Back In The U.S.S.R. (Lennon/McCartney)

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Back In The U.S.S.R. (Lennon/McCartney)

Back In The U.S.S.R. was written while on meditation by Paul with help from Mike Love of the Beach Boys. It is a parody of Beach Boys songs such as “Surfin’ USA.” The mention of “Ukraine girls” and “Georgia” was thought by many to be sympathetic to Communism and was denounced.

The jet sound effect

The jet sound effect came from the Abbey Road sound effects collection, specifically, “Volume 17: Jet And Piston Engine Aeroplane”.

Drums by everyone but Ringo

During sessions for Back In The U.S.S.R., tension in the studio reached such a point that Ringo quit the group and was gone for two weeks before convinced to come back September 3, his drum kit covered in flowers by Mal Evans. Paul, John and George each recorded a drum, bass, and lead guitar track (3 total tracks for each instrument).

Quotes

“‘Back In The USSR’ was my take-off of Chuck Berry’s ‘Back In The USA” It’s a typical American thing to say when they’re away: ‘I miss my doughnuts and my Howard Johnson’s and my launderettes and I miss the convenience of the Hyatt Hilton and it’s just so much better back home and the TV’s got more channels…’ So I thought, ‘Great, I’ll do a spoof on that. This’ll be someone who hasn’t got a lot but they’ll still be every bit as proud as an American would be.’ It’s tongue in cheek. This is a traveling Russkie who has just flown in from Miami Beach; he’s come the other way.” – Paul McCartney

“I was sitting at the breakfast table and McCartney came down with his acoustic guitar and he was playing ‘Back In The USSR’ and I told him that what you ought to do is talk about the girls all around Russia, The Ukraine and Georgia. He was plenty creative not to need any lyrical help from me but I gave him the idea for that little section” This suggestion was intended to add a Beach Boys-like spin to the lyrics, as if a Russian man was singing their hit “California Girls. I think it was lighthearted and humorous of them to do a take on The Beach Boys,” – Mike Love

“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…He can’t wait to get back to the Georgian mountains:  ‘Georgia’s always on my mind‘; there’s all sorts of little jokes in it. It’s a jokey song, but it’s also become a bit of an anthem now.” – Paul McCartney

“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.” – Paul McCartney

Recording dates

  • August 22, 1968 (5 takes; basic track)
  • August 23, 1968 (additional bass, vocal, drum, and piano overdubs; mono mixing)
  • October 13, 1968 (stereo mixing)

Personnel

  • Paul McCartney – 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

Release history

Notable covers

  • Billy Joel (from Concert in Russia)