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Bijelo Dugme

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Honorary Collaborator
3 stars BIJELO DUGME (The White Button) was the most popular and most commercial rock'n'roll band in the history of the music scene of the former Yugoslavia that helped establish rock music as a serious show-business. In a way, they did to Yugoslav popular music scene what THE BEATLES and THE ROLLING STONES did together in the Western rock world: providing both mass popularity and hysteria reminiscent of the Beatlemania (locally dubbed "Dugmemanija"), and the first true rock stardom depicting rock musicians as naughty wild boys capable to do anything they like on the Stones model. More than that, they offered to the domestic audience a genuine local version of rock music, blending it with Balkan folklore themes.

This is their debut album ("If I Were A White Button") that was recorded and released in late 1974. The opening sounds of sheep (3 years before the FLOYD's "Animals"!) and shepherd's singing along with lyrics exploring the erotic stories of the rural hinterland of the Dynaride mountains immediately attracted attention of music journalists who labeled this style of music "pastirski rok" ("shepherds rock"). Although DUGME were not the first rock band in Yugoslavia who used folk and ethnic elements in the rock song format, they were usually blamed to have degraded the alleged urban "art" rock sensitivity and traded it with cheap, kitsch/thrash rural or suburban folk scene that was to reach its peak in the late 1980s with so-called "turbo-folk" or pop folk garbage mass-sellers. But let's leave that for some other topics...

Musically speaking, this album is not very cohesive effort. It sounds a bit dated today but keeping in mind the time and place of its release, it must be recommended. Technically speaking, this is one of the first professionally recorded, produced and mixed rock albums in Yugoslavia. Vladimir Mihaljek (former TIME manager) did a good job as producer, while "Akademik" studio in Ljubljana with 16-channels mixer provided top-notch technical conditions.

Basic rock'n'roll and boogie format with powerful guitar riffs, strong rhythm sections and soulful Bebek's vocals were married with folksy "pastirski rok" lyrics, providing catchy and danceable songs like "Ne spavaj mala moja muzika dok svira" ("Don't Sleep My Darling While The Music Is Playing" - its Chuck Berry-borrowed chords from "Rock'n'Roll Music" launched an instant hit!), "Sve cu da ti dam samo da zaigram" ("I'll Give You Anything For a Dance") and the weakest moment on the album, an obvious filler "Patim evo deset dana" ("I've Been Suffering Ten Days").

Other three tracks are however worthwhile contribution to the prog rock, especially to its "heavy" side. "Blues za moju bivsu dragu" ("My ex-Darling's Blues") is a very good blues rock modeled on the LED ZEPPELIN's "Since I've Been Loving You" style, with excellent Bebek's singing, Bregovic's guitar soloing and Pravdic's Hammond. "Selma" is a notable Hammond organ-laden prog ballad and the only track where the lyricist is not Goran Bregovic. Finally, the opening title track is a powerful heavy progressive composition with changes in structure and rhythms, displaying full prog rock capabilities of the band, which alas they were to employ rather sparsely throughout their career. This song was first released as 7" single under the band name JUTRO (not to be confused with Ljubljana's band of the same name). After the founder of JUTRO, Ismet Arnautalic (ex-INDEXI) left the group he banned the use of the name. Since the Bregovic-led line-up were already known for this song, they decided to adopt the name BIJELO DUGME on the New Year's Day 1974.

The album was also notable for its cover image of a girl's breasts with a blue jeans shirt equipped with a "white button" badge. Graphic designer Dragan S. Stefanovic was to continue working for the future BIJELO DUGME album designs, while this one was allegedly included in a UK catalogue of 500 most beautiful rock covers, although I personally have not yet checked this info!

Another curiosity surrounding this release has almost a myth-like proportion and it again astonishingly resembles THE BEATLES case of denial by a major music company. Six months prior to recording an album, DUGME wanted to sign a record contract with their hometown Diskoton label in Sarajevo in order to release a few singles. The manager turned them down explaining "not now, guys, but please come to see me again in six months..." Bregovic allegedly replied "in six months we will be the stars..." And he was no wrong. They were signed for Zagreb's Jugoton label.


P.A. RATING: 3/5

Report this review (#141227)
Posted Sunday, September 30, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Left wanting more, and not just from the cover. Kad bi' bio bijelo dugme and Selma are the highlights here, they are accompanied by three decent rock songs, and an abysmal cover of the song Rock 'n' Roll Music; which isn't a very good song to begin with (not one of Chuck Berry's best to be sure). What lifted the first two songs mentioned above the rest of the album was the excellent organ work. The reason I opened with "left wanting more" is actually because the organ play on this album was so extremely satisfying that the songs forgoing heavy organ influence dissappointed and deflated. I fear this album falls closer to standard rock and, but for a few tracks, will leave the progheads hunger unfed. Good rock, non-essential prog.
Report this review (#189330)
Posted Friday, November 14, 2008 | Review Permalink

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