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Lennon, Not Lenin, On Minds of Soviet Youth for Birthday Bash With AM-Lennon-50th

October 9, 1990

MOSCOW (AP) _ On the spot where Lenin once spoke, the focus Tuesday was on Lennon.

Official newspapers, which once denounced the Beatles as harmful pests from the decadent West, joined a worldwide celebration and ran stories of tribute about the late John Lennon, who would have turned 50 on Tuesday. State radio broadcast his music and interviews about him.

Two concerts devoted to the songwriter, guitarist and singer, who was shot to death in 1980, were held in Moscow.

Even the staid state television program ″Vremya″ got into act. An anchorman, more accustomed to reading official government news, reported on the worldwide Lennon birthday bash and called his song ″Imagine,″ an ″anthem of peace.″ The broadcast ended with an instrumental version of ″Yesterday″ playing as temperatures from around the nation rolled across the screen.

The celebration was a dramatic turnabout from Soviet authorities’ repression of Beatles fans and supression of their music in earlier times. Their music was banned and the Soviet press condemned them. A 1964 article, for instance, commented, ″These bugs can swiftly ignite the very darkest and primitive passions.″

About 1,000 Soviets, mostly second generation Beatles fans, flocked to the Moscow Electrical Lamp Factory’s cultural hall in northeastern part of the city to rejoice in Lennon’s music. A plaque outside the hall reminded Beatles fans that Lennon’s near namesake, Vladimir Lenin, the founder of the Soviet state, had spoken at the spot in 1917 and 1919.

Inside, fans listened to recordings of Lennon’s music, attended a concert of about a dozen Soviet rock bands, bought his albums and posters and reflected on his life.

″He’s like a hero, a symbol for every person: a symbol of honesty, talent, devotion to his ideals, notion of love, equality between people and goodness,″ said Irina Dykomkina, the 21-year-old secretary of the Sgt. Pepper’s Club, a Soviet Beatles fan club formed two years ago.

Lennon’s music, she said, crosses borders easily.

″His music is so sincere, it’s so understandable, even to people who don’t know English. They feel the music.″

Andrei Trushkin, a correspondent for Komsomolskaya Pravda - the Communist Party youth newspaper that devoted a full page Tuesday to Lennon - said he appeals to Soviet youth in part because he was a rebel, like many of them, and was a ″difficult teen-ager.″

″The cops would have locked him up many times,″ said Trushkin, who helped organize the concert.

Tuesday’s concert opened in the spirit of a birthday party. Balloons floated down from the balconies as a tape of Lennon’s song, ″Starting Over,″ played. The stage was adorned with a painting of Lennon and life-size cardboard cutouts of the Fab Four in front of the British flag.

″Oorah 3/8 Oorah 3/8″ shouted the audience, which included a few soldiers in uniform. Onstage, the groups Sprint, Quiet Hour and Optimal Variant played in Beatles style but were joined by a group that didn’t quite fit in the genre, an American-style country ensemble that wore plaid vests and performed ″Night Train to Memphis.″

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