- Published in 1968
- Author: Lennon/McCartney
- Track 1 on “The Beatles – White Album“
- Track 15 on “The Beatles 1967-1970” (Blue Album)
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.”
About “Back In The USSR”
“Back In The USSR“, written by Paul McCartney and credited to the Lennon–McCartney partnership, parodies Chuck Berry’s “Back in the USA” and the Beach Boys’ “California Girls”. As Berry’s patriotic sentiments about the United States are subverted, the narrator expresses relief upon returning home to the Soviet Union, formally known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).
As a result of McCartney’s criticism of Starr’s drumming and the tensions that characterized the White Album sessions, the Beatles recorded “Back in the USSR” as a three-piece. The other Beatles instead made a composite drum track from a variety of takes. A Beach Boys-like bridge celebrates girls from various parts of the USSR, while McCartney’s singing is based on Jerry Lee Lewis. Tape loops of an aircraft landing on a runway open and close the song.
Six months following the Warsaw Pact’s invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Beatles’ sympathetic portrayal of the USSR prompted condemnation from both the New Left and the political right. In 1976, “Back in the USSR” was released as a single backed by “Twist and Shout” to promote the compilation album Rock ‘n’ Roll Music. The song peaked at number 19 on the UK Singles Chart and number 11 in Ireland. Moscow’s Red Square was the venue for McCartney’s 2003 performance of the song. There have also been versions recorded during concerts in Russia by Elton John and Billy Joel.
Meaning of “Back In The USSR”
“Back in the USSR” is a song that employs satire and humor to depict a romanticized vision of the Soviet Union. The lyrics playfully exaggerate and stereotype various aspects of Soviet life. The song opens with a sentiment of nostalgia and longing, expressing a desire to return to a place that holds sentimental value. This sets the tone for the rest of the song. The lyrics are filled with references to iconic Russian elements, such as the Ukraine girls, Georgian pine, and Moscow. These references are often used in a playful and exaggerated manner.
The song is written with a sense of satire and irony. It’s not meant to be taken as a serious commentary on the Soviet Union, but rather as a playful exaggeration of Western perceptions of the country. The lyrics mention specific cultural elements, such as the girls singing “goobye” on the plane, which may be a nod to the famous Russian tradition of the “troika” or the three-horse sleigh.
The lyrics also make comparisons between life in the USSR and life in the West. For example, the song contrasts the “Georgia’s always on my my my my my my my my mind” with “California dreaming”. This serves to highlight the differences between the two lifestyles. “Back In The USSR“ was influenced by the Beach Boys’ sound and style, and this is reflected in the harmonies and overall musical arrangement. This adds an extra layer of irony, as the Beach Boys were known for their California surf culture image, which is a stark contrast to the USSR.
- 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
How to play “Back In The USSR” on guitar
The guitars in “Back in the USSR” contribute to the song’s rock ‘n’ roll sound. They are an integral part of the song’s energetic and catchy musical arrangement, contributing to its overall sound and feel.
The rhythm guitar provides a driving, chugging rhythm that propels the song forward, while the lead guitar adds melodic lines and fills that complement the vocal melody. The guitar work in this song is played in a style that was typical of rock music in the late 1960s.
Here is a lesson on how to play the guitar parts of the song with tab:
How to play “Back In The USSR” on bass
In “Back in the USSR” the bass guitar plays a crucial role in providing a solid foundation for the song’s rhythm and melody. The bassline in this song is performed by Paul McCartney, who was known for his inventive and melodic bass playing.
The bassline in “Back in the USSR” is lively and driving, complementing the energetic rhythm of the song. It follows the chord progressions and provides a rhythmic groove that underpins the entire track. McCartney’s bass playing in this song demonstrates his ability to create memorable and melodic lines that enhance the overall musical arrangement.
The bass in “Back in the USSR” contributes to the song’s dynamic and infectious rhythm, helping to establish the upbeat and lively feel of the track. It is a testament to McCartney’s skill as a bassist and his ability to craft engaging basslines that add depth and character to The Beatles’ music.
The following video feature bass cover with tab of “Back In The USSR”:
“Back In The USSR” karaoke
For those who want to try singing “Back In The USSR” the following video features the karaoke version of the song: