The Paul McCartney Project

Back in the U.S.S.R.

Written by Lennon - McCartney

Album This song officially appears on the The Beatles (Mono) Official album.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1968
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

Back in the U.S.S.R.” is a 1968 song by the Beatles. It is credited to the songwriting partnership Lennon–McCartney, but written by Paul McCartney. The song opens the double-disc album The Beatles, also known as The White Album, and then segues into “Dear Prudence“.

Overview

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 BOAC 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“.

Writing and composition

Paul McCartney wrote the song while the Beatles were in Rishikesh, India, studying Transcendental Meditation. The title 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 and 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. In 2013, Love noted, “I was at the breakfast table when Paul McCartney came down with his acoustic guitar playing “Back in the U.S.S.R.”. I said, “You ought to put something in about all the girls around Russia,” and he did.”

The song also contains an allusion to 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.” 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.

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.

Recording

Five takes were recorded of the backing track, featuring McCartney on drums, Harrison on electric guitar, and Lennon on Fender Bass VI. Take 5 was chosen as “best”. The exact order of overdubs is not clear. McCartney recorded a full drum performance on Track 2, with no other instrumental contributions by Lennon or Harrison. On Track 3, McCartney played bass while Harrison played the Bass VI, sometimes doubling McCartney’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, Lennon 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, McCartney contributed a piano performance, while Lennon and Harrison 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, McCartney recorded his lead vocal – double tracked in places – while Lennon and Harrison contributed handclaps and Beach Boys-styled backing vocals.

Internal struggles

The Beatles 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.

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. McCartney’s drums are most prominent in the mix, but both John Lennon and George Harrison also recorded drum parts for “Back in the U.S.S.R.” The Beach Boys played the song when Ringo Starr joined them for a live show. It is the only time he is known to have performed the song; however, Starr appeared in the animated song clip shown on The Beatles: Rock Band.

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“. George Harrison covered his drum kit in flowers to welcome him back. 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.

Release

Back in the U.S.S.R.” was released by Apple as a 1969 single in Scandinavia, backed with “Don’t Pass Me By“. A British single of the song was also released by Parlophone as a single in 1976 in order to promote the newly released compilation album Rock ‘n’ Roll Music. The single was included in the second edition of the 1976 The Beatles Collection Singles 1962–1970 box set making it the 24th single in the series. It featured the song “Twist and Shout” on Side B.

Controversy

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. According to The Moscow Times, when McCartney finally got to play the song at his Back in the World tour in Moscow’s Red Square in May 2003 at the age of 60, “the crowd went wild“. 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.” “Finally we got to do that one here,” he said after the song.

Political reception

Like “Revolution” and “Piggies“, “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. The line “You don’t know how lucky you are, boys” left many anti-communist groups speechless.

Variations

On The Beatles album, the end of “Back in the U.S.S.R” is cross-faded with the start of the next track “Dear Prudence“. On The Beatles 1967–1970, “Back in the U.S.S.R” fades out before the cross fade of Dear Prudence starts. This is also the case on the remixed version of the song from Love.

Paul McCartney in "Many Years From Now", by Barry Miles:

It’s tongue in cheek. This is a travelling Russkie who has just flown in from Miami Beach; he’s come the other way. 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… I remember trying to sing it in my Jerry Lee Lewis voice, to get my mind set on a particular feeling. We added Beach Boys style harmonies.

From The Usenet Guide to Beatles Recording Variations:

  • [b] mono 23 Aug 1968.
    UK: Apple PMC 7067 white album 1968.
  • [a] stereo 13 Oct 1968.
    UK: Apple PCS 7067 white album 1968, Apple PCS P718 The Beatles 1967-1970 1973.
    US: Apple SWBO 101 white album 1968, Apple SKBO-3404 The Beatles 1967-1970 1973.
    CD: EMI CDP 7 46443 2 white album 1987, EMI CDP 7 97039 2 The Beatles 1967-1970 1993.

The plane sound effects differ in [a] and [b]. Mono [b] has louder piano, a yell after the opening plane sound, and drumbeats under the closing plane sound. Stereo [a] has extra guitar chords at the start of the solo, and shouts and piano during the guitar solo.

Last updated on May 12, 2017

Lyrics

Flew in from Miami Beach, BOAC
Didn't get to bed last night
On the way the paper bag was on my knee
Man, I had a dreadful flight

I'm back in the USSR
You don't know how lucky you are, boy
Back in the USSR

Been away so long I hardly knew the place
Gee, it's good to be back home
Leave it till tomorrow to unpack my case
Honey, disconnect the phone

I'm back in the USSR
You don't know how lucky you are, boy
Back in the US, back in the US
Back in the USSR

Well the Ukraine girls really knock me out
They leave the West behind
And Moscow girls make me sing and shout
That Georgia's always on m-m-my mind
Oh, come on

I'm back in the USSR
You don't know how lucky you are, boys
Back in the USSR

Well the Ukraine girls really knock me out
They leave the West behind
And Moscow girls make me sing and shout
That Georgia's always on m-m-my mind

Oh, show me round the snow-peaked mountains way down south
Take me to you daddy's farm
Let me hear you balalaikas ringing out
Come and keep your comrade warm

I'm back in the USSR
Hey, you don't know how lucky you are, boys
Back in the USSR
Oh, let me tell you honey

Officially appears on


The Beatles (Mono)

Official album • Released in 1968

2:44 • Studio versionB • Mono

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass guitar, Drums, Electric guitar, Handclaps, Piano, Vocals
John Lennon:
Backing vocals, Drums, Electric guitar, Handclaps
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Drums, Electric guitar, Handclaps, Six-string bass guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Ken Scott:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Aug 22, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Aug 23, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Aug 23, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


The Beatles (Stereo)

Official album • Released in 1968

2:44 • Studio versionA • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass guitar, Drums, Electric guitar, Handclaps, Piano, Vocals
John Lennon:
Backing vocals, Drums, Electric guitar, Handclaps
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Drums, Electric guitar, Handclaps, Six-string bass guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Ken Scott:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Aug 22, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Aug 23, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 13, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


Tripping The Live Fantastic

Official live • Released in 1990

3:15 • LiveL1

Performed by:
Paul McCartneyLinda McCartneyRobbie McIntoshHamish StuartPaul WickensChris Whitten
Paul McCartney:
Producer
Eddie Klein:
Assistant engineer
Matt Butler:
Assistant engineer
Peter Henderson:
Producer
Bob Clearmountain:
Mixing engineer, Producer
Jeff Cohen:
Recording engineer
Geoff Foster:
Assistant engineer
Scott Hull:
Assistant engineer
George Cowan:
Assistant engineer
Paul Rushbrook:
Assistant engineer

Concert From the concert in Tokyo, Japan on Mar 05, 1990


Tripping the Live Fantastic: Highlights!

Official live • Released in 1990

3:15 • LiveL1

Performed by:
Paul McCartneyLinda McCartneyRobbie McIntoshHamish StuartPaul WickensChris Whitten
Paul McCartney:
Producer
Eddie Klein:
Assistant engineer
Matt Butler:
Assistant engineer
Peter Henderson:
Producer
Bob Clearmountain:
Mixing engineer, Producer
Jeff Cohen:
Recording engineer
Geoff Foster:
Assistant engineer
Scott Hull:
Assistant engineer
George Cowan:
Assistant engineer
Paul Rushbrook:
Assistant engineer

Concert From the concert in Tokyo, Japan on Mar 05, 1990


Back In The U.S.

Official live • Released in 2002

2:56 • LiveL2

Paul McCartney:
Executive producer
Performed by:
Paul McCartneyRusty AndersonAbe Laboriel Jr.Paul WickensBrian Ray
David Kahne:
Producer
Michael Brauer:
Engineer
Ricardo Chavarria:
Assistant engineer

Concert From the concert in Dallas, USA on May 09, 2002


Back In The World

Official live • Released in 2003

2:56 • LiveL2

Paul McCartney:
Executive producer
Performed by:
Paul McCartneyRusty AndersonAbe Laboriel Jr.Paul WickensBrian Ray
David Kahne:
Producer
Michael Brauer:
Engineer
Ricardo Chavarria:
Assistant engineer

Concert From the concert in Dallas, USA on May 09, 2002


Love

Official album • Released in 2006

1:53 • Studio versionC • 1:53 (CD version) / 2:34 (DVD and iTunes version)

George Martin:
Producer
Giles Martin:
Producer
Paul Hicks:
Remix engineer
Sam Okell:
Remix engineer assistant
Chris Bolster:
Remix engineer assistant
Mirek Stiles:
Remix engineer assistant

Session Mixing:
Circa 2004-2006
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


Good Evening New York City

Official live • Released in 2009

3:13 • LiveL3 • Could have been record on 17, 18 or 21 July 2009

Paul McCartney:
Executive producer
Performed by:
Paul McCartneyRusty AndersonAbe Laboriel Jr.Paul WickensBrian Ray
Geoff Emerick:
Audio mixing
Paul Hicks:
Audio mixing
Jonas Westling:
Additional engineering
Richard Lancaster:
Additional engineering
John Henry:
Recording

Concert From the concert in New York, USA on Jul 17, 2009


The Beatles (2018)

Official album • Released in 2018

2:44 • Studio versionR2018 • Stereo

Paul McCartney:
Backing vocals, Bass guitar, Drums, Electric guitar, Handclaps, Piano, Vocals
John Lennon:
Backing vocals, Drums, Electric guitar, Handclaps
George Harrison:
Backing vocals, Drums, Electric guitar, Handclaps, Six-string bass guitar
George Martin:
Producer
Ken Scott:
Engineer

Session Recording:
Aug 22, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
Aug 23, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road

Session Mixing:
Oct 13, 1968
Studio:
EMI Studios, Studio Two, Abbey Road


The Beatles (2018)

Official album • Released in 2018

Demo

Session Recording:
Late May 1968
Studio:
George Harrison's Home, Kinfauns, Esher, Surrey, UK


Live performances

“Back in the U.S.S.R.” has been played in 558 concerts and 2 soundchecks.

Latest concerts where “Back in the U.S.S.R.” has been played




Krakow • Tauron Arena

Dec 03, 2018 • Part of Freshen Up Tour


Copenhagen • Royal Arena

Nov 30, 2018 • Part of Freshen Up Tour




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