- Published on 1968
- Author: Lennon/McCartney
- Track 1 on “The Beatles – White Album”
What the Beatles said about “Back In The USSR”
PAUL 1968: “Chuck Berry once did a song called ‘Back In The USA,’ which is very American, very Chuck Berry. Very sort of, uhh… you know, you’re serving in the army, and when I get back home I’m gonna kiss the ground. And you know– Can’t wait to get back to the States. And it’s a very American sort of thing, I’ve always thought. So this one is like about… In my mind it’s just about a spy who’s been in America a long long time, you know, and he’s picked up… And he’s very American. But he gets back to the USSR, you know, and he’s sort of saying, ‘Leave it till tomorrow, honey, to disconnect the phone,’ and all that. And ‘Come here honey,’ but with Russian women. It concerns the attributes of Russian women.”
JOHN 1980: “Paul completely. I play the six-string bass on that.”
PAUL 1984: “I wrote that as a kind of Beach Boys parody. And ‘Back in the USA’ was a Chuck Berry song, so it kinda took off from there. I just liked the idea of Georgia girls and talking about places like the Ukraine as if they were California, you know? It was also hands across the water, which I’m still conscious of. ‘Cuz they like us out there, even though the bosses in the Kremlin may not. The kids do.”
PAUL 1986: “I’m sure it pissed Ringo off when he couldn’t quite get the drums to ‘Back In The USSR,’ and I sat in. It’s very weird to know that you can do a thing someone else is having trouble with. If you go down and do it, just bluff right through it, you think, ‘What the hell, at least I’m helping.’ Then the paranoia comes in– ‘But I’m going to show him up!’ I was very sensitive to that.”
Info about “Back In The USSR”
Written by Paul McCartney and credited to the Lennon–McCartney partnership, the song is a parody of Chuck Berry’s “Back in the U.S.A.” and the Beach Boys’ “California Girls”. The lyrics subvert Berry’s patriotic sentiments about the United States, as the narrator expresses relief upon returning home to the Soviet Union, formally the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
The Beatles recorded “Back in the U.S.S.R.” as a three-piece after Ringo Starr temporarily left the group, in protest at McCartney’s criticism of his drumming and the tensions that typified the sessions for the White Album. Instead, the other Beatles created a composite drum track from numerous takes. McCartney’s singing was based on Jerry Lee Lewis, while the bridge features a Beach Boys–style celebration of girls from various parts of the USSR. The song opens and closes with a tape loop of an aircraft landing on a runway.
Released six months after the Warsaw Pact’s invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Beatles’ sympathetic portrayal of the USSR prompted condemnation in the West from both the New Left and the political right. In 1976, backed by “Twist and Shout”, it was issued as a single to promote the compilation album Rock ‘n’ Roll Music. It peaked at number 19 on the UK Singles Chart and number 11 in Ireland. In 2003, McCartney performed the song in Moscow’s Red Square. Elton John and Billy Joel have also released versions recorded during concerts in Russia.
- Paul McCartney – double-tracked vocal, backing vocal, piano, bass guitar, drums, lead guitar, handclaps, percussion
- John Lennon – backing vocal, rhythm guitar, six-string bass, handclaps, drums, percussion
- George Harrison – backing vocal, rhythm and lead guitars, bass, drums, handclaps, percussion