Documentary telling how the Beatles' legend soaked into the lives of a generation of Soviet kids, paving the way for the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Soviet system.
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'It's The Beatles!'
In August 1962, I made a little film
with four unknown kids in a Liverpool cellar.
# Some other guy now Taking my love away from me... #
Soon, The Beatles had conquered much of the world.
But back in the USSR, the repressive old men in the Kremlin tried to resist the Fab Four.
They were defeated by their children.
This is the untold story of how The Beatles helped to destroy Communism.
# While in the west a Beatle stepped on all the rules
# '60s beat was echoing throughout all the Soviet schools... #
The Beatles turned tens of millions of young people into
another religion, and the understanding that
we're living in a monster state, and we needed an alternative.
# Every Russian schoolboy wants to be a star
# Playing Beatles music, making a guitar... #
They changed everything, and they opened the whole world.
It was all brought by them, by The Beatles.
# The teachers loved to follow this
# As if it were a sin
# We were building communism but the Beatles bought it in... #
They destroyed the Communism more than Gorbachev, by the way,
the change of the Soviet Union.
Beatles, it was the key
that opened the door to the West culture.
The West culture produced cultural revolution.
Cultural revolution destroyed the Soviet Union.
# Even comrade Brezhnev sadly shrug his hea-a-a-a-d
# Each comrade's child was in a band yeah, yeah
# Byron swept the land, yeah, yeah,
# Byron swept the land Things were getting out of hand... #
They put the first hole in the Iron Curtain, the song of Beatles.
The Beatles were always looked upon as very dangerous, bourgeois, somehow undermined the system itself.
# What could they do? What could they say? A generation gone astray... #
The Beatles, it was like a fresh air.
In Russia, it was amazing power because they had this free spirit.
# What could they do? What could they say?
# They walked away. #
It was Beatles generation.
Beatles, Beatles, Beatles, Beatles, da!
25 years after that first film in the Liverpool Cavern Club, I began to make documentaries in the USSR.
Over the years, I heard stories,
incredible at first,
about how The Beatles had changed the lives of millions of kids
and how their music helped to destroy official culture and the communist system.
In today's Moscow, the vast Socialist experiment feels like a dream.
But how could four lads from Liverpool have played a part in defeating the Cold War enemy?
I knew The Beatles had never been able
to play behind the Iron Curtain.
A repressive and puritanical youth culture was strictly enforced by
a state which feared what the Beatles might bring.
But wherever I went, people insisted
The Beatles had a more profound impact on rocking the Kremlin
than the threat from the West of nuclear missiles
or anti-communist crusading.
In the big, bad West, they've had whole huge institutions
which spent tens of millions of dollars
for undermining the Soviet system.
I'm sure that the impact of all those stupid Cold War institutions
has been much, much smaller than the impact of The Beatles.
If you look at all the factors that led to the ultimate
loss of belief
in the system, which was its downfall.
It was held together by fear and by belief.
The Beatles played a role in first of all overcoming the fear
and in showing that the belief was actually stupid.
# She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah #
# She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah
# Let it be, let it be... #
Across the USSR, The Beatles virus spawned hundreds of tribute bands.
# Wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door
# Who is it for? All the lonely people... #
Their music was my soundtrack as I went looking for The Beatles
generation to follow the story of an improbable revolution.
# Won't you please, please help me
# Help me, help me ooh. #
Kolya Vasin is Russia's ultimate Beatles fan.
Adventures. Beatles gave me adventures all my life.
For more than 40 years, he's been building his John Lennon temple of love in St Petersburg.
Another life. With The Beatles, another life.
-Flying with The Beatles.
-# Do you want to know a secret?
# Do you promise not to tell? #
Since 1964, when he first heard a bootleg Beatles tape, he has been
amassing his horde of Beatles treasure.
For Kolya Vasin and millions of other kids,
it was never easy to be a Beatles fan in the Soviet Union.
Reviled by the Communist authorities as Western pollution,
Beatles records were banned.
Vigilantes patrolled the streets rounding up rock 'n' roll fans and shaving off their long hair.
Police at airports kept a look-out for smuggled records.
You just bring it into the country, actually, it's like contraband.
Just - you bring in this album.
"No, you're not supposed to bring this stuff into the country,"
and they will find it in your luggage. They will scratch it.
It was a device like three nails together just to scratch it, because it should be done in a proper way.
Official Soviet culture ignored The Beatles' invasion,
preferring accordions and folk dancing to guitars and the Fab Four.
Being a young radical man,
I just hated all of this because it was all square, totally uncool.
All the singers had the wrong haircuts.
They were dressed like office clerks,
and they sang like Brezhnev at the Communist Party Congress.
Soviet culture has been totally unsexy,
very rigid, too limited.
There was nothing bright and free and funky and sexy
and funny about it, and, of course,
these qualities were exactly the vitamins that our bodies needed.
In the mid '60s, ingenious Beatles fans found
a way to make their own bootlegs.
Their secret weapons were street-side recording booths,
where homesick soldiers could make sound letters for their mums.
After hours, fans would turn up with tapes of Beatles songs
illicitly recorded from Radio Luxembourg.
And you could do
a recording of Beatles songs.
At the beginning, they did it on the used X-rays, which they collected
from trash in the medical institutes or in clinics or in hospitals.
There was the machine with the needle,
which was scratching grooves on this X-ray.
A black market mushroomed fed by records on ribs.
So kids could listen to I Feel Fine on Uncle Sergei's lungs.
I used to buy ribs when I was a kid.
There was a guy keeping it in a sleeve.
because it was prohibited, in his sleeve, flexis, three rubles.
OK. You want shakes. You want rock 'n' rolls?
Shake was dance, you know, shake.
You want some rock 'n' rolls? You want some shakes?
"It's good rock 'n' roll."
This was very dangerous for people who sold it. It was prohibited.
Shrugging off official disapproval, the Beatles virus raged across the Soviet empire.
In Minsk, 500 miles from Moscow, Yuri Pelushonok caught the bug.
But Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, the song is so good and so nice that you fell in love when you hear this.
You can just feel it. You know? It's in the air.
I can't explain you, but everybody knows it. It's an icon.
If my mum would like to tell me to have a haircut, she would say,
"You're worse than a Beatle."
In Kiev too, The Beatles virus was unstoppable.
Nikolai Poturaev was a schoolboy back then.
They opened the whole world,
and my decision to go to the university to
the faculty of English language and literature and my interest to
English spoken culture, it was all brought by them,
by The Beatles, and this feeling of freedom.
You meet friends after long period of being alone.
# Listen, do you want to know a secret... #
In St Petersburg, Sergei Ivanov caught The Beatles virus.
The boy who would grow up to be Russian Defence Supremo
and Vladimir Putin's Deputy Prime Minister
confesses he still has symptoms of the infection
he caught more than 40 years ago.
That was '62, '63.
I was a kid
around 10, 11 years age,
average Soviet kid,
and I tuned to the radio station and heard a music.
I suspect it was Love Me Do.
I still remember that.
Then the Beatle harmonia started
including the Soviet Union by the way.
In that sense, the Soviet Union was a normal European country,
except one thing, The Beatles didn't come.
Of course the Soviet Union was far from a normal country,
and the young Ivanov was probably tuned illicitly to Radio Luxembourg.
But ignoring official hostility,
Soviet kids continued to track down Beatles' music.
I became a Beatles fan.
I know most of their songs.
I still remember them.
Hearing The Beatles music, I'm sure it helped me to
learn English language properly.
Woke up and made my bed, dragged a comb across my head.
That was the first time I learned what the word "comb"
means in Russian.
By the way, I still remember that.
In the Soviet Union, official propaganda was one thing,
but real life was totally different.
The Beatles became such a phenomenal thing in the Soviet Union because
they came in the very right time with the very right kind of music.
The timing has been perfect
because, if it happened two or three years earlier,
in the very beginning of the '60s,
I think that their music would fall on a less fertile ground.
In '61, '62, we had a very powerful agenda of our own in the Soviet Union.
We've had our own global superhero, Yuri Gagarin,
the first man in space.
And we have had, you know,
these also long-haired and bearded romantic revolutionaries in Cuba.
We had our own charismatic leader Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev
who promised to bury the United States and to build communism
in 20 years' time.
Communism, of course, was a kind of ideally utopian society, and we believed it.
So at that time, it was really cool to be a Soviet.
Then in 1964, of course, Mr Khrushchev has been kicked out
and replaced by a bunch of much more boring guys.
This is how the decades of so-called stagnation have started.
This is exactly when The Beatles' music started slowly
to infiltrate the Soviet mass consciousness.
And it was then that Kolya Vasin began his long obsession with the Beatles.
Here in an article about Beatles in the Russian press, they say
shooting Beatles, very bad article, very bad article.
That's communist, communist.
When I saw this article,
I say, Soviet is bad state,
and I make immigration to free territory
of Russia in '64 year.
I say to me in my soul, I will live without Soviets,
only in my room with The Beatles.
To young people they say Beatles is bad.
Fans in search of Beatles' music faced serious threats
from the Soviet state.
Going to the black markets, it was real danger,
because if you were caught,
and you could be caught every time you are there.
They organised special militia operations
trying to catch people, those who sold and those who bought.
If you were caught with the discs, it automatically meant that you were thrown out from the university.
And that is why tape recorders played so important role.
You went to the black market together with your friends, and you decided "OK. I will buy this disc.
"You'll buy this. You'll buy this, then we exchange, and we will record it from player to the tape recorder."
This is how it worked, and the Soviets can do nothing, and it was great!
These tapes, they played a very important role in our history.
This is something that hang
the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
Near the centre of Kiev, I came upon unexpected evidence of the Beatles' legacy.
# She wouldn't dance with another
# Ooh, when I saw her standing there
# Well, my heart went boom... #
The Kiev Cavern Club sent me curious echoes of that cellar in Liverpool
where I first met the Fab Four.
I started this place because I love The Beatles,
and I did it mostly for fun.
When I started, I think that most of customer
will be person over the 40, 50 years,
and I make a mistake.
A lot of young men come in here and listen to the music.
They know all the words of Beatles' song, so a lot of people.
Vova Katzman told me he actually got the idea for his club
after seeing that little film I made in Liverpool.
He was only able to open this place after the collapse of communism,
and he has his own stories of the long years when The Beatles were taboo in the Soviet Union.
It was not permitted.
It was illegal. There is no records in the store.
Information about Beatles was closed.
It was something
of different work.
I was arrested some time
by Ukrainian, Russian police.
They cut my hair, take me along. I don't care.
I love Beatles.
It was illegal.
If something illegal, people want it more and more.
It means a piece of freedom.
# Lady Madonna, children at your feet...#
I suppose they changed the world and they destroyed the communism,
more than Gorbachev, by the way.
They changed the Soviet Union.
When my mother and father listen that first time, Beatles music,
they don't like it, because I hear it in a maximum volume,
and it was very strange for them.
They born before revolution, the product of Russia.
They a product of communism.
They told me, "Don't listen this music.
"Teach the mathematic."
So that's why I wrote this word on this wall,
and I told to my mother,
"Look at John. Look at Paul,
"because they was a poor boy,
"and they became a millionaire."
My mother listen to the music of Beatles right now, and she like it.
For Beatles super-fan Kolya Vasin in Saint Petersburg,
this is a big day, John Lennon's birthday.
For more than 30 years now, Kolya and his friends
have staged musical celebrations for each of the Beatles' birthdays.
For us, that's like native music, native.
It's our music.
John Lennon is a Russian man for us.
Over almost four decades, Kolya Vasin has paid the price
of his obsession with The Beatles
in his battles with hostile authorities.
Everywhere I went people told me myths about The Beatles.
Starved of real information kids spun stories about the Fab Four.
They swapped fables which became smudged and fantastic,
like the photographs they copied and copied
until they were as mysterious and revered as the Turin shroud.
In Minsk, Yuri Pelushonok remembers sharing Beatles' stories in the schoolyard with his friend Yakov.
Everybody who is bringing the rumours in class,
everybody listening to him, and he's enjoying all the attention.
Do you know that English Queen gave John Lennon a gold car, pure gold? No, it's not.
It couldn't be pure gold because it would be too heavy for John Lennon to escape from his fans. No, it's not.
No, it was silver, no gold. No, silver.
But the most persistent myth is the story of the secret concert.
In towns and cities across the Soviet Union, millions of fans convinced by the song,
Back In The USSR, believed the Beatles' plane touched down near them to refuel on the way to Japan.
Then the legend tells how the Fab Four emerged from the plane
to play an impromptu concert on the wing.
We came to conclusion that Beatles' plane probably put on some military airport not far from here.
We went to see this actual airport where just they were landed,
and then a soldier approached and say, "What are you doing here?
"What's your business here?"
Yes, top secret here. There was a Kalashnikov.
We say, "Oh, we are only people. Just don't shoot us!"
And then, "What are you doing here?" basically.
But it was a first-year soldier.
It was very understanding to us.
He say, "Come on, guys.
"Beatles played near Leningrad
"when they landed and played on the wing of the plane acoustic guitars.
"It's shameful not to know this."
It was religion, you know, some bright light in a dreary life.
It was a quiet revolution.
Something sacred, you have it in your heart.
Like so many other Soviet kids, Andrei Makarevich filled his
school books with doodles and daydreams about the Beatles.
I'm absolutely sure that it was a lesson of mathematics or something
that I hated and it was very dull, and my hands did it, just itself.
Makarevich also recalls fantasies about a secret visit
to a Moscow hotel by John Lennon.
A guy from our school,
he spent two days and nights in the bushes
without food and water, watching the entrance.
And he came back and he said, "I saw John Lennon."
We had to believe.
I knew schoolboys, people
..everyone that they had seen John Lennon on...Gorky Street, it was called, Gorky Street.
And I personally seen him
buying some bread.
We were so crazy that I saw a dream three or four times,
that Beatles come and I meet them and I show them Moscow,
and I even bring them to school.
And that teachers begin to worry.
"Who are these guys? They are from what country? Why long hair?"
So it was a big scandal. I woke up in a cold sweat.
Andrei Makarevich turned his schoolboy dreams into reality,
becoming one of the Soviet Union's first rock stars with his band, Mashina Vremeni, Time Machine.
Playing only underground venues,
Time Machine became skilful at avoiding police harassment.
But they were never filmed until the late '70s,
when Russia had moved on to big hair and bad shirts.
I can't say that we made music the first two years,
we just tried to look like Beatles, to sound like Beatles.
But we played every night, we sat in the room and just played,
we listened and played, listened and played, listened, tried to sing...
And we moved on.
40 years later, Andrei Makarevich and Time Machine
were to make a record at the Beatles' Abbey Road studios.
The legendary Beatles producer George Martin came to say hello.
All you need is love!
For his John Lennon birthday party in St Petersburg, Kolya Vasin
has assembled a dozen tribute bands
to play once again the music which seduced a generation.
# Do you promise not to tell? #
Almost 50 years after the Beatles virus first infected
the Soviet Union, it lives on in the thousands of fans who still keep the faith and play the old songs.
# I get by with a little help from my friends
# Gonna try with a little help from my friends... #
# Help me if you can I'm feeling down
# And I do appreciate you being round... #
# Whoo! She loves you yeah, yeah, yeah
# She loves you yeah, yeah, yeah
# And a love like that, you know you should be glad... #
# Money don't get everything it's true
# What it don't get, I can't use So give me money
# That's what I want... #
I sometimes had a feeling on my journey that I was slipping in time,
lost in an era which is hardly a memory back in my world.
# And I saw her standing there... # One more time!
# And I saw her standing there. #
Being with that audience in St Petersburg,
it was obvious that the Beatles songs still connect with kids as well as with their grandparents.
But I kept remembering how tough it was for earlier generations to make this music their own.
In Minsk, Yuri Pelyushonok decided the only way he could follow the Beatles was to build his own guitar.
If you're lucky, you know, you have actual photograph of the Beatles
guitar, and then you draw it on a table or something.
I sawed the table myself, my grandma's table.
I built all the guitars at home, or sometimes in the school shop.
We just pretended it was to build something else.
The biggest challenge was to make a pick-up,
to get that rock and roll sound.
I think it was Yank Technician magazine,
someone shared the idea
of how to build the pick-up out of a telephone receiver.
So the next day, receivers gone, all around the country.
It was just like that. Gone.
Then there was the problem of finding a speaker.
Propaganda should sound loud.
If a militiaman or a policeman was not watching you, yeah, you would just climb.
And you have a decent speaker.
Equipped with his home-made guitar, Yuri was ready to follow the Beatles to rock and roll heaven.
You just hear it and you want to do it.
You want to be part of it.
You want to be like them. You have never seen them, but you want to be.
You join together with your band, you play and you're happy.
In Minsk, Yuri Pelyushonok brings his band together for the first time in 30 years.
Nobody changed too much, except for me.
The last time we played, in 1978, but we just met in Jacob's apartment.
He grabs guitar, I grabbed guitar and Jacob grabbed this empty canister and we created this song.
And it was quite amazing, as if we went for a smoke in 1978
and then we just returned back, just 15 minutes later.
Yuri wrote a song to recall those days when Soviet kids were hungry to make rock and roll.
You have something in your heart that you don't let anyone touch, you know, it's yours.
It's official, life is going on in its official way and you have an unofficial life.
It's a huge separation, it's a huge gap.
By the early '70s, Soviet authorities began to waver.
It was time to make some cautious compromise
with the Beatles generation, or at least make some money.
State factories churned out guitars.
The state recording monolith, Melaudia,
released a few Beatles tracks, identified at first as folk songs
played by an anonymous vocal instrumental group.
Copyright fees were ignored.
The Communist Party went into the bootleg business.
Not we won the victory, they lost.
And they say, "At least we'll squeeze some money out of it."
Make a virtue of necessity, you know, you couldn't win, you make money.
Andrei Tropillo made a reputation in St Petersburg recording the first Russian rock bands.
He funded his passion by making bootleg Beatles records.
These days, Tropillo turns out legitimate CDs and DVDs.
It's a very clever process.
But in Soviet times, Tropillo became a director with the state
record company, Melaudia, duplicating Beatles albums for the Soviet masses.
Actually, all homes in those times had Beatles records.
All, believe me.
Of course, when I became the Melaudia director, I produced many hundreds of thousands of albums of Beatles.
People have the right to use it, to listen.
I support not copyright but copyleft.
Because I'm sure that in Russia we should support musical piracy,
because musical piracy was the key to have freedom in Russia,
to have free information.
Andrei Tropillo confirmed his place in Soviet Beatles mythology
by inserting his face into the iconic Sergeant Pepper album sleeve.
As Beatles music became more available in the 1970s,
Beatles style began to obsess a generation,
ten years after it had faded in the West.
They influenced everything,
they influenced our music,
they influenced our life, our way of living, our dress, how we dress,
they influenced everything, actually.
All the hairstyles, you know,
cowboy boots and everything.
So it was like an amazing power,
because all the youngsters, all young people,
they started to imitate, they started to feel more free.
What was available, bad quality photos of the Beatles,
God knows taken from where, from which album or cover
or newspaper and so on.
And you can buy these pictures for 50 kopecks.
And it was a choice, either to have breakfast
or to buy these Beatles pictures.
They wouldn't be able to buy any kind of clothes in Soviet shops,
and just with some imagination
and a pair of scissors, we would turn an ordinary school jacket
into a collarless Beatles jacket.
And of course Lennon's glasses.
Lennon's glasses is just fashion.
All 22 square million kilometres of the Soviet Union, Lennon glasses.
There were several specially trained guys who would be a transforming army boots, real army boots,
very heavy and ugly and so on, into some kind of elegant Beatles style.
Each and every person who had a guitar and moptop hairstyle
was a Russian Beatle.
I was skinny, huge hair, guitar,
Paul McCartney playing bass.
I spent like two or three hours just trying to stretch my hair
and made myself a haircut to make myself look like the Beatles.
So not only the boys were copying the Beatles' hairstyle, but the girls as well.
So it was like a fairy-tale, and a lot of people just having a glimpse,
a small window out from the West.
By the early 1980s, the gap between the Beatles generation
and their geriatric leaders had become unbridgeable.
As a huge country stagnated,
millions of young people defected into their own world.
If we talk about the historical impact of the Beatles,
they have alienated a whole generation of young,
well-educated, urban Soviet kids
from their communist motherland.
They wanted to live in an alternative world,
consuming alternative culture, pursuing alternative lifestyle.
You're a stranger in your own country.
You can live behind the Iron Curtain,
you can pretend to be a young communist,
but at the same time, you can be someone totally different.
Liberated by the Beatles, Soviet rock confronted the system.
Viktor Tsoi's song, Changes, became an anthem for the early-'80s.
In March 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev became the Soviet leader.
The man who would be called the USSR's first rock and roll President.
I always like to quote the words said by Mikhail Gorbachev,
quote, "I do believe the music of the Beatles has taught the young
"generation of the Soviet Union that there is another life, there is freedom somewhere."
And of course this feeling has put us on towards perestroika, towards the dialogue with the outside world."
# The minute your let her under your skin... #
In the heady days of the late '80s, even Joseph Kobzon, for decades
the official voice of patriotic socialism, sang Beatles hits.
# Any time you feel the pain, hey, Jude, refrain
# Don't carry the world
# Upon your shoulders... #
As the Berlin Wall was torn down in November 1989, triggering revolutions across the Soviet Union,
the communist empire began to collapse.
You can smell that the communism is already gone in the Baltic countries
and it's on its last legs in Moscow, Belarus, the Ukraine.
So they say, "Let's do something interesting for kids, finally."
And what would be interesting? Beatles.
Well, OK, let's make a programme.
With the help of a school friend who was now working in TV,
Yuri recorded the first ever programme about the Beatles.
He persuaded a Beatles fanatic, Vladimir Sevitsky,
to share the responsibility.
And it was really a surprise for everyone that it was possible.
We were so inspired by this opportunity
to talk at last about this music.
But in the chaos surrounding the collapse of communism,
fearful TV bosses wiped the tape before it could be shown.
Yuri's friends smuggled a copy to him and 30 Minutes With The Beatles
was finally broadcast across the Soviet Union.
By then, Yuri had given up on his home country
and stowed away on a ship to Canada to start a new life.
Since the ending of communism and the collapse of the USSR,
the Beatles generation have become grandads and babouskas.
The consummation of the 40-year love affair
came on May 24 2003 in Red Square.
# I'm back in the USSR
# You don't know how lucky you are, boy
# Back in the USSR
-# Well, the Ukraine girls really knock me out
-Ooh, ooh, ooh
# They leave the West behind
# And Moscow girls make me sing and shout
# That Georgia's always on my mind On my mind! #
# Flew in from Miami Beach BOAC Didn't get to bed last night... #
Across the republics of the former Soviet Union, Back In The USSR is an enduring anthem.
# Back in the USSR
# Don't know how lucky you are, boys... #
For the people who were there when Paul McCartney brought the Beatles'
music to Red Square, the memory of that night stays with them.
It was actually like a huge
# Back in the USSR... #
It was like a real holy day.
# Well, the Ukraine girls really knock me out
# They leave the West behind... #
Is it a reality or not?
Or we are happy that we lived to the time when it became possible.
# I'm back in the USSR
# You don't know how lucky you are, boys... #
They were rivers and waterfalls of tears,
something that sums up your whole life.
# You don't know how lucky you are, boys
# Back in the USSR... #
The Beatles revolution changed a superpower
and still today, somewhere across the former Soviet Union,
someone will be replaying The Beatles one more time.
Beatles! Hey, Beatles! Ho, Beatles!
In Gorky Park, Moscow's Krishna community celebrate George Harrison's music.
# Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
# And I say, it's all right... #
At the Catherine Palace in Saint Petersburg,
guests arrive for the Pushkin Ball, the social highlight of the year.
With music by the Beatles.
It's like talking about what does Pushkin mean to Russian poetry.
The Beatles to popular Western and popular music
of the world is like saying, "What is Pushkin to Russian literature?"
On the same evening as the Pushkin Ball, in a Saint Petersburg club,
a new punk band are playing John Lennon's Power To The People.
For their leader, Igor Salnikov, his passion for Lennon is life-changing.
It is my plan to change my name to John Lennon,
but I have my Russian second name after my father,
and so it's going to be John Vladimirovich Lennon.
In the Ukraine, the peasants of a village called Beatli
have relished the accident of their name and adapted their folk songs.
In Saint Petersburg, Beatles superfan Kolya Vasin
is still holding on to his dream of building a temple to John Lennon.
He's found his perfect place on the edge of the city.
And he's lobbying the city council for funding to make his dream a reality.
# We all live in the yellow submarine
# Yellow submarine, yellow submarine... #
I went to Kiev for Paul McCartney's first ever concert in Ukraine.
In a city where the Fab Four had once been banned
and their fans hounded,
the arrival of a long awaited Beatle
is bringing thousands onto the streets.
I've come to understand that the Beatles mattered far more
behind the Iron Curtain than they ever did for us in the West.
In the Kiev Beatles Museum, I can feel the force
of the repressed yearning which ultimately changed a generation.
To celebrate McCartney's arrival, kids from across the country
are competing for the best Beatles performance.
# Can't buy me love
# Can't buy me love
# No, no, no, no
# Yeah, yeah, yeah, let it be,
# Let it be, let it be
# Got to be good looking cos it's so hard to see
-# Come together, right now
-Over me... #
It's hard to reconcile the freshness and dedication of those kids
with the invasion of an international rock spectacular
shut away behind its security battalions.
I keep thinking about those four lads in a Liverpool cellar long ago.
And then it begins to rain.
Five hours later, it's still raining.
There are fears that Paul McCartney's concert
might have to be abandoned.
# Asked the girl what she wanted to be
# She said "Baby, can't you see?"
# "I wanna be famous, a star on the screen"
# But you can do something in between
# Baby, you can drive my car
# Yes, I'm gonna be a star
# Baby, you can drive my car and, baby, I love you. #
Beep-beep, beep-beep, yeah!
I could imagine myself to be a cosmonaut in the open space
but I would never think that one day somebody
from Beatles would be playing right here in the heart of Ukraine.
In order to understand what really happens here,
you have to be born back in USSR.
# I told the girl I could start right away
# But she said "Listen, babe, I've got something to say"
# "I've got no car and it's breaking my heart"
# "But I've got a driver and that's a start"
# Baby, you can drive my car
# Yes, I'm gonna be a star... #
Documentary which tells the extraordinary unknown story of how the Beatles helped to destroy the USSR. In August 1962, director Leslie Woodhead made a two-minute film in Liverpool's Cavern Club with a raw and unrecorded group of rockers called the Beatles. He arranged their first live TV appearances on a local show in Manchester and watched as the Fab Four phenomenon swept the world.
Twenty-five years later while making films in Russia, Woodhead became aware of how, even though they were never able to play in the Soviet Union, the Beatles' legend had soaked into the lives of a generation of kids. This film meets the Soviet Beatles generation and hears their stories about how the Fab Four changed their lives, including Putin's deputy premier Sergei Ivanov, who explains how the Beatles helped him learn English and showed him another life.
The Soviet authorities were alarmed by the seditious potential of rock and roll, with the Beatles a special target and denounced as 'bugs' in official papers. Their smuggled records were destroyed and their music was banned, but the myth blossomed as bootlegs and photos were covertly traded and even rented amongst fans.
Soon there were thousands of rock bands across the USSR, trying to make music with crude home-made guitars. Speakers on lampposts installed to broadcast propaganda were grabbed by rock hopefuls, while reports that an electric pickup could be cannibalised from a telephone led to phone boxes being raided and disabled.
Millions of young people fell in love with the Beatles and the culture of the Cold War enemy, and defected emotionally from the Soviet system. The Beatles prepared the cultural way for the fall of the Berlin Wall and ultimately helped to wash away the foundations of that system.