Rockers Recount Meetings With Medvedev

MTJoe Lynn Turner
While campaigning recently in the Urals, first deputy prime minister and presidential front-runner Dmitry Medvedev discussed his affinity for exercise, the value of reading books and, more interestingly, his love for rock music

Medvedev, a renowned heavy metal fan, said he still listens to rock music occasionally. But while some voters may have assumed that he was talking about his vinyl record collection, Medvedev may have been referring to a secret private concert he attended last year.

A former member of Deep Purple, one of Medvedev's favorite bands, and one of the world's best rock guitarists were flown into Moscow in June to play a concert for Medvedev and other government officials celebrating Russia Day.

"The next president was there," Joe Lynn Turner, a former singer for Deep Purple and the rock group Rainbow, said in a telephone interview from New York last month.

Turner was flown in from Japan for the concert, where he was joined by Yngwie Malmsteen, the Swedish rock guitarist famous for his neoclassical rock-guitar compositions and for appearing in the Xbox game Guitar Hero II.

Turner, who has been traveling to Russia since the late 1980s and has seen much of what the rock world has to offer, was taken back by the access and the luxury he was afforded on his trip.

"I am breaking bread with people who are in [President Vladimir] Putin's Cabinet who are very high up," Turner said. "Rock-and-roll and politics are finally really coming together."

He said he was paid "very well" to fly over for the concert for around 75 people in a restaurant somewhere in central Moscow -- he could not remember the name.

Put up in the Baltchug Kempinski Hotel, Turner and Malmsteen played a three-hour set, despite the fact that the two musicians -- who have collaborated on several albums -- have had a mild falling-out.

Turner, who will tour Russia in February, said his audience didn't want to hear his new songs, but rather the old hits from Deep Purple and Rainbow.

"I haven't done any of this stuff for 17 years, so I had to go to the Internet to get the lyrics," he said.

Apart from his fee for the gig, Turner was presented with a Breguet watch, he said.

"I was completely overwhelmed and humbled by the whole thing," Turner said. "There were tears in my eyes. It was total emotion. Everyone was so kind, so overwhelmingly generous."

Breguet watches sell for between 12,000 euros and 700,000 euros in Moscow.

"It was a very upscale crowd," said Turner, who said he was told that there were many people from the oil sector in the audience as well. "There were as many security guards as people."

Some guests came up and started singing -- some badly, Turner said.

Medvedev also approached the musician, and while he did not sing, he did talk about how he listened to Deep Purple in his youth, Turner said.

Turner said he was tipped off by others that Medvedev was likely to succeed Putin.

The concert went well, and Turner, 41, apparently touched a middle-aged nerve: After the concert, a beautiful woman came up to him in tears.

"This woman is dripping in diamonds in this beautiful evening dress, and her make up is running with the crying," he said.

One Internet report quoted Turner as saying the party was in honor of then-Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov's birthday. One of the concert's organizers, however, denied that Fradkov was present.

"Fradkov was not there," said Anna Zaitseva, a producer with the U.S. company Platinum Rye. She refused to say who was in attendance and who footed the bill.

Spokespeople for Medvedev, who is also the chairman of energy giant Gazprom, could not be reached for comment.

Turner said he did not know who paid for the concert and declined to say exactly how much he made. "Just say, very well," he said, adding that he didn't want to encourage any speculation about wasted government funds. "I was not underpaid, and the presents and treatment far exceeded my expectation."

A few months after Turner's concert, President Vladimir Putin and scores of former KGB and current Federal Security Service officers watched the German rock band the Scorpions perform for Security Services Day, commemorating the 90th anniversary of the Bolshevik founding of the secret police.

The band, whose rock ballad "Wind of Change" is inseparable in the popular consciousness from the collapse of the Communist bloc, said it did not know it was performing for a security services holiday.

If the Scorpions don't want to play the same gig next year, Turner said he's ready.

"I'd have no compunction," he said, adding that he knew good KGB agents when he toured the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

It remains unclear whether any Deep Purple elements will turn up for Medvedev's likely inauguration. Or at least for the private afterparty.