Yugoslavia finally won the Eurovision! But why? If you believe the conspiracy theories, the fact that Yugoslavia won the Eurovision—a politically and ideologically motivated event—just before its collapse, at a time when the country was in a shambles economically, socially, politically and interethnically, there’s some hidden meaning . . .
Even so, the winning song “Rock Me Baby” was not as popular as the following year’s entry, “Let’s Go Crazy” by Tajči. But it was enough to secure our victory and for national joy to erupt in the midst of difficult times.
I wasn’t interested in the Eurovision. Though, like everyone, I still watched it. But there was always something about the gaudy colors and lights and the shallow song lyrics that stuck in my mind like a mantra that turned me off. In contrast, “Epic” by Faith No More appealed to me from the first time I heard it.
Who can forget that scene in the music video with the all-seeing eye in the middle of the hand shooting out blood? What was that for? Nobody knows. But the eye is there, and it sees and knows more than us. Faith No More would eventually come to be known as pioneers of rap-metal. By temporarily uniting these two genres, it made me feel less self-conscious of the fact that sometimes I really liked rap.
The unforgettable riff ripped through my ears and I stared at the scenes of a dying fish and an exploding piano with wide-eyed amazement. At the same time, the words rang inside my head: “What is it? It’s it. What is it . . .?” The question remained unanswered as random music videos came on the screen with the famous logo in the corner.
MTV was still a channel that played just music videos, and the most shocking program it showed was Headbangers Ball. Everything that was loud, controversial or outrageous to older people was shown on that show. But then in the 90s, when eccentricity became mainstream, the show lost its edge, and the alternative scene entered everyday life. However, we still weren’t ready for that.
We started going to discos. I didn’t know what to do there besides just sit in a corner and watch. I didn’t like the music they played. It was some sort of funk-rap. The vision of the future at that time was robots moving to a breakdance beat. Our group of friends became obsessed with dancing to prearranged steps and it all just looked fake to me.
I was sitting with arms folded next to Jasmina—my first crush as far as I can recall—and drinking Coke, when the thought hit me that I had to do something. I leaned back and stretched, and, as if by accident, put my hand on her arm. A surprise awaited me. My hand brushed against someone else’s hand. I turned around and saw that Skip was trying to do the same thing as me. We locked eyes for a moment and quickly pulled our hands away. Jasmina ended up without a date, and the disco went wild to the robotic rap of Grandmaster Flash.
The realization that I had a crush on the same girl as my friend, who I considered the leader of our group, the key decision maker, the one who was always in the right, really messed with my head. After that, I tried to keep away from her, tried hard not to stare at her black eyes, which was difficult because I was constantly out on the street—the first one out, the last one in.
There was something poetic about the fact that she was the last person I saw from our group of friends as I was getting into my dad’s car with my skateboard.
“You’ll have to go live with your mom for a while,” said my dad, after coming to blows with my grandfather, who then stormed off to the War Veterans’ Club. “Until I find us a new place to live. I’ll pack your clothes, you pack a couple of your favorite things, I don’t know, a toy or something . . .”
It was all so confusing. I loved my grandfather, but I had to obey my dad. I took the first thing I laid my eyes on in my room—my skateboard. “I’ll be back here soon enough, anyway,” I thought to myself, not knowing that what I was holding in my hand was a one-way ticket. Because after my departure the war would begin, my father would flee to another country and start a new family before we would ever saw each other again.
Jasmina was outside, playing tennis. She turned around and waved at me. After that her face, along with the image of my city, disappeared forever in the rear window of the car. Fade out. The end.
The 90s were in sight, a new decade was upon us. However, it held no hope for a better future. Black clouds gathered over our heads, a prelude to leaden rain, explosive thunderstorms, and children’s screams deep in the night. I was saved from the storm, but some of my friends weren’t so lucky.
That decade was the most exciting in my life, but at the same time the loneliest. The feeling of guilt that I had left behind my friends would not let go of me. All the music in the world couldn’t change that.
Excerpt from the book “3 Minutes and 53 Seconds” (Goten, 2015)
Translated by Paul Filev
Copyright © Branko Prlja, 2015