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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

Friday, Oct. 24


SPIBAs ongoing Breakfast with the Director series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at Sounds of the Universe, a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the clubs website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit Neophobia at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBAs Marketing and Communications Committees round table discussion on Government Relations Practices in Russia this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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