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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, Aug. 21


Time is running out to see the fantastic creations on display at the 2014 Sand Castle Festival on the beach at the Peter and Paul Fortress. Adhering to the theme of Treasure Island, visitors can wander amongst larger-than-life interpretations of pirate life or attend one of the workshops held to educate a future generation of sand artists. The castles will remain on the beach until Aug. 31.



Friday, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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