The Beatles "loved the idea" that Russians secretly listened to their "forbidden" group.
In the Soviet Union, the West was the enemy, and they did everything they could to try and stop Western culture from seeping in, including the legendary group and other artists' music being banned from being imported or played from the 1960s until the 1980s.
Speaking on the 'McCartney: A Life In Lyrics' podcast episode about 'Back in the U.S.S.R.', the 81-year-old music idol said: "Everyone in Russia goes back to the Beatles period and remembers having to smuggle records or it was all very you know, little rooms where you could play and you didn't want people to know. You didn't want the authorities to know that you were listening to this forbidden group, which really we loved the idea of that that we were getting smuggled along with Levi's jeans. This was like true cultural arrival."
Fast forward to 2003, and Beatle Sir Paul McCartney was invited to perform at the famous Red Square in Moscow.
He performed 'Back in the U.S.S.R.', which was about feeling relieved to be home after visiting the Soviet Union, and a parody of Chuck Berry’s ‘Back in the U.S.A.’, to the masses.
And he even got to meet Vladimir Putin when he was serving for the first time as Russia's President.
In a televised news interview, McCartney famously asked Putin if he had listened to The Beatles, and he all but suggested he is a fan and claimed Russians would still listen to them despite the "disapproval" from officials.
McCartney asked: "When you were growing up, did you listen to the Beatles?”
Putin responded: “The music was very popular like a breath of fresh air, a window into the outside world.”
When asked if their music was not allowed to be played in the Soviet Union, Putin said: “It wasn’t banned, but people weren’t allowed to play it in the Red Square as recently as the 1980s. The Beatles had been widely listened to in the Soviet Union despite officials' disapproval.”
The Beatles have often been credited for a social revolution, which led to the end of communism in Russia.
The podcast episode was recorded before Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, which is ongoing, but McCartney noted how this "suppression" of Western influence "still goes on" today.
When the host, poet Paul Muldoon, suggested: "Art is dangerous."
McCartney replied: "To some people. We always thought that we were on the right side, that if we were dangerous, we were dangerous to the Russian authorities, and to us that said they're not that good. That was how we felt, and I think it was true to a large extent that they were trying to suppress this Western influence and it goes on, you know, I know there was a period really when you thought oh, it's all clearing, but it's actually the suppression is back big time, you know, with sort of many countries now and it's sort of been given a free pass and everyone's kind of stimied and sort of saying no, please don't do that. But I mean, God knows what the politics and the realities are behind it at any rate. So for me, it's kind of nice to just escape into a song like this."
Stream the episodes 'Back In the U.S.S.R.' and 'Eleanor Rigby' on all major podcast providers.