AUTHORSHIP McCartney (1.00)
McCARTNEY: "'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 travelling Russkie who has just flow 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. It's a jokey song, but it's also become a bit of an anthem now. Every time Billy Joel goes to Russia, he plays it. Probably my single most important reason for going to Russia would be to play it. It was a good song and I liked it a lot. 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." Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now
MIKE LOVE: "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 McCartney: Many Years from Now
LENNON: "Paul [wrote it]. Maybe I helped a bit, but I don't think so . . ." Hit Parader (April 1972)
McCARTNEY: "I wrote that as a kind of Beach Boys parody. And 'Back In The U.S.A.' 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?" Playboy (December 1984)
Mike Love, of the Beach Boys (who did their own pastiche of "Back In The U.S.A."), contributed the chorus while he was with McCartney in India in early 1968.
McCARTNEY: "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 do. And that to me is very important for the future of the race." Playboy (December 1984) McCartney would later record a solo album, with this as its title song, and release it only in the Soviet Union.
August 22, 1968, at Abbey Road, without Starr. Overdubs were added August 23.
George arrived back from Greece on August 21, but the next day, as they began to lay down the backing track for 'Back In The USSR', Paul ticked Ringo off over a fluffed tom-tom fill. They had already argued about how the drum part should be played. Ringo was unhappy with the atmosphere in the studio; he did not like Yoko being there, and Paul's criticisms finally brought matters to a head. Announcing that he couldn't take any more, Ringo quit the group. He flew down to the Mediterranean and spent a fortnight on Peter Sellers' yacht, thinking about his future. Paul McCartney: Many Years from Now
McCARTNEY: lead guitar, piano, drums, lead and backing vocal
LENNON: 6-string bass (Bass VI), backing vocal
HARRISON: jazz bass, backing vocal
basses from Guitar (November 1987)
McCARTNEY: ". . . I'm sure it pissed Ringo off when he couldn't quite get the drums to 'Back In The U.S.S.R.,' 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 . . ." Musician (October 1986)
Billy Joel performed this song as an encore to a Moscow concert in late July 1987 to thunderous applause and thousands in the audience singing along. AP (July 27, 1987)
COMMENTS BY OTHERS
BRIAN WILSON, of the Beach Boys, on this song being a parody/tribute to his group: "I didn't even recognize that until someone said something. I thought that was really adorable." Crawdaddy (July 1976)