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How the Beatles Rocked the Kremlin

Despite being banned, the Beatles still managed to infiltrate the Iron Curtain and influence a whole generation.

Published: June 11, 2013 (Issue # 1763)



  • 'How the Beatles Rocked the Kremlin' credits the Beatles with bringing down the Iron Curtain.
    Photo: Bloomsbury

How The Beatles Rocked the Kremlin: The Untold Story of a Noisy Revolution, rockets the reader back to the stagnant times of the Brezhnev era, when the Beatles music was illegal in the Soviet Union, yet bootleg recordings of Paul, George, John and Ringo were influencing and inspiring an entire generation of Soviet youth.

Renowned British documentary filmmaker Leslie Woodhead has recently published a treatise positing the Fab Fours influence in bringing down the Soviet establishment in the second half of the 20th Century.

Woodheads connection with the Beatles can be traced back to the very beginning: Once a researcher for Granada Television in the North of England, he shot the only surviving film of the band performing an early gig at Liverpools Cavern Club.

The little two-minute film I shot in the Cavern Club in August 1962 is the first and only film of the Beatles before they became famous, he recalled in an interview with The St. Petersburg Times.

The intricacies of how a catalogue of 212 songs from Love Me Do in 1962 to I Me Mine in 1970 (the last thing they recorded) could have helped change the direction of the Soviet Union are problematic.

Of course, the processes by which the Beatles and their music promoted change in the Soviet Union are complex and elusive, said Woodhead. From Stalinist times, culture had often been an agent for change in a society where other political processes were suppressed and unavailable.

Despite the Beatles not being directly political, and in an era when numerous Russian fans still had difficulties grasping the meaning behind the lyrics, Woodhead thought that the timing was perfect.

Their music arrived at just the moment when the hopes of a young generation were being dashed by Brezhnevs crackdowns. What was conveyed through the music, and what was troubling to the Kremlin, was a youthful spirit of freedom and unchecked energy, he said.

Woodhead interviewed numerous Beatles fans from the Soviet-era while creating the book.

Everyone I met from the Soviet-era Beatles generation emphasized the word freedom and talked about how their music somehow freed the slave within them. In St. Petersburg, music producer Andrei Tropillo described the process for me with a wonderful image.

He quoted Tropillo: We understood the message of the Beatles music the way dogs and cats understand us: They dont understand the words, but they catch the feeling.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Sept. 18


Get your nerd on at Boomfest, St. Petersburgs answer to the United States popular ComicCon. Starting today, this international festival of comics will take over venues throughout the city center and includes exhibitions of comics and illustrations, film screenings, competitions and the chance to meet the genres authors, artists and experts.



Friday, Sept. 19


SPIBAs newest addition to their Cultural Discoveries events is Handmade in Germany, an exhibition featuring unique handmade objects of a significantly higher quality than mass-produced items. The work of over 100 German manufacturers will be displayed during the event, which opens today in the Lutheran Church of Saint Peter and Paul on Nevsky Prospekt and runs through Sept. 28.



Saturday, Sept. 20


Starting on Sept. 18 and ending tomorrow is the Extreme Fantasy Wakeboarding Festival in Sunpark by Sredny Suzdalskoye lake in the Ozerki region of the city.


Those after something more laid back can instead head to Jazz and Wine night at TerraVino with legendary jazz guitarist Ildar Kazahanov. 12/14 Admiralteyskaya Emb.



Sunday, Sept. 21


Learn more about African culture and get some exercise during todays Djembe and Vuvuzela, a bike ride starting in Palace Square that includes several stops where riders can listen to the music of Africa or watch short films about the continent. The riders plan to set off at 4 p.m. and all you need to join is a set of wheels.



Monday, Sept. 22


Do you love puppetry? If so, then be sure to go to BTK-Fest, a five-day festival that starts on Sept. 19 celebrating the art. Contemporaries from France, Belgium, the U.K. and other countries will join Russian artists to put on theatrical performances involving a variety of themes, materials and eras. Workshops and meetings are also scheduled for a chance to discuss the artistic medium in further depth.



Tuesday, Sept. 23


Marina Suhih, Director of the External Communications Department at Rostelecom North-West, and Yana Donskaya, HR Director for Northern Capital Gateway are just some of the confirmed participants of todays round table discussion on Interaction with Trade Unions being hosted by SPIBA. Confirm your attendance with SPIBA by Sept. 22.


Kino Expo 2014, an international film industry convention, will be at LenExpo from today until Sept. 26. The third largest exhibition of film equipment in the world, the expo focuses on not only Russia but former Soviet republics as well.



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