Roland and Nina’s DECADES IN MUSIC: 1974 – BIJELO DUGME – Kad bi’ bio bijelo dugme

Review by: Roland Bruynesteyn
Album assigned by: Nina A


This is a group from Sarajewo, at the time Yugoslavia, at the moment Bosnia and Herzegovina. The cover has later been used by Ween for Chocolate and Cheese, although the music is totally different. The title of the album includes the name of the group and apparently means something like “Like the white button”, which is indeed featured on the cover. So much for the irrelevant background info, on to the music.
The intro features birds, a One of these days-type bass line and a nice sounding organ that has a very prominent role. I may be an arrogant western capitalist, and I may underestimate the international contacts Yugoslavia had at the time (mainly due to tourism and international sports events, I gather), but the music sounds totally up to date and international, for the time. As stated everywhere, including in the few English comments on the youtube page, it’s heavily influenced by, or quite similar to Deep Purple or Led Zeppelin, but wait, there is more! I also detect a slight glam rock influence, it’s less dark and the singer has found his own voice.
They only start singing around the 9th minute. After 10 minutes a new song starts and this is more a slow blues, generically so, featuring more guitar and less organ. The singer sings his lungs out and does a good job. Somehow it sounds a little tongue in cheek (like Blue Öyster Cult of that time), but then I do not understand anything of the lyrics so this is highly speculative. I like it though.
Close to the 17 minute mark a new song starts (Ne spavaj mala moja muzika dok svira says Soundhound on my phone), which is a joyful cover of a traditional (Chuck Berry?) song I don’t remember right now. They do it justice.
19 minutes in, a new song. Up tempo, and the organ is joining in. This is the most glammy track so far but it also has some proggy touches. Well, almost, as it’s quite short.
23 minutes in, new song. A bit more folky and Mediterranean. We have definitely left Deep Purple territory here. In fact, here the voice gets somewhat theatrical. It could be about a girl called Selma, for all I know, and I think the affair did not end well. This is one of those tracks that you‘ll never buy an album for, but which is nice to have as a guilty pleasure. Imagine being 16 in 1974 and dancing with your girlfriend or boyfriend at a party. Very important and meaningful at that age…
29 minutes in, new song, a harmonica! This song again has this propulsing rhythm that really pushes the song forward. Solo guitar here is nothing special, and somewhat low in the mix (as if they know it), but the folky a cappella section still gives it something special. Not a good song to end the album with however.
Verdict: Not as eastern European as I would think (no gypsy influence, or Greek or Turkish or Russian or anything). It doesn’t surpass anything made elsewhere at the time (by ‘elsewhere’, this simpleton basically means America and Europe), but there is nothing to be ashamed about either. The album is quite varied, played energetically and with gusto, a pleasant surprise!