Recording and mixing "Back In The U.S.S.R."

Friday, August 23, 1968 • For The Beatles

Part of


"The Beatles" (aka the White Album) sessions

May 30 - Oct 18, 1968 • Songs recorded during this session appear on The Beatles (Mono)

Album Songs recorded during this session officially appear on the The Beatles (Mono) LP.
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Master release


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About

The day before, on August 22, as work started on “Back In The U.S.S.R.“, Ringo Starr decided to quit the sessions. On this day, from 7 pm to 3 am, The Beatles continued the work on “Back In The U.S.S.R.” as a trio.

From Wikipedia:

During the overdubbing on the song, on 23 August, McCartney and Harrison also contributed bass parts, and both also added lead guitar parts. According to author John Winn, the first overdubs were piano, played by McCartney; drums by Harrison, replacing Lennon’s bass part from the previous day; and another electric guitar part.

After these additions were mixed down to a single track, McCartney sang a lead vocal, using what he described as his “Jerry Lee Lewis voice”, and Lennon, Harrison and McCartney added backing vocals, including Beach Boys-style harmonies over the song’s bridges. All three musicians added handclaps. Other overdubs included McCartney’s bass, Harrison on six-string bass, and Lennon playing a snare drum. Harrison played the guitar solo in the instrumental break, while McCartney contributed a high-pitched, single-note solo over the final verse. MacDonald describes the musical arrangement as a “thunderous wall of sound”. For the sounds of the aircraft that appear on the track, a Viscount turboprop, Scott created a tape loop from a recording stored in EMI’s library.

The mono mix of “Back In The U.S.S.R.“, released on the mono version of the White Album, was made on this day. During the mixing, the sound of Viscount airliner taking off and landing was added. This sound effect had been recorded at London Airport and came from the tape “Volume 17: Jet and Piston Engine Aeroplane” from the Abbey Road collection.

Someone managed to get that tape for me at London Airport. There’s one of it revving up and taking off and one of it landing. It’s a Viscount airplane filed in the library as ‘Volume 17: Jet and Piston Engine Aeroplane.’

Stuart Eltham, curator of the sound effects library at EMI – Quoted in beatlesebooks.com

The stereo mix would be made much later, on October 13, 1968.

For the mono mix everything came out OK, but the stereo mix took a long, long time and I was holding the pencil to keep the effects tape taught. I guess I must have been leaning back on it and started to stretch it, because the mono has this clear, clean lovely jet sound while the stereo is an abomination of a jet sound.

John Smith, tape operator – from The Beatles super deluxe edition book, 2018

Last updated on September 3, 2021

Songs recorded


1.

Back In The U.S.S.R.

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • SI onto take 5


2.

Back In The U.S.S.R.

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Tape copying • Tape reduction take 5 into take 6


3.

Back In The U.S.S.R.

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • SI onto take 6


4.

Back In The U.S.S.R.

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Mixing • Mono mixing - Remix 1 from take 6

Album Officially released on The Beatles (Mono)


5.

Back In The U.S.S.R.

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Tape copying • Tape copying of remix mono 1


6.

Rocky Raccoon

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Tape copying • Tape copying of remix mono 1


7.

Wild Honey Pie

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Tape copying • Tape copying of remix mono 6


8.

Mother Nature's Son

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Tape copying • Tape copying of remix mono 8


9.

Sexy Sadie

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Tape copying • Tape copying of remix mono 5

Staff

Musicians on "Back In The U.S.S.R."

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Vocals, Percussion, Electric guitar, Bass guitar, Piano, Handclaps, Drums
John Lennon:
Percussion, Electric guitar, Backing vocals, Handclaps, Drums
George Harrison:
Handclaps, Drums, Percussion, Electric guitar, Backing vocals, Six-string bass guitar

Production staff

George Martin:
Producer
Ken Scott:
Engineer
John Smith:
Second Engineer

Going further


The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions • Mark Lewisohn

The definitive guide for every Beatles recording sessions from 1962 to 1970.

We owe a lot to Mark Lewisohn for the creation of those session pages, but you really have to buy this book to get all the details - the number of takes for each song, who contributed what, a description of the context and how each session went, various photographies... And an introductory interview with Paul McCartney!

Shop on Amazon


If we like to think, in all modesty, that the Paul McCartney Project is the best online ressource for everything Paul McCartney, The Beatles Bible is for sure the definitive online site focused on the Beatles. There are obviously some overlap in terms of content between the two sites, but also some major differences in terms of approach.

Read more on The Beatles Bible

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