What It Was Like Running a Soviet-Era Record Store?

FACT has a fun story on Alex Alekperov, the one-time proprietor of a record store in Baku, Azerbaijan, back in the days when it was a Soviet republic. What was that like?

When I was in fourth grade, I was searching the radio and socializing with kids who were interested in western music.

I was listening to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Elvis and Bill Haley – that was the starting point, which I found through the radio and black market records and tapes. At that time Iran was under the Shah, not the Islamists, so we were listening to all the western music being broadcast in Iran. We had a piano and my parents wanted me to have a musical education. My first teacher was an accordion teacher who I didn’t like.

I had already fallen in love with western rock, and when the teacher wouldn’t give me that stuff, I started teaching myself blues and rock and roll on piano. In 1968 I made my first electric guitar. You couldn’t buy an electric guitar then, so I got a piece of wood, cut it into a body, attached an acoustic guitar neck to it, and grabbed the pickups from telephone lines. So that was my first guitar I could play with an amp.

I came back to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, from the military in 1974, and was assigned to a sports store. The big director of that store saw in my resume that I was a musician and that I’d been playing in the military band in Moscow. They were opening a record store and asked me if I would like to take over. Of course I agreed, because I didn’t like dealing with school supplies – that was my department. So around 1976 I opened my first record store. After developing it successfully in the eyes of the city, they decided to assign me to the special record store under the Culture Ministry, not the Trade Ministry. It was an honor. We opened the store in 1979 – it was on TV!

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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