Why? Because it’s a rocking song.
Holding at #1 for the last ten years on my list of best rock’n’roll songs ever, “Back In The U.S.S.R.” by the Beatles! Are there better rock’n’roll songs? Everyone has the favorite, but unlike most, I have a reason for every song on my Top Fifty.
- It’s a Beatles tune. There are lots of rock bands, but they all pale in comparison to the Beatles. The Fabs came on the scene, invented modern rock, created a buzz never seen before or since, toured to the largest crowds in history, creating arena rock in the process, did things never previously seen, invented new sounds, used technology like never before, expanded the genre and enlightened a generation. After Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club, the most revered album in rock history, the Beatles recorded Magical Mystery Tour, one of their weaker efforts. But then came “The Beatles”.
- The Beatles announced they were back. After an exceptionally long break by their standards of almost 12 months, “The Beatles” album hit the shelves. During that time, the critics offered that the Beatles were finished, that Sgt. Pepper had sucked the life out of them, that they had lost their way and were no longer a rock’n’roll band. The Beatles were famous for using the slightest thing as inspiration for their songs, and Back In The USSR was no different.
- The best intro to a song ever. The up and coming band at the time was The Beach Boys. The Boys were on top of the world. Their Pet Sounds album was a fantastic album and the pundits were waiting, no, yearning for a new act to dethrone the Beatles. With that as inspiration, Paul McCartney went to work. It is no mistake that Back In The USSR is the opening track of “The Beatles” album, commonly called “The White Album.” It was called the “White Album” because it was totally white. No artwork other than a serial number stamped on the cover. The intro song, in fact the intro sound, was the jet sound as Back In The USSR trumpeted the re-arrival of the greatest band in history.
- The Beatles acknowledged other rockers. Paul has stated that various songs were the basis for “Back In The USSR”, including Chuck Berry’s “Back In The USA”, Beach Boys “California Girls” and even some Jerry Lee Lewis tributes, as well as a shout-out to Ray Charles’ “Georgia On My Mind” when the lyrics go: “And that Georgia’s always on my my my mind.”
- A little controversy. Were the Beatles really pumping up communism? Not at all, in fact, their music was banned in the Soviet sphere. Paul was simply having fun. And rocking good fun it was. Getting slammed by the John Birch Society as pro-communist was simply a plus.
- Inspiration came from all over. A bit of cool trivia: Mike Love of the Beach Boys was the one who suggested that Paul include the lyrics about the various girls of the region, like “Well the Ukraine girls really knock me out” and “And Moscow girls make me sing and shout.” There was also a campaign going on in Britain at the time called “Backing Britain” meant to inspire Britons to support the homeland. “Back-ing” or “Back In” the USSR was such a natural fit.
I’ve always considered “I’m back” to be the Beatles returning to claim their throne as the best rockin’ rollers in history. There is rock’n’roll and then there is ROCK’n’ROLL. I don’t see this song ever losing its grip on #1 on my all time list.
Kelly Burke, master attorney, former district attorney and magistrate judge, is engaged in private practice. He focuses on personal injury cases and corporate litigation. These articles are not designed to give legal advice. Contact Kelly at email@example.com to comment on this article or suggest articles about the law that you’d like to see.