Thursday, March 8, 2012

Back In The U.S.S.R.

Paul McCartney in Red Square
Paul McCartney in Moscow.

"Back in the U.S.S.R." is a Beatles song off their 1968 "White Album." Paul McCartney wrote this album track during his visit to Rishikesh, India, where The Beatles meditated with the Maharishi. The Beatles released "Back in the U.S.S.R." as a single in 1976, long after the group had broken up, with "Twist and Shout" as the flip side. The single scored a respectable No. 19 in the United Kingdom.

Back in the USSR

Paul McCartney was and is a big fan of Chuck Berry, and other '50s artists. He intended "Back in the U.S.S.R." as a takeoff on their style and as a takeoff on the Beach Boys' style. Mike Love of the Beach Boys recalls:
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... I think it was light-hearted and humorous of them to do a take on the Beach Boys.
Paul himself has said:
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.
One of the most misunderstood songs that the Beatles ever created, "Back in the U.S.S.R." has been mischaracterized as demonstrating their supposed allegiance to Marxism and the Soviet Union. In fact, it's just a spoof and meant entirely in fun.

Paul McCartney and Vladimir Putin

Paul McCartney, not Ringo Starr, plays drums on "Back In The U.S.S.R." because Ringo had temporarily left the Beatles. George Harrison and John Lennon contributed on the drums as well. Ringo soon came back, and the Beatles continued on to their inevitable conclusion.

Paul McCartney in Red Square

Paul performed "Back In The U.S.S.R." on the marquee of the Ed Sullivan Theater for the Letterman show in 2009. He also performed it in Red Square in Moscow and in New York's Grand Central Station. One wonders just how many permits they needed to get to pull these stunts off, and being able to do it at all was truly an epic achievement.

The Beatles White Album


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