Saturday, July 5, 2014

The White Album: Back in the USSR


Continuing a look at the songs on the Beatles' White Album.


Lyrics:

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

Oh, flew in from Miami Beach B.O.A.C.
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 U.S.S.R.
You don't know how lucky you are boy
Back in the U.S.S.R. (Yeah)

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 U.S.S.R.
You don't know how lucky you are boy
Back in the U.S.
Back in the U.S.
Back in the U.S.S.R.

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 my mind

Aw come on!
Ho yeah!
Ho yeah!
Ho ho yeah!
Yeah yeah!

Yeah I'm back in the U.S.S.R.
You don't know how lucky you are boys
Back in the U.S.S.R.

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 my mind

Oh, show me around your snow-peaked mountains way down south
Take me to your daddy's farm
Let me hear your balalaika's ringing out
Come and keep your comrade warm
I'm back in the U.S.S.R.
Hey you don't know how lucky you are boys
Back in the U.S.S.R.

Oh let me tell you, honey
Hey, I'm back!
I'm back in the U.S.S.R.
Yes, I'm free!
Yeah, back in the U.S.S.R.

Ha ha

Video link:

About:

· The Beatles weren’t the only music celebs who went to India in 1967 to study with the Maharishi Yogi. Also on that trip (ha ha), amongst others, were Donovan (Hurdy Gurdy Man) and Mike Love of the Beach Boys. The only instruments allowed at the retreat were acoustic guitars, hence much of the accompaniments to songs written at that venue, Rishikesh, and featured on the White Album have accoustic guitar accompaniment.

· With a lot of free time on their hands, the Beatles hung out with other musos as well as with each other. Mike Love challenged Paul to write a song like Chuck Berry’s 1959 song Back in the USA but to make it Back in the USSR, Paul did so, in the process using a tongue in cheek Beach Boys' sound. Love even helped him get closer to a Beach Boys number, stating in 2013 :

“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 in a 1984 Playboy interview:

“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.”
“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.” 
- Paul McCartney

· Back in the USSR was also released as a single in the UK with Twist and Shout on the B side, then released again with Don’t Pass Me By on the back.

· The Beatles were banned in Russia in the 1960’s and Paul was refused permission when he wanted to tour there in 1980. In 2003, at age 60, he finally played the song in a concert in Red Square and, according to him, “The crowd went wild.”

· Paul played drums on this number, Ringo having walked out for a brief period.

Instruments:

Paul McCartney – double-tracked vocal, backing vocal, bass, lead guitar, piano, hndclaps, drums, percussion

John Lennon – backing vocal, lead guitar, six string bass, handclaps, drums, percussion

George Harrison – backing vocal, lead guitar, bass, handclaps, drums, percussion

George Martin – piano

· According to Ringo:

“I left because I felt two things: I felt I wasn’t playing great, and I also felt that the other three were really happy and I was an outsider. I went to see John, who had been living in my apartment in Montagu Square with Yoko since he moved out of Kenwood. I said, ‘I’m, leaving the group because I’m not playing well and I feel unloved and out of it, and you three are really close.’ And John said, ‘I thought it was you three!’ 
So then I went over to Paul’s and knocked on his door. I said the same thing: ‘I’m leaving the band. I feel you three guys are really close and I’m out of it.’ And Paul said, ‘I thought it was you three!’ 
I didn’t even bother going to George then. I said, ‘I’m going on holiday.’ I took the kids and we went to Sardinia."

· The song caused a backlash against the Beatles by the far Right in the US. Told that some of them were saying that Beatles music was un-American, John commented “That’s very observant of them.”

· John Bohannon:

“There are many peo­ple that claim there is no place for satire in rock music, and although McCartney’s image has been some­what tar­nished by the media in recent years, he still remains one of the mas­ters at tack­ling seri­ous issues in a comedic fash­ion. As the rest of the West­ern­ized world wor­ried about nuclear power sub­sid­ing in the Soviet Union, here’s McCart­ney claim­ing things such as
“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 my my-my-my-my-my-my-my-my mind!” 
A Beach Boys-style anthem just went from surf­ing to ski­ing and furry hats are now all the rage. nuclear bombs? No way. Nuclear women? You got it, boys. There had to be some Lennon input here sub­con­sciously, because McCart­ney tuned in one of the best hard rock vocals deliv­ered from below the belt."
http://www.thewhitealbumproject.com/songs/side-one/

· The Georgia reference, apart from being a locale in Russia, is to Hoagy Carmichael’s Georgia on My Mind. Btw, I love Willie Nelson’s version of Geogia on My Mind. Hear it at:


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