Clifford Thesis lists the top ten of his Cold War songs and it’s a treat. But it is more than pleasing. It’s a knockout.
When I discovered the list, I wondered where the Beatles’ “Back in the USSR” was. He ranks it # 2 behind Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Raines A-Gana Fall”.
Paul McCartney says a 1968 BOAC airline passenger from Miami Beach to the USSR is a Russian spy returning to the country after an extended mission to the United States. As evidenced by the song’s Wikipedia page, interpretations vary. A modification allows it to be viewed as a parody of imitation songs Alternatively, it can be seen as respect for those songs and gratitude for Western independence and its culture, and similarly, criticism of independence.
McCartney yells: “Back to America, back to the United States, back to the USSR.”
When the words of the song say about the USSR and the spy sings, “You don’t know how lucky you are, boy,” does he mean a boy returning to the United States? That’s how I see the song. When the spy sings, “I was so far away that I hardly knew the place. Yeah Al that sounds pretty crap to me, Looks like BT aint for me either. If you rarely know the place now, why would it be so good to come home?
How Spyty the Ukrainian girls kicked him out and left the West behind, when the Moscow girls sang to him and shouted that Georgia was always my MI-MI-MI-MI-MI-MI-MI-MI-MI-mind. “These songs.” Georgia on My Mind “thinks that an old song by Ray Charles, born in Georgia in 1960, has become famous anew. Perhaps it’s the Georgia state in the United States that spies remember – it’s not too far from Florida where the plane left. Should have left the party.
McCartney said he sang the verses in his Jerry Lee Lewis voice. The bridge, speaking to girls by region of the country, consistently and majestically uses “warm” and “southern” after the Beach Boys, the classic “California girls”. “Back in the USSR” celebrates the underlying tunefulness of the songs from which it was taken, while some words give it a humorous feel.
As far as the song is concerned, the main reference is Chuck Berry’s “Back in the USA”. “Back in the USA” and “Back in the USSR” both begin with the narrator returning home on an international runway. Chuck Berry’s song is a simple expression of love. He doesn’t talk about girls, but like McCartney and like Beach Boys, Chuck walks around:
New York, Los Angeles, oh, how much I wished for you
Detroit, Chicago, Chattanooga, Baton Rouge
Leave me alone in my house in St. Louis.
Did I miss the skyscraper, did I miss the long freeway?
From the coast of California to the coast of Delaware Bay
You can bet your life that I did, until I got back to the United States
Berry’s song simply says: “I’m glad I’m living in the United States.” The Beatles song, however, begins with a terrifying flight, with a bag of vomit on his knees, and a slight discomfort throughout.
“Back in the USSR” was published six months after the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. My explanation seems to agree with the Soviets. The Wikipedia page says:
Although the Beatles were never allowed to perform on the USSR, Elton John was allowed to visit the country on a historic concert tour in 1979 … he ignored an official request and sang “Back in the USSR” as his closing song throughout the tour. The opening show that he doesn’t … McCartney was denied permission to perform on the USSR in 1980.
Meanwhile, on Stateside, July 4, 1984, Beach Boys performed “Back in the USSR” in Washington, DC, and joined the Ringo Star. “Happy birthday,” Ringo told reporters [America] Sorry we lost.
In his 2016 autobiography, Good vibrationBeach boy Mike Love says: “‘Back in the USSR’ was a Heluva song, and it has lasted longer than the country.”
But, jokingly aside, the thesis list is worth an hour’s thought. The set of ten is a great effort against dictatorship. Listen. The Lord knows where things are going.