A couple of months ago, we learned of the death of KOLYA VASIN. Kolya was famous in Russia as 'The Beatles Guy' or as he liked to describe himself: 'The Number One Beatles Fan'.
We met him several times - usually in 'The Temple of Love' - a crazy, crowded couple of rooms in St Petersburg which he had set up as a shrine to the Fab Four - and specifically to John Lennon who he regarded almost as a deity. We interviewed him for our book and documentary and last saw him at the X-Ray Audio exhibition in St Petersburg a year ago.
When Kolya was young in Leningrad in the 1960s he was introduced to Western Rock and Roll - on x-ray records. He immediately became addicted and spent all his money (including cash his mother gave him for school lunch) on buying them. One day he brought home a disc and played it. It was The Beatles and it is no exaggeration to say that it completely changed his life. From that time forward he devoted himself to their music.
He told us what it was like to be a young music lover in the oppressive years of the Soviet Union and about the culture of getting the music he loved from dealers on the street. A lot of the information about the punk street culture of the x-ray dealers came from Kolya. Essentially buying x-ray bootlegs then was like buying illegal soft drugs now - and it ran the same sort of risks and punishments.
In some ways Kolya was crazy - or at least very eccentric - but he was a genuinely good person, a free spirit: he believed in love, freedom and the transformative power of rock 'n' roll. He was living testament to the liberating power of music - and it all began for him with x-ray records. His death was tragic - it seems he finally gave up on his dream of having a permanent shrine to Lennon in St Petersburg for some reason and he then found no reason to go on living.
He ended his life by jumping from a building.
You can watch him in the video below unhappier times as he tells of his life as a youth in Soviet Leningrad and how he was affected by the discovery of music on X-Ray