the possibility of Paul's fans being ripped off. So Richard immediately wrote to all Fun Club members, telling you not to pay these silly prices, as we'd make it available to you if we could. And, as you can see, we have!
Getting copies for you was no easy matter. The state-owned Melodiya company's agreement with EMI forbids them to export the album, but with EMI's permission Richard arranged to buy back a limited quantity for you. (Melodiya were allowed to press replacement copies, so the Russian fans haven't lost out.) So what you hold is the genuine Russian article, part of a unique limited edition.
But if you come across Choba B CCCP in a slightly different sleeve, it may not be a counterfeit. As Mr Ogden said in CS49, Melodiya are "not used to the approval of artwork, pressings etc. by the artist" and it seems old habits die hard. The first 50,000 came in a yellow laminated sleeve (contrast with the more austere, matt MPL-approved version), with fresh sleeve notes by Andrei Gavrilov replacing a translation of Roy Carr's full, authoritative commentary (reproduced over the page). Not only that, this first batch omitted Gershwin's "Summertime": although awarded the Lenin Medal, Melodiya's Aprelev factory felt they couldn't cope with more than 12 songs on an album. After London argued there was no technical reason why not, the remaining 350,000 copies had all 13 - and also the correct sleeve and notes.
Although drawing on Roy Carr for most of his facts, Andrei made some valid points of his own. We at MPL know this from a specially commissioned translation: the history and vocabulary of rock being somewhat specialised areas, the English version affords some innocent amusement. Paul's recapturing of "the live breath of the rock" conveys Andrei's meaning memorably. We meet artists such as 'Fatso' Domino, 'Gin' Vincent, "The Roring Storm and Hurricans" (Rory Storm and the Hurricanes, Ringo's pre-Beatles group) and Lidbella (Leadbelly). Most revealing of all, we learn that 'Twenty Flight Rock' surfaced in the telling social critique, A Girl Cannot Manage By Herself (The Girl Can't Help It). But, unless we know the Russian alphabet, we shouldn't laugh too loud.
So there you have it. Hopefully for the first time, you are the owner of the number one album in the Moskovsky Komsomolets charts. Most genuine copies of Choba B CCCP outside the USSR now belong to Fun Club members: any you see in the shops may well be counterfeits - if they're CD's, they're definitely counterfeits. As the envy of your friends, you'll be glad to know that you can probably ease their pain: there might be a few surplus copies here at Fun Club HQ, so tell them to write in and they may be lucky. They should mark their envelope RUSSIAN ALBUM enclosing an SAE in UK or Self Addressed Envelope and International Reply Coupon from abroad.
Like many great gestures, Choba B CCCP has snowballed. Apart from the good fortune of you Sandwich readers, the Armenian earthquake appeal is to receive a chunk of Paul's rouble royalties from the album. Then, on 26th January, Paul McCartney will follow Margaret Thatcher and appear on a BBC Russian Service radio phone-in, broadcasting to some 35 million listeners in the USSR. Paul is the first rock star to do this and there will be simultaneous translation to overcome the language barrier. To make the programme still more special, extracts from Choba B CCCP will be played. Underlining his words overleaf, Paul has this to say about the forthcoming programme: "I congratulate the BBC for taking this important initiative at this crucial time in East-West relationships".
Paul, Linda and all of us hope you enjoy this unique Special Edition of Club Sandwich - the next issue will contain all the regular features.
TWENTY FLIGHT ROCK
LAWDY, MISS CLAWDY
BRING IT ON HOME TO ME
DON'T GET AROUND MUCH ANYMORE
I'M GONNA BE A WHEEL SOME DAY
THAT'S ALL RIGHT (MAMA)
AIN'T THAT A SHAME
Recorded on Monday 20 July 1987 by Paul McCartney (vocal, bass, * acoustic guitar), Mick Green (guitar), Mickey Gallagher (piano), Chris Whitten (drums).
recorded on Tuesday 21 July 1987 by Paul McCartney (vocal, guitar), Nick Garvey (bass), Mickey Gallagher (piano), Henry Spinetti (drums).