"Strings For A Beatle Bass" by Yury Pelyushonok is not like any Beatle book you've ever read or likely ever will read, nor is Dr. Pelyushonok like any fan you've ever known. He successfully re-creates the feeling of what it was like to be a Beatle fan in Russia in the 70s. Though you won't find new facts about the Beatles, this many-layered account will open your mind to a heart and passion we in the West may never experience. After college, I got into ballet, and through ballet developed an interest in all things Russian. Valery Panov's autobiography (whose title escapes me) describes what he went through once he made it known that he wished to move to the West. For years his life was a nightmare. We talk about suffering for your art, but have no concept of what this meant in Russia. Artists of all genres often put their lives on the line -- literally -- for their art. Many were driven to suicide.
Dr. Pelyushonok's account of what it was like being a Beatle fan in Russia in the 70s is extraordinarily moving. His writing has a you-are-there style. The translation and interpretation of lyrics is hysterical, as is a journalist's take on John's murder. Other parts will make you angry as hell.
We take so much for granted. As I read the book, I kept thinking, If the music I love was prohibited and I'd be putting myself in great danger by merely listening to it, would I have the inner strength to remain a fan? The passion and courage it took to be a Beatle fan in Russia during the 70s is unimaginable. Picture an ax being taken to your beloved guitar, hacked to pieces in front of your eyes. Or a student who wrote a carefully worded, deliberately vague and weaving article in praise of John, being taken away by army officers, never to be heard from again. Dr. Pelyushonok's writing makes you feel as though you're witnesses these events yourself. Several times while reading "Strings For A Beatle Bass" chills ran up my spine.
When asked what the Beatles mean to him, caught off-guard, Dr. Pelyushonok's "tongue received a signal from somewhere in my spinal cord" and he gives an astoundingly moving and insightful commentary. I am humbled by Dr. Pelyushonok's story. "Fan" is far too trivial a word to describe his passion for the music of the Beatles, and what he and others risked for loving their music. If my words have given even an inkling of the intensity and heart in "Strings For A Beatle Bass" I've done the best I can. Truly a remarkable book by a remarkable man.
Book review by Diana (Amaranth56@aol.com)
November 18, 2000