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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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