Rock star Paul McCartney told a horde of young Soviet fans in a live radio broadcast that he loved them "madly" and thought it was about time he reprised the Beatles' hit "Back In The USSR" - in the USSR.

McCartney, 46, fielded calls for 55 minutes from all parts of the Soviet Union in a live phone-in show Thursday on the British Broadcasting Corp.'s Russian service.The BBC said more than 1,000 Soviets tried to get through to their London studio - about five times as many as tried to reach Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher when she appeared on a similar program in July.

McCartney played recordings of several of his hits, including a new album produced exclusively for distribution in the Soviet Union. Talking to listeners with the aid of a translator, he was asked the inevitable: Will the remaining Beatles ever get back together?

"It would be too difficult," he said. "George (Harrison), Ringo (Starr) and me could play together and stuff, but to find a replacement for John (Lennon) is impossible really because there is no one like him. It's impossible really."

Lennon was slain in New York in December 1980.

McCartney told 12-year-old An-drei Borkovsky it was about time he went to the Soviet Union to sing one of the Beatles' most popular hits.

"Other people go to Russia and they sing `Back In the USSR,' " he said. "I think it's about time I went and sang it."

He said he had no firm plans to make the trip because he is putting together a new band.