The film is a personal journey through Russia by Leslie Woodhead, telling the story of a secret revolution which led to the fall of communism.
The film begins where Woodhead first met up with the Beatles in 1962. As a young TV researcher, he worked on a brief black and white film shot in the Cavern Club in Liverpool before the world had heard of the Beatles.
25 years later, when Woodhead began to make films in Russia, he became aware of how the Beatles legend had soaked into the lives of a generation of kids. He even met some who had seen that little film in the Cavern Club long ago. Now he has been back in Russia to talk to some of the Beatles generation, and to hear their stories about how the Fab Four changed their lives – and how they made the the revolution which transformed their country into ‘Beatlestan.’
We travel through Moscow, and St Petersburg and out to the former republics, Ukraine and Belarus, to meet Beatles’ fans, musicians, people whose lives were changed by the Beatles virus. Surprising, emotional, funny and revealing, the film captures the stories that show the Cold War was won by the West with music as much as Nuclear missiles. It is a journey through time and cultural history,
From the beginning, the Soviet leadership had feared the threat of kids with guitars. In the early 60s, Nikita Kruschev declared that the electric guitar was “an enemy of the Soviet people”
The explosion of Beatlemania round the world caused seismic ripples which reached the Iron Curtain. In Minsk, Yury Pelyushonok felt the tremors: “The Beatles may be compared to an earthquake. Somewhere abroad there had appeared something noisy, happy, hairy and awfully nice.
But the Beatles plague was irresistible. Reel to reel tape recordings from crackling Radio Luxemburg broadcasts circulated around the country in days, Desperate fans re- recorded the tracks on their uncle’s X ray plates, and sold them. Beatles photos were traded – and even rented by fervent Beatlemaniacs.
The Soviet authorities were determined to keep those songs from polluting their youth. Police grabbed kids on the street and chopped their hair
Inevitably, the Beatles phenomenon sparked a passion for DIY Rock n’ Roll among Russia’s kids.. Soon , there were thousands of rock bands across the Soviet Union, trying to get music from crude home – made guitars, fashioned from bits of furniture. Speakers on lamp posts installed to broadcast propaganda were grabbed by desperate rock hopefuls. An item in a Young Communist magazine suggested that an electric pickup could be cannibalised from a telephone, and within days every public call box in the Soviet Union had been raided and disabled.
Art Troitsky, Russia’s leading Rock writer tells us `The Beatles and their songs have more or less melted the hearts and brains of millions of Russian young people – and prepared them for what happened much later. There is no other Western phenomenon which had such a huge impact on the internal affairs of the Soviet Union. The thing was that the Soviet regime couldn’t offer the kids anything. The Beatles clicked in the hearts of my generation.’
The long Russian affair with the Beatles was finally consummated on a summer evening in 2003. Paul McCartney played in Red Square to 100,000 people, many of them in tears. Art Troitsky sat next to Mikhail Gorbachev and Vladimir Putin.
Interviewees include Sergei Ivanov, Russia’s deputy premier – who says he learned his English from Beatles records- starting with LOVE ME DO as a 13 year old fan.
Unique Russian archive records the struggles of Beatles fans with State vigilante patrols, and the ingenious, illegal recording of “records on ribs”, The music track is provided by the many Beatles tribute bands across Russia.