While Gorky Park's fame in the United States was short-lived, they are an important band historically because their success is deeply rooted in the events that took place during the final years of the Cold War. In 1980 the conservative Chrnenko came to power in the U.S.S.R. Tensions between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. intensified when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan and the U.S. boycotted the 1980 Olympics in Moscow. In 1981 Reagan took office and began a massive military buildup. In an attempt to thwart the increasing presence of American culture that crept in through a thriving black market and the CIA's radio broadcast, Chrnenko placed a ban on playing and listening to rock & roll. He stated that "Rock music, along with other elements of Western culture, is part of an arsenal of subversive weapons aimed at undermining the commitment of young Russians to Communist ideology." Just like the U.S. in the 1950s, the condemnation of rock & roll by politicians actually helped spur the music's popularity. It was during this time that members of Gorky Park began playing in various Moscow-based rock bands.
When Mikhail Gorbachev came to power many of the restrictions placed on music by the previous administration were lifted. The institution of the glasnost and perestroika programs helped Moscow's underground rock scene thrive. In 1987 guitarist Alexie Belov, vocalist Nikolai Noskov, bassist "Big" Sasha Minkov, guitarist Jan Ianenkov, and drummer Sasha Lvov came together to form Gorky Park. Because of the decrease in travel restrictions, later that year the band was able to leave Russia for America in search of a record deal. At the time this appeared to be a ridiculous quest since the idea of Russian rock to many was still a contradiction in terms.
In the U.S. the band quickly made some strong connections in the music business. One of the first people to take notice was guitar legend Frank Zappa. Eventually the group fell under the watchful eyes of Jon Bon Jovi and Ritchie Sambora, who helped them secure a deal with Mercury Records.
The band released a self-titled debut album in 1989 and history appeared to be on their side. That was the year the Iron Curtain began collapsing culminating with the fall of the Berlin Wall in November. With a new sense of goodwill between east and west Gorky Park came to be a rather strange symbol of American-Russian unity. The band's first video, "Bang," received heavy MTV rotation. Their next two singles, "Try to Find Me" and a collaboration with Bon Jovi, "Peace in Our Time," received heavy rotation on mainstream radio. The group landed a spot on that year's infamous Moscow Music Peace Festival alongside industry giants Bon Jovi, Mötley Crüe, Ozzy Osbourne, and the Scorpions. The band continued their success into 1990 touring with Bon Jovi and performing at the Goodwill Games opening ceremony.
With changing musical tastes and the final end of the Cold War, the group's fame in America subsided rather quickly. However, they were immortalized on an episode of Saturday Night Live's skit "Wayne's World." The band ended up on Wayne and Garth's list of the top ten bad things about the fall of the Soviet Union. The duo claimed with the collapse there would be "No more cheesy behind-the-iron-curtain metal bands like Gorky Park."
Although not popular in the U.S., the band continued its success in the rest of the world. Nikolai Noskov left the band in 1990 but the group remained together and released numerous albums in the '90s. 1993's Moscow Calling sold 500,000 copies outside the U.S. Their next album, Stare, came out in 1996, released only in Russia, followed up by a massive tour of the former U.S.S.R. states. In 1998 the band released Protivofazza. While still popular in Russia the group will always be known to Americans (who remember them) as the first Russian glam rock band to wind up on MTV. ~ Curtis Zimmermann