Leningrad Cowboys, Where Have You Been The Last 20 Years?
In 1994, the Leningrad Cowboys, a musical group originally formed to play the role of a fictional band1 in Aki Kaurismäki’s 1989 film Leningrad Cowboys Go America, performed, with support from 70 members of the Red Army Choir, the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic Sweet Home Alabama at the 11th annual MTV Music Awards held at the Radio City Music Hall in New York. According to Wikipedia, 250 million people worldwide watched the program.
Tragically, I was not among them.2
Thankfully, the Lord of Leisure directed me to a video of this unforgettable show.
The Phenomenon That Is The Leningrad Cowboys
Dressed in Eastern Bloc knockoffs of Porter Wagner suits and what their web site identifies as “unicorn hairdos and ½ meter long, sharp-pointed shoes,” the entire troop currently consists of 11 Cowboys and 2 Leningrad Ladies, the latter adorned by megabeehives, the most mini of minidresses, and mesh stockings capable of capturing the heart of any male foolhardy enough to approach them.
The band appeared in two other films, The Leningrad Cowboys Meet Moses and The Total Balalaika Show, which features the Cowboys and the full 160-member Red Army Choir.
They perform in English, covering songs such as Those Were The Days, Thru The Wire, Stairway To Heaven, and tunes from the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and others as well as performing Russian folk songs and, according to their web site, music referencing “vodka, tractors, rockets, and Genghis Khan.”
Sweet Home Alabama by The Leningrad Cowboys
A fake Finnish band, each member of which has morphed into an hallucinogenic vision of Elvis, singing, with accompaniment by the Red Army Choir, looking, as we say back in the Ozarks, “just happy to be here,” the Lynyrd Skynyrd masterpiece, Sweet Home Alabama – and with no shouted requests for the band to “Play Free Bird.” Does it get better than this?
Well, if there is nothing better, there is at least more. Other Leningrad Cowboys hits available at YouTube follow:
- Leningrad Cowboys – Stairway To Heaven
Leningrad Cowboys & Red Russian Army Choir – Delilah
Leningrad Cowboys – Gimme All Your Lovin`
Leningrad Cowboys – Happy Together
Leningrad Cowboys – I Saw Her Standing There
Leningrad Cowboys – Born To Be Wild
- Wikipedia: The fictional band, however, was made up of members of a real Finnish band, the Sleepy Sleepers, plus some additional people. In the film, they are joined by Nicky Tesco, former lead member of the UK punk rock band, The Members. [↩]
- For the record, I also missed Woodstock and only picked up on Leonard Cohen 30 years late. [↩]