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Bijelo Dugme - 1983 Uspavanka Za Radmilu M



ARTIST: Bijelo Dugme
ALBUM: Uspavanka Za Radmilu M
LABEL: Jugoton
SERIAL: LSY 10017
YEAR: 1983
CD REISSUE: 2000, Croatia, CD 5541530
SPONSOR: -

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

LINEUP: Zeljko Bebek - lead vocals * Goran Bregovic - guitars, vocals * Zoran Redzic - bass * Vlado Pravdic - keyboards * Goran Ivandic - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Polubauk Polukruzi Poluevrokom * 02 Drugarice I Drugovi * 03 Kosovska * 04 U Vrijeme Otkazanih Letova * 05 Zasto Me Ne Podnosi Tvoj Tata * 06 Ako Mozes Zaboravi * 07 Ovaj Ples Dame Biraju * 08 Ne Placi * 09 Uspavanka Za Radmilu M


Background
In the last two years it's become clear to me that classic AOR is not the sole preserve of North America, leading me to embark on a global treasure hunt which yielded bands I now consider essential in my collection. Yugoslavia was on my radar from an early age, having been a fan of big hitting tennis ace Slobodan Zivojinovic in the 80's. Little did I know that Yugoslavia was home to a legendary AOR band as well. Through a series of clues I've been looking through for the last 18 months at least (read Eric Abrahamsen), the name Bijelo Dugme recently came up and I was intrigued enough to do some investigation. Good thing I did, because although I've been touting Omega, FSB and Karat as the essential Iron Curtain AOR triumvirate, there was always a feeling that Karat, although very good, were a half step down. Bijelo Dugme, which means White Button, have forced me to adjust my thinking and entrench them as the third unmissable band from the East Bloc. They called Sarajevo home but their popularity was immense all over Yugoslavia and in surrounding countries, most especially Bulgaria. The album under the microscope here was intended by band leader Goran Bregovic to be their swan song, rising tensions with lead vocalist Bebek being a prime reason. They had come off an ill advised foray into new wave with their below par 1980 album, but as the following paragraphs will show, AOR was again front and centre for this and future albums. Let's sneak behind the Iron Curtain circa 1983 and see what's on offer.


The Songs
We're off with a stomper in the finest Petra meets Kiss tradition, in fact 'Polubauk Polukruzi Poluevrokom' comes across as a hybrid of 'This Means War' and an affectionate AOR rewrite of 'I Love It Loud'! Some strong hooks and melodic synth flourishes add to the huge anthemic pre chorus and chorus, complete with the 'whoa whoa' pretty much lifted directly from 'I Love It Loud'. Oh well, I remember Paul Stanley saying if you're going to 'borrow' something make sure it's a diamond. Great opener. 'Drugarice I Drugovi' quickly gets past it's incantation type intro to launch into an 80's Rainbow sounding style of urgent AOR. It's not long before Cheap Trick come in for the bridge and chorus though, reminding me of their 'Standing On The Edge' sound to follow two years later. An Iron Curtain band sounding ahead of their time? That can be debated but the blistering AOR chorus is a dead certainty, perfectly on target to refill my espresso cup with huge backing vocals and a perfect understanding of the hook it's wrapped around. 'Kosovska' brings out the early 80's Nazareth sound, especially in the tempo which reminds me of 'Preservation' and 'Lonely In The Night' from their '2XS' album. This track caused no little controversy being sung in Albanian, which apparently didn't go down too well with the majority. You'd never guess it from the infectious power pop tinged chorus though! 'U Vrijeme Otkazanih Letova' returns to the very centre of AOR, midtempo with a spacious sound and that recurring synth hook setting up a concise AOR chorus. This one tends to drift around my head long after playing the song, always a good sign. 'Zasto Me Ne Podnosi Tvoj Tata' goes for the hard AOR brass ring to devastating effect, mid 80's Krokus is the immediate check point here. I'm loving the hook, vaguely reminiscent of The Clash's 'Should I Stay Or Should I Go'. The rest of the song is pure 'Change Of Address' era Krokus though, the chorus a near deadringer for Burning Up The Night' ... three years before the fact. Crucial AOR for mine.

'Ako Mozes Zaboravi' manages to combine jazzy elements with a classy west coast AOR structure and melody, the humming male choir underneath reminding us we're in East Bloc territory. Sounds like a strange combination, but it proves quite addictive. 'Ovaj Ples Dame Biraju' crosses all the way over into bluesy jazz, an extended workout brimming with class and some memorable soloing amidst the smoky atmosphere. 'Ne Placi' raids the power ballad cupboard with rewarding results, the verses reserved and refined, the chorus rearing up like a cobra full of hooks, rich melody and synth histrionics, quite unforgettable. This belongs in the top echelons of early 80's AOR balladry. The album wraps up with the title track, a sophisticated acoustic instrumental with a slight melancholy undertone. This has been so skilfully recorded it sounds like Bregovic is playing in your lounge. Like most of the album, pure class.


In Summary
The thing I couldn't get my head around is that this was their least successful album, despite it's obvious quality. You would think this would have urged Bregovic to make good on his plan to disband Bijelo Dugme, but the tour was such a huge success that he decided to forge ahead even after Bebek went solo. Mladen Vojicic lent his considerable AOR vocals to 1984's self titled stunner, but that is a story best left for a future review. To sum up, Bijelo managed to combine their Iron Curtain circumstances with an awareness of Western AOR, and consistently came up with the goods. In this regard they deserve to be alongside the mighty Omega and FSB, for me the three unanimous flag bearers for Iron Curtain AOR. As far as the language barrier, I got over it and reaped the rewards. I invite you all to do the same.


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Comments
#1 | Eric on February 26 2015 11:34:48
I have not heard this one. Digging deeper....
#2 | copelija on March 01 2015 17:08:07
Very interesting review, because you are probably the first person in the world, who find some AOR in Bijelo dugmes music. They were extremly popular in YU, but never nobody mention AOR when their music was debated. They have a lot more etno or folk elements mixed with hard rock, and their music get a term 'shepherd rock'. Anyway, they were great band, with fantastic musicians, and yes, now I can find some AOR in them to. And for the end, YU was never behind the Iron Curtain, it was soft communist coutry, but it was never part of the Warsaw pakt.
#3 | AOR Lee on March 05 2015 05:28:08
Copelija you are correct on the political comment. I should have used the geographical term 'East Europe' instead of a politically charged terminology.

Like many other bands from Europe they drifted toward AOR just before the 80's. For this review I chose not to go into their history, because I am halfway with a review of their 1994 compilation, where I have covered their 70's era including the shepherd rock concept you have correctly mentioned. That review should be up next week or so. I tend to define a band by what they contributed in the 80's, and BD certainly released some great AOR in that timeframe. I feel that they deserve some limelight in these GDM pages.

Most importantly it is exciting that you took the trouble to comment and initiate debate about an East Europe band / review. This is a very rare event and I appreciate it.

Eric, as always thanks for continued interest and encouragement. More BD to follow in 2015
 
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