Imagine a world where Beatlemania was against the law-recordings scratched onto medical X-rays, merchant sailors bringing home contraband LPs, spotty broadcasts taped from western AM radio late in the night. This was no fantasy world populated by Blue Meanies but the USSR, where a vast nation of music fans risked repression to hear the defining band of the British Invasion.Read more...
Imagine a world where Beatlemania was against the law-recordings scratched onto medical X-rays, merchant sailors bringing home contraband LPs, spotty broadcasts taped from western AM radio late in the night. This was no fantasy world populated by Blue Meanies but the USSR, where a vast nation of music fans risked repression to hear the defining band of the British Invasion.
The music of John, Paul, George, and Ringo played a part in waking up an entire generation of Soviet youth, opening their eyes to seventy years of bland official culture and rigid authoritarianism. Soviet leaders had suppressed most Western popular music since the days of jazz, but the Beatles and the bands they inspired-both in the West and in Russia-battered down the walls of state culture. Leslie Woodhead's "How The Beatles Rocked the Kremlin" tells the unforgettable-and endearingly odd-story of Russians who discovered that all you need is Beatles. By stealth, by way of whispers, through the illicit late night broadcasts on Radio Luxembourg, the Soviet Beatles kids tuned in. "Bitles," they whispered, "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-12-24
- Reviewer: Staff
In May 2003, Paul McCartney rocked Moscow’s Red Square with the strains of “Back in the U.S.S.R.,” bringing the Beatles’ music to Russia. (The Fab Four had never been allowed to set foot in the Soviet Union.) According to Woodhead, who made the first film of the Beatles at the Cavern Club in Liverpool in 1962, the Beatles helped overthrow the Soviet Union despite never stepping on its soil. In a surprisingly dry narrative, he interviews numerous Russian fans of the group who insist that “Beatlemania washed away the foundations of Soviet society and helped a generation of free people to grow up in the Soviet Union.” Woodhead chats with Russian defense minister Sergei Ivanov, who tells him, “The Party said that the Beatles were a negative influence. But propaganda was one thing, and real life was totally different.... I really began to learn English through Beatles lyrics”; by listening to “A Day in the Life,” for example, Ivanov learns what the word “comb” means. Kolya Vasin tells Woodhead, “John Lennon’s songs are like folks songs for us since John Lennon is pain and Russia is full of pain.” These and many other stories confirm for Woodhead that the Beatles’ music revealed the cracks “in the utopian Soviet project and its dream of making a new society,” fostering a loss of faith in the Soviet project and encouraging a newfound faith in the freedom and utopia promised by the Beatles’ music. (Apr.)