Countless books have traced the Beatles’ careers in Britain and the USA, but How The Beatles Rocked The Kremlin looks at the group from an original angle: their impact on Russian politics, culture and society. It’s written by Leslie Woodhead, who as a young Granada TV researcher recommended the Beatles to the television company; a live studio appearance and the now legendary film of them playing at the Cavern followed.
Woodhead subsequently became a documentary film maker, who – often at great personal risk – recorded what was happening behind the Iron Curtain as communism crumbled in the late 1980s and early 1990s. As he explains in his book, from the 1960s onwards the Beatles were a revolutionary force in the Soviet Union, their music condemned by the establishment but gaining a huge underground following among the dissident young. Beatles tribute bands sprung up all over the country. The authorities weren’t completely hostile to western music: artists such as Elton John and disco hits by Abba and the Bee Gees were given the seal of approval because they weren’t perceived as a threat – the exuberance and energy they inspired, Woodhead says, ‘wasn’t going to spill out on to the streets.’
How The Beatles Rocked The Kremlin continues the story through to Paul McCartney’s appearances in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, seeing them as a victory less for the spirit of revolution than for Russia’s own dubious brand of capitalism (the famous concert in Moscow’s Red Square was promoted by Alfa-Bank).
How The Beatles Rocked The Kremlin is published by Bloomsbury.
Read the Observer newspaper’s article on Leslie Woodhead and his book by clicking here.