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

Thursday, August 22, 1968 • For The Beatles

Part of


"The Beatles" (aka the White Album) sessions

May 30 - Oct 15, 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.
Timeline More from year 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Master album


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About

On this day, The Beatles were at Abbey Road, to record the song “Back In The U.S.S.R.“. From Wikipedia:

The sessions for The Beatles (also known as the “White Album”) were fraught with disharmony among the band members. While rehearsing “Back in the U.S.S.R.”, on 22 August 1968, Ringo Starr became tired of McCartney’s criticism of his drumming on the song, and of the bad atmosphere generally, and walked out, intent on quitting the group. The other Beatles continued with the session, which took place at EMI Studios (now Abbey Road Studios) in London. Ken Scott, the band’s recording engineer, later recalled that they created a “composite drum track of bits and pieces” in Starr’s absence.

Five takes were recorded of the basic track, featuring McCartney on drums, George Harrison on electric guitar, and John Lennon on Fender Bass VI. Take 5 was chosen as “best”. 

I remember Ringo being uptight about something, I don’t remember what, and the next thing I was told was that he’d quit the band. But work continued. They did Back In The USSR with what I seem to recall was a composite drum track of bits and pieces, possibly with all of the other three playing drums. Within a few days the differences had been sorted out and Ringo came back. Mal Evans completely decorated studio two with flowers, they were all over his drum kit, ‘Welcome Back Ringo’.

Engineer Ken Scott – from The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, Mark Lewisohn

I think Ringo was always paranoid that he wasn’t a great drummer because he never used to solo. He hated those guys who went on and on, incessantly banging while the band goes off and has a cup of tea or something. Until Abbey Road, there was never a drum solo in The Beatles’ act, and consequently other drummers would say that although they liked his style, Ringo wasn’t technically a very good drummer. It was a bit condescending and I think we let it go too far.

I think his feel and soul and the way he was rock solid with his tempo was a great attribute. I always say if you can leave a drummer and turn your back on him, then you’re very lucky. You could just tell Ringo how it went and leave him — there was always this great noise and very steady tempo coming from behind you. Rock’n’roll is all about feel, really, and sound. So at that time, we had to reassure him that we did think he was great.

That’s what it’s like in life. You go through life and you never stop and say: ‘Hey, you know what? I think you’re great’. You don’t always tell your favourite drummer that he’s your favourite. Ringo felt insecure and he left, so we told him, ‘Look, man, you are the best drummer in the world for us.’ (I still think that.) He said ‘thank you’, and I think he was pleased to hear it. We ordered millions of flowers and there was a big celebration to welcome him back to the studio.

Paul McCartney – from the Beatles Anthology book

In his 2003 book Postcards From The Boys, Ringo Starr explained that his band mates loved playing the drums, which drove him mad.

Every time I went for a cup of tea, Paul was on the drums. I had three — three — frustrated drummers.’

Ringo Starr – from the book Postcards From The Boys, 2003
From the book Postcards From The Boys, 2003

Ringo Starr would come back to the sessions on September 3. The work on “Back In The U.S.S.R.” continued the day after, on August 23, 1968.

Last updated on June 20, 2021

Songs recorded


1.

Back In The U.S.S.R.

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 1


2.

Back In The U.S.S.R.

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 2


3.

Back In The U.S.S.R.

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 3


4.

Back In The U.S.S.R.

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 4


5.

Back In The U.S.S.R.

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Recording • Take 5

Album Officially released on The Beatles (2018)


6.

Baby You're A Rich Man

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Tape copying • Tape copying of remix mono 1

Staff

Production staff

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

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!

The Beatles Bible

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.

Have a look at https://www.beatlesbible.com/1968/08/22/recording-back-in-the-ussr/

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