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How The Beatles Rocked The Kremlin

Airs Friday, September 7, 2012 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Beatles matrushka dolls. This documentary tells the extraordinary and untold story of how the Beatles punctured the Iron Curtain.

"How The Beatles Rocked The Kremlin," tells the extraordinary and untold story of how Beatlemania punctured the Iron Curtain. In a personal journey through Russia, award-winning director Leslie Woodhead relates, through first-person accounts, a secret revolution that contributed to the fall of communism. The program’s broadcast coincided with the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

In August 1962, Woodhead made a two-minute film, in Liverpool’s Cavern Club, with a raw and unrecorded group of unknown rockers — The Beatles. Twenty-five years later, while making a series of films in Russia, Woodhead would learn just how powerful Beatlemania was.

Even though the Beatles never played in the Soviet Union, their music and their rebellious style still infiltrated the country, soaking into the lives of a generation of kids.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the story of how the moptops conquered the world,” said Woodhead. “And since I’ve made a series of documentaries in the former Evil Empire over the past 30 years, I have a special taste for this film.”

Artemy Troitsky, Russia's leading rock music writer, is interviewed in "How The Beatles Rocked The Kremlin." The self-proclaimed "radical young man" during the Beatles era describes just how important the Beatles were behind the Iron Curtain.
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Above: Artemy Troitsky, Russia's leading rock music writer, is interviewed in "How The Beatles Rocked The Kremlin." The self-proclaimed "radical young man" during the Beatles era describes just how important the Beatles were behind the Iron Curtain.

John Lennon Temple of Love, by Klyla Vasin, in St. Petersburg.
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Above: John Lennon Temple of Love, by Klyla Vasin, in St. Petersburg.

Bandmates Yuri Pelyushonok, Yuri Yakovlev and Anatoly Chernuchevich, who reunited for this film, wrote and performed a new song, “Kruschev Era Rock,” for this documentary.
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Above: Bandmates Yuri Pelyushonok, Yuri Yakovlev and Anatoly Chernuchevich, who reunited for this film, wrote and performed a new song, “Kruschev Era Rock,” for this documentary.

"How The Beatles Rocked The Kremlin" introduces the world to members of the Russian Beatles generation, who relate how the Fab Four changed their lives, gave them hope and helped to undermine the foundations of the Soviet system.

The film showcases archival Soviet-era footage laced with interviews with Soviet Beatles fans, who reveal just how they managed to listen to the outlawed music of the Fab Four.

Artemy Troitsky, Russia’s leading rock music writer and self-proclaimed “radical young man” during the Beatles era, describes the importance of the band behind the Iron Curtain:

“In the big bad West,” he says, “they’ve had whole huge institutions which spent millions of dollars for undermining the Soviet system. And I’m sure that the impact of all those stupid Cold War institutions has been much, much smaller than the impact of the Beatles.”

"How The Beatles Rocked The Kremlin" features an interview with Kolya Vasin, a Beatles “superfan” from St. Petersburg, who built a “Temple of Peace and Love” to John Lennon.

Other interviews include Sergei Ivanov, Russia’s deputy premier, who insisted that he learned English from smuggled Beatles records; rock commentator Troitsky; and numerous Soviet Beatles cover bands, including bandmates Yury Pelyushonok, Yuri Yakovlev and Anatoly Chernuchevich, who reunited for this film, writing and performing a new song called “Kruschev Era Rock.”

Originally aired in 2010.

Video

Preview: How The Beatles Rocked The Kremlin

Above: This is the extraordinary and untold story of how the Beatles punctured the Iron Curtain.