Red Elvises

The Red Elvises (also known as Igor and the Red Elvises; or Красные Элвисы, in its less-frequent Russian form) is a Russian-American band that plays an eclectic mixture of rockabilly, reggae, folk, disco, funk, surf rock, and traditional Russian music. The band is based out of Los Angeles, but has had successful tours in Ukraine and Russia as well.

The Red Elvises was founded in 1995 by Igor Yuzov (Игорь Юзов) and Oleg Bernov (Олег Бернов), two Russians living in Los Angeles. The two met at a peace walk, and soon started a Russian folk-rock band called Limpopo. This band also consisted of another Russian émigré, Zhenya Kolykhanov (Женя Колыханов), and an American named Avi Sills. The quartet got their start playing outside, on the Santa Monica Third Street Promenade.

The Red Elvises grew out of this project, initially self-recording and producing their own albums. In 1996 they self-released their first album, Grooving to the Moscow Beat, followed up the following year by Surfing in Siberia. Their breakout album, I Wanna See You Bellydance, came out in 1998 and was featured on the soundtrack of Lance Mungia’s independent film Six-String Samurai, in which several of the Elvises also played minor roles.

Mungia helped The Red Elvises produce two music videos, for “Lovepipe” and “Boogie on the Beach,” as well as a full-length concert video. 1998 marked the beginning of a number of cameo appearances in television shows, as well. The group appeared on the November 9, 1998, episode of Melrose Place, and later played a song on Penn & Teller’s Sin City Spectacular, accompanied by the show’s dancers. In 1999 the band released two more albums, Better Than Sex and Russian Bellydance, as well as a Russian-language version of I Wanna See You Bellydance (Танец Живота).

In 2001 The Red Elvises did their first tour of Russia, and recorded a new album titled Rokenrol (Рокренрол), entirely in Russian. They continued to tour and recorded actively through the early 2000s. In 2009, however, the band took a “friendly hiatus” after Bernov left the band to (literally) join a circus—a traveling Russian group known as Slava’s Snowshow, in which Bernov plays a clown.

After Bernov’s departure from the group, they changed their name to Igor and the Red Elvises, under which moniker they play today. The first studio album under this name was the 2014 Bacon. Bernov returned to the Red Elvises briefly, then departed for good to play in the Austin, Texas, group Flying Balalaika Brothers alongside Zhenya Kolykhanov (Женя Колыханов).

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Here is The Red Elvises with their early single “I Wanna See You Bellydance”:

 

Lyrics for “I Wanna See You Bellydance”:

She says hello from Istanbul,
She made some dough in Istanbul,
There ain’t no snow in Istanbul,

And everybody’s having fun.

The boys are cool in Istanbul,
There’s lots of wool in Istanbul,
I wish I was in Istanbul,

With people grooving in the sun.

I wanna see you bellydance!

 

 

Here is a live performance of “Love Rocket”:

 

Lyrics for “Love Rocket”:

I got a condom in my pocket, I ‘m gonna meet me pretty girl,
I got a condom in my pocket, I ‘m gonna meet me pretty girl,
I’m a hoochie-koochie papa, I’m in love with the whole World.

We’re gonna rock this joint,
We’re gonna roll this joint,
We’re gonna rock this joint,
We’re gonna roll this joint,
We’re gonna smoke this joint,
Until we sound like Pink Floyd.

I’m a love rocket baby, and I’m ready to take off,
Yes I’m love rocket baby, and I’m ready to take off,
I’m a happy father-mocker, I got a bottle of Smirnoff.

We’re gonna rock this joint,
We’re gonna roll this joint,
We’re gonna rock this joint,
We’re gonna roll this joint,
We’re gonna smoke this joint,
Until we sound like Pink Floyd.

 

And one of their Russian-language songs, “You Can’t Buy Love” (“Любовь нельзя купить”):

 

Lyrics for “Любовь нельзя купить”:

Я сошёл на Таганке
В окнах гаснут огни
Я спросил у цыганки
В чём секреты любви

Любовь нельзя купить
Любовь нельзя продать
Любовь нельзя пропить
В любовь нельзя сыграть

Пиво пью в Амстердаме
Веселюсь от души
Жизнь проходит в угаре
И в дыму анаши

Я целуюсь со шлюхой
По пути в туалет
Я плачу за любовь
А любви у ней нет
А любви у ней нет
Нет нет нет

Любовь нельзя купить
Любовь нельзя продать
Любовь нельзя пропить
В любовь нельзя сыграть

(соло)

Любовь нельзя купить
Любовь нельзя продать
Любовь нельзя пропить
В любовь нельзя сыграть

Любовь нельзя купить
(О! Ё! Ё! Ё!)
Любовь нельзя продать
(О! Ё! Ё! Ё!)
Любовь нельзя пропить
(О! Ё! Ё! Ё!)
В любовь нельзя сыграть
(О! Ё! Ё! Ё!)

 

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Zach Hicks is a PhD student in Comparative Literature at the University of Oregon. He is currently participating in SRAS’s Home and Abroad scholarship program. His main areas of interest are twentieth-century Russian and Soviet literature, socialist modernism, and critical theory. Outside of academics his major interests are martial arts, the outdoors, and music. In Russia, he plans to continue to increase his language proficiency, to learn as much as possible about the Russian underground music scene, its tattoo culture, and to become a student of Russia’s native martial art, SAMBO.