How the Beatles Rocked the Kremlin: The Untold Story of a Noisy Revolution

Leslie Woodhead, Author
Leslie Woodhead. Bloomsbury, $26 (304p) ISBN 978-1-60819-614-2
Reviewed on: 12/24/2012
Release date: 04/23/2013
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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.)
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