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Paul McCartney - Back in the U.S.S.R. (Good Evening New York City 2009)

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Retrieved from Wikipedia:
Back in the U.S.S.R. on Wikipedia
"Back in the U.S.S.R."
Song by The Beatles from the album The Beatles
Released22 November 1968
Recorded22–23 August 1968
GenreRock and roll, surf rock, hard rock
LabelApple Records
ProducerGeorge Martin
The Beatles track listing
"Back in the U.S.S.R."
Single by The Beatles
B-side"Don't Pass Me By"
ReleasedJune 1976
Recorded22–23 August 1968
ProducerGeorge Martin
The Beatles singles chronology

"Back in the U.S.S.R." is a 1968 song by The Beatles (credited to the songwriting partnership Lennon–McCartney but primarily written by Paul McCartney)[1] which opens the double-disc album The Beatles, also known as The White Album. It segues into the next song on the album, "Dear Prudence". The song was released as a single in Great Britain in 1976.


The song opens and closes with the sounds of a jet aircraft flying overhead and refers to a "dreadful" flight back to the U.S.S.R. from Miami Beach in the United States, on board a B.O.A.C. aeroplane. Propelled throughout by McCartney's uptempo piano playing and lead guitar riffs, the lyrics tell of the singer's great happiness on returning home, where "the Ukraine girls really knock me out" and the "Moscow girls make me sing and shout" (and are invited to "Come and keep your comrade warm"). He also looks forward to hearing the sound of "balalaikas ringing out".[1][2]

Paul McCartney wrote this song while The Beatles were in Rishikesh, India, learning Transcendental Meditation. The title of the song is a tribute to Chuck Berry's "Back in the U.S.A." while the chorus and background vocals pay homage to the Beach Boys' "California Girls". Mike Love of the Beach Boys also attended the retreat in Rishikesh at the same time; he has stated in interviews that, in order to make the song sound more like a Beach Boys number, he encouraged McCartney to "talk about the girls all around Russia, the Ukraine and Georgia" in the lyrics.[3] The song also contains a pun on Hoagy Carmichael's and Stuart Gorrell's "Georgia on My Mind". McCartney sings about the female population of the Soviet Republic of Georgia ("and Georgia's always on my mi-mi-mi-mi-mi-mi-mi-mi-mind") right after "the Ukraine girls" and "Moscow girls", whereas the original song "Georgia on My Mind" refers to either the U.S. state or a woman named Georgia. McCartney thought that when he listened to the Beach Boys, it sounded like California, so he decided to write a song that "sounded" like the U.S.S.R. The title was inspired in part by the I'm Backing Britain campaign that had been endorsed by British Prime Minister Harold Wilson. It has been suggested that McCartney twisted that into "I'm back in (backin') the U.S.S.R."[4]

In his 1984 interview with Playboy, McCartney said:

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. 'Cause they like us out there, even though the bosses in the Kremlin may not. The kids from there do. And that to me is very important for the future of the race.[5]

"Back in the U.S.S.R." was released by Parlophone as a single in the UK in 1976. It featured the song "Twist and Shout" on Side B.[6] It has since been released as a single backed with "Don't Pass Me By".[7]

During the 1960s, The Beatles were officially derided in the USSR as the "belch of Western culture" and in the 1980s McCartney was refused permission to play there.[8] According to The Moscow Times, when McCartney finally got to play the song at his concert in Moscow's Red Square in May 2003 at the age of 60 "the crowd went wild".[8] When asked about the song before the concert McCartney said he had known little about the Soviet Union when he wrote it. "It was a mystical land then," he said. "It's nice to see the reality. I always suspected that people had big hearts. Now I know that's true."[8] "Finally we got to do that one here," he said after the song.[8]

Problems in the band

The White Album sessions allowed the four members to work on separate projects at the same time and, as a result, kept tensions to a minimum. However, tempers flared during the recording session on 22 August 1968, and Ringo Starr walked out and announced that he had quit.[9]

"Back in the U.S.S.R." and "Dear Prudence," the first two tracks of the album, were recorded without Starr, with McCartney primarily responsible for the drum parts.[citation needed] McCartney's drums are most prominent in the mix, but both John Lennon and George Harrison recorded drum tracks for the song; these are audible in the left channel of the stereo mix.[citation needed] The Beach Boys played "Back in the U.S.S.R." when Ringo Starr joined them for a live show. It is the only time he is known to have performed the song.

After the other Beatles urged him to return, Starr rejoined the group almost two weeks later on 4 September 1968 when he participated in the filming of a promotional video for "Hey Jude." During a break in the filming of the "Hey Jude" video, Marc Sinden (who appears in the film) recalls Lennon playing a song on his acoustic guitar. "Everyone went 'Wow'... Filming started before we could ask what it was. When it was later released, we realised it was Back in the USSR."[10] However, Starr appeared in this animated song clip shown on The Beatles: Rock Band.


Five takes were recorded of the backing track, featuring Paul on drums, George on electric guitar, and John on bass (Fender Bass VI). Take 5 was chosen as "best". The exact order of overdubs is not clear. Paul recorded a full drum performance on Track 2, with no other instrumental contributions by John or George. On Track 3, Paul played bass while George played the Bass VI, sometimes doubling Paul's bass line and sometimes playing full chords. (This capability was one of the benefits of the Bass VI; it could be played as a bass or as a regular 6-string guitar.) While they were playing their parts, John overdubbed snare on the off-beats for the entire duration of the song without a single deviation or fill. This performance was basically duplicated on Track 1, possibly wiping the original backing track in the process. On Track 4, Paul contributed a piano performance, while John and George provided more bass and electric guitar. With all four tracks, a reduction was made into Take 6, combining Tracks 1 and 3 into a single track and tracks 3 and 4 into another. On the remaining two tracks, Paul recorded his lead vocal - double tracked in places - while John and George contributed handclaps and Beach Boys-styled backing vocals.

Political reception

Like "Revolution" and "Piggies",[11] "Back in the U.S.S.R." prompted immediate responses from the New Left and Far Right, who claimed the group were "pro-Soviet". As further evidence of The Beatles' supposed "pro-Soviet" sentiments, the John Birch Society magazine cited the song.[12] "Back in the U.S.S.R." shocked many far right conservatives in America, because the song appeared to be praising America's enemy, the Vietnamese.[13] The line "You don't know how lucky you are boys", left many anti-communist groups speechless.[13]


  • Paul McCartney – double-tracked vocal, backing vocals, piano, lead guitar, bass, drums, handclaps, percussion
  • John Lennon – backing vocals, lead guitar, 6-string bass, drums, handclaps, percussion
  • George Harrison – backing vocals, lead guitar, bass, drums, handclaps, percussion
Personnel per Ian MacDonald[4] and Mark Lewisohn.[9]

Cover versions

  • In 1968, Ramsey Lewis covered "Back in the U.S.S.R." on his album Mother Nature's Son along with other songs from The Beatles.
  • In 1969, Chubby Checker's cover version charted on the Billboard Hot 100.
  • Also in 1969, John Fred & His Playboy Band released it as a single and on their 1970 album Love My Soul.
  • In 1979, the punk group Dead Kennedys recorded a live version of the song that was released in 2004 on Live at the Deaf Club.
  • In 1984, actress Su Pollard performed the song on the BBC series The Laughter Show.
  • In 1986, The King's Singers on their album Beatles' Collection.
  • In 1987, Billy Joel covered the song on his live-in-the-Soviet Union album KOHЦEPT.
  • In the 2001 film Heartbreakers, Sigourney Weaver performed the song.
  • In 2006, Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead recorded a version for the Butchering The Beatles compilation.
  • Amanda Overmyer performed the song on American Idol and released a studio version.
  • The Rutles' song "We've Arrived (and to Prove It, We're Here)" is a pastiche of this song.
  • Type O Negative has performed the song live, numerous times, throughout their 20 year career.
  • In 2011, the song was parodied by The Fringemunks to recap Fringe episode 4.01, "Neither Here Nor There."[14]


  1. ^ a b Miles 1997, pp. 422–423.
  2. ^ Aldridge 1990, p. 49.
  3. ^ The Beatles Bible 2009.
  4. ^ a b MacDonald 2005, pp. 309–310.
  5. ^ Goodman 1984.
  6. ^ "Back In The U.S.S.R. b/w Twist And Shout". Graham Calkin's Beatles Pages. Graham Calkin. Retrieved 16 August 2010. 
  7. ^ "Back in the U.S.S.R. / Don't Pass Me By". Retrieved 16 August 2010. 
  8. ^ a b c d O'Flynn, Kevin (26 May 2003). "Paul McCartney Finally Back in the U.S.S.R.". The Moscow Times (The Moscow Times). Retrieved 16 August 2010. 
  9. ^ a b Lewisohn 1988, p. 151.
  10. ^ Pinch 2009.
  11. ^ Turner 2009, p. 86.
  12. ^ Wiener 1991, p. 63.
  13. ^ a b Turner 2009, p. 68.
  14. ^ "Fringemunks Web site". Retrieved 2011-08-19. 


  • Aldridge, Alan, ed. (1990). The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics. Boston: Houghton Mifflin / Seymour Lawrence. ISBN 0-395-59426-X. 
  • "Back in the U.S.S.R". The Beatles Bible. 2009. Retrieved 28 November 2009. 
  • Goodman, Joan (December 1984). "Playboy Interview with Paul McCartney". Playboy (Playboy Press). 
  • Lewisohn, Mark (1988). The Beatles Recording Sessions. New York: Harmony Books. ISBN 0-517-57066-1. 
  • MacDonald, Ian (2005). Revolution in the Head: The Beatles' Records and the Sixties (Second Revised ed.). London: Pimlico (Rand). ISBN 1-844-13828-3. 
  • Miles, Barry (1997). Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now. New York: Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 0-8050-5249-6. 
  • Pinch, Emma (6 March 2009). "Marc Sinden on John Lennon: We were in the presence of God". Liverpool Daily Post. Retrieved 7 March 2009. 
  • Wiener, Jon (1991). Come Together: John Lennon in His Time. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-06131-8. 
  • Turner, Steve (2009). The Beatles: The Stories Behind The Songs 1967–1970. Carlton Books Limited 2009. ISBN 978-1-84732-268-5. 

External links

  • Allmusic review[dead link]
  • Alan W. Pollack's Notes on "Back in the U.S.S.R"

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