‘Sputnik’ Does Not Mean ‘Urinal’ In Russian

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That’s something AC/DC frontman Brian Johnson was not aware of during a 1991 visit to Moscow. It was a time of transformation in a nation that was once considered an enemy of the United States, and was even referred to as an “evil empire” by President Ronald Reagan in 1983 as the decades-long cold war between the two superpowers continued.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin had just emerged victorious following an attempted coup staged by some of the old school Communists and had promised his young supporters a rock concert to show his appreciation for their support. When asked by Yeltsin what his young supporters wanted, they responded by telling him that they wanted rock and Sputnik-1 roll – specifically AC/DC.

Being the accommodating blokes that they obviously are, AC/DC performed to an audience of about a million fans in the Russian capitol. Unfortunately, the event did not end on an up note due to an incident that was born of an innocent need to answer a call from nature.

As Johnson puts it: “It was getting dark then and I was bursting for a pee. I went outside and there was this concrete plinth and I’m standing there going (urinating). And there were these two guards who were really upset. Then the translator came out (to explain) – I had just pissed on a Sputnik! It was just this black ball, I didn’t realize what it was.”

Sputnik, of course, is a legend in the world of space exploration. “Sputnik-1” was the very first artificial satellite launched into orbit by the Soviet Union in 1957. A startling and worrisome development for the United States at the time, the event marked the beginnings of the Space Race, a competition culminated by the NASA moon landing in 1969.

Although it’s not entirely clear which satellite Johnson defiled, it most certainly was not the legendary “Sputnik-1,” which burned up in the Earth’s atmosphere during re-entry on January 4th, 1958. Perhaps it was just a replica that Johnson chose as his target that evening, but I suspect his mistake still may have been responsible for damaging Russian-AC/DC relations at the time.

Contact Music has more on this historic event.

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