• Ljubljana / London
Miha Colner

Fly-Posting Prohibited: The Story of Buldožer

Fly-Posting Prohibited: The Story of Buldožer

Fly-Posting Prohibited: The Story of Buldožer

Extensive essay about group Buldožer, one of the first rock bands and counterculture phenomena from Yugoslavia. The entire text is published in a book accompanying the retrospective exhibition “Fly-Posting Prohibited: The Story of Buldožer” that celebrates the fortieth anniversary of formation of the band – in Photon – Centre for Contemporary Photography and Kino Šiška, Ljubljana.

(cover photo: Vojko Flegar, 1979)

photo: Miro Mele, 1975

photo: Miro Mele, 1975

The group of artists and musicians that make up the band Buldožer emerged out of a specific place and time. The four decades that have passed since have been a very turbulent and rapidly changing period in the fields of art and music, and in the socio-political sphere generally. The world has become fluid, trends and fashions have come and gone at breakneck speed, the scope of contents available to the general public has grown considerably. Postmodern thought has brought the once strictly delineated worlds of high art and popular culture much closer together, the latter having developed spontaneously in Yugoslavia at the time, with no particular state control. Artistic disciplines started to merge and recycle what had been there before into brand new ideas. When Buldožer released their first record, it was one of the first LPs in Slovenia ever, and the first rock album with original music written by the band. These were the early days of the Yugoslavian music industry, which would develop to previously unimagined proportions over the following fifteen years. At first, Buldožer was no conventional rock band; it was a multi-media outfit combining various disciplines into an inseparable blend of poetry, theatre, and music.

photo: Tone Stojko, 1978

photo: Tone Stojko, 1978

The story of the band, which soon went on to become one of the most recognisable in Yugoslavia, has its own indispensable prehistory. The group of artists who formed the band in 1975 consisted of capable individuals who had prolific and successful careers in music in their own right. Following the example of counterculture movements from the West, Yugoslavia had been experiencing a period of political normalisation in the 1960s and 1970s. There had been a softening of the rigid state ideology and an opening up to the world in a series of new initiatives across the former Yugoslavia. The younger generations stood up to the hegemony of the rigid post-war regimes, a process culminating in the 1968 outburst of student and civil society movements that had immediate resonance in all Yugoslavian cities. In parallel, and connected to these developments, popular culture, along with its rebellious deviation in the form of rock music burst onto the scene.

photo: Željko Stojanović, 1976

photo: Željko Stojanović, 1976

In sync with global tendencies, ever since the 1960s the country had been seeing the emergence of artists and groups who—working institutionally or, more often still, outside institutions—pushed conventional boundaries, both socio-politically and artistically. In music, this process was somewhat slower with there being no such infrastructure as in the West, with practically all aberrant musical phenomena being entirely and intrinsically self-generated and self-sustaining. In the golden age of instant popular music, a time when musical tastes and trends were largely created by composers and editors in national radio and television stations, any unconventional initiative was a genuine shock. And Buldožer was responsible for countless shocks, especially in the early years. This article summarises some of the facts and takes into account some of the main considerations about the band that was the conceptual inspiration for many of the punk, new wave and avant-garde rock bands to come.

 

Singer-songwriters and progressive rockers

With its formation in 1975, Buldožer brought together a very varied group of protagonists. In the early 1970s, upstart Marko Brecelj was a creative maverick, writing music and performing with an acoustic guitar in a singer-songwriter, chanson fashion, equipped with a massive literary capacity. A former member of the quartet Beli črnci (White Negros) and band Krik (Scream), as a solo artists he had acquired a reputation as an unpredictable performer and a lucidly humorous, lyric poet. In 1974, he won a jury award at the Subotica festival for this song Duša in jaz (The Soul and I), and recorded the album Cocktail. Boris Bele went from being a band member of Sinovi (Sons) in the early 1970s to becoming one of the three singers of Sedem svetlobnih let (Seven Light-Years) between 1972-1974, the so-called super-group that united established Slovenian musicians from the then modern music genres.

The band also comprised Borut Činč on keyboards and Andrej Veble on bass, both of whom later came to be, together with the duo Bele-Brecelj, the core members of Buldožer. Other members of the band Sedem svetlobnih included: two Slovenian celebrities, Bor Gostiša of the bands Mladi levi (The Young Lions) and Bele vrane (White Crows) and Marko Belavič; Jani Tutta, former band member of Dekameroni (Decamerons) and Predmestje (Suburbia); Dušan Žiberna, a future band member of Pankrti; Danilo Karba and Andrej Trobentar, future band members of Na lepem prijazni.

Sedem svetlobnih let, 1974 (photographer unknown)

Sedem svetlobnih let, 1974 (photographer unknown)

According to Boris Bele, “Sedem svetlobnih let was formed based on the model of Three Dog Night, a [U.S.] group with three vocalists and a band.” Their sound and genre could be described as unconventional progressive rock that was starting to break up traditional pop and rock song structure. The group performed frequently across Slovenia; its originality and the reputations of individual band members made it a prime attraction, appreciated by audiences and critics alike. In 1974, they held a concert for the press in the Glej theatre, Ljubljana, and appeared in a number of small towns. This was Marko Zorko’s recollection of their concert in Kočevje, in 1974: “…the only time there was any life to it [the town, Kočevje] was concerts, for instance in Kočevje, where the event was organised by their manager Srečko Čož, a former municipal funk-youngster (youth functionary) /…/; he organised, brigadier-style, a truck with tarpaulin to load box-shaped, home-made speakers and the band and their girls and at the Streliška commune, and we took off, a little drunk and pretty high, and ended up on stage…”

The band Sedem svetlobnih let wrote several original songs, including Krinko razkrinkaj (Uncover the Cover), a live version of which was released on the 1974 Boom festival compilation record. “We recorded four tracks in an improvised studio at the Streliška student commune, and two at the National Radio and Television in Ljubljana, but these two were censored and we had to make new versions. At the time, Bele was arranging to record an album for us with Mojmir Sepe. We were close, but they wanted to polish us off, to make our sound acceptable for radio, which we refused,” Borut Činč recalled.

 

Growth

With frequent changes in the band line-up and their inability to record an album, Sedem svetlobnih let wore themselves out. Boris Bele started collaborating with Marko Brecelj, and their first appearance as the duo/trio Buldožer was at the 1975 Opatija festival, performing the song Rastemo (Growing). A pure pisstake, it was nevertheless broadcast live on television and caused quite a stir among audiences used to seeing prescribed pop music, launching the still non-existent band into the public spotlight. Four decades later, this performance is still the substance of countless myths and tales: about Brecelj and Bele trying to have host Oliver Mlakar announce them as duo/trio; about Brecelj literally shoving a finger up the famous pop singer Ivo Robić’s ass at a party and so on. The latter came to be synonymous with Buldožer’s resistance against feeble conventions and the short-sightedness of the music scene.

Rastemo / Svaki čovjek ima svoj blues, 1975 (single)

Rastemo / Svaki čovjek ima svoj blues, 1975 (single)

“Brecelj had this song called Rastemo, which became his entry for the Opatija festival. We performed as a duo. We spent the whole week in Opatija, with hotel accommodation and per diems. When we tried to get Oliver Mlakar to announce us as a duo/trio just before going on stage, he said ‘Guys, people will think I’m nuts’,” Bele said, adding that the tale about Ivo Robić is true: “He did shove a finger up his ass. It was at a party in the grand hall of the Ambasador hotel, where euphoric guests made a conga line and Robić joined in. When he danced past us, Brecelj shoved a finger up his ass. The incident would have remained undocumented if it wasn’t for the music critic Dražen Vrdoljak, who put it in black and white.”

Later, Rastemo was released as a single, with Svaki čovjek ima svoj blues (Every Man Has His Own Blues) on the B-side. The cover featured a quote by Ivan Volarič Feo: “You have to love someone, even if it is Bulldozer” as a parodic paraphrase of Ivan Minatti’s poem Nekoga moraš imeti rad (You Have To Love Someone). At the same time, Buldožer’s line-up expanded to include a group of instrumentalists who started writing and rehearsing new material.

Pljuni istini u oči, 1975 (record cover)

Pljuni istini u oči, 1975 (record cover)

 

Spitting in the face of truth

The material later released on the album Pljuni istini u oči (Spit in the Face of Truth) is a result of the combination of provocative cabaret-style lyricism of the Bele-Brecelj duo, and musical intuition of the entire band. Buldožer had a distinctly unconventional, ironic, luddite, and humorous expression, propped up by the band’s live performances, which became a frequent subject of discussion and, more often still, indignation among critics and audiences alike. After a few months of writing and refining the material, Buldožer first performed for an audience at the &TD theatre in Zagreb in May 1975, along with other prominent protagonists of the Slovenian singer-songwriter scene. The then already notorious Marko Brecelj had been invited to perform, along with Tomaž Domicelj and Tomaž Pengov. But instead of performing solo, he appeared with a band – Buldožer.

Buldožer, Zagreb, 1975 (photographer unknown)

Buldožer, Zagreb, 1975 (photographer unknown)

Aimed at the Zagreb cultural and artistic scene, the concert went down in local history in bold print. Shortly afterwards, another two concerts took place in Zagreb: an open-air concert in Varšavska ulica; and a performance at the Boom festival in Dom sportova on 31 May 1975. It was there that the legendary song Yes, My Baby, No first provoked disapproval after Brecelj appeared on stage in a wheelchair, singing “I Don’t Wanna Be Paraplegic”, which is often (mis)understood literally. Instead, Buldožer were merely making fun, in a very theatrical way, of the Yugoslav music celebrity scene. Musicians and various authorities on pop music had shaped the future of pop music by deciding what is and is not acceptable; the song was intended to send a to the rigid music industry message about the band’s refusal to become ‘paraplegic’ and submit to industry demands.

Željko Stojanović, Buldožer, Zagreb, 1975

Željko Stojanović, Buldožer, Zagreb, 1975

Thus the band constructed their own style, one that goes beyond music, using elements of performance art, satire, and intricate construction of their own image for the media. As a result, the visual appearance of the band was of utmost importance. Early on, they produced a series of staged photographs where members of the band took on various roles, dressed up in costumes. These photos were enclosed with bulletins they sent out to the press in order to spread misleading information about themselves. Eager for anything and everything sensationalist, the press normally published them without fact checking.

Word spread fast about a lunatic band playing solid rock, addressing the untouchable authorities and caricaturing the anomalies of the society in their ironic lyrics. In 1975 they played for their home audience in Ljubljana for the first time, in a guest appearance at a poetry reading of Blaž Ogorevc and Ivan Volarič Feo, in a student campus cafeteria in Rožna dolina. Buldožer were keen to collaborate with various artists from the fields of fine art, theatre, and literature (poetry), especially the marginal, nonconformist, and unconventional among them.

Buldožer, concert at Menza, Rožna dolina, Ljubljana, 1975 (photographer unknown)

Buldožer, concert at Menza, Rožna dolina, Ljubljana, 1975 (photographer unknown)

But a true outrage against ill-mannered youngsters who made fun of everything (as sacred as it might be) came after the release of their debut album. The album was partly recorded at Radio Študent, but mainly in the Akademik studio. The recording was interrupted shortly after sound engineer Miro Bevc had dismissed the material as unpromising, and young enthusiast Aco Razbornik stepped in to finish it.

Although the album sold out almost as soon as it hit the shelves, the Belgrade-based label PGP RTB decided not to reissue it due to internal censorship. However, it spread among the audience all the same, and managed to win the attention of the critics. Some of the more perceptive observers of the then contemporary music scene managed to recognise the value of Buldožer, while traditionalists considered the band a one-hit-wonder with a bad sense of humour.

Miro Mele, Buldožer, Ljubljana, 1975 or 1976

Miro Mele, Buldožer, Ljubljana, 1975 or 1976

In Stop magazine, Stane Sušnik published an indignant review, angrily protesting against their absurd humour. His reading and comprehension was literal. He dismissed the record sleeve designed by Slavko Furlan as a newspaper page with collaged contents, as disgusting and inappropriate. He thought the music was inconsistent, discordant and repulsive, not at all the kind “one could listen to while reading a newspaper”. He concluded with a rhetorical question: “Come on, are they serious?” and “I will not allow myself to be ridiculed. You think I don’t see who the stupid one here is – me or them? What do you think?”

Some other critics showed more fondness and approval. In his review for Džuboks, famous writer Momo Kapor described the album as a not unexpected reaction of young people to the current state of mind in the country, and the music as a reflection of the so-called musique concrète. “Don’t blame the mirror for being ugly,” Kapor wrote. Many labelled the band as Yugoslavia’s answer to Frank Zappa, to which Bele and Brecelj responded by saying Buldožer were in fact the sole authorised representative of Zappa for Yugoslavia. “Our songs are direct translations of his compositions, we just make the 17th and 18th bar different from the original by replacing them with our own musical fabrications.”

Buldožer, 1976 (collage, artist unknown)

Buldožer, 1976 (collage, artist unknown)

Despite allegations of inauthenticity, comparisons, and indignation, Buldožer’s popularity with audiences was high. They started planning a next milestone: a concert in Hala Tivoli in Ljubljana on 9 April 1976, together with band Parni valjak. In spite of the attention it aroused, the concert was cancelled at the last minute after on the authority of a political commissar of the local branch of the Socialist Youth League of Slovenia, who had refused to sign the permit, claiming the application form was incomplete. Buldožer had had enough. Problems with the distribution of the album and the cancellation of the concert prompted them to take their own initiative. In the spring of 1976, Radio Študent broadcast a round-table debate entitled What is the place of rock in our society and where does Buldožer fit in, where the famous composer Bojan Adamič (allegedly) called on young people to fight for their cause, saying this kind of rigidity was nothing new – he himself had once fought for the recognition of jazz.

The concert finally took place in Hala Tivoli on 22 June 1976, under the slogan “The return of the banished” before an audience of thousands. Impediments and forbiddances notwithstanding, Buldožer had become a band of the people.

Matjaž Prešeren, Buldožer, concert at Hala tivoli, Ljubljana, 22 June 1976

Matjaž Prešeren, Buldožer, concert at Hala tivoli, Ljubljana, 22 June 1976

 

The follow up record corrupting our children

Slovenian critics and fellow musicians especially disapproved of Buldožer, In Stop magazine, singer Tomaž Domicelj published an article about the music scene of 1975, briefly mentioning the release in unfavourable, nationalistic terms, speaking “of Buldožer’s first album, if they can be considered a Slovenian band at all, as their lyrics are in Serbo-Croatian”. This was far from an insignificant issue; the band had stirred up some of the most archetypal prejudices of the local cultural and artistic scene that was traditionally based on the exclusive use of the Slovenian language. Focusing on a broader cultural environment of Yugoslavia was considered just short of a treacherous act. But in addition to the ideology of brotherhood and unity, Yugoslavian rock music turned out to be the missing common point of identification for young people across Yugoslavia, which the official regime, try as it may, was incapable of building.

A. Milačić, Buldožer, Beograd, 1975

A. Milačić, Buldožer, Beograd, 1975

At the time, a common urban culture started to emerge, labelled the “seventh republic” and it was ultimately acknowledged by the regime. As a result, in the following fifteen years (until 1991) rock music thrived in every respect in Yugoslavia culture. Buldožer was the ringleader of this unstoppable upsurge. In 1974, a debut album was released by Bijelo dugme, a band whose music attracted a much bigger audience and who brought rock mixed with local folk music influences quite literally to every village. Buldožer were much more uncompromising and disregarding of the original and authentic rock, rock with its own inherent idea…”

There was no middle ground for the band; it either had loyal supporters or fervent opponents. For the latter, another considerable provocation was the band’s legendary performance at Mladina Magazine’s Golden M music awards ceremony in Kino Šiška in Ljubljana, of which only testimonies remain. In his thorough analysis of Buldožer, Darko Glavan gave a very detailed account of the incident, emphasising the astonishment of the audience witnessing an entirely deranged theatrical performance that consisted of an intentionally unsuccessful attempt at playing Dan ljubezni (A Day of Love), a parody of the popular schlager written by the band Pepel in kri (Ashes and Blood).
After the unanticipated success of the debut album, the band started working on a new one, which ultimately got recorded in Novi Sad in 1976, but because of disputes within the PGP RTB record label would not be released for another year. The second album marked significant changes in the band line-up (which was commonplace), and signalled the band becoming more homogenous. “In our first record, strong lyrics were at the centre and music was there to caricature them. Later, this became our sound, and words were often added later,” Činč described the group’s organic growth.

Igor Kordej & Mirko Ilić, Jeste li vidjeli djevojčice, 1979 (comic book after the Buldožer's song)

Igor Kordej & Mirko Ilić, Jeste li vidjeli djevojčice, 1979 (comic book after the Buldožer’s song)

This record could not escape the censors’ attention either. First there was the title: from the original Još jedna ploča što kvari našu djecu (Yet another record corrupting our children) which had to changed to Zabranjeno plakatirati (Fly-Posting Prohibited). In the song Ne brini, mama (Don’t Worry, Mother), the line “i odoh ja, u nirvanu” (and I’m off to nirvana) had to be changed into “i odoh ja, u kafanu” (and I’m off to the pub), as the original version was said to imply drug use. From the song Jeste li vidjeli djevojčice (Have You Seen The Little Girls), the line “ličnu kartu, molim” (ID, please) was removed, but eventually allowed back once the Helidon label bought the rights to the record. Then, Buldožer terminated their exclusive contract with PGP RTB.

Finally released in 1977, Zabranjeno plakatirati would later be considered by many critics as Buldožer’s most perfected album and the best Yugoslavian progressive rock record of all time, both in terms of its message and music. Conceptually, Buldožer validated and enhanced the ambition of their debut album, songs being evocative, humorous, critical, and rooted deeply in the spirit of the time and place. They spoke ironically of the vital importance of order and discipline, the desires and needs of young people, currency tourism, the stereotypes of the generation, and the corruptive influence of contemporary music.

Buldožer, Zabranjeno plakatirati, 1977 - album cover (designer Slavko Furlan)

Buldožer, Zabranjeno plakatirati, 1977 – album cover (designer Slavko Furlan)

Naturally, Buldožer could not be categorised as part of the idealist hippie scene; indeed its uniformity and naivety was mocked in many of their songs. Slovenian music critic Igor Vidmar went as far as labelling them a Yugoslavian offshoot of yippies; a politically active wing of a new rebellious generation of 1960s San Francisco. Even if Buldožer did not get directly politically involved, it managed to make lucid commentary on the self-evident contradiction of everyday life of society and to cut to the heart of the bourgeois moralism. In fact, Buldožer were the musical equivalent of the lively but often incoherent underground scene of Yugoslavian urban centres. In Ljubljana, for instance, Radio Študent (since 1969), Glej experimental theatre (since 1970) and ŠKUC, Student Cultural and Creative Centre (since 1972) became the driving forces behind alternative production. The band were also closely related to poets Ivan Volarič Feo and Blaž Ogorevc, painter Jože Slak Đoka, who designed the cover for their third record, and versatile artist Slavko Furlan.

 

To live and to see

Despite its deviant nature, the band was receiving invitations for collaborations from many fellow musicians and organisers, for instance for a tour with the group Bijelo dugme, which Buldožer declined. Rather than building a career with conventional approaches, they try to go into uncharted territory, so they accept the invitation of the team behind the film Živi bili pa vidjeli, to write and perform the film score.

Comprising of a number of of short songs, this soundtrack was the band’s third record, released in a limited run of 10,000 copies, which quickly sold out. Some critics condemned Buldožer for this surprising deviation. According Darko Glavan, “the band very likely gambled away their chance of any bigger commercial breakthrough, a soundtrack being highly unconventional by rock standards”. He was also critical of the album’s apparently poor sound mixing—Živi bili pa vidjeli was recorded in mono with Aco Razbornik‘s improvised equipment, in the band’s rehearsal space.

Buldožer, 1978 (photographer unknown)

Buldožer, 1978 (photographer unknown)

Buldožer appeared in the film – a story of a young idealist confronted with the realities of a corrupt, hopeless society – with a live version of the song Novo vrijeme (A New Time). For their debut film, young directors Bruno Gamulin and Milivoj Puhlovski received a best newcomer award at the Pula film festival, while Buldožer were awarded the Golden Arena for best film score. At the same time, they were writing material for their next record, Izlog jeftinih slatkiša (Shopwindow of Cheap Sweets), where they experimented with some more modern approaches and hinted at their future focus on new wave, which was increasingly popular with the younger generations.

Buldožer, Novo vrijeme, from the film Živi bili pa vidjeli, 1979

Then, the band had another transformation. Drummer Dušan Vran became a fully fledged member of the band, Davor Slamnig was invited to join as a new guitarist, and there was another, much more fatal reshuffle. In 1979, the band lost their man behind their lyrics, its co-composer, and first performer, Marko Brecelj. Throughout the 1970s, he had established himself as an enfant terrible of the Yugoslavian rock scene and a singer with an outstanding stage presence. As always, whenever a founding member and frontman leaves a band, questions and doubts about the band’s future had started to arise. But, to the surprise of many, the transition to a new phase was fairly smooth. Guitarist Bele took over as lead vocalist and the band had to adapt their compositions to the new situation. Still, Izlog jeftinih slatkiša (1980) was Buldožer’s biggest commercial success.

Vili Bertok (bass player) with Lenin statue, 1978 (photographer unknown)

Vili Bertok (bass player) with Lenin statue, 1978 (photographer unknown)

From that point on, the Buldožer-like identity and expression took two directions. Marko Brecelj continued as the duo Zlatni zubi together with Ivan Volarič Feo, playfully combining various disciplines: music, performance art, cabaret theatre, and poetry. Brecelj consciously and intentionally steered his career into alternative production and presentation modes. At a time when Buldožer grew into a truly big Yugoslavian band, Brecelj and Feo held concerts in unusual venues, for instance their tour playing to Slovenian high schools. This was both a creative and ideological break, resulting in two cultural phenomena where each took their own course, and successfully so. Marko Brecelj went on to write and release a number of influential albums and songs, while his performances and his work in music and civil society brought him the cult status of a lucid artist and a tireless activist.

After the split, Buldožer held a concert in Hala Tivoli on 4 November 1979, under the slogan Ljubljana je zaspana (The Sleepy Ljubljana), together with the then up-and-coming local bands (Pankrti, Jani Kovačič, Na lepem prijazni, Prljavo kazalište). The event had good reviews, and Buldožer were confident with their new line-up and new songs, the latter opening up, once again, new musical horizons and poking at the weak spots in Yugoslav society. Izlog jeftinih slatkiša was a very heterogeneous record; a mixture of styles and genres, musically it is both soft and hard, slow and fast, while maintaining a humorous, ironic reflection of reality in their lyrics.

Buldožer, Žene i muškarci, 1980 (studio RTV Ljubljana)

Despite their seeming commercial success, the band was facing a rather harsh reality, its members still leading a hand-to-mouth existence. “When we were touring, we could actually live off it and still had enough to buy equipment and a van. But when we were recording and went on without concerts for six months, a dry period came. In the long term, this music has no commercial potential. Later on, we all started to earn a living elsewhere and were not dependent on the band; had we been, we would have probably had to start making compromises,” Bele explained.
With popular bands, expectations grow, and there was no end to the questioning whether Buldožer could continue to remain relevant without Brecelj and with a new, somewhat different sound. In his review of a concert in Hala Tivoli in 1980, Igor Vidmar was doubtful “whether Buldožer still have what it takes to justify their status as an unconventional rock band which challenges the stereotypes of macho rock and combines these patterns with irony and other music and art genres.”

Vojko Flegar, Buldožer & photographer Tone Stojko, Tivoli, Ljubljana, 1980

Vojko Flegar, Buldožer & photographer Tone Stojko, Tivoli, Ljubljana, 1980

 

Rok en roul forever

If the audience is the measure of success, the third record marked the pinnacle of Buldožer’s. Despite retaining their onstage theatricality, they had undergone a transformation from the interdisciplinary group of their early days into a fairly conventional rock band that primarily makes and plays rock music. The EP Rok en roul (1981), where Buldožer showed their affinity for so called authentic rock‘n’roll, seemed to cement this further. Even if they did not always live up to high expectations of critics, who often looked back to their former performance fervour, this album attested, once again, to the relentlessness of their musical exploration.

Marjan Paternoster, Buldožer, 1982

Marjan Paternoster, Buldožer, 1982

In a similar way, the album Nevino srce (Innocent Heart) (1983) showcased the band’s significantly restyled sound and expression, while producing some big hits (Slovenija and Smrt Morisona Džima) that would become legendary, testifying to the band’s continued renown. According to Činč, “in the post-punk and new wave era, local critics most likely found Nevino srce too soft and too commercial”. Still, this was an album that, sound-wise, boldly transgressed the expected boundaries of rock while addressing the pressing global and local phenomena with no less humour or edge. Buldožer appeared and performed dressed in the military uniforms of an imaginary political regime, sarcastically commenting on the final stages of the Cold War.

Jure Jančič, Buldožer, 1983

Jure Jančič, Buldožer, 1983

Then, the band agreed to take a short break, which unexpectedly extended to a full decade. Bele explained the decision by saying all members of the band had started their own projects outside the band, and as they had also grown a little tired of the cyclical periods of writing music and performing, they needed a creative break. “We had been active for a full decade, and the time came for a change.” Throughout the second half of the 1980s, there was little news of Buldožer. In 1989, when their best-of album Nova vremena (New Times) was released on CD, they gave a studio performance on the Videonoč programme at National Radio and Television in Ljubljana, and then reappeared in 1991 for the release of a new song, Vojno lice (Army Officer).

The band remained dormant during the critical socio-political and economic shifts in Yugoslavia in the early 1990s which culminated in a bloody war and the total collapse of the (common) social, economic and cultural infrastructure. At the time, Buldožer were in the Tivoli studio, recording a new album and planning a comeback, but in an unfortunate turn of events the studio burned down together with all recordings, delaying the release by another two years. When in 1995 the album Noč (Night) was eventually released and the video for Vojno lice, the band’s first ever video, started being played on TV, Buldožer found the music scene had changed, completely. The once flourishing industry of popular and rock music, that had been a prominent feature of the common Yugoslavian context for a full fifteen years and paved the way for artists to access a sizeable market, had collapsed. In these changed circumstances, Buldožer as a Yugoslavian band was unable to continue to have a presence on the territory of Slovenia (and parts of Croatia) in a satisfactory, and successful way.

Buldožer, Vojno lice, 1995 (video

Music trends had also seen a radical change, and rock was no longer the dominant genre. “This was a time of discotheques, where organisers wanted us to do two sets or to start late at night. I have nothing against discotheques, but the climate changed completely,” Bele commented on the era. Činč added that “at that point, members of the band simply didn’t enjoy playing anymore, and as Buldožer never did anything they did not want to, they agreed to split up.” They had some sporadic appearances later on (Rock Otočec festival, 1998; Zlati petelin awards ceremony, 1999), and a comeback tour in 2006, promoting their CD box set with a complete collection of digitalised records.

 

Legacy

Like any artistic discipline, music is subject to the time and place that define its relevance. During their most active period, Buldožer left a profound mark on the entire Yugoslavian music scene of the 1970s and 1980s, amid two decades of changing socio-political situations and before the emergence of the civil society movements that incited the collapse of its social and economic systems. In fact, this change could have been predicted in the band’s actions, but even more so in the responses it generated. The irony of their lyrics easily remains relevant today when, following the fall of the Iron Curtain, there is no sign of a brave new world, at least for the majority. The hypocrisy of the petty bourgeoisie and the new elite, the fatuousness of the celebrity world, the shallowness of the public discourse, and economic hopelessness are all still there. What has changed, dramatically, are the artistic and music scenes, especially in terms of their influence on society.

Today, there are many more artists who turn a critical eye on society, both nationally and globally, than there were forty years ago. And in theory at least, conditions for them have improved substantially. Still, unconventional and rebellious musicians are largely forced to remain underground where their reach and social influence are very limited. This is not just because of the abundance of choice, but also because of the dictate of the industry of taste, which, more than ever before, controls and steers music trends into uncritical and clichéd directions of blind consumerism.

Cover of the book: Fly-Posting Prohibited, designer Jure Legac, 2015

Cover of the book: Fly-Posting Prohibited, designer Jure Legac, 2015

Buldožer deserve credit for helping bridge the wide gap between high art and popular (alternative) culture, introducing an interdisciplinary approach to music, and breaking apart the stereotypes of macho rock iconography. Last but not least, in Yugoslavia they were the first influential counterculture music group that made, with a great deal of self-irony, social criticism part of their expression. Their legacy reaches far beyond music history into the worlds of visual culture, film, and performing arts. Their record sleeves, posters, staged photography, film appearance, theatrical onstage performances, and TV appearances defined the band just as much as its music did

 

© Miha Colner, 5 May 2015

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