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Music / Leningrad Cowboys

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Everybody rooooock.
"Sure, all American boys! Only their name is Leningrad Cowboys. Да—I mean, yes."
Vladimir, band manager, Leningrad Cowboys Go America

The Leningrad Cowboys are a novelty classic rock / oompah band from Finland, who famously appeared in Aki Kaurismäki's Leningrad Cowboys Go America playing themselves on a disastrous This is Spın̈al Tap style tour of America after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The Leningrad Cowboys is noted "for its humorous songs, ludicrous hairstyles and concerts featuring the Russian military band Alexandrov ensemble". In the film, we find out that their dog has the same haircut.

They also produced a concert film in 1993, Total Balalaika Show.

Contains examples of:

  • The Alleged Car: The black Cadillac limo bought for a few hundred dollars in Leningrad Cowboys Go America. Despite it being a stretch limo and one of their own lying frozen in a wooden crate that's tied on the roof, the Leningrad Cowboys fail to fit everyone into the car. Solution: They toss two old armchairs into the trunk. It ends up having its engine stolen.
  • Americans Are Cowboys: The "cowboys" in their name refers to the fact that they play American rock and roll.
  • Audience Participation Song: Used to be inverted with "Kasakka" which the audience sang before the band began to play along.
  • The Backwards Я: Lɘиiиɢяad Cowʙoys and similar wacky pseudo-Cyrillic spellings.
    • Taken to the extreme by the covers of Happy Together and the Total Balalaika Show video: These mimick a Pravda issue with all text except "Pravda" itself written in a pseudo-Cyrillic font (actually partly Latin, partly Cyrillic, partly Greek).
  • Ballad of X: "The Ballad of the Leningrad Cowboy" from the movie and the accompanying soundtrack. It is an actual ballad, a country ballad, to be more precise. And In-Universe, it is so bad that the club at which the Cowboys play it is for sale immediately afterwards.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • After the rehearsal scene in the film, Vladimir tries to sell the Cowboys to an American concert agency as an American band.
    • At their earlier concerts, the Cowboys tried to convince their audience that they're Americansnote .
    • And that "Katyusha" or "Kalinka" is rock & roll.
  • Brooklyn Rage: Lampshaded in Leningrad Cowboys Go America.
    "I wonder when the violence starts. You always get murdered when you come to New York. I've seen it on television."
  • Character Action Title: Go America.
  • Commie Land: Played with. Just look at the covers of "We Cum From Brooklyn" (which looks like a Soviet medal) and "Happy Together" (which looks like a Pravda issue).
  • Cool Shades: Part of the standard Leningrad Cowboys outfit for the first few albums.
  • Cover Album: Happy Together, an album consisting entirely of various popular songs performed together with the Alexandrov Red Army Ensemble. That's right, the Worst Rock & Roll Band in the World and a 120-piece orchestra and choir from what was the Soviet Union the year before play stuff like "Stairway To Heaven".
  • Cover Version: Their wacky covers of famous songs, often In the Style of something entirely different, is where they really shine.
  • Elvis Impersonator: Singer Mato Valtonen did that around the time when Live In Prowinzz was recorded. His suit was adorned with a hubcap as a belt buckle.
  • Faux Cyrillic: The covers of the Alexandrov Red Army Ensemble collaborations, Happy Together and the Total Balalaika Show video, with their Pravda-style covers. Some of the letters aren't even Cyrillic: The n is actually a mirrored n and not a Cyrillic i, the k is mirrored, the w is an upside-down m, the b is a German sharp s, the o is a Greek phi and so forth.
    Lɛиiиɢяad Cϕɯßϕys
  • Faux Death/Human Popsicle: Pekka Virtanen, bass guitarist and co-writer of the original song material in Leningrad Cowboys Go America, spends most of the film frozen after having rehearsed half the night out in the cold of the tundra. He is hauled about in a wooden crate roughly resembling a coffin with four holes for the hairdo, the shoes, and the bass stuck in his hand, which is filled with ice cubes to keep him from thawing and eventually rotting. At the end, he is reanimated with a swig of either vodka or tequila, so he has never been dead in the first place.
  • Intentional Engrish for Funny: "Thank you very many!"
    "Thank you very many... lots!"
  • In the Style of: Oh, how the Leningrad Cowboys love to do this. "Proud Mary" A Cappella, "Those Were The Days" as hard rock, "Gimme All Your Lovin'" as a polka (together with the Alexandrov Red Army Ensemble no less), "Bad" as bebop, "Rebel Yell" as ska, and the end credits of Leningrad Cowboys Go America are accompanied by the Finnish polka tune "Säkkijärven Polkka" — as a mambo.
  • Knows a Guy Who Knows a Guy: In a documentary about Helsinki, they mention how they managed to get in touch with the Alexandrov Red Army Ensemble (who eventually joined them on the album Happy Together, the Total Balalaika Show and several later occasions): They knew someone who knew someone who knew someone who knew someone (repeat another few times) who knew the Ensemble's phone number.
  • A Little Something We Call "Rock and Roll":
    • Inverted in Leningrad Cowboys Go America. It's the main characters, the Leningrad Cowboys themselves, who know nothing about rock and roll—or any Western music for that matter—when they come to America.
      "Your music will go over big down there. Here we have somethin' different. It's called rock and roll."
    • Used to be parodied by the Leningrad Cowboys themselves at their concerts. They announced to play some music known as rock and roll, and the song was even claimed to have been #1 in America for seven years. And then they played something like "Katyusha" or "Kalinka".
  • Mood Whiplash: When they covered "Eloise" by Barry Ryan live and came to the slow and moody part in the middle, they would sometimes sing the campy German Volksmusik tune "Herzilein" by the Wildecker Herzbuben in its place.
  • The Movie: Subverted as Leningrad Cowboys Go America came before anything else. In fact, the band itself was created for the movie.
  • National Anthem: Yes, they mess with these as well.
    • The live version of "Sally Is Something Else" on Live In Prowinzz has the Finnish national anthem as a prolonged outro.
    • Their polka cover of ZZ Top's "Gimme All Your Lovin'" weaves a snippet of the Russian national anthem into the chorus.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Played for laughs in the early days. As already mentioned, the Cowboys are Finns who pretended to be Russians who pretended to be Americans. To take this to even more ridiculous levels, they faked Russian accents.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping:
    • No matter how many layers of fake nationalities the Cowboys have piled up, complete with faking the respective accent, one could always hear that they're Finns.
    • In the film, the band manager Vladimir accidentally lets some of his native Russian slip while trying to convince to the American concert agent that his band is all-American.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • "I'm Not An A***e". You don't have to guess hard to find out what the asterisks "censor" on the cover of Mongolian Barbecue.
    • Also, the reaction of a spectator at the Club Zhivago in the film:
      "What a load o' shit!"
  • Revolving Door Band: The Cowboys have an ever-changing lineup. As of 2022, only one member from the original 1989 lineup still performs.
  • Ruritania: Finland is pretty much the opposite of Ruritania in Real Life...
  • Signature Team Transport:
    "Other bands ride limousines, we drive tractors."
    • In the films, they prefer older Cadillac limousines that they pick up for cheap. They do need a lot of seats, and crossing North America with tractors is not feasible, not to mention beyond their constantly tight budget.
  • So Bad, It's Good: According to their early self-description, they are (or at least were) "the worst rock & roll band in the world", and they played that part pretty well on stage. At the same time, they were celebrated by their fans.
    • Within the movie canon, they're horrible. Best example: They drive the Club Zhivago into closure just by playing one gig there, possibly even only one song.

Thank you very many!

Alternative Title(s): Leningrad Cowboys Go America