This Reuters article was kindly forwarded to the Ottawa Beatles Site by Dr. Yury Pelyushonok with our thanks!
Tuesday, June 17th, 1975
It's not 'mania' but...
'Bitlz' finally make it in Soviet Union
MOSCOW (Reuters) -- A small revolution has swept through Moscow record shops. Under plain album jackets, the Beatles were on sale here, years after the pop group had broken up in the West.
Strictly speaking, it is not the first time Beatles recordings had been sold in the Soviet Union, but it is the first time that Beatles' authorship has been acknowledged on the record label.
The Liverpool group, for a decade the symbol of everything fascinating and forbidden about the West, has been making sporadic appearances in Soviet shops for years under the anonymous guise of "a vocal-instrumental ensemble."
But the latest pressing from the state Melodiya record factory has "Beatles" - or "Bitlz" as it is spelled in Russian - emphatically printed on its pink label. The seven-inch disc contains three Beatles numbers - Let It Be, Across the Universe and I, Me, Mine.
There is no way of telling the contents by looking at the record sleeve, which simply has a picture of a lake and some trees, and a shop assistant stops customers from looking through the stock for himself.
Like all goods in short supply in the Soviet Union, you had to know the record was there to get it. After a few days it vanished as silently as it had appeared.
The variety editor of the All-Union recording studios, Vladimir Ryzhikov, said the total pressed had been either 50,000 or 100,000 - he could not remember which.
The Soviet Union is not obliged to pay royalties on material produced before it signed the International Copyright Convention in 1973, three years after the Beatles split up.
A feared group
When the Beatles were still together, they were feared, like other pop groups by the Soviet authorities, partly because they sprang from a capitalist society, partly because of the hysteria they were known to cause at concerts and partly because their music and way of life seemed to inspire disrespect for tradition and authority.
This did not stop Beatle music gushing into the Soviet Union through a variety of inconspicuous inlets.
The time-honored tactic of Soviet pop fans was to record it from foreign radio stations. These recordings were retaped among friends until the quality became unintelligible.
Alternately, people who had acquired original records abroad might sell them through second-hand shops. A new Beatles double album used to fetch 60 rubles (more than $80) until the shops stopped accepting records two or three years ago.
At the same time, Beatles tracks began to appear anonymously on Soviet anthology LP's. The song Girl turned up as early as 1967 on an album called Stars of Foreign Variety.
Eventually the "Vocal-Instrumental Ensemble (England)" claimed seven-inch records to itself. At least two are currently in circulation in Moscow, one of them a paper-thin flexible plastic disc which wears out after a few playings.
The other is a proper vulcanite record containing three songs from the LP Abbey Road.
Soviet cultural mandarins seem to be cautiously rehabilitating the Beatles, who now can be seen in the perspective of history as gentle and melodic compared to contemporary heavy rock.
However, editor Ryzhikov said there are no immediate plans to issue other Beatles tracks. Certainly not the tune Back in the U.S.S.R.
Copyright by Reuters, June 17, 1975.