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View Full Version : Hey, I finally "get" The Beatles' "Back In the USSR", maybe.


Revtim
12-12-2002, 12:40 PM
The song comes on the radio just a few minutes ago, and I'm reminded again that I don't know what BOAC is, as in "Flew in from Miami Beach BOAC". But for the first time, this occurs to me near a computer on the Internet, so in a few seconds I find that BOAC = British Overseas Airways Corporation, the British international airline before British Airways.

Ok, makes sense. Then I wonder why someone would take a British airline from Miami Beach to the USSR.... Bingo! Ahh, he's really flying back to England, and the song is sarcastically calling it the USSR as a criticism.

Anybody agree? Disagree? Rolling their eyes at me because it was incredibly obvious to you before I was even born? (I was born the year after the album was released, so you got about a year for that to be true)

kingpengvin
12-12-2002, 12:47 PM
What is a USSR?

astorian
12-12-2002, 12:51 PM
Uh... no, I don't think so. John Lennon MIGHT have sarcastically referred to the UK that way, but "Back in the USSR" was a McCartney song, and I don't think Paul ever regarded Britain as an oppressive fascist state.

As far as I can tell, the song itself has no deep meaning- it's just a Beach Boys parody, paying tribute to the lovely girls of the USSR the way the Beach Boys had honored American babes in songs like "California Girls."

So, why would Paul allude to BOAC, when they didn't offer air service between the US and Russia in those days?? Most likely, because "BOAC" gave him the syllables and the rhyme he needed.

Earthworm Jim
12-12-2002, 12:56 PM
Originally posted by astorian
As far as I can tell, the song itself has no deep meaning- it's just a Beach Boys parody, paying tribute to the lovely girls of the USSR the way the Beach Boys had honored American babes in songs like "California Girls."

I thought it was some kind of quibble with a BB statement - they said something to the effect of writing great american music, which is why they were so popular, so McCartney wrote BITUSSR to parody them and make some statement about how any song would be popular regardless of its lyrical content...

I may have dreamed it, though

NYR407
12-12-2002, 12:59 PM
Until I actually read the lyrics a few years ago I used to think he said "....with no AC (air conditioning)". Which is why he didn't get to sleep, felt sick and had a dreadful flight .

I know its wrong but it makes sense to me.

photopat
12-12-2002, 01:34 PM
I thought it was British Oriental Airways Corp.

It is a Beach Boys parody, but intended as a tribute.

Young Mr. Grace
12-12-2002, 01:39 PM
Originally posted by kingpengvin
What is a USSR?

United Soviet Socialist Republics. What Russia (and the smaller states around it) used to be called before the Cold War ended.

everton
12-12-2002, 02:22 PM
IMHO, astorian's post seems to have made the most sense so far*. McCartney is likely to have used the BOAC airline because it rhymes and scans, not because it connected from Miami to the USSR. The rest of the lyrics make too many specifically Russian references for the song to be about the UK. BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) was formed in 1939 and merged with BEA (British European Airways) in the mid '70s.

Here (http://icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/DATABASES/AWP/bitu.html), Alan W. Pollack suggests references in the song to Ray Charles and Chuck Berry as well as the Beach Boys. The Beatles were known to be fans of all three. California Girls was first recorded in April '65, Back in the USSR in August '68.


*Not sure about the USSR being a fascist state, but that's been covered elsewhere

Guinastasia
12-12-2002, 05:05 PM
Originally posted by kingpengvin
What is a USSR?

:eek:

Please tell me you're joking!

*sigh* Kids these days....;)

JonScribe
12-12-2002, 06:18 PM
[McCartney writing "Back in the USSR"]

Hmm. What rhymes with Aeroflot?
"On the way the paperback was on my cot, all I got, my dog Spot,
Damn."

[/End McCarthner writing "Back in the USSR"]

DooWahDiddy
12-12-2002, 06:21 PM
From the book A Hard Day's Write, by Steve Turner:


"Back in the USSR" was written by Paul as a pastiche of the Beach Boys and Chuck Berry. The genesis of the song was a comment made my Beach Boy Mike Love to Paul one morning over breakfast: 'Wouldn't it be fun to do a Soviet version of "Back in the USA"' [by Chuck Berry, 1959]. As a tribute to Love, the Beatles' eventual recording imitated the vocal sound of the Beach Boys."

Unfortunately, there was no mention of the BOAC thing...

pepperlandgirl
12-12-2002, 06:21 PM
Not only was it written as a parody/tribute, but didn't Brian Wilson help him with it? I could have sworn he was involved somehow, at some point.

TheeGrumpy
12-12-2002, 06:32 PM
Originally posted by astorian
So, why would Paul allude to BOAC, when they didn't offer air service between the US and Russia in those days??

Maybe he had a layover in London and changed airlines. :rolleyes:

Koxinga
12-12-2002, 06:43 PM
Originally posted by Young Mr. Grace
United Soviet Socialist Republics. What Russia (and the smaller states around it) used to be called before the Cold War ended.

Sorry, The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

Koxinga
12-12-2002, 06:44 PM
BTW, I was there in 1987. Saw the skid marks that German kid's plane made when it landed outside the Kremlin.

jsc1953
12-12-2002, 07:20 PM
Originally posted by JonScribe
[McCartney writing "Back in the USSR"]

Hmm. What rhymes with Aeroflot?
"On the way the paperback was on my cot, all I got, my dog Spot,
Damn."



Cute. But the phrase in the original is "all the way the paper bag was on my knee"...that is, the barf bag. That's why he had a dreadful flight.

JonScribe
12-12-2002, 07:34 PM
Oh, then it's not "Paperbag Writer?"

handsomeharry
12-12-2002, 07:41 PM
drunken sot rhymes with aeroflot.

Khadaji
12-12-2002, 07:55 PM
I agree with astorian. In fact, I thought every song on that album was meant as a parody of another popular artist.

pesch
12-12-2002, 08:03 PM
Not every song. The Beatles weren't that well organized by that time. One reason it was a double album was because George Harrison had songs that he wanted to see on vinyl, and he was tired of being the third wheel. If there was any organizational method to their madness, I've not read it.

But, yeah, "USSR" was a tribute to the BB and Chuck. Lovely little bit of wit with "And Georgia's always on my my-my-my-my-my-mind." Not only was a region in the USSR with that name, but it drags in a reference to Ray Charles, who sings "Georgia on my Mind." (Yeah, I know this is grade school pop-song trivia, but if we got people asking what the USSR is, I can't be too careful.)

Exapno Mapcase
12-12-2002, 11:37 PM
And McCartney loved the Beach Boys. He is widely quoted as having said that "God Only Knows" was the greatest song ever written. Whether he actually said these words may be questionable (http://brianwilson.com/archives/articles/paul_mccartney.html) but he certainly loved Pet Sounds.

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