Boris Grebenshikov

Ken Schaffer brought the bard many people consider to be the Bob Dylan/John Lennon of Russia to London, New York & Los Angeles to record for Columbia Records with western counterparts including Annie Lennox,  Dave Stewart, Chrissy Hynde…

posin' at at georges

Boris Grebenshikov’s Aquarium: http://www.aquariumband.com

 


Boston Globe: From Russia with Rock

How Boris Grebenshikov became the first Soviet rocker to have an album released in the West

It’s 9 o’clock in the morning – virtually dawn by New York standards – and Ken Schaffer doesn’t want to talk. “Just listen,” he says, running over to the bank of tape decks by the wall.

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Boston Globe: From Russia With Rock

How Boris Grebenshikov became the first Soviet rocker to have an album released in the West

By Fred Turner

It’s 9 o’clock in the morning – virtually dawn by New York standards – and Ken Schaffer doesn’t want to talk. “Just listen,” he says, running over to the bank of tape decks by the wall.

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The Discovery Channel Gets Discovered

Cable Channel Offers TV Shows From Moscow

The New York Times:

Many American television viewers will have a chance during the next week to sample Soviet programming. The Discovery Channel, a cable network, will offer 66 hours of programs from Moscow.

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Journal Shtab Kvartira (Moscow): Kenny

By Gala Morrell
(Translated from original Russian)

A thirteen story, old building, attached to the famous Plaza Hotel, is located on the most expensive square meters of modern day Manhattan. The penthouse, where Kenny lives, is an excellent observation point for viewing everything that is going on around.

And what is going on around makes up a big portion of daily, world news. Blue skyscrapers, as Swiss mountains, surround the old house, but do not block the panorama. Their peaks sparkle in the sun, flashing megatons of crazy city energy onto Kenny’s roof. On this roof Kenny throws crazy parties, to which guests of the whole world fly in.

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However, Kenny landed here in those remote years when poplars and limes grew around instead of skyscrapers, and the streets were wandered by hippies, drug-addicts and sometimes, simple criminals. One of them, who had just robbed and murdered a storekeeper, Kenny captured and disarmed on his own, having caught up with the rascal after chasing him on the powerful motorcycle. For his heroic deed Kenny was awarded the medal of the New York Police Department.  At the solemn award ceremony, Kenny, according to the local media, distinguished himself for the second time by attending it in the Nehru jacket.  In spite of the chases, brawls and abundance of poplar fluff, even thirty-five years ago the corner of 58th and Fifth was the best place in Manhattan.  If it had not been so, Kenny would not have made his headquarters there, but someplace else.

A good location is not, of course, the reason for thousands of people to fly to Kenny’s apartment throughout three and a half decades, sometimes with advance notice, sometimes without any, like butterflies from Central Park flying to the roof to cherish the nectar which is not contaminated by herbicides.  The penthouse, and the roof, and the corridor, and the doorman, and the vista out of the window – everything is charged with Kenny’s personality. And his personality – it is all about oscillations, frequencies, waves and wireless communications. Kenny, as an antenna, receives and transmits these oscillations and signals, which set in motion an enormous mechanism called the human society.

Having received a signal from Kenny and having responded to it, people live, sleep, eat, and love in his house, lose their minds and then regain them, make decisions crucial for their own selves and their countries, compose and decompose the written into small pieces — and then disappear in order to return here, on a new life circuit, over and over again.

The list of people who lived in this apartment is more appropriate to be engraved in marble, rather than to be beat on a plastic keyboard. John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones, Sting, Bob Marley, Jerry Garcia, Steve Tyler, Timothy Leary, etc., etc. And from the Russian end, Boris Grebenshikov, Armen Zhigahaninan, Andrey Makarevich, Viktor Tsoi, Sergey Kuiokin, Timur Novikov, Afrika (Sergey Bugaev), Heidi Hollinger, Na-Na and even Zhanna Aguzarova, whose presence was endured for five whole days.

Zhanna Aguzarova on Kenny’s Roof

Everybody knows the word “Kenny”. Even those who do not even speak a single syllable of English. But to explain in simple words who Kenny is, is practically impossible, even if you read an article in an encyclopedia or a publication in a professional magazine, where the phenomena of Kenny is being explained from a scientific point of view. Even if you survey all the people who took turns in living in his penthouse and saw much more than what was described in the glossy and non-glossy editions. To say it very briefly, you will get the picture as follows:  hero, scientist, radio operator, peace fighter, educator, pilot, spy, lover, revolutionary, sportsman, forecaster of the future. And all of this, we should add, on an international, global scale.

Kenny is an author of dozens of inventions. One can write a treatise about them.  Kenny invented the wireless microphone, he introduced Soviet television to America, he handcrafted the last and most favorite guitar for his friend, John Lennon, the one that was hanging above John’s bed till his last day. Etcetera, etcetera. But in this given article let us focus only on those inventions of Kenny, which deal directly with his apartment and are fully represented within its walls.

As I already said, after having lived at Kenny’s for an hour, a week or a month, guests then fly off in different directions. They fly away because living side-by-side with Kenny is impossible by definition.

Only one person managed to survive with Kenny. It was a Russian woman, Komsomolka, parachutist, actress, Alla Kliouka. Many in Russia know her by her movies “From Hell to Hell”, “Hammer and Sickle”, “Made in the U.S.S.R”,  “Noctourne Chopin,” “Body”, “I Want to Go to Prison”, “Ideal Couple”, “Chained”, etc. And in America – by her roles in the most popular national programs, like “The Sopranos” and “Law and Order”. Alla, a girl from working class suburbia of Minsk, is surviving with Kenny for the third pyatiletka (five-year plan – sov.) And not only is she surviving, but is actively assisting Kenny in his life as an inventor. It might be that Ala understands a little bit less than Kenny in antennas and Morse code, but then again she is a first class electrician and welder, deactivator and firewoman. She promptly, if needed for an experiment, will mix concrete and as promptly will liquidate the clog in the tube of any diameter plumbing (everything happens in the inventors’ life). Ask Marina Albee – a long-term partner of Kenny’s (in Belka International) and in other sound American-Soviet projects of the 80-s and 90’s. Recently Marina, in the course of a brief visit to Manhattan, managed to sink into Kenny’s bath a mere half of the Victoria Secret store. Bras and thongs got stuck in tubes someplace between the twelfth and thirteenth floors. In just a moment Alla was able to extract and return to Marina all the goods in their original, absolutely commercial condition, and happy Marina was able to take the catch to Saint Petersburg, where she lives with her Russian husband and almost-Russian daughter, Sofie.

But why should we be only talking about tubes? It’s time to talk about the essentials. Alla helped Kenny to conceive and realize the main invention of his life – a boy named Kibo, who represent a small, but absolutely perfect clone of Kenny. Kibo is seven years old and he is getting ready to become, not difficult to guess, an inventor. The apartment, where Kibo lives with his parents, he calls a laboratory. Not strangely enough, either, Kibo’s favorite word is “antenna.” In his free time (when not experimenting) Kibo walks his cybernetic dog, named Aibo, on the penthouse roof. Kenny bought the dog for Kibo last Christmas for 2.5 thousands dollars. But Aibo, even though being so expensive, is a real friend. He grows and matures together with Kibo. Together with Kibo he becomes nutty, together with Kibo he makes discoveries. Recently I was able to witness how Aibo discovered his own reflection in the mirror. The shock experienced by Aibo at that moment, could be compared only with the shock experienced by Kibo when he found out some time ago that humans are mortal.

When Kenny dies, he will fly away. Kenny will fly away like a Sputnik, which had charmed him forever when his father, a Daily News truck driver, bought him an expensive gift – a short-wave radio. Kenny learned the Morse code and connected himself to the world. One of the first signals he received from the cosmos was “Hi”. This was the signal the Soviet Sputnik was transmitting while flying around the planet in the year 1960. Then Kenny understood what he would do after his death. He would be flying around the planet and would be sending signals to us (the technological part of the plan already exists).  I will glance into the telescope and will spot Kenny in the night sky, flying above Manhattan, Moscow or St. Petersburg. I know no matter how busy, sick or stressed he is in that moment, he will smile and wave his antenna back to me as an answer.

Money Magazine: Capitalizing On Glasnost

By Teresa Tritch

It sounds like a Michael J. Fox fantasy: A rock-music buff and electronics hobbyist parlays his two passions into a lucrative career as a kind of unofficial cultural envoy to the Soviet Union. But it is the real-life story of Ken Schaffer, 39, of New York City, who, with the help of Marina Albee, 26, a Columbia University graduate student, has created a thriving business bringing Soviet TV shows, movies and rock groups to the U.S. and Japan.

After dropping out (3 credits shy of an engineering degree) of the City University of New York in 1969, Schaffer worked as a publicist for several entertainers, including the rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix. On the side he tinkered in electronics, inventing the wireless guitar, which uses a tiny radio transmitter to send signals to a nearby amplifier. In 1984, Schaffer developed a satellite dish that is able to pick up Soviet signals in the U.S. His company, Orbita Technologies, has sold seven of them to individuals and universities for up to $55,000 each.

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