Beatles in the USSR

Beatles in the USSR

As Beatlemania swept throughout the world in 1964, it seemed unable to penetrate the Iron Curtain.

In the Soviet Union, the music of the Beatles was repressed by the government.

Melodiya, the only record manufacturer in the Soviet Union, did not release their music stating "musicians such as these, who have plunged to the depth of musical decline, do not deserve a place on Soviet records".

However, an underground culture grew which used ingenious ways to discover and disseminate the Beatles' music.

Once a Beatles record had been smuggled into the country - a particularly difficult and dangerous task - it was quickly copied and distributed.

Vinyl production was under strict control, so records were made using the high quality film of medical X-rays.

If you held an underground record up to the light - negative images of broken bones were visible!

Electric guitars were banned but home-made resourcefulness triumphed.

Microphones in telephone receivers were used as guitar pick-ups, which led to widespread vandalism of public phone boxes. Strings for bass guitars were liberated from pianos.

Paul Gambaccini reveals the extraordinary ways that the Beatles' music was listened to in the Soviet Union during the 1960s.

Did the music and spirit of The Beatles help to end communism?

First broadcast Friday 13th February 2009


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